Yoga is the practice of hitting poses to look cool and make your body, mind, and spirit look, feel or believe amazing things. That’s actually mostly untrue. To be more accurate, yoga is a way of life. More importantly, it’s what you do off of the mat compared to what you can do physically with your body on the mat. But as Western culture and society, we choose to focus strictly speaking on the asana (poses) of yoga practice. It’s a small aspect of yoga, but for the purpose of this article, we’ll just assume we all know what yoga actually is.
Perhaps, the full definition of width and breadth of yoga can be described in another blog article…? (coming soon)
Now, I know you may be thinking… why or what in the world is a graphic designer doing teaching yoga?? That’s a fair question, one I have often asked myself.
For more on that, I might direct you to first read this article about my Journey to the Mat. It’s a topsy turvy world in which we live, and with a lot of experience of wandering from from the path, I’ve determined the best thing to do is to find a balance and go with the flow. Ha – Yoga jokes.
So after discovering the joy and contentment of a constant yoga practice, I jumped in with both feet and attended a yoga teacher training program at Asheville Yoga Center (AYC). I didn’t choose AYC for any specific reason. Honestly, it was sort of a providential sort of thing, and like I just said – go with the flow.
The stars aligned for me to attend, and so with a suitcase full over overpriced and under studied yoga books, yoga pants, and a yoga mat, I headed to Asheville for 3 week immersion program.
Ahhhh!! Strange people in a strange place.. new smells, weird yoga mats, and awkward introductions. “Hi, I’m Andrew. Hello, I’m Jessica.” What are the odds? Who knows…but I like the way this is shaping up.
So there’s a lot of expectation on three week yoga teacher training immersion, and just like any college summer crash course to make up for failed semester long course offerings, yoga teacher training packs A LOT of information and asana practice in a short time.
This week hit all the basics of being or becoming a yoga instructor. A topical foundation of the 8 limbs of Ashtanga based yoga, a brief history lesson (I mean really — can you pack thousands of years of history into 21 days of lesson plans!?). It’s all a blur really.
One remarkable experience that comes to mind was the blindfolded practice. That was hella fun. So typically, as a male, I compare and contrast my asana practice with those around me. I feel like that’s mostly natural… but probably not super helpful for an actual yoga practice. So to take away the eyes of the practitioner brings full focus to the mechanics and energetics of the body, heart and mind. I’ve never really been one to go in on a physical practice, so this in closing my eyes, my eyes were opened.
Cool – so now I know these people and I found my place in the room. It was in the corner. I wanted a wall to recline against and with which to incessantly practice handstands. And it’s time to get to work. Here’s a rough outline of daily activities:
AM – Lineage 1/Practice 1
Lunch – Vegan Options Galore
PM – Lineage 2/Practice 2
Dinner – I need a Baconator.
Evening – Studio Class or Home reading
So there are a bunch of different lineages and traditions in yoga. Think about it. This way of life has been around for literally thousands of years. It’s one of the oldest written religions (loosely used here) known to man-kind. These writings have been interpreted and transformed by many different people over the years and so yoga has grown and developed into so many different forms. In order to present a fair take on this, in teacher training, each lineage was given a whole three hour overview. We scratched the surface, peeled the layer back a little, sought what was inside and gave us a taste a little of what we could potentially want more of.
One thing I feel I should mention here about week two is the groove I found with a home practice and journaling. One of the main requirements of the yoga teacher training was to complete a home asana practice, including mediation, and then journal about each day’s activities. At first this seemed to be an entire burden; something I was being forced to do and so I resisted.
As I settled into the groove, everything really became easier and I started smiling and enjoying the ritualistic practice and started to reap small benefits and even see bits and pieces of progress. I am not really sure how to put into words the awesomely powerful nature of the stillness at the bottom of the breath. Absolutely remarkable. If you don’t know what I’m talking about – check out kumbhaka over on Wikipedia.
Well, by this point in the immersion timeline, most of the basics have been covered or at least touched upon.
We’ve familiarized ourselves with the basics of instructing yoga, completed a rudimentary lesson in anatomy and physiology, found out what prana is, and done some small group experiential learning. Honestly, I’ll arrogantly say that I felt ahead of my classmates here. Being as I had taught a few classes before attending teacher training, I already felt comfortable occupying the seat of the teacher.
So when asked to get up in front of the class and lead any sort of activity, my eyes would light up with glee! What? You mean I get to be the center or attention and have all eyes on me?? Yes. Please!
Some things had worn off their shiny welcome by this point. Everything was not glossy anymore and energy levels were fading quickly. Oh, and I tore my meniscus. That was fun. However, you know how sometimes, something or someone has the ability to hold your attention with ease? That happened for me in yoga school. And as I’ve stated before, it doesn’t matter how or why the path leads a certain way. Just walk down whatever path is open to you.
Refrain from attachment. Refrain from diligent thought, emotion or expectation. Simply be present. Simply smile and enjoy each moment we have to breathe and be.