How have 8 training weekends passed already?! I’m so sad the program is coming to an end, but I also know that there is so much to look forward to once I’m certified. And of course, I’ll never stop seeing all of my yoga friends. Though if it’s not for a full 18 hours in one weekend, I’m going to be very upset 😉
This past weekend was equal parts fun, emotional and educational. It’s interesting to me how the order of these weekends have fallen. Last time I was in such a raw emotional state, and we happened to have practices like Yin and Jivamukti, which seemed to be exactly what I needed. This time, while still emotional at certain points, the weekend was filled with laughter, spirituality and a discussion of mental health. I can’t help but feel like the order of these weekends was not a coincidence. But even if it was, I’m still happy they fell when they did.
It was so appropriate that our evening was focused on kids yoga, because Friday was actually one of the better days I’d had in a while. So to have a night filled with fun and laughter was perfect. Jillian began the evening with a discussion on how to structure a yoga class for kids, with the main goal being “keep it simple, fun and short.” Important aspects of a kids yoga class included:
- Staying relaxed, as kids can sense moods well
- Letting them explore poses on their own and offering several breaks
- Providing positive affirmations for all the students
- Modeling the poses and providing visual aides
- Keeping poses basic, and using “animal” poses as much as possible to keep it fun (cat, cow, cobra, etc.)
- Using fun, engaging breath work, like lions breath or bee breath
From there, Jillian gave us an entire night of kids yoga to have fun with, and I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard. I’ve included several pictures of our fun below. Some of our activities included:
- Singing, rhyming and moving together
- Using our “belly friends” to focus on breathing into our bellies
- Story time yoga, where we got into poses every time we heard the pose name in the story Jillian read (harder than it sounds!)
- Cotton ball races, where we used our belly breath to blow air through a straw and move our cotton ball across the floor
- “Toe-ga” – using just our toes to pick up cotton balls and move them into our piles
- Yoga freeze, which is similar to musical chairs, except when the music stops we have to get into a yoga pose
- Yoga mirroring, where we partnered up to mirror exactly what poses our partners did (like this episode of I Love Lucy)
- Yoga machine – probably the most hilarious activity. One by one, we added a yoga pose with sound to create a fully functional human machine of yoga poses
- Human mandala, which we ended the night with. A way for all of us to come together to create something beautiful with just our bodies.
I was SO excited for this morning in particular, because we were discussing energy and chakras with Alison Pulito. Alison is a Reiki Specialist and a Shaman, and has been studying energy work and spirituality for quite some time. Connecting your mind, body and soul may very well be the most important thing you can do for yourself while you are alive. It is proven that we are all made of energy, and since everything in existence is also made of energy, we are all connected, just differentiated by our densities. We also all have an auric field around us, which is a series of vibration layers. Ever notice how when we’re depressed, we’re more likely to have other ailments too? All energy has vibration, so when you are optimistic, your emotions vibrate at a higher intensity, which can serve to heal and protect the body from disease.
Alison explained that using the seven chakras, or spiritual energy spheres within the body, can help one achieve enlightenment in a single lifetime. They are designed to transform and assist us in our spiritual evolution, and manage our strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to keep all of the chakras balanced to keep ourselves stable. When they are out of alignment, meditation and mindful activities can be used to clear them and restore healing to the body. The seven chakras are:
- Root Chakra (red) – sits at the base of the spine, it symbolizes “grounding” and the foundation of the chakra system. Balanced = connection to our bodies and the earth; unbalanced = fear and trust issues. Balancing activities: gardening, massage, running, nature.
- Sacral Chakra (orange) – located just below the belly button, it symbolizes passion, intimacy and connection to reality. Balanced = emotional security; unbalanced = anger and denying wholeness. Balancing activities: baths, massage, yoga, art, dance.
- Solar Plexus Chakra (yellow) – located as described, it’s the energetic power center behind our own aspirations. Balanced = using our power to help others; unbalanced = ego and misuse of power. Balancing activities: cycling, hiking, photography, solitude.
- Heart Chakra (green) – located in the middle of the chest, it symbolizes joy, peace and love for ourselves and others. Balanced = social and self acceptance; unbalanced = infatuation with the self and rejection. Balancing activities: reiki, dance, massage, time with partners, family or pets.
- Throat Chakra (blue) – located at the hollow of the throat, it represents our ability to communicate without words. Balanced = looking within to find self-awareness; unbalanced = being right, intoxication with your own knowledge. Balancing activities: singing, playing music, journaling, retreats.
- Third Eye Chakra (indigo) – located in the middle of the forehead, it symbolizes knowledge, the divine and truth. Balanced = recognizing the divine in ourselves and others; unbalanced = lack of identity and role confusion. Balancing activities: Tai Chi, meditation, reading.
- Crown Chakra (violet/white) – located at the tip of the head, it is our portal to the beyond and connection to a higher power. Balanced = transcendence and merging with the divine; unbalanced = the need to be right and failure to learn. Balancing activities: laughing, naps, astrology, prayer, funny movies/books.
Alison guided us through a few different meditation exercises to put all of this knowledge into practice. We began with a clearing of the chakras, which involved a meditation focusing on each chakra from root to crown. If we got stuck on one that we couldn’t focus on, that meant something in our lives was unbalanced. Next we tried a chakra protection meditation, which involved shielding ourselves from negative influences and thoughts through various means. Finally, she taught us a really neat energy exchange using the infinity symbol ∞ . The goal was to focus on someone else (alive, dead, friend, foe, stranger, etc.) and mindfully use this symbol between the two of you to send love and compassion. I can see myself using this one a lot.
I thoroughly enjoyed Alison’s session, because it resonated so much with what I’ve been experiencing and researching over the past month. Energy work is so fascinating to me and something I’d like to explore more. This session really couldn’t have come at a better time.
After lunch, Carrie allowed us some free time to journal, practice, or do whatever else our bodies and minds were calling for. Afterwards we did some small group teaching to get some practice in. With our final exam coming up in our last weekend, we took the time to give each other solid feedback so that we could better prepare. Our final exam consists of creating an hour long sequence and then teaching 30 minutes of it in class. We can basically teach any style that we feel most comfortable with. I have an idea of what I want to do, so that will be my task over the next month.
We spent almost the entire day focusing on trauma work with Katie Rodgers. Katie is both a mental health professional and yoga instructor, with a specific interest in helping those with PTSD. Trauma is one area I have not researched as much within the mental health field, so what she discussed was informative and eye-opening. Those with trauma issues experience a lack of predictability, safety and control, and can be triggered by just about anything that relates to said trauma. It is an involuntary response and can be difficult to come down from once initiated. So Katie explained how yoga can help those with trauma gain control:
- It can reconnect the person to their body and experience the present moment
- It can allow the person to make a choice and have control
- It can teach the person to stop if something is painful
- It can connect the person to others and provide a gentle environment for exploration
Some of this information was overwhelming, because as yoga instructors we have to be particularly mindful of someone with trauma issues in our classes. However, Katie gave us some great advice should we encounter a situation in class of this nature. Ultimately we are not doctors, so we do have boundaries with how we should help someone. What we can provide is a safe, supportive space for someone with trauma issues to practice, and provide mindful techniques that the person may take home to use in their daily life.
Katie led us through a trauma-sensitive practice so we could get a feel for what that sequence and environment should look like. Things to consider included lighting, music and smells, which are all things we might normally take for granted, but could be uncomfortable for those with trauma. Props are highly encouraged to provide support, as well as a thorough and welcoming introduction to the class, just so everyone knows what to expect. Poses in a trauma-sensitive class should be kept basic, long Savasanas are encouraged, and hands-on assists are often not appropriate, unless given permission by that student to do so. Katie gave us so much good information in such a short amount of time. I appreciated learning about this topic and feel much more prepared should I have students with PTSD in my future classes.
We ended the weekend with Jillian practicing restorative yoga. We partnered up and took turns assisting and being assisted. Assisting in a restorative class is quite involved, as it requires a LOT of props and proper placement to allow for full relaxation. For experience’s sake, we used all the props available, which included two bolsters, four blankets, four blocks, two sandbags and an eye pillow. We moved through supported poses like child’s pose, twists, reclined bound angle and legs up the wall. I think I have a newfound love for restorative yoga; it’s just so relaxing. I equally enjoyed assisting and being assisted, though maybe a bit more of the latter 🙂
So ends my second to last yoga training weekend. It was a great one, and once again, much needed right about now. I am really going to miss these full weekends once we graduate. I always learn so much, and I absolutely love spending so much time with my yoga tribe. Our final weekend is September 22-24, so the next month will involve me working hard to realize this long-term dream of mine. I can’t wait ❤