Monday, April 27, 2015

What I Learned in YTT

Two years ago I started my yoga teacher training (YTT) at Sol Yoga. This past weekend, another YTT class began. Witnessing the start of a new training class made me want to revisit my experiences as a new trainee.

I took the training not to become a yoga teacher but rather to enhance my own personal practice. I assumed that training would help me learn as much as I could about yoga in an efficient way. The YTT curriculum was organized and structured so that I would not have to pick and choose workshops here and there to patchwork together my yoga knowledge if I tried to do it on my own.

In truth, I had considered the YTT a full year before but made myself wait. I wanted to be sure that this was something I really wanted to do and was not just a passing interest or worse, a distraction. The years immediately prior were full of life-altering changes, loss and family crises; I considered that I might not be thinking quite clearly about things. So enrolling in YTT at that time might not be the right thing to do. I needed space and quiet contemplation to make the right decision. So I practiced for another year before making the decision.

My first weekend of YTT was exciting. I felt like the curtain had been pulled back so I could begin to see the mystery that was behind each yoga class. There was something more to those postures and movements that up to that point I had not been privy to. Now, in YTT, the magic would be revealed. It would take eight full training weekends, 200+hours, many books, and countless personal practices, but I would soon know the secrets of yoga.

One of the first exercises on the first night of YTT was to clarify your expectations for the training. Here were mine:

Notice the last sentence..."and to use it off the mat." Off the mat is a big thing in the yoga world. It doesn't mean breaking out into Vrksasana (Tree Pose) in the grocery line every chance you get or upstaging a nine-year-old by showing off your flexibility at her birthday party. Off the mat means taking the knowledge acquired through self-study on the mat and using it in your daily life. On the mat, can you have patience with your body as it learns new patterns of movement and alignment? Off the mat then, can you have similar patience with your children as they learn new things? On the mat, can you honor your limits and be content with what your body can achieve? Off the mat then, can you be content with what is? Paying attention on the mat smooths out the edges when it really matters off the mat.

There is an unending amount of technical knowledge about yoga: asanas (poses), alignment, styles, history, anatomy, breathwork, use of props, specialized yoga for almost every ailment or condition you can think of, the Eight Limbs, the whole world of Ayurveda and the list continues. I learned a bit about all of that in my YTT and still have so much more to learn. The most important thing I learned through my YTT was not a technical aspect but rather something about myself: I wanted to teach yoga. That was not one of my goals at the start. But through the training and through my growth, I came to believe so deeply in the benefits of this practice that I found the need to share it.

So now I teach a few times a week and I take that responsibility very seriously. Teachers create the space in which their students practice and learn. That holds true for yoga teachers, middle school teachers and everything in between. Teachers offer their students tools and experiences for learning and growth opportunities. That may sound lofty for just a yoga class but when you know that yoga is about more than flexibility and forgiving hamstrings, it fits. So next time your yoga instructor offers a moment of mindfulness as you hold Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana for...e...v...e...r, tuck that bit of perseverance away for a raining day when you need strength and fortitude off the mat. In those moments, stay grounded, breathe, radiate from your core and find some place you can bring in ease. That's the secret of yoga revealed.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Jump in! The Water's Crazy!

I haven't posted in so long that I am not even sure that I can do this again. But since my blog has been calling to me from the very back quiet corners of my mind for months and months now, I feel compelled to give it a shot. This feels like jumping in the pool on opening day. I know the water is absurdly cold but it's not going to warm up enough not matter how long I wait or how slowly I let myself acclimate to the water, inch by inch. I just have to jump in and go under all the way.

What better way to jump in than with some Friday Fragments?

This morning, I drove my youngest back and forth from the orthodontist for his pre-braces assessment complete with all the flattering pictures and gooey bite molds. Our orthodontist is thirty minutes from home. While the reason or length of the errand was not ideal, we made it fun by listening to the music of his choice. For one hour (to and fro), we listened to Weird Al Yankovic. Don't judge. I loved it as much as Helios did.  Weird Al is clever and oh so funny and he combines two of my favorite things: music and a quick wit.  And he parodies pop culture and how seriously it takes itself. Helios and I sang and laughed all the way.  I can't say which is my favorite Weird Al song; there are so many that rank.  But if you force me to choose right this very second, I would say "Word Crimes"

I am certain I commit several word crimes here and there but I plead innocent by reason of perimenopausal insanity. I forgot what I used to know.

It may be crazy to let someone who just admitted insanity have a loaded gun, but that's what happened on our last trip to Tennessee. They gave me a weapon. Not to worry. My target was only a large lasagna pan nailed to a tree and the ammo were pellets. Or should that be was pellets? 5150...Potential word crime in progress.

I see nothing wrong with a little target practice and if my boys had not been shooting real pellet guns at unsuspecting bakeware, they would have tried to sneak off to shoot digital weapons at more animated targets on their hand held screens of choice. I'd rather them have a real life experience and share some quality time with their uncle.

Plus the grandparents enjoyed a sunny day on the mountaintop with family, watching the friendly competition. And no animals or baked pasta entrees were harmed in this competition.

On another note, I recently helped out my neighbors by caring for their chickens. I fed the girls and collected eggs for several days. While I have never been a farm girl, I really enjoyed doing this. My inner Half-Pint was fed along with the chickens. One day I stopped by to collect eggs and unexpectedly opened the coop to find Rebecca on the nest. She was as surprised as I was. I quickly closed the door to give her privacy since I assume laying an egg requires privacy and concentration. It definitely would for me. I then sneaked (or is it snuck?) around to the viewing window...and saw this:

Rebecca had laid an egg in the very brief moment between my interruption and my voyeurism! I just missed catching her in the act by mere seconds.  My apologies for the poor photo quality but this is the best I could get through the henpecked plexiglass peeping window. My neighbors have yet to catch their feathered girls actually laying. I was at the right place at the right time...if this sort of thing excites you. Winner winner chicken dinner!

I should get out now before I end up just splashing around, making a fool of myself. But as I come up for air, I realize that the water may not have been as cold as I expected. And I can jump in again soon.