Yoga Teacher Training Month 1 Recap

I’m now about one third of the way through my yoga teacher training. So decided this was as good a time as any to jot down some thoughts, feelings, Emotions etc about the process so far. 

Weekend 1

         Okay. So it probably seems completely and utterly insane to be taking on YET ANOTHER training / program so immediately close to the conclusion of PA school. But I leaned on yoga to get me through it. And now I’m leaning on yoga to help me think about my next steps. My mind has been in a constant worry / question mark of what’s next. I’m swatting away this question and actively avoiding it when getting together with friends, at every family gathering, and in direct messages. Like sprinting away from it all full speed type avoidance. I truthfully feel all over the place. Scattered. Jumbled. Distracted. Uneasy. And I need to learn how to harness the insecurities and ambiguities, not rush things, stay in the present, and MINDFULLY multitask. Rather than throwing effort, thoughts, and actions at any random thing that comes my way. So yeah. Yoga teacher training. I did it at YogaWorks as I’ve been a student there for the majority of my time in Boston. I love the variety of teachers and styles, and it’s really come to feel like home.

The first weekend of training was really body altering. In hindsight, strolling into my first day with 5 hours of sleep the night before after a concert wasn’t my best or brightest idea. But I walked in so damn happy. To be surrounded by like-minded yet at the same time very different people. After the introductions, we jumped right into 2 hours of yoga. While it wasn’t the most challenging class, I was engaging muscles in poses I had no idea were supposed to be engaged.

My biggest takeaway of the weekend: poses I was previously just dumping myself into require MUCH more thought and energy. We spent the majority of the weekend in “tadasana,” which in human language is just standing on the front of your mat with good posture. But with every muscle engaged as it should be, this pose took on a transformation. I was sore from the weekend from simply STANDING – but this time with my feet rooted firmly on the ground, my ankles hugging in, tailbone tucked under, shoulders rolled back, ribs knitted in, crown of head elongated toward the ceiling. There’s so much to think about. But thinking about ONLY these things meant I wasn’t distracted by any of the other thoughts that are usually plastered and adhered to my frontal cortex.That the simplest tasks take on new meaning when you do them mindfully with new and curious engagement.

Another HUGE eye opener was just how difficult it is to pair your movement with your mouth. To instruct someone how to do what you’re thinking with eloquence. The amount of “um”s that escaped was disappointing. But also exciting!! To really learn and hone this skill will help me not only as a person, but as a provider!

Okay and last thing. Each day we did an exercise where we all observed one student in the class performing a pose. We walked around slowly in a circle, closely inspecting form from feet to head (sounds creepy and predatory, I know). But the ability of the instructors to note small imbalances and correct them with just lightly brushing a torso. To be able to recognize imbalance and fix with ease and grace is something I hope to take with me as a provider big time!! That’s all for now! Off to do homework!! Yes, homework…

 

Weekend 2

“I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.”

 

I write this sitting on my couch the Monday evening after weekend training. I feel almost hungover. Muscles that have never been engaged are reminding me they exist every time I transition from seated to standing to take a few steps. The two hour flows that begin each session are arduous in ways that feel very different to previous yoga classes. Each and every post requires multiple muscle engagement. Yoga is in fact far less relaxing and far more athletic than I had previously been practicing. The heat built during these session rivals that of a heated class despite the room being room temperature. And the science behind creating the sequence of a flow makes sense, but there is SO much thought that goes into the whole process. It completely blows my mind that instructors are able to recite a class from memory, now knowing the depths of the structure, coordination, and tactful planning that goes into just a single hour long practice. Artfully ensuring each pose leading up to the peak pose is there for a reason. There is no amount of randomness to a yoga class. Each move serves its purpose and builds towards the peak of the class before again decreasing in energy

We spent a bit of time discussing habits and un-breaking them, specifically drawing from the teachings of the sutras as a springboard for this topic. In that it isn’t a simple linear relationship of breaking bad habits (see poem above). It’s active and mindful work, paying attention to what the poor form of bad habit is, and time, time, time to finally conquer it. Progress isn’t linear, baby. Not in a physical yoga practice (i.e. dumping entirely into my contracted side in triangle pose), nor in a spiritual journey or emotional journey.

This whole process seems to be about relieving and releasing the congestion in not only the poses but also the mind. I am so constantly hyper-focused on what’s next. How can I better myself? What is my background lacking? What specialty will best serve me and my future patients to help the most? But instead when these moments arise, focusing EN.TIRE.LY on the breath. To slow it way down, focus on what’s in front of you, rather than being unraveled by what hasn’t yet happened.

I’m also constantly in awe by the connections between yoga teaching and being a medical practitioner. And how instilling the practice of yoga into medicine can HUGELY help to prevent burn out. Taken from my teaching manual, “See the divine in your students. See the whole person, not just the parts or technique. Cultivate patience and empathy. Recognize they are doing the best they can.” CAN. WE. ALL. JUST. TAKE. A. MOMENT. We are all just doing the best we can. And if we treat others with patience and empathy we not only continue to encourage, but protect our own energy.

 

Weekend 3

Yet again, a mind and body altering experience. It was in this weekend that I really began to understand just how wrong I was doing poses I previously thought I had mastered. Downward dog has taken on an entirely new challenge and no longer feels comfortable in my body. An even bigger hurdle: chaturanga. The amount of total body engagement this pose requires is insane.

We have also been focusing on “practice teaching” poses during this weekend. It is astounding how confused your brain and tongue can get when forced to put words to mat. I’m absolutely amazed yoga teachers are able to do so with such ease and fluidity, whereas I fumble with each sentence. While I know this is why I’m here – to practice – it feels very overwhelming. But if there’s anything I learned in PA school, it’s that with each new challenge comes discomfort but growth. Throwing yourself in head first (with quadriceps engaged, all four corners of your feet pressed firmly into the ground, and abdomen pressed towards the spine in this case), and just seeing what happens. Opening yourself up to failure, accepting it, and trying again with a new mindset. And being honest with yourself knowing to ask for help. If something doesn’t feel right – asking a teacher or classmate for advice. Or modifying a pose by using a block, blanket, or strap so that things start to feel better. Modification for deeper understanding and expression in the RIGHT way, not necessarily in the most “impressive” way.

Beyond the postures, anatomy lessons, and practice teaching, I look forward to the tenets of yoga. The stuff that goes on off your mat – in your mind and in your life, yoga in action. Even just dissecting the word “vinyasa,” which means “to place in a special way” (loosely translated). Both on and off your mat, the effort and action is planned, intentional, purposeful. It’s not just what you’re doing but how you do it.

I also want to end this little recap with something that came from one of our required readings (The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V Deslikachar). “What is always important is that we never try to force anything in situations where there seems at first to be now way to move. We must just create space for ourselves, for the mind. …Whenever there is confusion in our minds we must try to create space.”

THIS is the reason I’m doing this training. During a time of much grey area and confusion, this time in my life feels incredibly uncomfortable. But the only way to see through it is to make some space. Official subtitle of this training: making shapes, making space.

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