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Friday, December 25, 2015

Over but just beginning...

Formal yoga teacher training is now over and a few things have become apparent to me.

Backtracking to why I went into this from the beginning. I wanted to deepen my own yoga practice, learn more about yoga and see where it took me. Then the course started and like everyone in it I got caught up in the teaching aspect. But here's the rub: I never actually wanted to teach it, just learn it.

So midway through I had some conflict with myself then around late November I told myself to think again about why I started the training. And it came back to me... I didn't want to TEACH yoga -- especially after we heard how you have to hustle to get students and break into a world full of would-be yoga teachers, etc... reminding me of the hassles it was in my 20s to be in Japan and have to hustle for English students (which I did willingly then in order to stay in Japan, sometimes even taking trains an hour from my home to get to a class). I didn't want to do that anymore. Plus I was retired from teaching (public school) and didn't really need to find more work. So I relaxed and just learned what I needed for myself.

So here is some of my take away from 5 months of yoga teacher training:
1. I don't want to teach yoga.
2. I like to and want to keep going to other people's yoga classes because it relaxes me and helps me in my own practice.
3. I learned a lot about my body and its weird alignment with poses and how to help myself ease into a pose to a fuller extent.
4. I learned that my body type is just as good for yoga as a young thin bendy person's and that whatever I did, it was my yoga.
5. I learned more about breathing and meditation and yoga philosophy and have some areas I want to continue my learning in.
6. I learned to be more patient in class and to see how my first impressions of some people in the class changed over time.
7. I made a few really nice friends that I hope to stay in touch with.
8. I learned that from now on my experience with yoga will be different (in how I see a pose to how I see the world) and I am grateful for that.
9. I learned it is ok to express gratitude for things and that being more positive helps me stay grounded, no matter what people around me are like.
10. I learned how to face some of my fears (handstands) and how to work within my own abilities to over come them. No I still can't do a handstand but I have learned more of what my body needs to do and how a lot of it is practice and patience.

I probably learned a ton more but those are the 10 things that came to my mind as I sit here thinking about the class. Maybe the thing that I realized most of all is: life and everything we do is yoga, not just the poses. Yes Michelle, It is truly ALL yoga!  Thank you for an amazing experience!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Catching Up (again)...

I have been a bit remiss in posting some of my YTT class reviews on the blog per our homework so this morning I decided to go through my notes and post some of the interesting things I have learned in the last couple of weeks.

"Energy flows where the attention goes."
We had a very nice class about Ayurveda, the so-called "sister" of yoga. It is one of the ways to balance our life, in foods, herbs & spices, scents, actions.  Key phrase: "Prana trumps all". Again, the breath! It is a complicated topic that I will be looking into more.

We have learned a lot more about pranayama (breathing) techniques. I think for me the best thing is that I am now a lot more aware of my breath in other situations too. The other day I was in a jam on the freeway and I just sat there, breathing in and out slowly, calmly and that lessened my annoyance. And I think it helps my sleep more to focus on breathing and relaxation before I sleep.

There has been a lot of teaching practice and scurying around about the teaching and I had a revelation about WHY I am in the teacher training and what it means to me. AND... the realization that really I do not want to be a yoga teacher. Yes, I know... then why am I taking this long expensive training? Well.. for me. I started out wanting to take it to deepen my own practice and learn more about yoga and myself. Then I got caught up in the buzz around teaching for a few weeks and thought yeah sure, I can teach this. Then as I was sort of panicking about the "final" and finding students and all the talk about the business of teaching I stopped. And took a breath. And told myself... this is not what you wanted. And took another breath, it was getting lighter... and thought again about why I had signed up for this in the first place. And came through the other side with the INTENSE realization that I no longer wanted to teach, I just wanted to BE. To be with yoga, as a practice, in my life. And I realized how much more there had been to this course than just to prepare us for teaching. It had really been an exploration of ourselves and our own journeys. And for me, that was good enough. More than good.

Part of my thoughts above also hinged on the fact that I really enjoy GOING to yoga class/practice.I have found a few classes that I enjoy, that bring me peace and comfort, and then there are also workshops I sign up for that introduce me to new things. Next month I am trying the handstands workshop -- not so much to do a handstand, but to maybe face my fears of not being strong enough, not being good enough, thin enough, limber enough... and to learn how to make it work for me.

We also had classes on prenatal yoga (Wenke), the buz of yoga (Tami) and Bhakti (bringing devotion to your practice) with Alicia. Of these the bhaki one resonated most with me possibly because of it's musical side. We did some chanting and then movement, with chanting which I loved. I found it almost folk-dance like in its simplicity and joy, and it also made me really want to go folk dancing again. I know, a leap from yoga, but not really. Yoga is not just a class you go to and then it is over. Anything can be a meditative yogic practice if done with that intention, even folding towels or doing dishes. Ok, yes I would rather be doing downward facing dog than doing dishes but just sayin'...

Monday, November 23, 2015


I started writing this in my "other" blog and realized there was a lot of crossover to this one, so I decided to post it here too. I see I have fallen behind on blogging our yoga teacher training work so I will let this one start the ball rolling again for me...

The other day Tami was giving a workshop in our yoga teacher training session and through what she said reminded me of my Word of the year and the CDF's (core desired feelings based on the Danielle LaPorte book, The Desire Map). I realized it had been MONTHS since I had thought of those and decided to review them and see just where I stood with them...

My Word for the year in 2015 was OPEN. HERE is where I wrote about that.
My CDF's for 2015 were unencumbered, aligned, vibrant, connected, and mindful. HERE is where I list them but I see now I never really wrote more about them.

Now it is the week of Thanksgiving and many people are doing Gratitude challenges and such on Facebook and other social media. Or maybe preparing what they will say on Thanksgiving, the one day it seems we all have approval to feel gratitude. This has always been a hard thing for me. Not being grateful but expressing it. Lately there are a lot more articles online about how developing a gratitude practice is helpful in our lives and after so many years of cynicism I decided to tone my negative voice down and actually give it a try. So I joined the 40 day Gratitude challenge on Facebook and decided to take a look at thoughts and ideas I had set forth for my life and how this year played out.

Ok ok I am so grateful it is satsuma season (photo above)!! But seriously...

Starting with the Word for the year. OPEN. I think I have been more open to things happening this year. Where I think I have fallen down is being more open to accepting people as they are. Still needs work.

For the CDFs, I think I have had only bits and pieces of advancements with them:
Unencumbered: may need to use this one again next year. My house is still messy and I still have way too much stuff.
Aligned: I did better with this one and have a very positive feeling about bringing more yoga into my life. I am feeling more aligned physically but also mentally/spiritually. I have never been a religious person but I still feel there is some spiritual awareness that runs through my core. The yoga teacher training also helped me reawaken some of this curiosity.
Vibrant: I had hoped to do more art this year. Perhaps that is something again for next year. I have been feeling the loss of artistic mojo extremely powerfully these last few months.
Connected: Both good and bad on this one. I have been in touch with some people and relatives I had not been for a while, and some of that has brought sadness as well. Two of my cousins (one on my dad's side and one on my mom's) both passed away within a couple of weeks of each other last month. It makes me sad that I did not make more of an effort to stay connected. But also I have noticed the last few months I have been more introverted and have not gotten together much with people or made efforts to be more connected.
Mindful:  This one sort of laid dormant for a while then lately I am being much more mindful in several ways. Part of this is from an expanded awareness of mindfulness through the yoga training program and some of it is taking hold of my food issues and being more mindful of what and how much I am eating again.

So now I am thinking forward to next year and wondering if maybe I just need to give my words and ideas another year to percolate or is it time to choose a new word and cdfs? No hurry, no worries... just a thought that is taking hold this morning.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Cooling down...

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
"I don't much care where –"
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go.” 
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I had all the best intentions in the world last TT session -- I would get the HW packet, get an early start on it, get things done! I was turning over a new leaf.

Well I did get started on the reading quickly and did a little yoga and breathing... and now it is 2 weeks later and the next session is about to start tomorrow and I am not really sure where the time went.

It's not like I really lead a busy life.  Mostly I am searching for where all my mojos went: yoga, quilting, writing, painting, gardening... I feel like they are all hiding somewhere and any time I get close to finding them, even seeing a peek of them enough to grab hold a speck, they scurry off to another hiding place.  Squirrel
“Mad Hatter: “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?”
“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied: “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Which leads me to this week's reading about tapas. Yeah yeah, no not the Spanish plates, but the yogic niyama of heat, self-study, or will-power, discipline to put it in western terms.
 "Tapas is an aspect of the inner wisdom that encourages us to practice even when we don’t feel like it, even though we know how good it makes us feel! It’s that fiery passion that makes us get up and do our practice for the love of it, and by committing to this, the impurities are ‘burned’ away. Making the decision to go to bed a little earlier so you can wake up early to practice is Tapas; not drinking too much or eating unhealthy foods because you want to feel good in your practice is Tapas; and the way you feel after an intense yoga class, a blissful Savasana and deep meditation That’s Tapas too - ‘burning’ away the negative thought patterns and habits we often fall in to."   From: http://www.ekhartyoga.com/blog/understanding-the-niyamas-tapas

Forming new habits, or confirming old ones that I haven't been following lately. Not all of the habits have fallen by the wayside. I do still (in general) eat in a more healthy way now even though I find myself pulled again back into the carbs-sugar cycle every Autumn brings for me. 

From our reading by Mary Paffard this week on tapas:
"Plateaus occur and they need to be honored.   Especially if you have had a super firey beginning to the practice and then it’s a bit ho-hum.  The willingness to be present to each and every moment without conclusion will allow you to see this time as valuable also and at some point some new spark will alight."
That is something I am still struggling with: to be present each and every moment. Maybe then it will be easier to accept that I am not moving as quickly as I had hoped on this or that project or path in my life. I am still not very accepting of my own failures, or at the least, the slowness in which I am getting things done. I am not so sure how to get there but at least I feel I am aware of it more now. Maybe that is a start.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Interesting homework assignment...

One of our homework assignments this time was to pick something for a one day fast. It didn't have to be food, but anything that could show clearing, clarity, or purity based on the ideas of one of the niyamas, Shauca. We were advised to consider what we need to fast on... where do we proliferate, clutter, or confuse our life unnecessarily. We were to choose one aspect of our life and create the intention to cleanse in that direction. Several examples were given... and yes I know the obvious one of the clutter in my house would immediately leap to mind but since I am already working on that I decided to choose a different focus.

I had two candidates.
The first was a one day fast from any added sugar to what I eat throughout the day. I came to that because of all the sweet things I have been eating and craving lately: peanut butter and jam sandwiches, British cream tea with sugar, pie... the list goes on and on.

The second was to not play any of the computer games that have been pulling me away from my life lately. Aside from some occasional Words with Friends games on Facebook I also play a lot of time wasting games on my Galaxy Tablet: the usual things like solitaire and mah jong and sudoku as well as a lot of matching games, and a strangely addictive little game called Pocket Trains. I have been spending way too much time with them lately, mostly to avoid doing other things.

I ended up choosing the computer games because they seemed more of a problem.

So I did that on Saturday, Oct. 17 for the whole day. Truth is it helped to be pretty busy that day (yoga class in the morning and yoga workshop -- Wise Women -- in the afternoon) but even so, being home at night and after dinner when I would normally want to go play a game I couldn't. I ended up reading and thankfully falling asleep early from all the activity that day.

Sunday morning I woke up and didn't have exactly the same urge to get into my game computer as usual, although I do usually enjoy going to Pocket Trains for their daily challenge. I did end up getting to it but it didn't have exactly the same urgency as before.

What I learned:  well for me I can do anything for one day so it wasn't much of a challenge. Not that I wanted to take it further, but I think I need to go without things longer for it to make an impact. Also since these last weeks of the teacher training have been so challenging, I think this "fast" turned out to be the easiest thing I have had to do. But if nothing else, it made me realize how much time I have been wasting playing computer games (a realization I get now and then, then it fades, and I play again, then the realization hits, the cycle repeats).

I still have a long way to go...

Friday, October 16, 2015

More questions than answers...

"When you change the way you look at things,
the things you look at change."     ~ Wayne Dyer

Some things are getting easier: thinking about how to put together a practice session starting with a theme (even if it is just working up to a peak pose), learning more and more about the preparatory poses that lead up to a peak pose, and learning more of the positive language of a class (you are invited to.... or start to... or notice how.... and so on).

And yet the more we learn, the more I realize I don't know...

"There are more questions than answers. 
And the more that I find out, the less I know." 
(from a reggae song by Johnny Nash)

Sometimes I feel like I am back at square one all over again (but with more yoga clothes).

Monday, October 5, 2015

Aparigraha and clutter...

As I look out into the cluttered room I had been saying I would clean up for months now, this week's homework assignment of looking at Aparigraha comes to mind. Aparigraha is the last of the five yamas of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga and deals with the concept of non-possessiveness, non-grasping or non-greediness. In this day and age it is also extended to clutter and hoarding, a common theme in modern lifestyles, or at least mine. 

This is the shelf near my bed that I have been planning to have as my yoga book center since teacher training started... (and we are already in week 6 so that was 12 weeks ago!).

So it seemed to me that should be the first place I decluttered in keeping with Aparigraha... A shelf that held all my yoga books, close to my bed so I could grab a book and read in bed easily... and not have everything buried by gardening books and other junk that could just as easily be in another room.

Most of these books are for the training. Some of them I had before and others I have gotten since as other people have suggested them. I also have a few on my Android Tablet where I have my Kindle reader. 

Ok so that was the 1% tip of my house nightmare... my goal has been a little every day and that keeps getting put aside. My intention now is to keep that promise to myself... A little each day, even 10 minutes... do something every day to make the clutter go away and bring back my happiness within this house.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A weekend of epiphanies and other happy things...

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lone_Cypress
Just finished another yoga teacher training weekend. Hard to believe we are half way through already! This was the first time I actually had energy and a smile at the end! Usually they are so draining, but this weekend I had several positive things happen (in poses, in words, etc) which made it a lot more enjoyable. Even a negative thing (big back spasm and sciatic nerve pain during asana practice on Friday night) led to some positives -- ways to deal with back issues and ways to change my attitude and thoughts.  And... even better, it continued on into Monday. I will explain:

It all started on Friday night. Every other Friday we meet in the evening with a different teacher and discuss chakras and the poses to go with them. Last Friday night was the second chakra, the one that dealt with back and hips. Apparently it also deals with feelings your gut and everything is interconnected down there. So we started with an asana practice and partway into it my back went into a major spasm and my left sciatica flared up. I had to stop, everything. It made me cry! I found myself rolled up in a little ball just trying to breathe out of the pain. Well half an hour later or so, I was finally able to sit up and take a few notes. She came over to me and said it's not unusual for things to happen like that when the second chakra is being examined. I don't know if it was second chakra or just I did something funky to my back and it chose that moment to give me grief. Either way, it was very tender for the rest of the night and into the next morning. And at that moment I hated yoga and teacher training and the whole world.

On Saturday with Michelle back of the yoga studio, we talked about a pose and modifications and when and how the pose changes.  She said that we decide when it is really the pose – all the simpler poses and modifications are still also the pose.  That's when I have my first epiphany although I didn't really mention it until Sunday… The little movements even leading up to a pose might not be the "named" pose but helps make it possible or lead up to it. It is still yoga.  IT'S ALL YOGA. And suddenly I wasn't worried whether I could "do" a pose or not because I knew I was still practicing yoga.

Another thing that got mentioned when we were talking about props was to start with the prop. Figure out the language to use that explains to people how to use the prop and if you don't need it, put it aside. That is much better than partway through the pose saying "if you need a prop…" Because that makes somebody feel inadequate and discouraged that they cannot "do" the real pose.

Later on Saturday another teacher, Althea, came and talked about Yoga Therapy. She started with four important ideas:
  • Whatever you look for you will find.
  • Where there's a will, there's a way.
  • Where there's no will, there is no way.
  • When you lack the will to change, nothing will help.
She went on to discuss the role of yoga therapy in her work, what it is, and how it might apply to us and to yoga practice and teaching. I felt that even though she was speaking in general terms and often about what she was doing with a particular client, so much of her talk was focused directly at me. She talked about habits, slowing down, affecting change from the inside, stress responses, relaxation responses and many other important things. She talked a lot about being present, that the answer to much of our pain, which is loud and out there, is for us to get quiet and listen inside. She said that we have all the tools we need to help ourselves we just have to be present, quiet, and use them. She said yoga is not just exercise but also personal transformation.

Yoga is not just exercise but also personal transformation.

Part of the journey is taking responsibility and helping to heal oneself. It was an amazing three hours and I didn't want her talk to end. I have been mulling over the ideas she presented for the last several days and keep finding bits and pieces that are so helpful to me. Then we did a short Asana practice that included relaxation. My back had been a little tender at the beginning of the day, but she managed to find just the right combination of poses that help my back let go and I felt great afterwards!

Then on Sunday we continue to talk about poses, this time backbends, even the little ones and how finding ways to balance the forward poses with those that lean back are an integral part of yoga practice. My back was still feeling good from Saturday and as we practiced some of the slightly backward poses I realized how helpful they were. And then we talked about sequencing, how to format a good yoga class, and about themes.

To end Sunday we listened to a Dharma talk by Ajahn Amaro on relationships and how we see others. He talked about relationships of separateness and relationships of wholeness. I had never thought about relating to other people in those terms, but now that I've been thinking about it so much of my life has been based on relationships of separateness:  "me" and "you". These relationships always have you asking what will make you complete and often the harder you try the further away you get from the other person. Relationships of wholeness, on the other hand, are how we relate to others based on a letting go of self. Letting go will bring you closer. A lot to think about.

So I thought I was done with my epiphanies for the weekend, but it turned out there was another one in store for me on Monday. We started our observations of other yoga teachers and I chose Althea's mellow Monday morning class. We were to just sit and take in whatever we got from the class taking notes if we wanted watching the teacher watching how she related to the other students seeing what she did etc. So I started taking notes about what she was doing and saying somewhere in the middle of it when she was explaining some sort of modification she said, "Meet yourself where you are rather than where you want to be."

Meet yourself where you are rather than where you want to be.

Bam! As Smee said, lightning has just struck my brain."  I am often frustrated in a pose because I can't go as far as I think I should be able to. I can't stretch as far, I can't reach as far, I can't balance… I'm always seeing what I can't do or where I want to be and I'm not just accepting where I am at that moment. It was an awakening moment for me. Meet yourself where you are rather than where you want to be.

All in all I think this was a turning moment, this weekend and Monday, in my yoga teacher training. I had been rather negative about all the emotional stuff that had been drudged up and quietly complaining to myself mostly about all the poses I could not do. Things just changed. I heard the words I needed to hear, I felt that shift happening that put it all in a much more positive and helpful light. I'm not saying that something might not be difficult, as this whole teacher training has been and will be, but I think my attitude, and how I see things might just have changed a little. A little for the better, and that is always good in my book.

What a weekend!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Props and poses...

I was exhausted after this last three day weekend of yoga teacher training. Well, let me rephrase that: I am always exhausted after our three day weekends and sometimes they are very draining, but this time I was tired in a good way. Even though we did sit around more than I am comfortable with, we did move a bit more and I learned so much about certain poses and using props. Here is just a small bit of what we learned last weekend...

Source: http://www.yogaclubdfw.com/how-to-downward-facing-dog/
On Friday we started with a couple of hours of yoga practice focusing on the feet (using a soft ball to roll around on -- oh the bliss!) and working on our downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svansana).

We added to that practice on Saturday by coming back to down dog as well as focusing on shoulder exercises and mountain pose (Tadasana). We used a strap in partner work to help guide/pull the butt back and saw how much better that was for the hands when not so much pressure was on them. We learned more about spreading our fingers wider and how pushing forward on the mat helped relieve some of the pressure on our wrists.  I realized as I was learning all this that these were some of the main reasons I came to yoga teacher training.

We also looked at a lot of poses with props that each of us had done some referencing with as homework. I chose using a chair or the wall to help in balancing for Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana III).  I love Warrior 2  pose but getting into Warrior 3 without using a wall or a chair has always been difficult for my balance.

We also learned a lot more about setting up a class plan: focusing on the type of class you want or the things you want to think about when figuring out which poses to use in a class setting or for our own practice.

My intention for the next two weeks: find a small ball (like a soft golf ball or racquetball) and use it to massage my feet. There were indeed some tender spots when we did this in class but afterwards my feet felt so much better!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Setting intentions...

Source: http://mesosyn.com/hb3.html
During our training class last Sunday we as a group had to teach a class from a list of poses we had generated. We all took one pose and went through the group 2 times I was at the very end and therefore had the opportunity to close the yoga practice. I spent a quick moment thinking about how other yoga teachers had closed our class practices and was reminded that many of them have set intentions at the beginning of class and mention that at the end. Even though we had not set any intentions at the beginning of our makeshift session, I decided to act as if we had. I said something about reviewing the intentions we had set for the session and sending the yoga practice out to a loved one, or to the universe in general, similarly to how several of my teachers have done it and then ended with a "hands to heart center in anjali mudra" and a namaste to the class.

This got me to thinking again about intentions. Almost a year ago I wrote this in my "other" blog (the one I had earmarked for arty things that sort of got taken over by gardening and food things):
"I love the idea of setting intentions to do something. We do that in yoga class a lot. It would happen more if I actually went as much as I intended to go, but that goes in the reality part later. I had a lot of intentions for once I retired...

and the reality of it so far is that a lot of them are happening at a very slow rate. I know, everyone tells me I have all the time in the world... but I don't really. I have this one moment. One moment then another moment.  I have today. Then tomorrow I will have another today. THAT is where I am falling down... I have a lot of things planned for future days but am not doing them each today.

If that doesn't make sense, don't worry... it is just lately forming in my own mind as well. This whole retirement thing is a little different that I had imagined too. That is ok, it is just not what I expected. Which is also ok... one of my intentions was to let go of some of my tight expectations.."
Interesting to read this again and see that it is still something I am working on (or need to work on). I am good about setting intentions for my yoga practice but not much else in my life still. So that is going to be my focus again, setting an intention for things I do. Maybe I will get the really important things done that way?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Satya (truth) and ahimsa (non-violence)

Moving on in the yamas of yoga this week we were to think about satya (truth) and then how it related back to last session's yama of ahimsa (non-violence).

Part of what we had to think about was when is it wise NOT to speak? I am reminded of the old saying from when I was growing up "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything".

Truth is relative. What is absolute truth to one person may not be true to another. Which makes me wonder, is truth the same as non-lying? What about all those little white lies we tell, oh no I'm fine, no I don't need anything, oh I don't need to sit down, and things like that.

One of the articles we read said just because your ego needs a boost, that is not reason to speak. Stop yourself from saying something that doesn't need to be said. Don't feed the ego. Untruths is when your ego needs to pretend.

One of the other articles mentioned telling the truth versus not hurting somebody's feelings. The example given was seeing somebody in a really really ugly dress. Satya would have you say, "that's an ugly dress"but ahimsa would not want you to hurt that person's feelings. So what do you say? Especially if the person excitedly asks you," "do you like my dress?" and you have to say something. I think my tendency would be to find something, anything, in the dress that I liked so I could say maybe, "how colorful!" or something neutral.

Where telling the truth and not hurting someone's feelings is difficult is in relationships. But I think there are sometimes many truths, are many shades of the same truth. Judith Lassiter mentions in her article to choose words so they do the least harm in the most good. That satya as a yama has a restraint rather than action. What we should restrain from doing as opposed to what we should do. Slow down, filtering, considering words so they mesh with ahimsa. I guess the big point is that satya is not to be speech that may be factually accurate but harmful. And words can be very, very hurtful.

And sometimes, for me anyway, I need to slow down and really think about my words. I have a history of blurting out things that may be did not need to be said at that particular moment. If nothing else, maybe this yoga teacher training will be good to remind me to stop and think before I talk.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Yoga Sutra 1.1: “Now begins the scientific discipline of yoga.”

One of our homework assignments was to read the first Yoga Sutra, 1.1 and comment on what relevance the term "atha"  has for us.  HERE is an online reference our teacher gave us or we could use any book or readings we had.

Sutra 1.1:  “Now begins the scientific discipline of yoga.”  (Atha yoga anushasanam)

One meaning of Atha is "now" as in this very moment. It means to channel our energy is to be truly present. BE HERE NOW (Ram Dass). It also means being ready, or readying for the present moment. Perhaps that implies preparing for self-discovery or to figure out what yoga really means to us. Another way of putting it would also be commitment. Being fully committed to this journey.

Of course this first Sutra 1.1 might just be telling the audience something as simple as, "okay now we get a look at what yoga is" and then they get on with explaining yoga, just like we teach kids how to write explanatory paragraphs. First sentence is to tell the audience what you're going to tell them. Then you tell them what you need to say, and then at the end you say okay now I've told you whatever it is I had to tell you. It might just be that prosaic.... It might just be a topic sentence.

I prefer to think of it as being here now. Here now are going to start yoga.

I have spent a lot of time this week reading about yoga online and in our homework readings and various books we have for class. I think one of the key components that has come out this week is that yoga is individual. Everybody will experience it differently. You start at whatever point of experience and practice you have. And through all the various experiences of yoga, you only experience yoga by doing yoga. 

One of my favorite art journal teachers used to say "Start by starting." I think this is good for yoga too. A lot of people say they can't do yoga because they aren't flexible. Well yoga can help you be flexible, you don't have to start out flexible. Start where you are and just let it happen. Start by starting. If you're feeling wobbly on the yoga mat, that's okay start there. We present with your wobble and go from there. Today might be a wobbly day. That's okay. Or you might find like I did earlier today at yoga practice, that I started out wobbly but it didn't last. Suddenly I noticed I wasn't wobbling. Of course as soon as I noticed that, I lost my balance. That's how it works. I was no longer being present I suppose, but looking over the last few minutes, and I lost balance. Nothing major, it was just tree pose, and luckily even trees bend in the wind. I was no longer an oak tree, but maybe a little willow, and I was really bending in the wind.

Thoughts about values exercise...

After our last Sunday class, one of our new homework pieces was to carry something we thought about on the weekend into the next couple of weeks before we met again.

One of our class exercises last session was about our values. We had to make a list of all the values we could think of and then pick 10 of them that applied to us. Then we shared them with our training partner. Now I have done various values exercises in the past, including things that were more feelings than values such as Danielle Laporte's core desired feelings, which are how you want your actions to make you feel as well as how you're striving to live your life -- mine are listed HERE on this other blog post from earlier this year.  I had a list of values I had downloaded from the computer before so I looked on that list and I picked a whole bunch of things that I thought might apply to me and then I pick 10 of them. The 10 that I picked were:

  • self-reliance
  • self-improvement
  • patience
  • creativity
  • balance
  • calmness
  • true to myself
  • independence
  • resourceful
  • helpful

Then a came time to share our list with our partner. One thing that I realized as I heard her list was that most of her values were geared towards how she was going to treat or be with other people. Mine were mostly inward, about me and things that I thought would be valuable in my life. It was an interesting distinction – – not wanting to compare really but just noting that it was an interesting distinction, or difference, in our lists.

So I chose to think about this over the last couple of weeks and I realized that first of all I do have some values that include others but mostly the values that I feel are more inward, to help make me a better person, are things I need to have in place before I can truly be helpful to others. I think it is still something I need to think about but now that I'm aware of it think it will be easier to incorporate this thinking into my normal life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Day 2 thoughts...

I didn't want to write "surviving Day 2" because it doesn't quite convey the sentiment I am looking for. "Experienced" is maybe more like it. Day 1 was very intense and when I got home I was trashed. Day 2 was less intense, shorter, and when I got home I still felt fine. I think some of it has to do with getting used to sitting on the floor for a longer time than I am used to.

So on Day 2 we had one new person join us who was absent the day before so Michelle used that as a good excuse to review everything and help teacher the new person what we had learned. I like that in teaching, used to do it myself in my Science classroom when I taught Middle School.

We also discussed an excellent article called "Yoga as Self-Transformation" from an old Yoga Journal (May/June 1980).  The author, Joel Kramer, had several important points to make about the process of yoga, dealing with the physical techniques, energy flows, and some of the stuff our minds throw at us as we progress in yoga. He refocused us on the idea of "Yoga, at its core, is looking within to understand the timeless question, 'Who am I?'"

A couple of points I really liked from the article:
"...yoga is a process that involves confronting your limits and transcending them."
"The essence of yoga is not attainments, but how awarely you work with your limits -- wherever and whatever they may be."
"So much of what limits our yoga practice is not in the body itself, but rather mental attitudes and habits."

Then we continued on our values exercise, which I want to write of more later. After that we listened to a Dharma talk by Jack Kornfield on who we really are, what identifies us... a lot of meat in this talk. I think the key point for me was towards the end: "What happens to us when we are who we truly are?"

Finally we reviewed the weekend with another teacher, Setheyne. One of our assignments from her was to take something we learned or talked about from the weekend to practice for the next 2 weeks. I chose to review my list of values and rethink why I chose the ones I did. I will write this out in a separate blog post.

If nothing else, this yoga teacher training is making me think a lot! Not just about yoga, but also about myself, who I am, what I am doing, where I am going, etc... the whole nine yards.  And that is a good thing.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Surviving Day 1...

Wow! Yesterday was Day 1 of Yoga Teacher Training with Michelle at It's All Yoga. A simple sentence that totally does not convey all the amazingness of the day. It also does not convey how totally exhausted and useless I was when I got home last night! I slept 10 hours and then, to my surprise, woke up totally refreshed and ready to go for Day 2!

A few juicy morsels from Day 1:

The way we stand is how we greet the world.

So much of our doing is undoing.

A question after we spent a good hour or so with the plumb line and finding our alignment/posture...
Why do we take a different stance when we are in Tadasana (tree pose)?  
(as in, why aren't we always standing in alignment?)

There was so much to yesterday I am still mulling over. We had a lovely Circle in the beginning, a good basic practice so she could see where we were (from all stages of yoga practice and flexibility), some fun exercises in balance and posture, and a start to seated meditation.

My intention for the day was to be patient with myself.  I was probably around 85% of the time. But it was interesting to me that I noticed when I was not being patient, breathed and reminded myself of my intention. It mostly worked.

Some things I noticed about myself (not new, just listed for my own awareness of them): my body doesn't like to sit for periods of time without having to change my leg position, my inflexibility issues come to my mind more than I want them to, my mind has a hard time quieting for meditation, and I was fidgety during savasana (corpse pose for final resting). Things to think about, things to work on... and probably (more from last post)... things to let go of.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Learning to let go...

A yoga lesson I am learning even before teaching starts... learning how to let go.

This evening after our yoga class my teacher announced she (and one other teacher) would be leaving that studio in a week or so...  and I think that news hit us all like a ton of bricks.  Yes I do wish all the best for her and am happy to see her move along her path.

But I am sad for me because she was the one who really brought me back into yoga and over the last couple of years taught with humor and grace, pushed when needed and let me do my own thing when I needed to. I will miss her wonderful voice when she gives us possibilities of what we might want to do. And I will miss her humor and kind words and wonderful hugs. It is through her that I first entertained the thought of yoga teacher training and who made it all seem possible.

I don't want to make this into a eulogy because she is still here, a vibrant and delightful person. I want to learn how to let go, and to be able to see her go out into the world with happiness that she crossed my path and that I was able to learn from her even for a brief time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

For a New Beginning

by John O'Donohue
In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

About this blog...

Welcome to this blog.

I have another blog. One that lately sometimes sees a week or two (or more) gap between entries. Originally it was just for my arts and crafts, then it grew to gardening. Eventually more yoga and other things also found their way into that blog. Lately it has mostly been gardening since that has been my recent focus.

Flash forward to now and I just got the first packet in my email about the Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) course I will be taking starting August 1 at It's All Yoga and there is an assignment to start a blog for the training. Well THAT"S easy!  Done!

But I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep it totally separate from my other blog or connect the two. After some mulling it over I decided to connect them because this will not be a separate thing in my life. I am not sure who said it originally but if "yoga begins off the mat" then yoga will live with all my other interests and the rest of my lovely retired life.

So I decided to make a somewhat separate but still connected blog to my other blog. This one will mostly focus on the YTT and my journey about inviting more yoga into my life. Now and then I may refer to something in the other blog for reference.

And if anyone might be interested in any of the other things I do, there is a link at the top of my blog entries or click the button right under the title for my other blog.

By the way, I write this blog on my regular computer. It is formatted for a larger screen. I have no idea how it looks on your phone or tablet. I am old school.

That said, I am excited about the training and eager to share things from it and whatever assignments we may need to put on our blog here. I am happy you are here. Thank you!