10 weeks + 30 hours per week + 11 guest teachers = It’s been a long, but amazing summer!
Last week, I completed my 300 hour advanced yoga teacher training program at Marin Power Yoga, and once I file all the paperwork with Yoga Alliance, I will be able to combine my previous E-RYT 200 hour certification and become a 500 hour Registered Yoga Teacher! Hooray!
To be honest, it is not really the designation that matters to me. I have taught over 1000 hours of yoga classes since I first received my RYT 200, and I still feel like a beginner in so many ways. What matters to me is professional development, continuing to grow and be a better teacher and student. Even after now with an additional 300 hours, I have discovered that I am even more so a beginner than before!!! And I have a feeling I always will be… I am thirsty to learn more, I am humbled by my teachers, and I have only scraped the surface of all there is to know…
This is my summer in review… with a few of my favorite notes that I am taking away from each of my teachers.
Debbie Daly: Yin Yoga
Photo Courtesy of Marin Power Yoga
Debbie is the queen of yin. And she sings. Really good. One of the classes, she even brought her Ukelele and sang to us during savasana. I’d like to say that I will start chanting in my classes… but… I won’t.
Yin Yoga Postures
I have been teaching Yin at Marin Power Yoga for a few years, but I always found it easier to call out the poses with the same name as in my Power or Gentle Yoga classes. For example, I would say “Seated Forward Fold,” when in actuality, Yin Yoga has a different name for all the poses, and a Seated Forward Fold would be called “Caterpillar.”
- I will try to incorporate at least one official Yin Yoga Posture name each week to educate myself and my students on the proper name.
Everybody Is Different
Literally every BODY is different. I obviously knew that already, however, I was previously taught to teach a ton of very specific alignment about which direction a foot should point towards or the exact placement for your hand. Wrong! Debbie brought Napoleon to teach us quite a bit of anatomy and we learned that structurally someone’s bones may just not be able to do a certain movement.
- I will guide students towards a pose, but allow some “wiggle” room for students to truly feel the pose and adjust accordingly for their body, instead of following a strict set of directions.
- I will give fewer unnecessary alignment cues (i.e. just babbling out all the steps to a pose), and instead cue to what I see in the room and what will resonate with the students in front of me.
Balance Yin With Yang
Although most of the training was on anatomy and yin postures, Debbie also taught us a few Yang flows to help stimulate the flow of chi. I have never done QiGong, but I imagine it to be similar to what Debbie was teaching us… flowing with breath and energy. This particular Warrior Advance and Retreat sequence was my favorite:
Debbie Daly, E-RYT 500, is a senior yin yoga teacher with extensive training under Paul Grilley. Before moving to the bay area, Debbie was the founder and owner of Tucson Yoga, a vibrant low-cost yoga studio in Arizona that grew to serve over 20,000 students/year during her 10 years as director. Her yoga home is now Yoga Toes Studio in Point Reyes, where she works with MC Yogi and Amanda.
Visit www.yinpractice.com for more information about Debbie.
Anne Marie Kramer: Be Extraordinary
Photo Courtesy of Marin Power Yoga
This was by far my favorite quote from Anne Marie that she used to theme one of her classes: “No amount of self-improvement can make up for self-acceptance.” I have since reflected on this quote and shared it with many of my students because it is so simple, yet so powerful. Self love.
Anne Marie had a special “arc” for her classes. She always sequenced her classes to a peak, and allowed students to flow free and independent for a few minutes. During this time, Anne Marie would intentionally turn up the music volume to a high energy song that matched the intensity of the class. Then right after the peak, Anne Marie would drop to complete silence and ground everyone into a 5 minute seated meditation. Right in the middle of class. This was Anne Marie’s masterful flow that was true to her, and therefore as a student, it worked.
- I will play my music with intention. I will not be afraid to include more silence into my classes and I will try to be masterful with the flow of songs and the arc of my class. I will be more mindful to keep the volume lower when I am instructing, and turn it up higher when the class is flowing.
- I will incorporate at least a minute of meditation into my classes as a start to deepen my students’ practice.
Yum Yum… yes I loved learning these!
Anne Marie spent the first day doing goal setting with us, and she helped us to determine our mission statements. What are our values, what is our purpose, what is our vision? It all came down to one word, and for me, that word was to inspire. Lately, Anne Marie has been sharing bits of inspiration through live broadcasts on her Facebook page. My favorite so far? Hug life.
- I will inspire others to grow through every obstacle, to find love in every imperfection, and to appreciate every breath.
- I will work on sharing more bits and pieces of myself in my classes. I would love to one day be able to share as eloquently as Anne Marie!
Committed to empowering others, Anne Marie Kramer inspires sensuality and strength with her intuitive teaching. Her approach to yoga is playful and edgy. She’s known for her creative sequencing, loving assists, ability to hold students in silence and words that pierce the soul.
Anne Marie believes in the healing power of yoga, and its ripple effect on the community and world. In 2007, she founded Zuda Yoga and Zuda’s Open Your Heart Teacher Training. There are studios in Sacramento, Folsom and Roseville. Hundreds of Zuda’s training graduates have gone on to teach yoga and open many studios not only in the greater Sacramento area but around the nation and world.
After teaching others for 20 years Anne Marie has learned that everything and everyone is a mirror. Yoga is everywhere.When Anne Marie is teaching: Expect the unexpected!
Visit www.zudayoga.com for more information about Anne Marie.
Desirae Pierce: Bowspring Alignment
Photo Courtesy of Marin Power Yoga
From the moment Desirae began the training, you could feel her passion and strong belief in the style of yoga she practices, called Bowspring Alignment. Secretly, I also knew immediately we would get along when she pulled out her full color, beautifully bound manual for our training. Desirae challenged a lot of the traditional ways we think of poses, but after learning her techniques, I was able to achieve something that I have never done before… a crow arm balance to a handstand!!!
Natural Curve of the Spine
We often hear the cue, “tuck the tailbone,” in many of our poses including specifically chair pose. However, one of my biggest takeaways from Desirae was that we simply want to keep the natural curve of the spine, not exaggerate the arch by sticking our bottom way back, nor removing the arch (which tucking does). Instead, we find the middle where our back feels happy and the body is aligned. Perhaps this makes the most impact for me in poses involving my neck. I have learned from Desirae to press the back of my head down firmly on the ground, instead of letting my chin meet my chest in poses like bridge or shoulderstand. Perhaps I can heal my own migraines now that I am keeping the natural curve in my neck!
- I will not cue “tuck the tailbone” anymore!
- I will guide students to keep the natural curve in their spine during poses.
- I will discourage my children from doing somersaults because that is what I did way too many times as a child, and consequently I have a flat neck (actually a reverse C-shaped curve) because of my chin staying tucked to my chest!
Fluidity Inside a Pose
I am used to seeing these beautiful photos of yogis doing the perfect full expression of a pose. A downward dog with perfect lines and heels on the mat. A warrior 2 with the hips super open to the side and a deep lunge. Desirae challenged this idea of a full expression because she said that when we have our legs straightened out or when we’ve hit what we think is the “final destination,” then there is no where else to go. Instead, she teaches her downward dog with the knees slightly bent, the heels lifted off the floor, the head slightly lifted versus collapsing, and the sit bones spread away from each other. Then, as Desirae says, you can move! You can flow somewhere else, you can pounce, you can spring, you can keep shifting and growing. Another example is in Wheel pose, Desirae taught us that it actually doesn’t make sense to press our hips way up to the sky and stay there. Instead, we should soften our knees and actually drop our hips down to go deeper in our backbend!
Photo Courtesy of Marin Power Yoga
- I will cue softness into the poses I teach so that students can continue to explore the depth of their movements.
- I will be ok with a pose not “looking” perfect, because it will feel better in my body.
This is a technique I have always used in my practice, but I never knew it was a technique until Desirae helped put words for the actions that I use to deepen my poses. An example is in a Standing Forward Fold, place your fingertips on the floor slightly in front of your face and “dome” your hands. Dig the fingertips down and imagine you are dragging your fingertips back towards your toes. That action will cause the spine to lengthen forward! Dig drag!
- I will teach dig drag in my classes, including my favorite, placing the fingertips on the back of your head and then pressing energetically into the fingertips and head. I love doing this during backbends such as crescent lunge or Warrior 1 because the head is supported by the fingertips so the neck is not strained, and at the same time, the body can lengthen so much more!
OWNER /DIRECTOR OF BREATH AND BODY YOGA, RYT 500
Shining in ballet from the age of three, Desirae took a lead role in the Nutcracker by the age of six with the Fort Worth City Ballet Company. Through high school and college, she continued a path of competitive sports mixed with the arts. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, she followed a creative marketing path and in 1993 opened her own graphic design studio American Pie Design, Inc. Desirae discovered that yoga provided a counter to the stress of the corporate world. Traveling the country for major corporations, she experienced many yoga styles, but found Bikram Yoga, Baptiste Power Vinyasa, Anusara Yoga and Sridaiva styles provided a spiritual aspect, the missing puzzle piece to her life. In 2006, she opened Breath and Body Yoga on Burnet Road and in September of 2015 she opened the second location on Exposition in Austin, Texas. She established the leading 200 and 500-hour teacher training school in Austin plus produces online classes and yoga videos. The University of Texas’s Women’s Volleyball, Softball, Golf and Men’s Baseball and Women’s Basketball teams hire her to bring strength, flexibility, breath and alignment to their collegiate sports. At present she teaches, tours and trains, bringing a new dynamic to the practice where vinyasa flow meets alignment.
Visit www.breathandbodyyoga.com for more information about Desirae.
Marni Task: Yoga as Therapy
Photo Courtesy of Marin Power Yoga
Well, this photo pretty much sums up one of my favorite takeaways from Marni! For someone who suffers from chronic migraines because of tight shoulders and neck, this chair supported shoulderstand is AMAZING! Freedom in the neck as gravity helps to create length, and at the same time, downward pressure on the shoulders like a deep tissue massage, plus of course all the benefits of being upside down… yummy!
This was a term Marni used to describe constant shifting and deepening in poses. One example of shlump pump is in the scapular J movement such as collapsing the shoulders in a plank pose versus pressing the floor away and creating space between the shoulder blades. Another example is when Marni transitioned the top hand in side angle pose to an extended side angle pose. Instead of just shifting the whole arm over the head, Marni taught mini drills for students to “shlump pump” that arm in and out of the socket. When the arm is inside of the socket (vs. arm reaching way out), there is more mobility and it is safe to rotate the arm overhead.
- I will teach shlump pump drills to my students so they are safer in poses and will have deeper ranges of motion. Examples of a shlump pump pose is doing cobra pose on fingertips and twisting right or left, but pressing down on the fingertips and squeezing the shoulder blades together.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation
Big word. Big changes to my practice. Because I am naturally flexible, I often go so deep in poses that I am actually not working very hard. I am simply dumping into my joints and “hanging out.” For example, take a seated forward fold. I can fold so deeply that my belly and ribs just rest on my legs and my hands go beyond my feet. Marni taught us the idea of PNF, which I took to mean: by creating space around the joints, we can actually get deeper into the pose. Examples include placing our thumbs in our hip socket and pulling outwards to create space in the hip joint. Or in that seated forward fold, I should literally lift my belly in and off my legs (similar to a cat pose sensation), then lengthen out further towards my toes. The more I repeat this wavy action, the deeper my forward bend.
- I will be mindful in my own yoga practice to use PNF to deepen my poses and not to “hang out!”
- I will teach my students to be aware if they are dumping in poses or working on deepening their poses.
Marni taught us many assists of all ranges, from basic poses such as Downward Dog to advanced poses such as Visvamitrasana. I also appreciated that she spent time teaching with props, such as a shoulderstand with 3 blankets and a rolled up mat!
To post or not to post? @marinpoweryoga sent me this #nofilter photo and asked me to post it on my page. I just finished another 30 hours of my #300ryt this week (120 hours done!) with @marni.task and here she is showing us how to do a #shoulderstand #assist using 3 blankets underneath my shoulders to protect my neck. I didn't want to post this photo because I was too self-conscious of my close up bare belly… (What is up with the endless negative self-talk???)… And right now, I've decided to take a deep breath, think positively towards myself, and embrace the fact that I am 37 years young, I've had 2 kids, and I should be #grateful that I am the healthiest and strongest I have ever been in my life. I don't diet (as you know daily #icecream is my weakness), but I do eat a ton of veggies, protein, and limited carbohydrates. This photo shouldn't be shameful, it should inspire me to continue a lifestyle of sweating a lot, strengthening physically and mentally, and trying to find balance with everything (work vs play, sleep vs wake, conversation vs looking at the phone, etc). I should embrace that because I have been taking care of myself a little bit better, I have healed my #migraines from every 6 weeks to *knock knock* every 3 months… So why hide? Why be shy? I am posting this picture to hopefully inspire you to reflect on what healthy means to you? No extremes, just slight changes can make a world of difference. Walking up the stairs, drinking more water, stopping that midnight snacking… I thank my mentors, my yoga guru Sherry Han who is (gasp) close to… 70? @michelledozoisfitness who just turned 50… My grandma who is 97… My parents… These people are my #inspiration because they prioritize their health, but know how to #balance it all with a dash of #chocolate 😉. After all, life is sweet! ❤️ —————————————— @athleta #athleta #athletaambassador #sponsored #athletacortemadera #powerofshe #yoga #yogaeverydamnday #yogainspiration l #yogi #yogini #yogagirl #yogamom #upsidedown #inversion #inversions #ab #abs #strength
Marni Task, ERYT 500 is an Advanced Certified Jivamukti Yoga Teacher & Anusara Inspired instructor at Cleveland Yoga. Since 1989 she has been inspired by her beloved teachers Sharon Gannon & David Life, the creators of Jivamukti. Other inspiring teachers include John Friend, Desiree Rumbaugh, Amy Ippoliti, Mitchel Bleier, Shri Shri K Pattabhi Jois, Dharma Mittra, Krishna Das, and Ram Das.
Visit www.marnitask.com for more information about Marni.
Paul Rosenblum: Meditation & Philosophy
Photo Courtesy of Marin Power Yoga
Oh Paul. You know when you meet someone and you have a lasting impression of them? Paul is full of smiles. He exudes peace, love, kindness, gentleness, patience, compassion, and wisdom. After all, he is literally a Zen Master. Really. As far as meditation goes, I was a newbie, so that part of the training was indeed a challenge. However, as far as professional development goes? I grew.
The Repeating Question
Everyday, we had an exercise. We would get into partners and Paul would give us one question. One person asked the question, one person answered. The asker would respond, “Thank you” and repeat the question. And the person answering had to come up with something different. And this continued. For 10 minutes. The result? When someone asks you the same question over and over, you really have to start digging deeper to come up with different answers. You end up going beyond the “easy” surface level answers, and you have to really think… you end up really waking up.
- I will try to be fully awake, fully present in all of my actions: when I am driving my car from Point A to Point B and not daydreaming but paying full attention, when I am walking through the house and bringing mindfulness to every footstep instead of just stomping around, when I put something into my mouth (as I typed this paragraph, I had already noticed I WASN’T being mindful because I was shoving grapes into my mouth). This is the point. I will taste what I am eating. I will be intentional about what I am putting in my mouth and savor it. I want to be awake in everything I do.
Strong Back Means An Open Heart
Paul said it perfectly, “Best I can do is sit up straight in the middle of difficulty and not to lean away or lean into it.” He explained that there is no limit to patience, no limit to friendliness, no limit to kindness. When someone shares with us, we should simply respond, “I hear you,” and we receive them by sharing our presence and fully listening, not by holding onto our own experiences or placing opinions. When things happen to us, we should allow ourselves to fully experience whatever it may be without any judgement, feeling, attachment, or result. We accept the experience in its full presence.
- I will be a better listener when others are talking and try to refrain from interjecting my stories or opinions.
- I will try to notice when I become judgmental and instead try to accept the situation without any attachment.
- I will notice the limiting assumptions I make and peel it away! For example, no, not everyone cares to follow rules like me, so I cannot get upset when others don’t follow the same rules or expectations.
Meditate With Effortless Effort
Here’s one of my biggest takeaways: learning to fold a meditation cushion from a blanket!!!
- I will set time aside each day to sit quietly and meditate. I will begin with a doable time like 5 minutes, then work up to longer sessions.
- I will let go of the idea that there is a right way to meditate. Let the meditation find me.
- I will treat my life as practice and “dao” enlightenment. “Dao” in Chinese literally means both “traveling to” and “arrived.”
Ryuten Paul Rosenblum Roshi is a lineage holder in the Zen Buddhist tradition of Dongshan and Dogen.
He began practice with his first teacher, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in 1968. For ten years, Ryuten lived and trained at Zen Center: with Suzuki Roshi until his death in 1971, and subsequently with Suzuki Roshi’s successor Zentatsu Baker Roshi. He was ordained as a priest in 1975. After a period of “working in the world,” Ryuten Roshi became a successor of Baker Roshi and received Dharma Transmission, authorization to teach, from him in August of 1999.
Ryuten’s practice and teaching is rooted in the fact that truth, the whole body, is continually presencing anew. When are no longer caught by the beliefs and preconceptions that keep us from attesting to this fact, we can know directly that each one of us, each being and thing, is unbounded aliveness. To practice is to be present in the unfolding of aliveness itself.
Ryuten Roshi spends almost half of each year as Seido, Resident Teacher, at Buddhistisches Studienzentrum im Johanneshof located in the Black Forest in Germany. Ryuten also teaches regularly at other centers in Berlin, Vienna and beyond. He lives in San Anselmo, California.
Visit www.ryutenpaulrosenblum.com for more information about Paul.
Elizabeth Lutes: Art of Communication
Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Lutes
Elizabeth is brilliant. She is not afraid of speaking honestly, which is one of my weakest points. Elizabeth basically summed up in one word how I deal with every single negative situation or person I encounter: avoidance. I never really saw that pattern in myself, but after she pointed it out, it was pretty clear. I tend to avoid conflict and brush it aside or change the subject.
- I will “avoid” avoiding!
- I will learn to say “no” more. In fact I’m off to a good start because as of this week, I decided I was burned out from teaching too many classes… so I gave up 2 of my classes! I know it was the right choice, but it was still hard to do!
Elizabeth broke down what happens when we communicate face to face with someone. When you are talking to someone, the listener listens to you:
55% through body language and facial expression
38% through tone of voice – pacing, volume, inflection
and 7% to content, or your words
So really, 93% of how we listen isn’t through someone’s words! We listen mostly in the unconscious mind!
- I will be a generous listener by standing still, making eye contact, staying present, focused, and attentive, validating what I hear, asking questions, and simply being open and curious to what I hear.
- I will ask questions if I am prepared for the answers. For example, I will not ask, “How are you,” if I am just passing by someone and I am not really waiting for their answer.
- I will listen first for content and repeat my understanding of what I heard, then I will listen for emotion and ask about the other person’s feelings. Last, I will listen for what the other person is committed to and what they value. I will invite others to share and invite conversations.
Own Your Story
Elizabeth shared a powerful way to change the perspective on events that have happened in our lives. When we blame someone or view ourselves as victims of a situation, then we have no way to heal ourselves because we give all the power to the other person. Instead, Elizabeth encouraged us to take responsibility over every situation, and to re-write our stories without any blame. How can we see a scenario and see the role WE played in it, instead of blaming others and their role? “I did this…” “I can do this to improve this situation…” “I can help to…” Elizabeth says, “We may not have choices about our circumstances, but we always have a choice on how we respond to them.” Perfect.
- I will stop myself from blaming others and acting like a victim.
- I will stop judging others and drawing conclusions about people.
- I will take responsibility over the problems I may have and take the necessary steps to fix the situation so that I am healed, whether it is through speaking honestly to someone, or changing my own behavior.
A nice break from our serious discussions with Elizabeth was when she introduced us to her practice of Kundalini Yoga, which I had never experienced before. I can summarize my experience of Kundalini through Elizabeth’s quote, “What you resist, persist.” In Kundalini, you take a movement and repeat it over and over with the breath. The repetition over time is the practice, because often times your muscles are aching and you want to stop moving, or else your mind wants the movement to stop! Instead, it is the practice of not resisting, but letting it be. Accepting and experiencing.
- I will continue to practice the Nabe Kriya that Elizabeth introduced, which is a sequence that is specifically targeted for the abdominals, and integrate more styles of yoga into my flows because variety is fun!
Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Lutes
Elizabeth has spent over 30 years working in educational, non-profit and corporate environments to empower people to see new possibilities and achieve new levels of satisfaction and effectiveness. For 12 years, Elizabeth ran a community-based, volunteer intensive transformational program for youth at risk, active in 25 cities in the US and in the UK. She then moved into the world of corporate consulting, bringing her training, coaching and facilitation skills to support leaders in transforming their leadership, teams, and organizations.
Elizabeth began practicing yoga over fifteen years ago, and has participated in many teacher trainings, most recently receiving her certification as a Level 1 Kundalini Yoga Teacher through the Kundalini Research Institute. Since 2006, Elizabeth has been supporting, designing, and co-facilitating teacher trainings and transformational programs using yoga as a vehicle for personal evolution. After working with Baron Baptiste for several years, 2009 – 2012, Elizabeth co-founded Real Evolution Yoga with Tom Lutes and Kevin McQuillan.
Elena Brower: The Art of Attention
Photo Courtesy of Marin Power Yoga
There is magic in the air when Elena is around. You just know and feel this deep presence that is indescribable about Elena. From her intense eye contact (left eye only apparently), to her intentional moments of silence, to her genuine interest and care and love for others, to her wisdom and knowledge, and to her “sixth” sense of knowing beyond what an average person knows… Magic.
We began one of our conversations brainstorming what makes the caliber of a teacher. Everyone shared things from a teacher being personable and sincere, to someone who is vulnerable and embraces imperfection, to a teacher that has positive energy and creates connection. Elena also added in that a teacher of caliber knows what to do to carve the best out of their students. That teacher is able to penetrate like a bullet into the hearts of students. Elena shared her 3 “P’s” that she follows whenever she teaches:
- I will be precise with my words.
- I will be patient.
- I will pace my classes and allow space for students to absorb their experiences.
Fit Yourself First
To increase our caliber as teachers and leave the greatest impact on our students, Elena stresses that we have to work on ourselves first! We do so by studying and practicing, not only just in yoga, but in life. When we come from a place of constantly learning, growing, and trying, then we can share with our students and everyone will feel it.
- I will commit to reading more growth books consistently.
- I will try to include more impersonal personal sharing in my classes (sharing without being too personal so that people can relate, and sharing with integrity and honesty).
- I will continue to study and practice being a loving parent. Elena shared that one of the worst things we can do to our children is to yell at them and then leave them feeling ashamed. She said the result of this is children who lack creativity and insight, children who become adults that feel shameful. Elena said it is so important to right away come back with love both physically and verbally. To hold our children tight and still let them know they are loved. That was a powerful take away.
Elena had a simple definition of integrity: when your head, heart, and body are in line. My observation of Elena’s integrity during our training were not actually things she “taught” or talked about. Instead, they are simply what I noticed about Elena and how she held integrity during the 2 days we were together.
- I will treat my students lovingly. In class, we were doing a pose and my hair happened to be all covering my face so I couldn’t really see. Elena walked by and she simply tucked my hair behind my ear. It was such a simple touch, and yet, it made me feel loved and seen.
- I will not be afraid of being curious. During training, one of us shared how her sister had committed suicide and it was obviously an incredibly difficult event that she will continue to work through for the rest of her life. In normal situations, we tend to console and say, “I’m sorry,” then leave space for silence. Elena did leave silence, but instead of ending the conversation, she continued. And she asked, “What was her name?” Elena continued the conversation and was able to bring healing because of her genuine curiosity and love. Powerful lessons.
Elena Brower is the author of Art of Attention, a yoga workbook translated into five languages. She has been studying and teaching since 1998, and is respected globally for her blend of alignment and attention. Her audio meditation coursework, Cultivating Spiritual Intelligence, is renowned for its accessibility and relevance, and her yoga teaching is influenced by several traditions including Katonah Yoga, Kundalini and ParaYoga. Elena is also the founder of Teach.yoga, a global website for teachers, and her second book, Practice You, will be published in 2018 by Sounds True. Practices with Elena can be found on YogaGlo.com, and her schedule and writings can be found at www.elenabrower.com.
Phillip Askew & Ivy Kaminer:
Pilates, AcroYoga, and Privates
Photo Courtesy of Marin Power Yoga
This week with Phillip & Ivy brought my asana practice to a whole different level. Besides traveling around to teach, they primarily have private yoga clients they see regularly, so the majority of time was spent on hands-on adjustments and advanced poses. On the last day, we each received a one hour private session as the rest of us observed and learned how Phillip adapted each private session based on that person’s body, ability, and injuries. Phillip had my fingers touch for the first time ever in cow face with my bad right shoulder bent behind my back, he had both of my legs behind my head, and he had me in a side plank with one leg around my head! Not sure my mind was ready for those poses, but apparently my body was!
Phillip said that we should give students 80% what they can do and then leave 20% as a challenge. “The goal of yoga is to NOT be comfortable, but to break habits.” This was a perfect example of how Phillip led his private session with me and definitely brought me to my 20% of challenging poses! Another area that I appreciated about Phillip is his mini-drills that challenged regular poses we find in vinyasa classes. For example, instead of a side crow, Phillip taught us to slowly lower one elbow down for a funky side crow and then return back to both hands for a side crow. After that if a student wanted more, he had them extend the top leg out and transition to a 5 fingertip one leg side crow, then 4 fingers, 3 fingers, 2 fingers…. and then take those 2 fingers and “paint the floor” like a paintbrush.
- I will be mindful of the students in my class to make sure on one end that someone doesn’t feel too challenged and becomes frustrated or dislikes the experience, and on the other hand, another person is getting those mini variations if they want more challenge.
- I will break habits and be observant about getting students to change up their “default” flow.
3 Types of Breaths
It seems like such a simple concept to “breathe.” But I was not aware of how I was breathing all this time. Usually when I ask students to breathe, I have them do a 3 part breath through the belly, up to the lungs, and finally at the throat. That isn’t wrong, however, Phillip taught us that the belly breath, diaphragmatic breathing, actually only occurs when you do something like opera singing, not for yoga practice. The second breath is what I am used to, intercostal breathing, where we breathe and fill out the lungs and ribs. However, the third breath is what I need to bring more attention to and that is back and side body breath. The best way to feel this is in something like child’s pose, and trying to hold the front body still. Then when you inhale you will feel the breath go into the back and side body, versus I always brought the breath in the front side of my body.
- I will deepen my own yoga practice by breathing more mindfully into my back and side body.
- I will teach students the different types of breathing and encourage mindful breaths.
Bandhas of the Body
Normally when we think of bandhas, which are often thought of “locks” in the body, we think of the 3 main ones: Mula Bandha (root lock), Uddiyana Bandha (belly or upward flying lock), and Jalandhara Bandha (throat lock). Phillip made a point that we have bandhas all over our body and that these bandhas support our joints. For example, when we plant our hands down in a plank or downward dog, there is a slight space in the middle of the palm. Or lifting the arch of our feet is another bandha. Or hollowing out the armpits.
- I will cue to bandhas in the body especially when I see students sinking into their joints.
- I will learn to engage my own bandhas more during my practice, especially lifting up my foot arches because of my flat feet.
I came to Yoga no stranger to the joys of physicality. But my body was a wreck from sports that I played growing up. I was tremendously inflexible with ailments in my neck and back. For me, at the time, the simplest postures were- not only deeply therapeutic- but poignant vehicles for psychic transformation. It was this effect on my conscious mind that hooked me into the practice. I spent years in home practice before ever coming to class, thinking that my experience was too personal to share in a group setting. But, when I took my first Vinyasa class, in a room full of people, all practicing with one intention, all stoking the same fire, I fell in love with Vinyasa; and pursued it through various avenues over the years, searching out the various through-lines and common threads from one school to the next, & embracing the lifestyle of the Contemporary Yoga Movement. I teach today from that space between, in an attempt to convey the love story between form and flow, dancer and witness, devotion and integrity, Sun and Moon. I look forward to our practice together!
Visit www.phillipaskew.com for more information about Phillip.
Carmen & Moises Aguilar:
Class Sequencing and Adjustments
Photo Courtesy of Marin Power Yoga
When we were planning this 300 hour training in the spring, we were brainstorming the teachers we wanted to invite and the different styles of yoga to incorporate. Immediately, I thought of @cyogalab from my Instagram account. What made Carmen different from other Instagram accounts was not just her extremely advanced yoga practice, but more so how she “taught” the advanced yoga poses to other people. She is a detailed, thorough teacher on her Instagram account, showing videos of how to get into poses, and writing paragraphs of instruction. I could tell she really was a true, dedicated, yogi who had a lot of wisdom to share. So I direct messaged her… and she said yes to flying to San Francisco!
Major and Minor Themes
Carmen themes every class she teaches. Her classes were not a Vinyasa style, so it was interesting to start right away with seated poses that would normally go at the end of my class. Carmen’s idea is that students’ bodies needed a lot of time to warm up, so she started with her theme right away, even if that meant the first pose was a Double Pigeon. Her 2 main Major themes were: Backbends (with a strap or without a strap) and Hip Openers (leg behind the head or foot under the armpit). Her minor themes included: twists, arm balances, splits or hamstrings, laterals, and balancing.
After deciding her theme, Carmen planned out a couple “Peak” poses that fit the theme. Those peak poses would be near the middle or end of class when the body is most open after all the previously themed poses. One other important thing to note is that Carmen wrote out all her sequences, every detail, so that she knew every pose would prepare the body for the next pose.
- I will try using Carmen’s ideas of major and minor themes to prepare for my class sequences.
- I will prepare peak poses ahead of time and make sure not to cue a pose that the class is not properly warmed up for.
Never Fast Never Down
Half of our time each day was spent just on hands-on adjustments with Moises. His only main rule was “Never Fast, Never Down.” This was a great way to summarize all the adjustments and how to prevent injuring our students. Moises taught that the intention of our adjustments was to help students into the “full pose.” This was very helpful because even if you do not know what to adjust in a certain pose, you can visualize where the pose is supposed to grow into, and then adjust in those directions (longer spine, deeper twist, etc). Another tip from Moises was to adjust with the whole body so that we do not tire out, instead of only relying on our arm strength. Finally, adjustments create that personal relationship with students and allows them to go to new places in a pose.
- I will commit to adjusting in someone else’s class so I can have more practice with adjusting poses I am less familiar with.
- I will be better about using my entire body (foot, thigh, forearm) to adjust instead of my usual default of relying on my hands and arms.
Photo Courtesy of Marin Power Yoga
This was a side observation after spending 4 days with Carmen and Moises: my sanskrit is elementary. In my classes, I only use sanskrit for a handful of poses because I am not confident in how I pronounce the words, and I never spent time memorizing all of the poses. Carmen and Moises spoke mostly in sanskrit and it was humbling to realize that I did not know the yoga language. What is inspiring is that sanskrit is literally a common language in yoga, and that we could travel anywhere in the world, and be able to communicate and understand a yoga class if we were fluent in sanskrit. So that is good motivation and reason to study sanskrit.
- I will create sanskrit flash cards to learn all the pose names.
- I will incorporate at least one new sanskrit vocabulary word every time I teach to practice my memorization skills!
Carmen Aguilar found yoga right after completing her university studies. A seemingly crazy choice at the time, she dropped everything and devoted all her energies to the study of this discipline. The deeper she got into it the more it fascinated her. During the first years she studied with every teacher she could find, traveling wherever was necessary, completed 5 different Teacher Trainings, and started to develop her daily practice. Devoting to it 3 hours, 7 days a week, she has been able to reach levels few practitioners share.
She has been teaching yoga for more than 18 years, developing her unique teaching style, cYoga, intended to make her students achieve their best both physically and mentally. In March 2010, she was inspired to open her own yoga studio (The Lab) in Chicago, where she resides today with her husband Moises.
Visit www.labchicago.com for more information about Carmen and Moises.
Simon Park & Ivy Kaminer:
Liquid Flow Yoga
Photo Courtesy of Marin Power Yoga
Simon and Ivy live a life of traveling and teach yoga 10 months of the year all over the world. They are the perfect couple to do that because they are able to literally “go with the flow.” It is refreshing to see someone that is carefree and peaceful without needing solid plans. Something Simon and I have in common? CCC = Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Flow Like Water
You can sense this same kind of easygoing feeling when Simon teaches his classes. Simon teaches a vinyasa style, but he slows it down so much that there is a dance that happens with the breath and movement. He would use a slow and graceful lift of the arms to show an inhale breath, and gently lower the arms during the exhale. Simon said that creating a class is like writing music. He encouraged softness versus locking out to create more fluidity. For example, while moving between poses, Simon would cue our breath during transitions and let us feel every small movement of our bodies as if we were moving in slow motion. Moving slower doesn’t necessarily mean it is easier. Simon still taught advanced poses and delivered a powerful class.
- I will begin my classes with more simple flows that match the breath so students can really connect to both breath and movement.
- I will transition students mindfully between poses, making sure to “take the path of least resistance,” as Simon mentioned many times.
Prana and Apana
Simon taught us that students first need to understand the physical body, and how to “do” a pose. After that, we need to teach our students about energy bodies and breathwork. Simon taught us that we have to find the balance of prana and apana in every pose, or the balance of upward and downward energies, and not just “sink” or “hold” a pose. For example, in upward facing dog, we have to think how we create more upward lift even though our body could be sinking down to the floor. This is the engagement of the palms, the straightening of the arms, the lift in the head, the openness of the heart, the lengthening of the spine, the engagement of the core and thighs, and the pressing down on the tops of the feet. Simon says to make every pose energetically alive.
- I will practice teaching one cue and follow it with an opposing energetic cue.
- I will begin to notice more when I am not balanced in prana and apana in my own practice and search for that equal energy.
A nice way to end Simon’s week with us was doing a restorative session, which we hadn’t covered during our training. He had us fold very neatly 3 blankets into rectangles, and then stagger the short end so that it was a slow incline eventually for our sacrum to lie on. At the other end of the blankets, we rolled up the end to make a pillow. This was our set up for Supta Baddha Konasana, along with 2 blocks underneath our thighs. We also did a twist with our knees to one side and our bellies on the blankets, a child’s pose with our belly on our blankets, and savasana.
- I will slow down and get enough sleep each night.
- I will make more effort to do less and to give my body the rest it needs.
Simon Park began his Yoga journey in 1995 with Shiva Rea in the World Arts and Cultures Department at UCLA. Fast forward to the present where he was chosen by Yoga Journal as “one of the most influential and gifted, next generation of Yoga Teachers”. Since 2002, Simon has led workshops, teachers trainings and retreats throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia. His style is fluid, intuitive and encourages freedom through self-exploration. In addition to Shiva Rea who remains his root teacher, other strong influences are Richard Freeman, Maty Ezraty, Joan White and Dharma Mittra. Dubbed “The Flying Nomad”, he draws inspiration from road legends such as Jimi Hendrix, who said “The Earth is my home”.
Visit www.liquidflowyoga.com for more information about Simon.
Nubia Teixeira: Bhakti Yoga
Photo Courtesy of Marin Power Yoga
Nubia was the perfect person to close our 300 hour training session. She was like our mother in how she shared all her knowledge with wisdom and taught to us with love. Nubia is a storyteller. She has a gift of taking all her years of study and experiences, and retell everything she has learned through her words, her dances, and her yoga sequences.
Bhakti Yoga is the practice of connecting to everything that you love deep down in your being. It is about sharing your love for God, for things in nature, or people around you, or whatever it is you are passionate about, and awakening that through your actions such as your physical asanas. It is about how you project your heart and energy throughout your entire day. Bhakti is the yoga of devotion. Nubia encouraged us to perform a puja everyday, whether that was in creating an alter in our home, or in my case since I was running everyday, Nubia said that I should simply stop in the middle of my run and take a minute to arrange some rocks or sticks, and give that as a small offering to thank God, the Earth, and the beautiful natural world around me.
- I will make an effort to literally “stop and smell the roses,” or something equivalent to that everyday when I am outdoors.
- I will try to recognize when I do not act in line with my truth and my light, and change my actions.
This was a brand new area for me… learning about the stories and beliefs behind the yoga deities. This was where Nubia’s storytelling flourished. Nubia created a yoga flow for 5 deities, connecting each of them to one of the five elements and adding a mudra for each. We learned about Ganesha, Lakshmi, Durga, Shiva, and Hanuman. One example was learning that Ganesha was the son of Shiva and Shakti, and he is the remover of obstacles. Part of his story is to teach us that what we see or think may not always be what is the truth, for example, Ganesha was a huge elephant that rode a little mouse.
- I will continue to learn and to grow, and to seek knowledge in areas that I am not comfortable in, such as learning more about the history of yoga.
- I will incorporate mudras into my class flows.
Thai Yoga Massage
Nubia taught us 2 Thai yoga massage sequences, one on the belly, and one on the back. Although the entire sequence takes about 20-30 minutes to do, we were able to learn many techniques that we could use in our classes. Besides massaging students and allowing students to feel better, Nubia emphasized that the giver should meditate prior to giving the massage, in order to send love, compassion, joy, and non-prejudice to the receiver. The emphasis once again is in line with Nubia’s practice of Bhakti Yoga, and simply devotion in all of our actions.
- I will be conscious of taking a moment before classes to meditate and send love to my students before actually teaching.
- I will find the right adjustment for each individual student, whether it is a thai yoga massage, a deep hands-on adjustment, or simply… a hug (as I had received from Nubia).
Nubia Teixeira is a Brazilian-born yogini who has devoted herself to teaching different aspects of Yoga for the past 25 years. Perceiving Yoga as a Healing Art, Nubia’s refinement and devotion to this ancient practice is reflected in her unique teaching, overflowing with heartfelt compassion and inspiration. A longtime dancer in the classical Indian dance tradition Odissi, Nubia joyfully infuses her classes with it’s symbology and sacred geometry. She is the author of the CD “Pranayama: May Breath Be Our Prayer”, released by Sounds True.
Visit www.bhaktinova.com for more information about Nubia.
I am thankful to reflect on the past 10 weeks. It is one thing to experience a training, but it is even more valuable to leave some space after the training, and come back to all my notes and manuals to see what really stuck from the training. This blog is my reflection of everything I will work on as I continue my journey as a yoga teacher.
It has been an incredibly busy, but rewarding summer learning from these amazing teachers, and at the conclusion of it all, it is just as I had mentioned at the start of this blog. I am just beginning this journey that I have already been on for 37 years as a yogi living my truth and my light … and I am thirsty for more.