Doing the Downward Dog
I'm surprised that it's taken me this long to talk about yoga asana- the physical postures and poses which lie at the heart of Western yoga. Whilst asana is still my favourite part of yoga, learning about its other components has been invaluable to my practice. Even though there are many physical benefits to practicing asana, these should never overshadow the mental and spiritual advantages. Otherwise we end up with a diluted form of yoga that is more concerned with flexibility and who can do the best headstand! In fact, I would go so far to say that certain branches of yoga have even lost their connection to the physical self, due to excessive branding and commercialisation. Designer leggings and post-workout smoothies undermine the basic principles of yoga because they place the focus on the external self. The internal self should always be at the heart of yoga because when we turn our focus inwards we are able to reconnect with our true selves. When we truly listen to the mind and body, we are able to live more mindfully, finding joy in life’s little details!
One of the best things about Chandra Yoga is the diversity of training. We are fortunate to be taught by several different teachers, allowing us to experience many types of yoga, including Power Yoga, Classical Indian Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow and Yin Yoga. This open-minded attitude flows into our teacher training because we are encouraged to teach from the heart, giving us the freedom to express our own teaching styles and preferences in our practice. Which made out first teaching assessment even more interesting because each and every person taught a completely different class. In a single day I attended a smile yoga class, a yoga practice designed for children and a family yoga session! This flexible approach works hand-in-hand with modern day yoga because it accepts that one size doesn’t fit all. A person’s preference will vary due to their culture, age, gender and lifestyle. My partiality for powerful asana classes stems from its ability to focus my energy and discipline my mind and body. However, the same practice might make someone else feel uncomfortable, disconnecting the mind and body from a meditative space. Which is why I always tell beginners to try several yoga classes before deciding whether or not it is for them because trying to pick between Yin Yoga and Ashtanga is the equivalent to choosing between a pizza or a curry! They are completely different!
A key element to our teacher training is the practical assessments, leading a 30-minute and a 60-minute yoga class of our choice (this is compulsory for the Yoga Alliance RYS 200 qualification). 30 minutes is too short for most styles of yoga (45 minutes would usually be the bare minimum but some classes last up to 3 hours!) but it was a useful exercise in helping us step into the role of teacher, planning and directing our own yoga classes for the first time! I have a new found respect for my yoga teachers, as I didn’t realise how difficult it is to cue postures, correct students, remind people of the contra-indicators, all whilst making sure that the class flows smoothly! The latter is essential because it is what differentiates ‘yoga’ from a gym work out: the mind and body are active and alive and follow the breath, which explains why you are able to completely relax in savasana (the lie down bit at the end) after a well-balanced and connected yoga class. It was initially quite strange sitting at the front of the class, as I am so used to following a teacher’s lead and relaxing into the practice. Teaching yoga certainly requires a higher level of concentration and attentiveness (as you are not only managing your own body but that of your students as well!) but I found the experience incredibly rewarding, particularly when you able to witness the positive affect that the practice has on your pupils. I taught a very detailed class, which was abundant in cues, as I am hoping to develop a safe but strong practice that stops the mind from wandering. I was pleased that the feedback I received corresponded with this aim, as my fellow yogis mentioned that they were unable to think about dinner when they had to focus on flexing the foot and engaging the core! It was also an important learning lesson as I discovered that some of my cues confused the class, as what makes sense to me might not be obvious to someone else! This was particularly apparent because of the mix of nationalities, so concise cues accompanied by clear demonstrations were essential for class communication.
The time flew by during my assessment and whilst I absolutely loved every moment I only wish it could’ve been longer (I actually had to cut out a few postures due to lack of time). So needless to say I am excited about expanding and developing the sequence for my 60-minute assessment next week!
-Yoga Alliance: https://www.yogaalliance.org/
-A beginner's guide to the 8 major styles of yoga: http://life.gaiam.com/article/beginners-guide-8-major-styles-yoga
-Chandra Yoga: https://www.sushilyoga.com/