Writing “weekend 5” was so difficult, because it means I’m now more than halfway done with yoga teacher training! I’m so excited that I’m getting closer to my graduation, but I’m also really going to miss this program and the people in it. But I’ll save my waterworks until weekend 9, as I still have four more great weekends to go. And this past weekend was another fun, educational and transformative one.
We started our evening with Carrie where we each shared our commitment for the weekend, and acknowledged each others. I have been so content lately, more than I have been in a long time, so my commitment for the weekend was to express love and compassion for myself and fellow yogis. This led right into a yoga practice centered around a book we were assigned to read called Living Your Yoga. Carrie structured the class to reflect several themes in the book, and because the book was so powerful, so was the class.
After practice, we sat down to discuss the book at length. I can say without a doubt that this was one of the best books I’ve ever read. Each section of the book addresses a different part of life, including faith, contentment, attachment, love, empathy, truth and much more. And while the book is called “Living Your Yoga”, it also applies to daily life and provides great insights as to how to live fully, with meaning and intention.
We did a few exercises from the book together to facilitate more conversation about the themes. Our first one was to list all of the mind states we had experienced that day, and then pick one to focus on. While I had written down several different mind states, I chose contentment to focus on, because it has been so prominent in my life over the past couple of weeks. I’ve had this feeling that everything has fallen into place, which has allowed me to relax more and enjoy life. We discussed how contentment stems from gratitude, and it’s easier to find gratitude when you’re in a good place.
Our next exercise was to list what strikes us about the life we’ve been given. I listed all of my favorite things in my life, as well as what I’m most grateful for. But the one thing that strikes me most, and that I even wrote down first, is the fact that I feel like I’ve been given two lives to navigate. And I honestly feel like my 30th year has started that second life. I look back at even a couple of years ago and see it as such a different time. As hard as some of the times were, I’m proud of my growth and where I’m at right now.
On Saturday morning, Jillian discussed mindfulness and meditation with us. We talked about what mindfulness is and how it affects life in a positive way, like increasing optimism, empathy and life satisfaction. From there, she led us through a short loving kindness meditation practice. In this practice, you focus on certain people in your life (both good and not so good) in your mind and wish them safety, happiness and health. It’s a great way to develop compassion and empathy for others. Other techniques for mindfulness include breath counting, thought labeling and walking meditation.
From there we watched a film called The Dhamma Brothers. This documentary followed the lives of prisoners in an Alabama penitentiary who took advantage of a program called Vipassana meditation. Vipassana is a 10-day program where you don’t talk…at all. You have scheduled meal, sleep and meditation times. What a powerful movie! The lives of these men, who were all in prison for life, changed so much for the better from this program that it has since been utilized in other prisons. It proved that meditation and mindfulness can work for everyone, regardless of their situation. After the movie we all colored mandalas as a meditation practice during our movie discussion.
After lunch our guest instructor, Rachael Harper, taught us all about Ayurveda, which is a system of natural medicine focusing on food and lifestyle. Everything has connection to Ayurveda. The goal is to bring balance to the body, but most importantly, to listen to your body, as we’re all unique and need different things. One size doesn’t fit all in this regard. Prior to the weekend, we all completed a couple of quizzes to determine our Prakriti, or original constitution, and our Vikriti, our current state of balance. My original constitution was Vata-Kapha, but over time my Vata has skyrocketed and I’ve lost some of my Kapha. If this is confusing, I encourage you to take the quizzes so you can see what I’m referring to 🙂
Our discussion led us into a 5Elements Earth Flow yoga practice. Rachael instructed us through this practice that focused on inner balance and centering. It was interesting to apply her teachings on Ayurveda to a yoga practice, and I could easily see how they all connected to each other. As I mentioned before, everything has connection to Ayurveda! We ended the day with some self-massage with coconut oil, which I’ve found is a really great habit to form on a daily basis.
Rachael’s discussion was so informative that after just a few hours I was really interested in the concepts of Ayurveda. It’s amazing when you can listen to what your body and mind need rather than relying on doctors, drug stores and pharmaceuticals. A lot of our ailments could be relieved, or even cured, if we just care for ourselves better with good daily habits. Since the weekend, I’ve already incorporated several Ayurvedic practices into my daily life, including oil pulling, self-massage, tongue scraping, diet adjustments and drinking hot water in the morning. I’m also a very structured person who loves routines, so this is working out splendidly for me 🙂
We were treated to another visit by Carey Sims Sunday morning, where we discussed Yoga Sutras. We began the day with a short, gentle practice to get our energy up and our bodies and minds calm. We were instructed to read Yoga: Discipline of Freedom to prepare us for our Sutra discussion. As a group, we talked about what yoga, suffering and liberation really mean, obstacles we must overcome as yoga practitioners, the understanding of Yamas (social ethics, or observances) and Niyamas (personal ethics, or restraints), and the 8 Limbs of Yoga.
Before the weekend, we were all assigned either a Sutra, Yama or Niyama to research and structure a class around. I was assigned the Niyama Ishvara Pranidhana, which is surrendering to a higher power. My personal interpretation of this is letting the universe take over sometimes, where we don’t always have to be in control of everything. Sometimes we need to get out of our own way, and just release and let go. I also interpreted it to mean devotion and discipline to ourselves and our yoga practice. I believe that a lot can be learned by giving ourselves over to our practices.
I created a class around this theme that included some restorative and surrendering poses, heart openers and alternate nostril breathing. Little did we know arriving on Sunday that each of us would have to teach about 5 minutes of our personal class to others in the group! In the end we all did great, even after having to choose last minute what part of our sequences we wanted to teach. We ended the morning with a final meditative grounding practice to take in all that we learned.
After lunch Jillian continued her mindfulness and meditation discussion from Saturday morning. She began by leading us through Yoga Nidra, which was simply WONDERFUL. Basically you get as comfortable as possible lying on your mat, using whatever props you want. The goal is to get you into a deep meditative state, which often results in falling asleep (which is okay, and what I totally did). What felt like 5 minutes was actually about 40 minutes, which none of us could believe because it went by so fast.
She then led us through a mindfulness meditation yoga practice, incorporating a lot of what we had learned thus far. This practice also included a “mountain meditation”, which is best done standing up. I thought I’d be wobbly standing up to meditate for a while, but I actually found I was really grounded, probably because I was relaxed and not overthinking it. Then came food meditation! We had the option of a piece of chocolate, zucchini bread or a blackberry. Of course, I chose the chocolate. We studied it, held it, tasted it, and then eventually chewed it. I personally love food meditation; I think it’s a neat way to get in touch with something that we likely take for granted on a daily basis.
Our final task of the weekend was to break up into small groups and teach each other a short sequence incorporating a mindfulness technique. We were given 15 minutes to create a short class, and then had 10 minutes to teach it. I decided to focus on breath counting, Ujjayi breath, and guided grounding in Savasana. I was really happy with how mine turned out, and I realized how comfortable I’m already getting with teaching. I truly feel it is something I was called to do, and each time I practice it just confirms that. I absolutely love it, and can’t wait to see what the future holds in my teaching career.
And so ended another amazing weekend with some of my favorite people on this planet.
~Breathing in, I calm the body. Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment, I know that this is a wonderful moment.~