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Yoga Teacher Training YTT Blog

Disruption: Yoga Teacher Training after Covid

author’s note: this is the frantic story of adapting yoga teacher training to an online format. For details of upcoming yoga teacher training programs click here:

In February 2020, PANDEMIC was smeared on the front page of the news. Prior to that, headlines like “Wuhan Lock-down” were catching my attention, but I was distracted, like all Canadians, by railroad blockades, the Wetsuweten Hereditary Chiefs and the unimportant discourse about JLo’s outfit at Super Bowl. The Facebook militia was rioting about these polarizing issues, but the Wetsuweten Blockades and JLo’s crotch were ignored by many. There was still diversity in the media – sports, movies, celebrity gossip, travel – and our individual interests trumped any unifying issue.

Pandemic headlines

That was the Before Times. Before everyone was sent home from work and our collective interests were aligned by the impact of Covid. Before my inbox was bursting with trivial emails from every business I’d ever patronized. Thank you, HeadKandi Hair Salon for letting me know you’ve made the “difficult but necessary” decision to close. And hello, Scotiabank, I send well-wishes to your family too. 

At first, Covid was everywhere and nowhere. It was in my emails and front of mind, but I didn’t know anyone with Covid. Then it was somewhere: a sign on the door of my yoga studio: CLOSED due to Covid. The lively yoga studio I co-own and where I teach yoga teacher training was abruptly silenced on March 17.

image-from-rawpixel-id-2046902-jpeg

Loneliness punctuated the early days of Covid. Scotiabank underscored the concept of community with their well-wishes and “we’re all in this together” digital platitude, but the mass emails did little to acquiesce my gloom. Our studio was empty, and I passed the lonely hours swiffering the floor and tinkering with my website. I often just sat at the desk, listlessly refreshing my email. Another unread message at the top, this one from the Yoga Alliance. Oh great, another instruction to “stay safe in these troubled times.” I rolled my eyes in anticipation of more insipid platitudes. But the Yoga Alliance email was different. It had real solutions to my real problem: online yoga teacher training was approved! For the first time. Change. I’d advocated before for approval of online yoga teacher training, but was always met with reluctance. Maybe the administration to implement online yoga training had been too daunting. Whatever their former reason for disallowing online training, the abrupt global disruption prompted the Yoga Alliance to adapt. For the first time in weeks, I felt inspired by change.

Along with loneliness, a frustrating feeling of inertia had been my constant companion. Stay Home was the online rally cry. Being alone coupled with the uncertain future for my business was wearing on me. So following the Yoga Alliance’s approval for online yoga training, I was eager for action.With no regard for the daunting logistics or for my sanity, I resolved to get my 200-hour yoga-training curriculum online in two weeks. Step one: get a learning management system. I host my website through WordPress, so I chose LearnDash, a learning management plugin. I trusted WordPress because their reliable online support solved many frustrations over the past decade. 

Organizing yoga content into a learning management system

Part of learning online and mitigating the accompanying loneliness is knowing there’s a like-minded support community. Immediately after installing the LearnDash plugin, all my custom formatting disappeared. I gasped. Audibly. The sound reverberated around my empty studio. My website took ten years to mould to my satisfaction. I clicked around in the now-barren shell of a website. Anguish. Despair. Acute helplessness. But WordPress has a live chat with Happiness Engineers. I pounded into my keyboard, 

“Please help. I just installed a new plugin and all my formatting disappeared!!!!” 

“Oh no! (Hi!) I’ve seen that error before, I think I know what we need to do,” came the reply from WordPress Live Chat. The faceless Happiness Engineer solved the problem for me with a few keystokes (my website had inadvertently migrated to a new server). 

“THANK you. Are you a real person? Where are you?” I typed. 

“I think I’m a real person! Hard to tell these days 🙂 I’m in the Eastern US,” came the response. And my anguish dissolved. Here was a real person, a Happiness Engineer, solving a problem for me. We were alone, but together. The transition from the Before Times to the unknowns of Covid was abrupt and jarring, but for the first time since Covid barged into my life, I felt supported by another individual. 

Alone. Together. Reading emails and chatting virtually. I considered the possibilities of life after Covid. Driven by innovation, infrastructure like live chat with a trained WordPress agent was already in place. I brainstormed about how online yoga teacher training could be meaningful. It needed to be more than a one-sided broadcast like email and blog content. It needed to be a two-sided discussion. It needed to mimic a community. Students needed to feel like we were together while they were alone. 

Covid is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to pivot and try something new. I had the approval from the Yoga Alliance, I persevered through the frustration of installing a  learning management system, now I had to get interactive with video. The textbook and written content was done, but how would I replicate the spontaneous interactive group learning that is central to yoga teacher training? How would I promote community in an online medium?

My self-imposed frenetic schedule was filled with spontaneous interactive learning. Online forums and chats educated me on sufficient RAM for 4K video; mirrorless and full frame cameras; lavalier microphones and colour rendering index for lighting. Even the vocabulary was new to me. But every panicky problem with bandwidth, choppy video and shadowy lighting was calmly answered in online support groups. I was acquiring a new skill set, and the difficulty of getting my yoga modules online was mitigated by online community support. My sanity was compromised by my frenzied work pace and the volume of unfamiliar tasks, but I felt supported by an online community. 

Community at 2019 Yoga Teacher Training.

Community is what keeps us sane. Community is about aligning feelings through shared objectives and mutual understanding. I thought about the idea of community as I set up a corner for filming video in my studio. Lights. Camera. Action. I was teaching yoga to a tripod. It didn’t feel like community. Can online learning really replicate the real life experience of being part of a yoga training cohort?  Yoga teacher training is about community and about belonging. As I learned to make videos, I asked the forums if I should film in 24 or 30 frames per second; I asked how to backlight my set. No matter the question, there was an online community to support the process of making yoga videos. Martin Luther King Jr described community as a web of mutuality. Community is a shared responsibility to take care of each other. Making videos was rewarding for me because I was supported by online people: mutual support was available through shared objectives. 

Online Yoga

I paced around the studio and pondered how to create a web of mutuality for online yoga teacher trainees. Students needed to track and share their learning progress. Teaching yoga is dynamic because of the community of yoga students. Learning how to teach yoga is rewarding because it’s a shared experience with a cohort. Online Yoga Teacher Training will be dynamic if students chronicle the process through an ePortfolio. There. Midway through the second frenetic week of filming, I typed in the instructions for the mainstay of the program. Dynamic shared learning. Represented in an ePortfolio that students would work on during the program. Alone but together students would document the journey in an ePortfolio.

Designing a Yoga Class
Online learning: Dynamic shared learning

As March passed and April blossomed, the Covid isolation orders eased. People emerged into spring. I emerged into the brand new world of online yoga teacher training. Buoyed by the opportunity to innovate and reimagine yoga teacher training, I overcame the inertia and loneliness of Covid. I negotiated with my computer’s RAM, set up appropriate lighting and taught myself how to teach to a camera. I advertised a powerful brand of yoga that emphasizes dynamic and interactive learning. And five students signed up. After the hustle of changing the studio around; after the frustration of organizing a learning management system; after acquiring the vocabulary to understand audio/visual setups; five students bravely showed up on the first day of Land and Heart Online Yoga Teacher Training. “Welcome yogis…” I calmly smiled at the webcam. “I’m so glad you’re here.” 

I’m so glad you’re here

Covid’s disruption was swift and universal. There was a pause. But community and possibility propelled us to think of new ways to do old things. New yoga teacher training is about dynamic shared online learning. A yoga studio is more than cork floors and soft lighting. A studio is a community sanctuary for the dynamic practice of yoga. Covid is more than a health crisis. It’s an opportunity to adapt and innovate after disruption. Our yoga studio was once a sanctuary with pleasant ambiance and quiet music. The soft lighting is disrupted now by glaring set lights; the quiet music competes with humming cameras. The process of teaching yoga used to be one step of unrolling a yoga mat but now includes sound checks and battery charges. The ambiance of the studio is disrupted by the piles of audio/visual equipment, but the community sanctuary has been replicated in the virtual world. 

Author Bio:

Kate Covello created Land and Heart Yoga Teacher Training in 2019. It’s a yoga school founded on examining personal reasons for teaching yoga. Students develop their own voices in the dynamic art of describing yoga. Online Yoga Teacher Training launched on April 25, 2020 with five students. The next online program is September 2020. Online learning is productive when there are opportunities for lively interaction and shared understanding.

Yoga Teacher Training is also hosted live, in-studio (when possible)! The next session is July 6-25, 2020. Register here

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Yoga YTT Blog

Yoga, weight loss and the search for compassion.

Weight issues are epidemic in our culture. Obesity as a medical problem is widespread, and overweight patients are often prescribed “weight loss” as a solution to any medical problem.  People with the particular physical characteristic of excessive body fat are given only one prescription for health. They feel constant pressure to conform, change and shrink.  They’re barely given much more advice than “exercise more. eat less.” This “solution” does nothing to depict health as a psychological and physiological system. Yoga can help patients reframe their sense of self with compassion and acceptance.

Recently, a student dropped out of my beginner yoga class because she was doing too many “exercise classes” and didn’t have time for all of them. She said her doctor had prescribed exercise as a weight loss strategy, but she was tired and didn’t want to attend all the classes she’d signed up for. In spite of my best effort, I couldn’t convince her that yoga is more than exercise and is actually a complete system for health. She said she felt frustrated in exercise classes, conspicuously different from everyone else and “fat.”  She had been told too many times to “just get more exercise” and she viewed classes as evil and unwelcoming and yet another domain for the “thin” people.

People with weight issues often apply a reductionist attitude to their health. “If I go to HIIT/ yoga/ crossfit, then I’ll be fitter.” “If I eat less, then I’ll lose weight.” These statements are true, but they don’t do an adequate job of framing health as a physiological and psychological system. It’s possible that exercise and calorie reduction will result in better health and weight loss, but there are much larger systems at play. Yoga offers a perspective beyond the “if/then” approach to improving health.

Obesity is such a prevalent problem in society and there is a lot of literature devoted to how the medical system treats obese individuals. Anecdotally, it appears that the system can be dismissive of obese patients and even go so far as to blame any ailment on their weight. For example, the New York Times refers to stories of overweight patients with non-weight related conditions like scoliosis or Crohn’s disease being prescribed weight loss in lieu of further examination. Patients who feel discredited by the medical system experience stress, shame and frustration.  Yoga can be part of the prescription, but the power of the practice might surprise obese patients.

These patients know the basics of getting and staying healthy; they know that processed food is bad, eating fruit and vegetables is good, regular exercise is imperative and that it’s critical to keep stress at bay. But the medical system sometimes confuses habits and lifestyle and instructs patients to “better” their habits, “get” healthier and “change” something with the expectation of “improvement.” Paradoxically, this desire to improve  creates stress. As an alternative to the desire to improve, yoga is a strategy to observe what’s happening with health and wellness. By doing a regular yoga practice, students are able to check in with their own physical and emotional self and understand their constitution from a point of view of acceptance rather than change.

By accepting themselves for who they are and not constantly being prescribed change and improvement, obese patients may be able to find wellness on the yoga mat – from a different perspective than they’re used to.

Obese students face many challenges in society, the worst of which is feeling the constant pressure to change their habits, overhaul their lifestyle and shrink. The pressure to change a physical characteristic is overwhelming but with weight loss being the only prescription, if they don’t succeed, obese patients are left feeling they’ve failed.

Yoga can give patients a new perspective on their health. By focusing on a meditation, they find acceptance and appreciation for who they are and remove themselves from the pass/fail outcome of results-oriented weight loss. Obese patients suffer from extreme attachment to a particular outcome. They are striving to lose weight and if they don’t succeed, they suffer because they are so attached to the outcome of their actions. The yogic perspective of non-attachment to outcome is a refreshing new perspective for a demographic who is being coerced by society to make changes to their appearance.

Yoga, meditation and a new perspective on “results” may help obese students love themselves in the face of society constantly telling them to change. From this love, a sense of wellbeing will start to bloom. Yoga teaches everyone to be compassionate to themselves. Obese students who struggle against society’s prescription of weight loss for health will find compassion towards themselves particularly useful. Weight loss is not the only prescription for health. Practicing yoga offers a consistent and steady approach to health that is not based on results. It’s a healthy lifestyle that is predicated on compassion.

 

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Yoga Yoga Teacher Training Yoga Therapy YTT Blog

Thoughts for Yoga Teachers – explaining yoga as therapy

The practice of yoga is therapeutic. Anyone who has practiced yoga will agree with this statement, but the idea of “yoga therapy” is contentious. In January 2016, the Yoga Alliance requested that any yoga school remove the terms “yoga therapy” and “yoga therapist” from their title. This instruction was a precaution against misleading the public that yoga teachers are diagnosticians. The point was not that yoga isn’t therapeutic, but rather that yoga is not a strategy for diagnosing or curing ailments. The therapeutic potential of yoga comes from its consistent practice. Yoga is a complete system for maintaining health and wellbeing, but it is not a prescriptive solution to specific ailments.

As a yoga teacher, you will receive a lot of inquiries about how to “cure” a variety of ailments, or “treat” a specific population. Some examples include depression/anxiety, back pain, pregnancy, injuries, asthma, arthritis, insomnia and obesity. Your role as a yoga professional is to guide students to treat themselves for whatever they are suffering from. Yoga is not a replacement for other medical care, but it is a useful tool in healthcare. Consistent yoga practice offers students autonomy and awareness in their own healthcare journey.

The difference between yoga and other types of healthcare is that yoga does not apply a reductionist style of therapy. It requires commitment from the student and it is not a quick solution. For example, consider the following statements:

“If I meditate, then I’ll be calmer.”

“If I don’t smoke, then I’ll be able to run faster.”

“If I eat less, then I’ll be thinner.”

These statements are true, but they fail to capture health as a complete psychological and physiological system. Yoga affords a point of view that goes beyond the reductionist if/then approach to health. For example, the primary series of Ashtanga yoga is called yoga chikitsa. Translated, this means yoga therapy. The therapeutic application of Ashtanga is its systematic approach towards wellness rather than a prescription to cure/treat an ailment.

The therapeutic quality of the yoga is its attention to discipline, devotion and patience. Yoga chikitsa is intended to be practiced daily. Practitioners are to do each pose in sequence and follow the other suggestions for a well-rounded lifestyle.

First, you have to practice for a long period of time; second, your practice must not be interrupted—you must do it regularly; and third, you must do your practice with love and respect.
-Yoga Sutra 1.14

It is these qualities of the practice – discipline, devotion and patience – that students can apply to other therapeutic requirements.

How to teach therapeutic yoga

First, you must provide a nurturing and welcoming environment for every student that comes to your classes or even who asks you a question. Yoga is therapeutic in its consistent application. But suggesting this to a student who has recently been diagnosed with arthritis or asthma or depression and who is looking for a prescriptive “fix” may be counterproductive. Students who have recently been diagnosed with an ailment, particularly if they are new to yoga, will not initially be receptive to your suggestion that yoga must be practiced regularly and consistently. Incorporating a yoga practice into a healthcare regime is fundamentally different than taking a pill or getting surgery. Informing students that they must practice “forever” will be overwhelming. Furthermore, with insidious problems that require therapy such as obesity or back pain, students might be reluctant to embrace the lifestyle changes that are necessary to change their circumstances. So, it’s important to be compassionate and welcoming to each student, regardless of their previous yoga experience and regardless of their current expectations of the practice.

Next, be patient and creative in your approach. Encourage students as they develop a regular practice. Although it might be obvious to you how yoga is therapeutic for many ailments, the yogic approach of a mind-body connection might be foreign to new students. Assess each student by asking questions about their experience, their perception of yoga and what aspects of yoga make them feel better. Elaborate on this by making yoga appealing. For example, an injured athlete with a lot of energy may not stick with a seated meditation practice. She might find it boring and annoying. Propose to her instead that she try walking meditation. Instruct her to set a mantra before she walks and then to repeat the mantra during the walk. Just as yoga is an overarching solution for almost any ailment, there are infinite ways to incorporate yoga into a lifestyle.

Finally, even though yoga therapy is not a replacement for medical intervention, it is a valuable companion to medicine. As a yoga teacher, you have the time to discuss with students what is ailing them and together, you can evaluate lifestyle changes, such as work environment, leisure activities and emotional circumstances. Together, you and your student can determine an effective and useful application of yoga. Furthermore, by consulting with your student, and putting them in charge of their own health via yoga, you are giving them the autonomy to take charge of their personal wellbeing.

Yoga may not be a prescriptive tool to cure ailments, but it does provide a therapeutic elixir of which students have control over the dosage.

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Yoga YTT Blog

Mindful Meditation for Peace of Mind

You don’t have to practice yoga every day. But when you need your practice, you’re going to wish you’d been practicing every day.

Yoga is a physical, emotional and psychological practice. The physical part, the poses, is the most obvious. The emotional and psychological components of a yoga practice are much harder to understand. But tapping into the emotional, mindful and psychological aspect of yoga presents a platform for training the mind to avoid negative self-talk and unnecessary distractions. Try practicing mindfulness meditation as a way to navigate difficult experiences, understand interpersonal relations and ease the suffering of yourself and those around you.

When the body is suffering, there are tools that can be used for healing. Tools such as resting sore muscles, splinting broken bones or massaging tired muscles are all useful for healing what ails the physical body. On the contrary, when the mind is tired or emotional pain is present, the tools necessary to heal are not as apparent. The subtle body and the mind present great complexity and require tools such as mindfulness yoga for healing.

There will always be suffering. Emotional suffering is an inevitable part of the human condition. Heartbreak, loss, failure, rejection…these are just a few examples of suffering that every human will experience. The attachment to this suffering is optional. As children, our personality structure is based on seeking love from the environment. Seeking and finding love is a strategy of the ego and children must pursue love and acceptance as a survival technique. As we reach adulthood, however, the pursuit of love, acceptance and pleasure creates a false sense of self. Constantly seeking approval and love from external sources represents the inherent idea that we are “not enough” as we are and thus suffering ensues when external circumstances of love and acceptance change or disappear.

The strategy for navigating difficult emotions and indulging in less suffering is to train the mind and heart to be free of misunderstanding of the true self. Mindfulness meditation is the tool. Our lives are a collection of stories and the challenge is to understand that these stories are not the totality of our existence.

By understanding that experiences and situations are often beyond our control, we can escape the assumption that experiences and emotions represent our faults as humans.

The intention of mindfulness meditation is to develop a strength where sensations such as emotions are present, but not threatening.

Our greatest challenge to misunderstanding ourselves is interpersonal relationships. If, as Sartre said, “Hell is other people,” then how can we escape that hell? Sartre did not mean this literally; as in, he didn’t mean that other people are poisonous villains. What he meant was that much of our understanding of ourselves comes from the knowledge that other people already have of us. Our interactions with family, friends, strangers and coworkers creates parameters for how we are judged. In turn, we judge ourselves by the same criteria. If we can escape this judgement and stop allowing other people’s perception of us to be the dogmatic definition of ourselves, we can achieve a sense of peace and a deeper understanding of ourselves.

A heart-cultivation practice is a mindfulness meditation technique that acknowledges the other people around us, but does not focus on the mutual judgements and expectations we have for each other. This is a strategy for exercising the four qualities of the heart. It’s a useful strategy for managing difficult emotional times, but is most beneficial if it’s part of a regular practice.

  • Loving kindness
  • Compassion
  • Sympathetic job
  • Equanimity

Loving Kindness (metta)

Loving kindness is an inclusive, unconditional love for all living beings. It is not based on “merit,” and has no expectations of anything in return.

Start with yourself.

May I feel at home in my life.

May I trust the process of my life

May I feel patience with my circumstances

May I be free from harm

May I find peace and joy in this world

May I be happy

Next move on to a neutral person. This can be someone with whom you have limited interactions. For example, someone that you see on your daily commute to work or the receptionist at the gym or the cashier at the grocery store. Practice sending loving kindness to this person with whom you have no positive or negative interactions with. A neutral relationship.

May he feel at home in his life

May he trust the process of his life

May he feel patience with his circumstances

May he be free from harm

May he find peace and joy in this world

May he be happy

Finally, if you feel ready, move on to someone with whom you have a very trying relationship. Do the best you can.

To the best of my ability, I wish her comfort in her own life.

To the best of my ability, I wish her patience with her own circumstances

To the best of my ability, I wish her freedom from harm

To the best of my ability, I wish her happiness and health

Compassion (karuna)

Practice compassion by taking note of all the stages of suffering. Refrain from seeing suffering as a binary creation. Suffering is more than a start point and an end point. Suffering is a string of constituent parts and to be compassionate is to look at what is happening and look at the circumstances that gave rise to it. Being compassionate is the ability to recognize and be with pain and know that it is not personal. Rather, the experience of pain can be construed as a welcoming to the human family.

Practice compassion by choosing a person who you know is suffering. Focus on their experience.

May he be free from pain and suffering

May he grant himself permission to love

May he forgive those who have hurt him

By developing a feeling of compassion in your heart, you are cultivating an energy. By practicing this compassion, you are allowing this energy to grow and propagate.

Sympathetic Joy (Mudita)

Create sympathetic joy by acknowledging joy in the simplicity and finding joy in other people’s joy. This is a challenging practice, but it’s important to remember that someone else’s joy does not take away from your own potential for joy. The opponents of joy are envy and jealousy, but by unselfishly noticing someone else’s joy, the poisonous opposite feelings can dissolve.

May her feelings of joy be abundant

May she feel joy in the simplicity of her life

Equanimity (Upekkha)

Equanimity is love plus insight and is characterized as evenmindedness. Cultivating equanimity creates a skill set where you are not thrown off balance by your experiences. It is a recognition that all experiences, good and bad, are impermanent and that participation in the human experience will always present highs and lows, but neither needs to define you

I love all beings and understand that all their experiences are impermanent

I love all beings and understand that making space for love, compassion, joy               and kindness is the way to peace, not clinging to craving, jealousy, envy, pleasure or fear.

Conclusion

A regular mindfulness meditation practice is a tool for achieving emotional stability. By cultivating loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity, we can participate in the human experience with ease and understand that our experiences are not the sum total of our existence.

A traumatic or difficult experience may prove to be the catalyst to start practicing mindfulness, but the practice will be of most use if it’s done regularly. You don’t need to practice yoga every day, but when you need your practice, you’re going to wish you had practiced every day.

 

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Power Yoga Yoga YTT Blog

Get out of your own way: battling your ego with the Warrior Series.

Use the Warrior Series to battle your ego and realize your goals.

Most flow yoga classes incorporate at least one of the warrior poses (Virabhadrasana series), but beyond the physical shape of the poses, what are these poses all about?

The warrior series refers to the spiritual warrior, one who battles the universal enemy. The universal enemy exists in all of us: ego, ignorance and unnecessary attachment. Often we get mired in our egos, find ourselves ignorant of what we truly need and develop unnecessary attachments to ideas or substances that aren’t useful.

Everyone has goals and plans. These are ideas that we think are possible, but something gets in the way.

What is getting in your way?  

Is it a hangup with your appearance? Is it an addiction to something that is wasting your time (the internet, sugar, exercise, sex, tv, drugs, alcohol)? Is it an obsession with money? Is it attachment to something that you don’t need? It is a relationship that doesn’t serve you anymore? Is it a fear of failure?

A teacher said to me once that we spend the first part of our lives, as children, defining our personality. We spend the second part of our lives defending that personality. But what if we change the dialogue? What if we simply accept ourselves as beautiful beings who are capable of anything that we can imagine?

What if the only thing that needs to change for you to achieve your goals is your mind? What if the only thing standing in your way is your own ego and unnecessary attachments and fear? 

Avidya is a fogged perception of what is important. Avidya consists of ego, attachment and fear. Avidya is a subtle energy that exists in all of us and keeps us rooted in our habitual ways and unable to transform or improve. Overindulgence in Avidya causes us to believe that we are not the doer of things, but rather than things happen to us.

Ideally, we are able to dissolve Avidya, move past the ego, attachment, negative associations and fear, and achieve what it is that we need.

Conveniently, there are yoga poses to help with this!

The warrior series (Virabhdrasana) is the tool to battle Avidya. These postures represent our battle with Avidya, our battle with our own egos, fears and self-ignorance. Virabhdrasana (Vira = hero, bhdra = friend) is the spiritual warrior against the universal enemy: ego, attachment and fear.

By doing the challenging warrior poses, you are creating an allegory: a representation of actually dissolving your ego, your fears, your attachments. By battling against ego, fear, and attachment, you are getting out of your own way and making space for what is truly important.

Practice the warrior sequence. You will become a spiritual warrior who is capable of fighting your own ego, your unnecessary attachments to material things or relationships that are holding you back and your fears.

I promise it won’t be easy and I promise it will take a lot of bravery, but I also promise that it will be worth it. By getting out of your own way, by battling avidya, by letting go of whatever it is that’s holding you back, you can be or do whatever you can imagine.

Be strong. Be brave. Be a warrior. 

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Uncategorized Yoga YTT Blog

Yoga and SAD

The darkness of winter is upon us. If you suffer seasonal affective disorder, you will understand the debilitating exhaustion, apathy and moodiness that affects many during the dark months of December and January.

Seasonal affective disorder is described by the Mayo clinic as a change in circadian rhythm and a drop in serotonin levels brought on by reduced sunlight in the winter months. For the SAD sufferers, Decembers are punctuated by feelings of isolation, sadness and inexplicable exhaustion.

Depression, especially a variation as misunderstood and seemingly benign as seasonal affective disorder, is hard to talk about. So mostly, they don’t talk about it. They hang out at home, sleep a lot and eat a lot of carbohydrates. These three traits lend themselves to a frustratingly negative sense of self.

Resting a lot and spending time alone is not necessarily negative, especially during the cold dark months of winter, but if the SAD sufferer feels that such behaviour is unhealthy, then the self-blaming and feelings of worthlessness manifest themselves. Yoga is a reprieve from those negative thoughts and a distraction through breath and movement.

Anecdotally, there is evidence that yoga is specifically beneficial for Seasonal Affective Disorder, but objectively any physical activity will do. The advantage of yoga is that it can be done anywhere and at any time of day. There is no special gear, you don’t need a partner, it doesn’t have to cost anything and it doesn’t matter if it’s dark out.

There are yoga studios in almost every town or city, and even if you have never tried yoga, I guarantee that you will be welcome at whatever studio you walk into. And if you don’t feel like going out to go to yoga? There are excellent online yoga classes. I maintain a membership with yogaglo.com during the winter and am always impressed with the wide range of classes and teachers the site offers. You don’t even need a yoga mat to start. A beach towel or blanket works really well, especially on a carpeted floor.

-The advantage of yoga is that it can be done anywhere at any time-

So if Seasonal Affective Disorder affects you at this time of year, see if a daily yoga practice mitigates the effects. It’s not that socializing less and eating more carbohydrates in the winter is inherently bad, the problem is when your actions make you feel bad about yourself. Yoga’s focus on breathing and moving can offer a reprieve from the negativity and the low self-esteem that results from the SAD symptoms.

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Handstands Power Yoga Taiga Yoga Uncategorized Yoga YTT Blog

What is Power Yoga?

What is Power Yoga? The term power yoga can be found on many yoga schedules and there is some confusion on the meaning of the term. Power yoga is designed to make you strong. You will likely sweat during the practice and there will probably be some core-strengthening poses. Some teachers will follow a set series of poses in each class, while other teachers will create different sequences every day.

Power Yoga is aimed at individuals who don’t want a lot of chanting and meditation in their yoga practice. The time on the mat will be focused on strengthening, balancing and sweating. The sequencing will be challenging, but will be adaptable to every student. Baron Baptiste describes his sequencing as a blueprint for an invigorating vinyasa yoga practice and says that his brand of power yoga is adaptable for all body types, ages and fitness levels.

Most power yoga sequences are based on Ashtanga yoga, but will likely flow faster than a traditional Ashtanga practice. Where Ashtanga encourages practioners to hold each pose for five breaths, power yoga sequences will likely hold each pose for far fewer breaths, sometimes moving fluidly throughout the entire practice, cultivating one breath per movement and not pausing in any pose.

What to expect from my Power Classes:

• Flowing sequences. We will start slowly, taking the time integrate breath with movement, but expect to flow between poses. All of my sequences offer a logical progression from the floor to standing and back again.
• Sweaty yogis. Sweating is encouraged. If you tend to perspire a lot, you may find it beneficial to bring a small towel to class. The towel can be used under your hands so you have a firm base in downdog or to dry your arms and legs so you don’t slip out of side crow. Be sure to hydrate before arriving on your mat.

• Some core-strengthening. There will be 100 core-strengthening poses strategically placed throughout the practice. They might be extremely challenging or relatively simple to you, but we’re a team and we’re going to do all 100 of them together.

• Handstands. Try one or try 50. Handstands are a fun inversion and are challenging and will make you laugh. My current goal is to hold a handstand for ten breaths! I’m not there yet, and I’m having a great time building up the strength and confidence to get there. In each class, I will offer tricks to help you practice your handstand.

• Accessible language. I will offer clear instruction on where to place your hands and feet in each pose. That being said, if you’re ever unclear on the alignment in a pose, ask! Shout it out! Someone else in the room probably has the exact same question.

• A friendly vibe. I encourage everyone to join me on the mat for Power Yoga. I don’t care if you’ve never tried yoga before or if you’ve been teaching at an Ashram for the past 20 years: you’re all welcome. In the 60-90 minutes that we practice together, we are a team and we will be learning, progressing and having fun together. A note to the newbies: every single person in the room was new to yoga at some point, and we all know what it feels like to not have a clue what is happening. If you’re new, you will probably fall over a few times and there will definitely be poses that are unavailable to you, but I can assure you that nobody is criticizing or judging you!

Join me on your mat at lunchtime on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7pm and Tuesdays at Noon at Taiga Yoga in Yellowknife. Whatever your reason for wanting to practice yoga, I can’t wait to share my practice with you!

www.taigayoga.com

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Uncategorized Yoga YTT Blog

Five Reasons to take a Yoga Teacher Training program

1) you will discover patience within yourself. Or you might discover some other attribute within yourself that you didn’t know you had. The point is that yoga teacher training will take you beyond the physical realms of yoga and will calm your mind and create space for new and exciting emotional qualities.

2) You will meet a group of amazing people who come from unique backgrounds and have chosen to expand their knowledge about yoga. You will get to know strangers and learn, laugh and balance together.

3) You will learn enough about yoga to make an educated decision about what type of yoga you want to do (and teach). The choices of yoga classes can be overwhelming, but with a solid foundation on the fundamentals of yoga, you will be able to choose what you like about yoga, and which aspects you are less interested in. Maybe you will only want to teach chair yoga to seniors, maybe you want to teach meditation to recovering addicts, maybe you want to teach introductory poses to a rugby team. Yoga teacher training gives you the knowledge to know what you love about yoga, and the skills to share that knowledge.

4) Yoga is not some trendy fitness fad. Despite branding from clothing manufacturers who convince you that yoga and yogis have to look a certain way, yoga can be pretty much anything you want it to be. Yoga is an ancient tradition, folks! Learn more about it. Discover meaning in your practice. Relate to people around the world and through the ages who are practicing the same poses. It’s amazing to think that, with some knowledge of the practice, you can walk into any yoga studio around the world and hear the same words being used to describe the same physical shapes. Teacher Training will make you understand and appreciate the complexity of these poses.

5) Yoga Teacher Training will make you strong and resilient. Emotionally strong, physically resilient. Physically resilient, emotionally strong. Try it and see for yourself.

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Santosa: the art of being happy

In my classes, I am constantly reminding my students to focus on their breathing, let go of distracting thoughts and to be present on the mat. It is so easy to say these things.They are simple instructions that I hope are helpful. I know that when another teacher says similar comments to me, I find them helpful reminders to quiet my mind.

Paradoxically, when I am not on my mat, I feel like I am constantly frustrated, constantly distracted by niggling thoughts and little annoyances. I want to let go of this consant state of irritation. I want my brow to unfurrow. I want to let go of life’s petty annoyances. And they are so petty! I’m annoyed at the municipality for not shovelling all the sidewalks, I’m annoyed at my 16-year-old dog for wheezing in the night and waking me up, I’m annoyed at my partner for cooking pasta three nights in a row. When I’m driving I’m annoyed at the pedestrians. When I’m walking, I’m annoyed at the cars. I’m annoyed at my fellow yoga instructor for not putting the bolsters away neatly. I’m annoyed at the grocery store clerk for counting my change too slowly. The list is infinite.

I don’t know what is a suitable level of annoyance. I don’t know what annoys my friends and colleagues. I don’t know how to stop getting annoyed. I do know that when I finish a yoga practice, I feel calm, serene and not annoyed. I want that serenity to translate to my life off the mat. There will always be little annoyances that I cannot change. What I can change is how I react to life’s annoyances. My goal is to be non-reactive to irritating people and small daily problems. I talk about this every day when I am teaching, and I listen to other teachers say the same thing in their classes.

The second limb of Ashtanga Yoga is the Niyamas, the attitude towards the self. Santosa is one of the Niyamas: the ability to be happy in the present moment. Today, right now, I will practice santosa. When something annoys me later on today, I will strive to come back to a state of santosa.