Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

December Training Weekend: Graduation Wrap-Up December 12, 2011

Filed under: reflections,teacher training,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:18 pm
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My weekend was a lot more emotional than I was expecting.

Friday night, we spent some time checking in and figuring out what had gone wrong with communication about our group’s end-of-YTT celebration. Different people had had different things in mind for our celebration, and, not knowing that the others were planning something else, moved forward with reservations and such. The spirit behind the problem wasn’t the problem: everyone just wanted to make sure that we all had a chance to celebrate together. Things just weren’t communicated as well as they needed to be, which resulted in frustration, disappointment, and hurt for a few people. We talked it all over and cleared the air, and then proceeded to plan on having modified versions of both celebrations, which was really the best of both worlds.

We then spent some time Friday night talking with N about the business end of yoga teaching: what to charge, how to charge, where to teach, what do we need to worry about in our non-compete clause, whether to register with Yoga Alliance (short answer: yes, definitely), whether to get liability insurance (again: yes, definitely), how to react to emergency situations, and other aspects of the business. This was really useful and we all had questions to ask and things we were wondering about. After Friday night’s class, several of us went next door to Sukho Thai for Celebration # 1. A few people brought wine and since the restaurant was almost empty except for us, we really had a chance to relax.

On Saturday morning, I attended the 10:30 all-levels hatha yoga class with several of my classmates (my last opportunity for complimentary yoga!). After lunch, we started on the afternoon’s classwork. First, we talked with J about some different issues with being a yoga teacher: how to react to and deal with students. J talked about his long experience in working with different students, and it was really informative. Every person brings something different to yoga class; different people want different things, and there are often students who came with a friend who don’t really want to be there at all. J talked about strategies for working with difficult students and not taking things personally. Then N arrived and we played our last Yoga Jeopardy game. J was Alex Trebek/Vanna White again, and again did a fantastic job. My team somehow ended up with all the hardest questions, but overall our group did really well and got almost all the answers right (and really, who needs to know the Sanskrit name for candle-gazing anyway?).

After Jeopardy, N and J held our graduation ceremony. It was very simple: each new teacher came up to the front of the room and had a chance to say a few words if she liked, and then N and J presented her with a certificate. We all choked up several times as each person spoke about how meaningful this training had been and how much we’d learned from each other and from N and J. After graduation, our spouses, friends, partners, and kids began to arrive for Celebration # 2. N had picked up some cookies and pound cake from Whole Foods, and we shared tea and snacks and met the people our classmates had been talking about all this time. I was still feeling really teary from graduation, so I clung onto my husband F perhaps more than necessary. We all said our goodbyes and cried some more, and then F drove me home.

When I was first planning to do a yoga teacher training, I was thinking of it as a requirement to fill, a piece of paper to achieve. I am very good at school and at filling requirements. I knew I wanted to teach yoga, and this was the credential that would allow me to do that. I was not thinking of a yoga teacher training program as a transformation or a journey. Yoga teacher training isn’t like taking a course on web design or something; it’s not just developing some specific skill. It includes that, but that’s not all it is. When I began this program in March, I was not a yoga teacher. Now I am one. The piece of paper I received this weekend isn’t what makes me a yoga teacher, it’s just a recognition of what’s happened: I am a different person now than I was ten months ago. I think this is part of why this weekend was so emotional for me. I wasn’t just receiving a certificate, I was acknowledging a major transformation in my life and the end of a process that’s meant a lot to me. This weekend also marked the beginning of something new as I look ahead to what may be next for me as a teacher. I was also saying goodbye to a group of people I’ve come to love – even though I may see them again at the yoga center, and some of them I may even see often, we won’t really be together in the same way again. These are big, emotional things.

I just want to say here that I really appreciate everything that N and J have done for us, and everything I’ve learned from my classmates. I also want to say that I appreciate all the support and love that F has given me throughout this process. He never said no, he never complained, he just made room for more (more yoga classes; more time for me to do my homework and write papers and work on the blog; more people in our house at my home yoga class every week, and even more beyond that), and he always made it a priority, because it was important to me. I feel incredibly grateful for the gift of the past ten months.

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Graduation December 9, 2011

Filed under: checking in,reflections,teacher training,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 7:26 am
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This weekend, I’ll be graduating from my yoga teacher training program. We have a short session tonight, followed by a little party at the Thai restaurant next door to the yoga center, and then a full day tomorrow, and then I’m done! Ten months of work and learning and growing. I’m a little sad for it to end: I’ve really gotten to love my classmates, and I’ll miss seeing them all the time. I will also miss having the time set aside specifically to work on my yoga and my spirituality. (And of course I’ll miss the unlimited hatha yoga class pass that comes with the program – I’m going to have to start PAYING to go to yoga classes again!)

But I really feel like I’m ready. I’ve learned so much, and really come so far since I started training in March. I feel like I’ve gotten out of this program what I wanted to get out of it: I have the confidence to teach yoga, first of all, and most of the expertise necessary to do so, and more will come with more teaching experience. I also really wanted to explore the spiritual aspects of yoga and meditation, and this program definitely gave me the time and support I needed to do that. I’d like to look into teaching meditation on its own, actually. I think that, combining both the yoga teaching confidence and the time spent on spirituality, I’ve grown as a person and I feel much more confident and happy and comfortable in myself. That’s the sort of thing I couldn’t expect or predict, but only hope for, at the start of the training.

The ten months of this program felt like forever at times, but looking back, I’m really glad I chose such a long-term training. I’ve talked to friends who’ve had shorter training programs, and it seems like in order to get all the hours in, they have to cram a lot of information into a short amount of time. In my program, I really had a chance to absorb everything I was learning. Now it’s hard for me to separate some of the things I’ve learned or point to specific things that I learned, because it’s all a part of me. I feel like the ten months was transformative in that way: I wasn’t a yoga teacher before, and I am one now, not just because I finished a program but in some indefinable way that has to do with who I am. I’m not saying that teachers who choose short or intensive programs get less of this; I just know that if I’d done a program like that, I would still feel like I had a lot of work to do afterwards. I really wanted that spiritual growth piece in my teacher training, and you just can’t cram that into a short amount of time. (On the other hand, you can’t cram it into ten months either, and I’ll be working on my meditation practice for the rest of my life – but I feel like I have a good firm foundation to build on.)

Overall, I feel really proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’m going to enjoy the heck out of this weekend, and then do some relaxing and unwinding over the holidays, and then see what happens next.

 

November Teacher Training Weekend November 21, 2011

Filed under: reflections,teacher training,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:08 pm
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Sorry for the posting gap last week. I needed a little time off from the blog to recharge and deal with some non-yoga things. Now I’m planning to get right back to our regularly scheduled 3-5 posts per week!

We just had our second-to-last teacher training weekend. We’re all starting to feel a little bit sad that it’s almost over – it’s been such a journey. At the same time, I do feel ready to move on, get my certificate, and start on the next big project (because of course there are several big projects in the works). My poetry manuscript ain’t going to revise itself, nor will my poems send themselves out to journals or book contests. I’ve already learned that my house doesn’t clean itself (to my great dismay). And I’m really looking forward to reading some books that aren’t related to yoga, spirituality, or meditation. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot more yoga reading to do, and during this year my To Read list has just grown exponentially for books I want to read in this field, but I’ve done very little literary reading this year, or poetry reading, or archaeology reading, or even sci fi reading (I don’t think I’ve made any progress at all in 2011 on my “Read Everything That’s Won a Hugo Award” project). There are a lot of ways to challenge my mind, and I miss the ones I haven’t been doing.

In any case. On Friday night, we started off with a discussion with N about the Upanishads. (Haven’t posted a book review/description here yet because I’m still finishing up the Afterword.) We also did teaching practice with Kate, another teacher at the studio, and it was good to hear someone else’s voice.

On Saturday, we had our morning hatha yoga class, and then some of us went to the Thai restaurant next door for lunch, which was delicious: lemongrass soup and a spring roll and tofu pad thai. We’ve made plans to go back there for a little celebration next month after our last YTT session.

Once lunch was over, we headed back to the yoga center for some Upanishads talk with J. We covered some of the same topics that we covered with N, but J always has a different perspective, and we covered some other topics too. I’m sorry to say that I was so sleepy that I totally dozed off mid-discussion, but I don’t think anyone but Joanna really noticed, although Nancy commented later that I looked sleepy. At our mid-afternoon break, some of the girls ran across the street for coffee and picked me up a hot tea, which helped a lot.

We spent the later part of the afternoon reflecting on our teacher training journey. J asked us to think about who we were when we first started YTT nine months ago: where were we with our yoga practice, what were our hopes for what we’d get out of YTT? And then, to look at where we are now: how have we grown and changed? What’s different about our yoga practice now? And where do we see ourselves taking this in the future once YTT is over?

I really feel that I’ve changed in some subtle but important ways. My personal practice has changed greatly: as I’ve written about here before, I’m much less interested in vinyasa style yoga, doing advanced poses, and getting a great workout. I’m less interested in teaching only advanced students. I really like the slower, classical hatha that we practice, and I really want to teach beginners. In my personal life, I’ve seen a lot of changes too. Before, I struggled with a lot of fear and depression, and that’s greatly lessened for me. I feel that I’m calmer, more content, better able to roll with what life doles out. I feel a lot more comfortable living in my own skin. As for the future, I started this YTT knowing that I wanted to teach, and I still do. I feel like the next few months could bring a lot of changes for me. The simplest thing is that I’d like to find some local places besides my front porch where I could teach yoga once or twice a week. I can envision much bigger changes (like trying to teach and freelance full time), but I’m not sure what’s even possible. I know what I’d like to be possible, but I don’t know if I have the courage and drive (and time!) to make those bigger changes a reality. I’ve worked really hard this year, and I see a lot of payoff to that hard work; I need to finish up where I am right now and then see where my path takes me next.

 

October Teacher Training Weekend October 24, 2011

Filed under: teacher training,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:22 pm
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Teacher training this weekend was a lot of fun. This was presentation month, so each trainee gave a presentation on the topic of our choice. My topic was “yoga for great sex”, and my presentation went really well – everyone had a good time and a lot of laughs, and I got to share a lot of good information. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting all that info here for you!

Other presentation topics included yoga for natural childbirth, yoga for lower back pain, yoga for athletes, yoga for children, devotional music, yoga for anxiety and depression, yoga for post-traumatic stress disorder, yoga for martial artists, and the chakras. Everyone did a really fantastic job of researching each topic and presenting what they’d learned. Each of us could easily have done a 30- or 60-minute presentation instead of just 15 minutes!

At the end of Saturday’s session, we spent some time going over specific yoga asanas and talking about proper alignment, common problems, and how to help a student with those problems. We did this once before, last spring, and it was just as helpful this weekend as it was back then. I’ve practiced yoga for over eight years but there are still poses I don’t fully understand, and even for the poses I do know well, I don’t necessarily know the problems that a beginning student or student with limited mobility might have. These things are really important to know! Now I feel a lot more comfortable teaching basic poses like wide-legged standing forward fold or head-to-knee pose.

Our homework for this next month is to read the Upanishads and to keep track of any questions we might have as we read. N says that we shouldn’t try to sit down and read a bunch of them; it’ll be more effective to read just one upanishad and then take a break. They’re not thematically linked (well, other than they’re all about experiences of higher consciousness) so we don’t need to read them all at once, and it’s better not to, to give the material more time to sink in. We also have to do two posture write-ups this month, just on any pose we want to learn more about.

Since I probably won’t have a lot of posts to make about the Upanishads until later in the month, this works out well for the blog – I’ll finish up our series on yoga and emotions and also get started on all the fabulous yoga and sex material! I’m so excited to share this with you!

 

Friday Night Teaching Practice September 21, 2011

Filed under: teacher training — R. H. Ward @ 1:46 pm
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Friday night’s teaching practice session was good for me, but ended up being a little controversial among the group as a whole. We began when N told us that she and J had talked it over and created a list of what each of us ought to practice, so we’d go through and take turns teaching when called upon. I was really excited when I heard this: I’ve been wanting to challenge myself, and it sounded like fun to hear “Teach Pose X. Go!” and then have to go teach it on the spot.

Practice started off well, and my turn came when we got to balance poses. I was asked to teach Dancer (Natarajasana), Eagle (Garudasana), and seated forward fold. I hadn’t taught either of those balance poses before at the yoga center, so I was psyched, and thought I’d try moving from one directly to the other. Dancer pose went fine, but Eagle got a little complicated because we couldn’t figure out the correct arm position. Turns out that, if the left leg is over the right, then the right arm is over the left. Which I’m still not sure is totally clear in my mind. But we had a little debate about it and laughed and then I tried teaching it again on the other side and it went more smoothly. I taught forward fold next and that was easy. After I was done teaching, I got good comments from my classmates on my teacher voice again and on my sense of humor, and N complimented me on a few things I said (encouraging students that, in a balance pose, it’s okay to fall out, just come right back up again – which she said is important in a beginner class when people might be nervous).

As we got toward the end of our practice class, I did notice that we were almost out of poses to teach and some people hadn’t taught yet. But those people included some who I knew were pretty experienced teachers, so I just inwardly shrugged and moved on, figuring that N & J wanted to give the rest of us more time to practice teaching. Class ended with a really nice guided relaxation taught by Trish. (You can tell that it was a good guided relaxation because I relaxed but didn’t fall asleep, and it was 10:30 at night, way past my bedtime!)

After we were all dismissed for the night, I headed out the door to find a group of my fellow trainees were upset that not everyone had been called on to teach. When N had described the teaching practice session, it had seemed like she’d meant all of us would teach what we most needed to practice (although thinking back I can’t remember if she said the word “all” or not), and so the people who taught felt like the people who didn’t teach were privileged in some way, like they didn’t need to practice, or like the people who were called on to teach were being singled out as bad teachers who needed more practice. Some people felt hurt and angry over this.

It might be surprising that a group of aspiring yoga teachers would get upset over something like this, but yoga teachers are regular people too and we get our feelings hurt like anyone else, and issues of talent and ranking are tricky to handle in any venue. I didn’t feel angry or upset, but I certainly don’t blame the people who did.

For me, like I said, I did notice toward the end of class that some people weren’t called on to teach, but it didn’t bother me: two of those people I know to be very good teachers who have already subbed and taught full classes at the studio, and the others usually attend N’s classes – maybe she already feels familiar with their teaching abilities and just wanted to see more from the rest of us. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would have felt hurt and disappointed if I hadn’t been called on to teach. I learned a lot by screwing up Eagle pose! I want to take advantage of every single teaching opportunity I can get, because I want to be a good yoga teacher. For me it’s not important to compare myself to others in our class, because we all have different levels of yoga experience and teaching experience. I want to learn from my classmates, and watch them grow, and steal good stuff from their teaching vocabulary, but I’m trying really hard not to compare my teaching to anyone else’s. For me, I want to take full advantage of this training course that I’ve paid for and looked forward to for so long, and put in the work I need to do to become a good teacher. I hope that my friends who were upset on Friday night were able to think this over and come to the same conclusion.

 

September Teacher Training Weekend Summary September 20, 2011

Filed under: teacher training,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:53 pm
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This month, our scheduled teacher training weekend was complicated by the Haverford Music Festival. The yoga center is a Havertown local business so N and J wanted to participate in the festival (which could attract new yoga students), but we couldn’t reschedule our TT weekend either, so we crammed it all in: teacher training 6-11 PM on Friday and 9:00-10:30 AM on Saturday morning, then some of us helped to set up our table at the festival, and we all took shifts working at the table during the day. It was a good weekend, but a very full one.

On Friday night, we had our usual monthly check-in, then a lecture on yoga and emotions. We did some activities on this topic, and I got to work in a pair first with Sarah and then with Tonny, which was interesting and fun. After that we learned about the four primitive urges or fountains (which I’ll discuss in a future post), and then we had teaching practice (also a future post). A long night.

On Saturday morning we gathered to watch a video of a lecture by Swami Rama at the Himalayan Institute. The topic of the lecture was finding inner peace in a troubled world, and Swami Rama talked about the four primitive urges/fountains in the video, so it coordinated well with our lecture the night before. While Swami Rama seems to respect women highly, he also seems to think that a woman’s main job is to raise the children – which he acknowledges as the most important job in the world, but still. I may change my mind when I have a child, but I think working outside the home is important for women as well. Overall, though, the video was informative, and Swami Rama was definitely an interesting and charismatic guy – there are more videos of him on youtube that I’d like to check out sometime when I get a chance.

After the video, we were off to the festival. We helped set up by carrying boxes and tables and chairs from the studio over to our designated spot on the street, then we all took one-hour shifts to staff the table all day. We talked to people about yoga, handed out copies of the current yoga class schedule and passes for a free class, got people to enter a raffle for a free ten-class card, and I even sold a lavender neck pillow. It was fun and different to talk to people about yoga, and handing out the free class passes felt like I was giving out candy because people were so excited.

Our homework this month is to write up an intermediate level sequence of postures, which shouldn’t be a problem at all. Otherwise, no other homework except preparing for our presentations next month. My topic is yoga and sex – not in a Tantric way or a creepy way, but in a helpful practical way. I ordered two books online a few weeks ago and started reading one this morning – I’m halfway through the second chapter and so far, while the writing isn’t spectacular, the content is really good, matches up with what I think, and confirms what I’d been suspecting. I’m really excited to read further and look at the specific poses they discuss. So, dear readers, you can look forward to lots of information this month about how yoga can improve your sex life!

 

August Teacher Training Weekend: Saturday Afternoon August 18, 2011

Filed under: teacher training — R. H. Ward @ 1:17 pm
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In Saturday’s afternoon training session, we mostly talked about yoga philosophy: the obstacles in our minds that prevent us from achieving enlightenment, as well as the attitudes that help us along the way.

We talked first about the kleshas: the five deficiences in the mind that obstruct us. I’ve posted about the kleshas here before, so I felt pretty solid on that. Focusing and controlling the mind can help to overcome the kleshas, which results in feeling calmer, more aware, and more balanced. We also talked about the nine obstacles to mental clarity, which I find fascinating and can’t wait to discuss here later. On the positive side, we talked about the bhavas (the four spiritual attitudes of an aspirant) and the parakarmas (four attitudes towards social relationships that help us overcome negative emotions in our dealings with others). These too I’ll discuss in more detail later this month.

Here’s our homework for August/September:

  • Read the rest of the Yoga Sutras (we’ve done all of book II so far, so I’ll be reading books I, III, and IV)
  • Write a paper on my likes and dislikes, attachments and aversions – it doesn’t have to be a long paper, but listing these things will help me to better understand my motivations and the influence of the kleshas in my life
  • Write up two inverted postures
  • Choose a topic for a 15-minute presentation to be given in October and begin research (I know my topic already – when I’m ready to get into the research, you’ll hear more!)

At the end of Saturday’s session, we split into two teams and played Yoga Jeopardy (with J acting as a hilarious Alex Trebek/Vanna White). My team got an early lead by choosing the 500-level questions, and then we swept the Sanskrit category (largely due to Joanna, who somehow appears to be fluent). The other team rallied and almost caught up to us, particularly after answering some really hard Yoga Philosophy questions (which my team totally would have missed), but ultimately my team won the day. (I must admit, I am not so unattached and advanced in my yoga training – I did whoop a little at our victory.)