Tag Archives: yoga teacher training

Yogis Interruptis

For thirteen years I’ve been a fan of yoga.  Not an addict.  Not a stalker.  A fan.  I’ve enjoy the practice and fit it into my life as was appropriate, meaning, sometimes it’s taken a back seat to other areas that needed my attention.  In theory, I wanted to be more committed to my practice, but activities like motherhood, moving, and volunteerism got in the way.  Looking back, I believe that was part of the problem.  My theoretical yoga practice had a bigger hold on me than my actual one.

Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root word yuj which means “to yoke”, or “unite” and many claim it’s specifically about the union between mind, body and spirit.  Because the word may also derive from the root “yujir samadhau,” which means “contemplation”, you can see how for some, yoga is more about the mind and/or spirit and less about the body.  Which is fine if you need a distraction from always focusing on the physical and hating yourself, like I’ve done most of my life.  But if your default setting is always set to “cerebral” as mine tends to be (because it’s a lot easier to ignore the body that you hate if you spend the majority of your time in your head) it was easier to focus on living my yoga than performing poses on a mat.

I had hoped that yoga would eventually bring balance to the body part of the equation.  I think sensing this innate need is what inspired me to sign up for yoga teacher training (YTT), but in the end it was my mind that made the decision because teacher training was also a way to make a living.  Since I was already volunteering at the studio and really liked the yogis I met there, it seemed like a smart idea to make money doing something I enjoyed.  Regardless I was going to FINALLY give my yoga practice the attention it deserved (while secretly hoping that yoga would give me the physical body I’ve always wanted).

That was the plan, until my head took center stage because besides going to numerous yoga classes, YTT meant reading books about yoga, taking notes from lectures about yoga, conversing about yoga and and thinking various thoughts about yoga.  This of course was my favorite part of the training because it kept yoga between my ears where it truly liked to be.

After paying my first deposit and receiving my book list, I got cracking.  Instead of going to class I read Power Yoga and Moving Into Stillness.  Rather than doing asanas, I memorized their sanskrit names.   The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali?  Something I discussed with my classmates in lieu of actually experiencing them.

Training to be a yoga teacher quenched my thirst for yogic knowledge.  It meant understanding anatomy, physiology and contra-indications for poses.  I learned facts about properly sequencing a class and was taught the best way to verbalize alignment cues.  Because I intellectualized yoga so much, I spent most of my physical practices analyzing the teaching styles of the instructor and stealing ideas to use for future classes.  Thus yoga, even when training to be a teacher, continued to be a cerebral endeavor.

But then an interesting thing happened.  By the third weekend of training I was hitting the studio every couple of days attending vinyasa flow and even some hot yoga classes.  Besides simply doing more yoga, I was also walking daily and eating healthy.  Finally and perhaps for the first time in my life I was allowing my consciousness the luxury of settling within my body and staying present in it for more than a few seconds, here and there.  Yoga was slowly (and without a lot of fanfare I might add), doing it’s job.

Then, halfway through teacher training as I was FINALLY on my way to unifying my mind, body and spirit, a freak accident occurred.  I hit my head.  Hard.  The dizziness that made practicing more difficult was no where near as problematic as the results from my MRI.  It seems that yet again, my head was getting in the way of my performing the asanas.  Not my mind per say, but my brain itself.  The physical body that I’d become expert at ignoring must have finally had it, so to get my attention, it moved north to officially compete with my mind.

Turns out,  I wasn’t just a yogi with a concussion or an inability to yoke her mind to her body.

I was a yogi with 9 brain lesions.

I was a yogi with Multiple Sclerosis.

Yes, that’s correct.  A yogi lousy at living in her body got the disease that affects the body with an alarming level of inconsistency.  The disease that constantly brings your attention back to your body due to the ever changing plethora of physical symptoms it creates.

Did you hear that?

That was the sound of my personal yoga practice crashing into a brick wall.

I know what you’re thinking.  A progressive neurological diagnosis?  Or course she turned to her yoga practice to create health and wellness.

Naw.  I didn’t have time for that.  I had to go get a job.


Yoga Teacher Training

Dorcas doing Dancer Pose

I’ve spent the last 8 months learning about a five thousand year old practice called yoga.  As you can imagine, a two-hundred hour program merely scratched the surface yet I learned a lot and that’s a testament to the program I was enrolled in.

Sol Yoga’s teacher training program was an eclectic mix of styles and traditions led by an non-dogmatic instructor who was more interested in unleashing our inner teacher than creating teachers that copied her style and demeanor.  And that’s why Sol Yoga, owned by Dorcas Qyunn McWilliams, is a great place to not only learn about yoga, but practice in general.

Yoga teacher training started out simple, only to become more complex the more I studied.  Ask me what yoga is and I’m not sure that I’d even have an answer for you at this point.  I simply know too much to do justice to the term and even the official dictionary definitions of yoga are long winded and obscure.

This Sanskrit word has various meanings, one of which means union, thus most people think of yoga as something that unifies or connects the mind, body and spirit.  That tells us what yoga does, but the jury is still out on what exactly yoga is.  Is it a system?  A discipline?  A philosophical way of life?  Or is it merely a form of exercise that can give you a nice ass?

Cindi Lee,  yoga instructor and contributor to Yoga Journal gives a nice definition:

The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as “union” or a method of discipline. A male who practices yoga is called a yogi, a female practitioner, a yogini.

The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra an estimated 2,000 years ago. The Sutra is a collection of 195 statements that serves as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today. It also outlines eight limbs of yoga: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). As we explore these eight limbs, we begin by refining our behavior in the outer world, and then we focus inwardly until we reach samadhi (liberation, enlightenment).

Today most people practicing yoga are engaged in the third limb, asana, which is a program of physical postures designed to purify the body and provide the physical strength and stamina required for long periods of meditation.

Some say yoga was invented out of necessity because sages that were rigidly sitting for hours in meditation decided to move to avoid pain and stiffness. This resulted in poses being created that were linked via the breath.  Thus yoga is literally a moving meditation and every time you unroll your mat this is what you’re attempting to do as well.

Notice I said meditation and not prayer because the one thing I know for sure is that yoga is not a religion.  I wasn’t ordained as a yoga priestess, just certified as a yoga teacher.  I’ve never been baptized in yoga or asked to confirm any specific yogic belief system.  All I’ve ever been asked to do in a yoga class, is breathe.

There are many types of yoga to choose from and based on the type of class you attend, yoga can be a sweat inducing, strength training, cardiovascular workout or a calm, relaxing, and restorative way to increase range of motion, flexibility and reduce stress.  Therefore if you’re intrigued about yoga, do NOT only go to one class and make your decision.  Try out various classes, teachers and styles before you decide if yoga is something that you want to add to your life.

If you can’t find a class in your area, there are DVD’s that you can buy, thousands of free videos on Youtube as well as membership based sites that allow you to experience yoga.  And when I start teaching, I’ll let you know so you can come try out my style as well.

To Blog or Not To Blog

My blogging has gone from twice a week to a mere twice a month for about 6 months now. Ironically, my stats are the highest they’ve ever been.  Apparently if you write a post about the Snuggie, you suddenly become Arianna Huffington.

There are a lot of reasons behind my lack of blogging.  The main one being that I’ve been too pissed off lately to post.  I think that readers deserved to be entertained and/or informed, not annoyed by my ramblings.  Everyone’s pissed off about something but unless you’re going to turn your anger into a kick ass comedy routine, save it for your private journals or significant others.

Truth be told, I’ve been pissed ever since the election and if this was a political blog it would make perfect sense to spend every post bitching about the conservative Christian right.  But this is not a political blog so I’ve made a conscious choice to not react to every Tom, Dick and Joe Wilson out there in “I’m such a fucking patriot – watch me be too much of an asshole to be part of the solution so I’ll just continue to be part of the problem” land.

See what I mean?  Not funny.  Just mean and very Rush Limbaugh like.

The other reason for my lack of blogging is because I’ve spent the last 5 months doing yoga teacher training.  A lot of my free time has been used reading up on the history of yoga, the contraindications of particular asanas and the proper sequencing of yoga classes.  Besides learning about yoga, I’m also taking continuing education credits to get re-certified in speech therapy and return to my previous life as an acute care health professional. Hopefully this time next year, I’ll be doing both part time.

The third reason for my lack of blogging is due to some changes to my health.  I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and I’ve had a lot to process.  The good news is that  unlike a majority of folks with the disease, I learned I had MS from a routine MRI and not due to having any symptoms, literally “stumbling” on it this summer. Most folks with MS suffer from various symptoms for years, sometimes decades before having a definitive diagnosis.  Since my cart came before my horse I’ve been able to take complete advantage of this and start my daily injectable medication without any real complaints or concerns.  If all goes well, the meds will work at the level of my immune system and keep me from developing any more brain lesions in the future.

Therefore, I’m not sure what form this blog will take moving forward.  Don’t be surprised if you see more health and wellness posts and although I don’t want to limit my blogging to only MS and yoga, be forewarned.  I have just been diagnosed with a disease with no cure, that is unbelievable expensive to treat and that labels me as a person with a pre-existing condition. You can imagine what my next post on health care reform will be like.