Friday, July 19, 2013

The Best Laid Plans

So I'm going to be completely honest with you here.  The cleanse didn't go as smoothly as I had hoped.  Day 1 was great.  Day 2 (just fruits, vegetables, and juice) was okay.  As time passed, my IBS tummy became less and less happy without any carbs to soothe it.  By dinner time on Day 2, my stomach was in such knots that I just couldn't take it anymore.  We decided to have some white rice and fish and then I was fine.  Because I firmly believe that ahimsa (non-harming) applies not only to others but to ourselves as well, I decided not to do any more harm to my body and just go back to eating "cleanly" (whole, organic, unprocessed foods as often as possible).

In some ways I feel like I failed but I'm also more sure than ever that everyone's constitutions are not the same.  What works for one - or many - might not necessarily work for me.  So be it.  I try to limit my carbs and choose wheat over white as often as my tummy will allow, but I do feel best when I am consuming some sort of carbohydrate on a daily basis.  There you have it.  I'm a yoga rebel.

Practice this week has been a nice mix of Ashtanga and a good variety Vinyasa Flow classes.  I made a list of all the poses I want to work on at the moment and during home practice this morning, I did just that.  I sequenced these challenge poses in between vinyasas and a few Warrior 1's, 2's, Triangle poses, and Side Angle poses.  My entire practice took 2 hours but it was really playful and I felt like I made some good progress.

Chakrasana (rolling back somersault) and Eka Pada Galavasana (flying crow pose) top the list of poses I'm currently working on.  For Chakrasana, I've developed a bad habit of rolling over my left shoulder and I sort of crank my neck to the side and out of the way.  I land on my mat and it's in control, but I know it's not the correct execution.  This morning, I moved my rug to our cushy carpet and I was able to get it right a good number of times from seated.  I tried it once from a supine position and I don't think the momentum's the same so that attempt wasn't as successful.  Still, I can feel in my body how it's supposed to happen now so I don't think it will be long before I'm doing it the right way on my mat.

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  there really is nothing as valuable as having a home practice.  I was chatting with a fellow yogi from the studio yesterday and she was complaining because our instructor only gave us a brief window - maybe 20 seconds? - to try for the peak pose during the sequence in class.  She lamented that it would probably be another three months before any teacher would include that pose in their routine again.  Subsequently, it would be that long before she would get the opportunity to tackle it again.

I've urged this particular person before to try working on things at home but she shuts down and refuses.  It makes me sad because I know how much richness my time at home on the mat has brought to my practice as a whole.  But like I said at the beginning, everyone's on their own journey and everyone's constitutions are NOT the same.  I'm just grateful to be where I am.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Anatomy Weekend

We just finished what YogaWorks fondly refers to as "Anatomy Weekend".  That basically means we spent the entire weekend in a series of lectures about muscles, bones, organs, the nervous system, and how they all interact.  I think I dreamed about it all night long, too!  It was like the lecture never stopped.  Phew!  We learned a ton, but I'm glad that's behind me.

Practice last week was a little tough.  I've just been feeling sort of achy and not myself.  Granted, I'm still not completely over this summer cold, although I'd say it's about 90% gone.  I've also put on a couple of pounds and I'm sure that's not helping, either.  It amazes me how just two or three pounds can take away my ability to bind in Marichyasana C and half of B.  (Let's not even discuss D.)  Blech!

So I know what I have to do: recharge and refocus.  One way I plan to get there is by doing a 5-day cleanse with my hubby.  The cleanse is one I adapted from Kino's new book, "The Power of Ashtanga Yoga".  In her book, Kino outlines an 8-day cleanse.  However, since I've never done even a 1-day version, I figured 5 days was ambitious enough.  Here's my plan:
  • Day 1 - fruits, vegetables, grains
  • Day 2 - fruits, vegetables
  • Day 3 - fruits
  • Day 4 - (fast) fruit juice only
  • Day 5 - fruits, vegetables
Herbal tea and fruit juice are allowed on every day.  And obviously, plenty of water is also advised to help flush the system of toxins.

Another motivator for doing this cleanse is because I suffered through a fair deal of stress last week.  (Can you say emotional eating?)  My routine mammogram showed an abnormality that required further testing.  That was scary enough but when I got to the ultrasound exam, the screen clearly showed a black mass in the otherwise whitish-grey tissue.  When the tech started measuring it, I got really terrified.  It turns out it was just a cyst (thank God!), but for a solid half-hour there while I waited for the radiologist, I was convinced I had breast cancer.  I feel such immense gratitude that I wanted to do something really special to celebrate.  This cleanse seems like the perfect way to do that, don't you agree?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

YogaWorks 200-Hour Teacher Training

I promised you a recap of Teacher Training with YogaWorks
and I will not disappoint!

Now that I'm safely through the first two weekends,
including all of the accompanying homework, here are my thoughts...

First of all, the program could not possibly be more well-rounded or more chock-full of valuable information.  I think that's one of the benefits of going through a training with an organization versus an individual:  It's obvious that the program materials were produced utilizing the strength of a collection of some of the best minds in the yoga business.  It's just a really, really good, solid approach and I feel grateful to be enrolled in this training methodology.

Secondly, the homework is INTENSE!  I knew it was going to require a commitment, but I NEVER in a million years could have guessed it would rival the workload of some of my past college courses!  It is seriously A LOT.  You might not believe this, but I've been know to complain over the past two weeks about the time commitment the homework requires.  However in all honesty, now that I recognize first-hand all that I'm learning, I don't think I would have it any other way.  No... I definitely wouldn't have it any other way.

The all-day sessions on Saturday and Sunday are also intense.  And long.  Generally, we have two hours of yoga philosophy first thing on Saturday morning followed by a two-hour practice and then a short lunch break.  The rest of the afternoon is spent on a variety of things including asana alignment points, sequencing, practice teaching/adjusting, risks and contraindications, modifications, etc.  Sunday is structured much the same way with the omission of philosophy (due to a slightly later start time).

I find the two-hour practice sessions to be fairly easy, although to hear my fellow trainees talk about it, you'd think they had just been through the war.  The practices don't include a lot of motion.  There are a lot of long holds while our trainer discusses various aspects of the pose.  I don't sweat that much.  After giving it a lot of thought, I think my experience doesn't seem to be that challenging due to my background in Ashtanga.  Primary Series prepares you for anything!

I actually found myself feeling quite frustrated during the two practices we had that first weekend.  I felt like my own, personal practice was suffering and a lot of anger came up for me.  The second weekend, I made it a point to fit in a practice early in the morning prior to even going to teacher training.  On Saturday I did an advanced Vinyasa Flow and Sunday was my regular Ashtanga practice.  Even though that made for two REALLY long days, I'm glad I made the extra effort because I was able to sit through both of the teacher training practices without crabbiness.  This really freed me up to ABSORB what my trainer was trying to get across rather than be stuck in my own loop of frustration and resentment. 

The only other complaint I have is that even though YogaWorks offers Ashtanga - both Led and Mysore style classes - there seems to be a glaring omission of Ashtanga from their curriculum.  I find this especially troubling since they claim that the YogaWorks Method is founded on the teachings of three individuals - Iyeangar, Desikachar, and Jois.

The books "Light on Yoga" by B.K.S. Iyengar


and "The Heart of Yoga" by T.K.V. Desikachar


are both included in our reading list,

but "Yoga Mala" by Pattabhi Jois


is notably absent. 

(The pictures above are links, in case you're interested
in owning any of these books.)

In addition, we are required to take 18 classes with very specific requirements in order to complete our training.  An Iyengar class is included in this list but in bold letters it states that no Ashtanga Led or Mysore classes may be used to fulfill that requirement.

I do want to state for the record that this isn't a large, overt DIS of Ashtanga.  It isn't.  It's more subtle.  There are some Ashtanga-based items included in the teaching.  For example, our pages covering Trikonasana state that in Ashtanga, it is appropriate to have a shorter stance and reach to grab the big toe.  But I'd be remiss if I didn't report that I wish Ashtanga were more fully present.

After a lot of soul searching about "my path" these past few weeks, my current plan is this:  I think I will explore continuing on in the YogaWorks training to obtain the 300/500-hour level certification after this 200-hour program is complete.  I just can't ignore the overall strength of the YogaWorks program and after quite a bit of research and speaking with other yogis, I simply don't think I can get the same level of education and preparation through any other teacher training.  Not to mention, YogaWorks is my home studio and I'm comfortable there.  I like them a lot and my yoga membership is free throughout the duration of my training.  Since I have a plan that allows me to visit any club in the LA area, this is a substantial savings.

Once I obtain my 300/500-hour certification, that will qualify me for the RYT-500 with Yoga Alliance and I will also be able to teach at YogaWorks.  (If I get my 300/500-hour certification elsewhere, I'd still have to go through the YogaWorks program anyway if I wanted to teach there.)  After that, I will probably pursue a specialty intensive Ashtanga-based training, possibly with Kino MacGregor, Tim Miller, or David Swenson.

So.  There you have it.  If you have any questions, I'm happy to answer them!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Visit to Ann Arbor & the Phoenix Center

Well, I made it through my first two weekends of teacher training, but barely.

Unfortunately, in payment for my efforts I've come down with a nasty bronchial/head cold and have been in bed for most of the week.  I'm not good at having my plans derailed, but I suppose that's a very yogic lesson in and of itself - surrender to the present moment.  So be it.

I wanted to compose a thoughtful recap about my experience with the YogaWorks Teacher Training program thus far, but I'm afraid that's going to have to wait until my head clears a bit.

In the meantime, Steve and I had the chance to travel to Michigan in the beginning of June.  I was able to spend one morning practicing with Angela Jamison in Ann Arbor at the Phoenix Center.  You might be familiar with her blog?  The Phoenix Center consists of two rooms on the top floor of a lovely old building in downtown Ann Arbor.  Here is the room we practiced in...


(photo from the Phoenix Center website)
I'm a sucker for exposed brick walls, in case you didn't know.

The purpose of our trip to Michigan was to visit family and also to find closure with the unexpected death of a relative.  As you might imagine, there was anxiety and a lot of long-standing emotional patterns at play.  However, when I unrolled my mat and stood at the top, raising my arms overhead in my first Sun Salutation, everything just melted away.  I felt grounded and whole in a way that I hadn't been able to hone in on during my stay prior to that.  This is why I love the practice of Ashtanga so much.  It carries with it such a profound force, if only you're willing to be open to it.  I think it must feel sort of like the force in Star Wars, wouldn't you agree?  At any rate, taking the time to commit to my Mysore practice while out of town was the best thing I did that week.  I am so thankful for the gift of Ashtanga and the role it continues to play in my life.