This past YTT weekend was beautiful, magical, and gave me all the feels in the best way possible. I left Sunday feeling so grateful for this experience, and for bringing the most wonderful people into my life, who I now call some of my best friends. Never in my life have I been so content, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. So here’s why my weekend was so awesome.
We began our evening with Carrie discussing inversions, which was what we would be practicing the next day. Inversions include any pose where your feet are above your heart, like headstand, shoulder stand, handstand, legs up the wall, happy baby, etc. Inversions are great to incorporate into a practice. Not only are they fun and challenging, but they can help with focus, energy levels, fatigue and blood flow. We’re on our feet almost all day, so it’s beneficial to reverse gravity sometimes. And as one of my regular instructors says, it literally changes your perspective!
After our discussion, Carrie led us through an intense arm balance practice. I learned so much during this practice from both Carrie and some of my fellow students. I have struggled with arm balances from day one, mostly because my fear of face-planting has prohibited me from having the confidence to get into them. During this class, we practiced crow and half crow after first going through a flow to warm up our muscles. One of my friends in the class showed me a trick that involves using a bolster or block under the head to get into the pose more easily. It seriously changed how I look at crow now, and I was able to get into the pose AND stay there with confidence! Needless to say, it was a super fun class.
During our morning session with Jillian, we began with some sequence improvisation. While all facing each other in a circle on our mats, we went around the room in a flow practice where each person moved us into a pose for one full breath. The key here was to make it flow, not just call out a random pose. This was actually quite tricky! Sometimes I had the benefit of my turn being in the middle of a vinyasa or long-held pose, but other times I had to think of something new to put the class into. It was pretty fun though, and a good warm-up to start the day.
The rest of the morning was spent breaking down various poses, which included both standing and seated postures. As Jillian called out each pose, one of us would jump up to the demo mat, get into the pose and then discuss modifications and variations of that pose. Naturally I got into a wide-legged straddle, because it’s my most hated pose due to my tight hamstrings. But the more we talked about it, the more I realized I need to do what’s best for my body in this pose, which could be sitting on a block or bending my knees. It’s a matter of releasing my ego, which as we all know isn’t always easy to do.
After lunch Carrie allowed us about 20 minutes of yoga “free time”, which meant we could do whatever our bodies were craving to prepare us for inversion practice. The first time I was ever given free time in a class, I sort of panicked. But the more I practice at home on my own, the more I’m grateful for free time. It allows you to connect with yourself and become more in tune to what you need on an individual level.
Onto inversions, where fun and fear share the same sentence! We practiced shoulder stand, headstand and handstand. Fortunately the latter two included support and assists from the class. I haven’t done many headstands in my 4 1/2 years of practicing, so successfully getting into one was fairly new for me. While I needed support the whole time, it was quite exhilarating and empowering. And it gave us a lesson in trusting each other, which was easy to do given the strong relationships we’ve formed since February.
We then partnered up to practice some Thai massage on each other, which was downright blissful. We took turns, and Carrie instructed us each time on different massage techniques. I couldn’t decide whether I liked being the giver or receiver, both were equally fulfilling for me. At the end of the massage, we sat back to back with our partners, putting our full weight, and once again trust, into each other. I found this experience to be very powerful. It’s amazing the connections you can form on a deep level when you get past the surface of knowing someone. As we laid in Savasana to cap off the day, I found myself getting emotional, because I felt so much love and support in the room. The energy was like nothing I’d ever experienced before.
Sunday morning started with a short meditation led by Carrie, followed by a session devoted to self-care. We often don’t practice enough self-care in our daily lives, mainly because we’re constantly on the go and focused on everyone except ourselves. It’s important to be aware of our needs though and listen when our body and mind speak to us. It’s great to have that motivation to get things done, but it’s equally great to counter that energy by turning inward and finding peace.
Carrie provided us with a series of self-care questions to journal about and then share with the group. We discussed what brings us joy and nourishment, what we can say no to, what we want to do more of, what we want to celebrate and much more. I chose to share my response to the last question with the group. I said that I wanted to celebrate being alive, and getting to have this amazing life at all. About a year and a half ago I didn’t want to be on this earth; now I’m training to become a yoga teacher. I’ve been really proud of my progress and transformation in that time. My response was met with immediate support and love. And one of my close yoga friends then passed me a small note, simply saying “I’m so glad you’re here.” I lost it at that point, overwhelmed with gratitude and realizing how freaking blessed I am.
The rest of the morning was filled with lots of tears, emotion and love, and was easily the most powerful experience of this program to date. We ended the morning with a big meditative group hug, final OM, and acknowledgements by Carrie. I asked to be acknowledged for my courage and for literally being on this earth. I couldn’t have felt better in that moment.
After lunch (and Popbar!) we led each other through a custom sun salutation that we each created. The day before, Jillian asked us to come up with our own sun salutation, incorporating whatever we desired. I instructed the class through my sun A salutation which included Jupiter Mudra hands and some side bends. It was really neat to see what everyone came up with, since we all have our own inspiration and perspective of yoga.
We then had guest instructor Kortni Campbell provide us with a session on yoga for athletes. Kortni specializes in helping student athletes find relief and healing from various injuries and strains through the power of yoga. She talked to us about how to structure a class that includes athletes, since you have to be mindful of their limitations in certain poses. The biggest takeaway from her discussion was to interact with and get to know your students. Communication is key to ensuring everyone can practice safely and comfortably.
From our discussion, we broke up into groups to put together a short sequence for a hypothetical very injured athlete. We had to work around issues like a rotator cuff injury, cervical strain, knee issues, plantar fasciitis and tight hamstrings. We came up with some poses that would simultaneously avoid further injury and provide some strength and relief. Kortni then led us through a short practice that mimicked what she provides to students in her classes. We focused on slow, controlled and intentional movements to encourage proper alignment. It was great to learn more about an area of yoga that I had no prior experience in, and I feel more prepared for that hypothetical athlete to come to one of my future classes.
This weekend was nothing short of amazing. Between learning new tricks in arm balances, feeling supported in inversions, experiencing love and compassion during massage, and sharing our deepest selves in self-care discussion, I’m in awe of and completely inspired by my fellow students. At one point it hit me that I could have been in any other yoga teacher training program, and while I have no doubt I would have met some amazing people, they wouldn’t be my people. I’m not a believer in fate, but sometimes life really makes me question why certain people are in our lives. I can’t even imagine my life without this wonderful group of people in it now.