Right now I am in Sydney doing my 200 hour yoga teacher training and it is intense!  As an introduction to the course the 30 of us trainees and about 10 teachers all sat in a huge circle and we were asked to tell the class:

  • Who we are and what we do.
  • What we love about yoga.
  • What brings us to the teacher training course.

It was soon obvious that most people were on the course because something had happened in their lives, such as a physical or mental illness, and yoga had helped them at a time when they most needed it.  It was pretty emotional with a lot of tears and tissues being handed round the room. To be honest I did not expect it at all so it was all a bit of a shock. Even though I would say to a large extent yoga has helped me change my life, I realised that people had come to the course as a way of dealing with a lot of pain.

Typical Day

0700 – 0900 Practice – doors are locked at 0700!

0900 – 1000 Breakfast and a much needed shower.

1000 – 1300 Lecture on either philosophy, nutrition, anatomy and physiology, sequencing and techniques, pranayama or meditation.

1300 – 1400 Lunch and swim at the local pool.

1400 – 1500 Asana instruction / practice teach.

The afternoon is dedicated to going through the 62 poses in our manual (a huge 607 page file) learning what muscles they use, what other poses they prepare you for, how to teach them and what the assists to help a student get into the pose would be.  Day 1, first pose, tadasana. I thought that this was basically just standing.  But oh how wrong I was!  This wasn’t just standing, this was full on and hard work…. And this was just the beginning.

My fellow Yogis

The people in the class are all totally different, interestingly most don’t actually want to become teachers at the end of the course…. To give you an idea, here are a few of the different yogi types:

  • The people who have read up on EVERYTHING and question EVERYTHING but totally embrace EVERYTHING!
  • The very emotional people who are on a personal journey, using yoga as a way to heal.
  • The people who find it hard to completely get their heads around and totally understand the philosophy but who are keen to learn and to teach.

Teachers and language

Our teachers are brilliant at using language to conjure up images to help us feel the depth of the pose – especially Kat Clayton. The movement of a pose is how you physically move a part of your body in a pose and the action is the feeling of ‘hugging your outer upper arms in,’ or ‘hugging your right sit bone towards the midline’ …. There’s a lot of hugging going on with our muscles! One of the most interesting and important things I have learnt is that yoga is constantly trying to bring you into a state of balance – opposite muscle actions are continually working with each other and this is why the poses feel so strong.

Sequencing

The sequencing for me has been the most interesting part of the course and we are very lucky to have an absolutely amazing teacher for this – Noelle Connolly. It’s a very creative process working out how to theme a class, how to sequence around a particular peak pose, how to organise your flows, how to counter pose and balance various sequences….

There are 3 main stages of sequencing:

  • Write
  • Practice
  • Visualise

Meditation and Pranayama 

Meditation and pranayama has been really interesting but completely new ground for me. The only experience I have had is through my own mindfulness practices and through the headspace app! I thought that meditation was switching off the mind… But apparently this is a common myth. The nature of the mind is to be busy, to consume itself with thoughts no matter how big or small.  The idea of meditation is not to suppress these thoughts but to find the space between the thoughts.  It is a process of developing awareness to see things as they actually are rather than what we want them to be, and with awareness comes mindfulness.

For a lot of people their nervous system is in sympathetic mode most of the time – the system that keeps us in our fight or flight mode, on levels of high alert and high stress.  (As opposed to the parasympathetic mode which is our rest, repair and restore system.) It is therefore hard for us to leap straight into meditation, we need time to focus and prepare. For us fight or flight lot, guided meditation can be more appealing and helpful – if any of you haven’t tried Yoga Nidra I couldn’t recommend it more.

Image courtesy of BodyMindLife Yoga & Pilates

Image courtesy of BodyMindLife Yoga & Pilates

A few final things I will take away from the course:

  • How extremely uncomfortable it is to sit upright on the floor for an hour of meditation.
  • How nothing is permanent – how quick the body and mind has the potential to change.
  • How yoga can unite an extremely different bunch of people from all over the world.
  • How a raisin will never taste the same ever again.

More on the raisin in the next week….