Oh how I love my yoga teacher training weekends! After each weekend I grow more comfortable with my future as a yoga instructor because of the amazing instruction I’m receiving. After the first weekend I truly believed I picked the best possible program for this, and each completed weekend confirms that thought even more. Plus, I continue to grow closer with my fellow yogis, having formed some pretty incredible friendships so far. This past YTT weekend furthered our instruction with assists and practice teaching, encouraged group collaboration, and introduced us to the wonderful world of Sanskrit.
We began our evening with a twist and hip opener practice led by Jillian. I’m a big fan of twists and hip openers, so this was one of my favorite practices so far. My back and hips are more flexible than other parts of my body, so I love being able to deepen these areas and experiment with new poses. It was a great way to start the weekend.
After practice, we focused on breaking down various twists and hip opener poses. We got into groups and were given a pose to demo while we discussed different modifications and variations for that pose. My group was given pigeon and gomukhasana, or “cow face” pose based on the way your legs and feet are oriented (also a name I only learned that night!). After each group demo’d their pose, Jillian showed us proper assists and let us practice them on each other. We did this quite a bit in our last weekend, and I enjoy it a lot. The best way to learn assists is by doing them, and I’m grateful that our instructors give us so much practice with this.
We began the next morning with a journaling exercise with Jillian. We had four questions to answer:
- Describe your favorite-ever adjustment that you received.
- Describe an adjustment you’ve received that you didn’t want.
- Under what circumstances might you refrain from adjusting?
- How does your personal history with touch influence your approach to assisting?
These were some interesting questions to answer. I won’t go into detail about all of my answers, but I will say the best adjustment I ever received was in pigeon (an assist I allowed and enjoyed because of specific student-teacher trust), the worst I received was when an instructor massaged my feet in savasana and then touched my face (AND I was one of the last people in the class to have this adjustment…ick!), and I enjoy touch, and therefore, enjoy giving and receiving assists. Our responses varied across the board, and each person’s response sort of gave a clue as to how they might eventually structure their own teaching practice.
After journaling, we partnered up and had the opportunity to provide assists through an entire class sequence that included standing, seated and lying down postures. I’ve found that I’m already becoming more comfortable with giving assists in terms of pressure, effectiveness, and overall confidence. And my partner gave me some excellent feedback as we went along. It was definitely some of the best assisting experience of the program yet.
Carrie led us through a twist and backbend practice after lunch (fortunately I did not eat a heavy lunch beforehand). While I love twists, there are some backbends that I need to work on, so I was happy to focus on those. From there we circled up to share how we were feeling and what need we were longing to have fulfilled. For me, it had been a stressful few weeks, so I have really been longing for peace and serenity in my life. As I write this, I’m already feeling less stressed.
We spent the afternoon diving deeper into sequencing. There is a rhyme and reason to most yoga classes, which can often go unnoticed by students. When planning a class, it’s important to incorporate intention, progression, patterns, symmetry and counter/neutralizing/deepening poses, as all of these combined make for a very effective practice. For example, both sides of the body need to be equally focused on, otherwise you create imbalance in the body. It’s also important to take into account external factors, like time of day or year, when structuring the type of class to offer.
So we took this knowledge and broke out into groups to come up with our own mini sequence. Each group needed to come up with a peak pose and class theme, and then include a warm-up, sun salutation, flow and cool-down. My group offered a “power balance” theme with our peak pose being crow (we also joked about playing power ballads to our power balance class). Our collaboration was really fun and we came up with an effective practice, even while being shortened.
We were treated to a special guest instructor Sunday morning as we learned the beautiful language of Sanskrit. Marcy Braverman Goldstein, who founded Sanskrit Revolution, is a master of the Sanskrit language. She has a wealth of knowledge, and was able to convey the beauty and art of Sanskrit to us in just a few hours. The interesting thing about Sanskrit is that there is literally only one way to speak it; there are no dialects, accents or variations of it. And this is because it was originally created with specific intention, so speaking it incorrectly was believed to disrupt the order of the universe. It is also a phonetic and very intricate language, and the sound of every word describes the essence of what it is naming. What you say in Sanskrit has an effect on how you feel, and therefore, you should choose what you say carefully.
Marcy taught us all of the Sanskrit syllables, and some words pertaining to yoga, which we practiced speaking aloud. She even broke down where in the mouth these sounds are coming from. To help us continue our studies, she recorded us speaking each syllable so that we had something to practice from. I found Sanskrit incredibly fascinating, mainly because it has so many parallels to Korean, which I have also been learning over the last few months. The Korean language was also created with specific intention, and some of the letter combinations were very similar, which made Sanskrit a bit easier to understand. I can see myself diving deeper into learning Sanskrit in the future.
After lunch we further discussed backbends with Carrie. There are so many benefits to backbends, but they take some work to perfect so as not to injure yourself, or depending on the person’s condition, should not be done at all (or at least with some modification). All backbends really need neutralizing and counter poses as well, and should always be offered as part of a practice. I personally crave one of these poses after a backbend because they are so intense at times.
From this discussion, Carrie had something really neat in store for us. We worked as a group to put together an entire backbend practice. We chose a peak pose of extended leg bridge and a theme of “letting go and experiencing freedom.” From there we worked together to include breathwork, a warm-up, sun salutation, standing flow and neutralizing/counter poses. What she didn’t tell us as we were putting this together was that we would actually be teaching this sequence as a group! Each of us was assigned a pose within the practice, and so we were all speaking and teaching at some point throughout. I was assigned to teach a low lunge (both sides, of course). We were all really happy with how it turned out, and it flowed a lot smoother than we anticipated. We seemed to all have an intuition of how to transition to our assigned pose, likely from our experience with teaching and sequencing so far. It was such an empowering experience that literally brought us all together.
Our weekend ended with more focus on breaking down backbends. We targeted poses like bridge, wheel, lotus, bow, fish and camel. For each pose, we discussed modifications and variations, and then Carrie taught us all proper assists for these poses, which we then practiced on each other. I absolutely loved how much assisting and sequencing we experienced this weekend, and I am in awe of how much we have already learned only a third of the way into the program. I can’t wait to see how we continue to progress through our training. Look out, Charlotte, there are some awesome new yoga instructors coming your way soon!