Categories
Workshops and Events

Ashtanga Standing Series

Online Ashtanga Practice. Start your day with an invigorating Ashtanga Standing Series. We will borrow from the Ashtanga Primary Series. Practice the standing poses, backbends and finishing sequence.

Time for meditation, pranayama and savasana. 75 minutes to start your morning.

Online on Tuesday and Thursday mornings

630-745am (Mountain Time)

Online Ashtanga Yoga

Online Ashtanga yoga. Click on the schedule to signup and for class description!


Contact Kate

Categories
Yoga Teacher Training YTT Blog

Online Yoga Teacher Training after Covid

Online Yoga Teacher Training.

Yoga Teacher Training after Covid

The frantic story of adapting yoga teacher training to an online format.

The Before Times

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.

hands with latex gloves holding a globe with a face mask

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. 

Everywhere and Nowhere.

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.

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In this together.

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.

Real problems. Real solutions.

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.

Stay home.

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

Community support. Virtually.

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. 

Alone. Together.

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?

4K video. Mirrorless cameras.

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.

Mutual support.

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

Dynamic shared learning.

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

I’m so glad you’re here.

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

Adapt and innovate.

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. Online learning is productive when there are opportunities for lively interaction and shared understanding.

Yoga Teacher Training is also hosted live, in-studio! The next session is July 5-24, 2021. Register here

behind the scenes
Categories
Workshops and Events

Prenatal Yoga – October 2019

Attention all my pregnant friends, new and old. I’m teaching prenatal yoga on Wednesday nights at Taiga Yoga. The yoga part will be scaled to your experience level and current mobility. Every pose will have options. There will be a flowing sequence based on the ashtanga chandra namaskar (moon salutation). There will be time to get to know the other preggos and also time for meditation, pranayama and savasana. There will be music.

My intention is to create a joyful retreat on your yoga mat where you can practice the yoga that suits you and get to know some moms-to-be.

Wednesdays, starting Oct 23

645 – 8pm

www.taigayoga.com to register

Categories
Workshops and Events

Yoga Teacher Training 200 hr

The second round of Yoga Teacher Training is happening this fall.

For the autumn, I’ve created a part-time evening and weekend program that will fit into your busy life. Here’s the deal:

You get an unlimited membership at Taiga Yoga (valid until December) to do your practice, and then three evenings per week, we meet as a group to discuss the history, philosophy and modern application of yoga. We’ll also practice teach, examine how to teach different populations and practice seva (community service) and kirtan (chanting).

Sept 30 – Dec 14, 2019

Mon/Thur/Fri 630-10pm

Saturdays 830-1130am

More information is here 

Autumn 2019 (2)

Categories
Yoga Yoga Teacher Training YTT Blog

Guest Teachers

Yellowknife Yoga Teachers. This Yoga Teacher Training has evolved into a yoga festival! Being part of the Yellowknife yoga community is such a privilege and I’m so grateful for the contributions from these passionate guest teachers.

Enthusiastic students and current teachers are invited to sign up for any of the following guest workshops.

Norma Heslep: Mental Health and the Practice of Yoga

Norma French-Heslep is an intuitive and compassionate teacher who understands the power of yoga for managing mental health. Walk into this workshop and hear a personal narrative about where yoga fits with mental health. Walk out of this workshop armed with insight about your own relationship with mental health and yoga.

Danielle McPhail: Yoga, Movement and Emotional Healing

Danielle McPhail is a mental health and addictions counsellor and is also a nurturing teacher of yoga and pilates. She presents yoga as therapy through movement. Her therapeutic classes emphasize self-observation to promote healing. Expect to finish this workshop with a feeling of mastery of your movement and of your emotions.

Jennifer Skelton: Restorative Yoga and Integrated Movement

Jennifer Skelton is a yoga therapist with a passion for integrating movement science research into practice. Her considerable knowledge of anatomy and movement will guide you towards ease and comfort in your own body. Her workshop will include a fully-supported restorative yoga class. You’ll finish this session informed about your body’s movement and simultaneously relaxed and confident in your own skin.

Melissa Chung: Diversity in the Yoga Studio: adaptive teaching strategies

Melissa Chung is a highly experienced yoga teacher and is also certified in several fitness modalities. She is able to seamlessly adapt her teaching for  advanced yoga students and complete beginners and everyone in between. Teaching to a diverse group of students requires honed power of observation. After this workshop, you’ll have an arsenal of strategies for teaching to different abilities.

Tyler Rentmeister: Sivananda and the Modern Yogi

Tyler Rentmeister is a lifelong learner and yoga enthusiast. He is adaptive and skilled at incorporating many different styles of yoga into his teachings. He completed 200 hours of Sivananda teacher training, and will be discussing the contribution of sivananda to yoga’s lineage.

Johanna Tiemessen: Nia Technique

Johanna Tiemessen is a teacher and practitioner of the Nia Technique. She believes in connecting to the self through movement and meditation. Her charismatic teachings of the Nia Technique leave students feeling powerful, invigorated and happy. Count on a vivid introduction to Nia in this workshop. If you’re already familiar with Nia Technique, you know you’ll blissfully lose yourself in the practice.

Bronwyn Rorke: Meditation and Mantra

Bronwyn Rorke is an inspiring teacher who can teach vigorous power classes or contemplative meditation classes with equal aplomb. She has spent a lot of  time examining buddhist teachings and will be leading a workshop on meditation and mantra. Expect a captivating and transformative perspective on meditation.

Brittany Heriott: Acroyoga and the Power of Community

Brittany Heriot is a beautiful practitioner and teacher of yoga who understands the value of community. The practice of acro is beautiful because it’s very obviously about a connection with another person. Yoga constantly emphasizes that we are all connected in this world – acroyoga actually embodies that concept! Learn some basic acro techniques, discuss the power of compassion in our community and then start flying.

Register for guest workshops by etransfer to:  katecovelloyoga@gmail.com

$60/workshop + tax

10% discount if you register for more than one 

Information

Registration

Scholarship Information

Schedule – October 2019

Questions? Get in touch!

Categories
Yoga Yoga Teacher Training

Selling the Yoga Experience

Telling vs. Selling: reclaiming the jargon as an honest story

I’ve started my own Yoga Teacher Training brand. It’s exciting and I believe in the product, but I have to figure out how sell my product without being pushy or obnoxious. I have to describe the product in meaningful terms. Using vocabulary that is easily misconstrued as industry jargon, I have to relate a story that describes my yoga practice and my product.

recharge, rejuvenate, inspire

holistic, authentic

Have these words become meaningless industry jargon?

Self-promotion has to be loud enough to be heard over the noise of Instagram, Twitter and fourteen other platforms. But it can’t be so loud to the point of obnoxious arrogance. Furthermore, tweets and posts must have meaning attached to the jargon.

Screen Shot 2019-03-29 at 2.42.33 PM
The noise of social platforms is deafening

Instagram allows up to 2,200 characters, but optimal posts have no more than 150 characters. The allowable characters have become industry buzzword. And those buzzwords saturate the market and compromise the reliability of the products.

“Join me at yoga teacher training and #recharge your practice. Learn to teach #authentic yoga classes. Discover your #holistic approach to well-being.”

That statement has fewer than 150 characters and contains the right words. But the vocabulary barely registers. There is so much scrolling  through so much content that it’s all at risk of becoming meaningless jargon.

So how do I attach value to my teacher training? How do I give meaning to my product? Authenticity comes from the story behind the service. My goal is to teach prospective yoga teachers how to transmit their own belief in yoga. And to do this, I have to be truthful about my own yoga story. Not because I have anything to hide, but because it’s the difference between telling and selling that adds value to my product.

Screen Shot 2019-03-29 at 3.04.25 PM

The days of market trickery are over because everyone is selling themselves online. Everyone has curated an online persona and whether or not they’re selling a product, they all know that Instagram isn’t real. And that’s why telling the story behind the product is crucial. The authenticity and the meaning in my yoga teacher training comes from a flawed and vulnerable existence. That is what’s relatable.

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Can a yogi wear a fur hat? I’m vulnerable in my yogic beliefs because I don’t subscribe to all the trends. Like veganism.

Behind the promotional jargon is real experience. I constantly #recharge my yoga practice by being true to what I believe in. Pulling fish out of the lake and wearing locally-sourced fur is more important to me than importing lentils for a vegan diet or shivering in synthetic fabrics.

The classes I teach are #rejuvenating because I base themes around relevant topics for a specific community. I don’t discuss veganism when I know most of my students have moose meat in their freezer. Instead I’ll reference the value of taking only what’s necessary from the land.

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You can simultaneously believe in hunting moose and practicing yoga

Yoga Teacher Training will be #authentic because you’ll discern your personal reasons for practicing and learn to teach only what you know. If you’re an expert on knee anatomy because you’ve had three knee surgeries, you’ll incorporate that. If you have personal experience with yoga for post-traumatic stress, you’ll teach that. If a vegan diet supports YOUR lifestyle, you’ll describe that. The authenticity comes from your own experience.

Yoga is a #holistic approach to well-being because the practice insists that you listen to your emotions and body and understand what you really need. Extract what’s relevant from the philosophy of yoga and learn to teach what you know. The honest story behind the promotion will shine through and the jargon will be rightfully redeemed as useful vocabulary. Yoga is for everyone, regardless of lifestyle choices. The vocabulary, just like the yoga itself, can be tuned to fit every iteration of practice. Tune out the jargon, but tune into the meaning behind the vocabulary. The stories are what makes the promotion believable.

Land and Heart Practice
click here for information and registration details

 

Categories
Yoga Yoga Teacher Training

I’m teaching a Yoga Teacher Training. Here’s why:

(featured picture from the very first yoga class I ever taught. Thank you to supportive friends and family who stumbled along with me in that first practice)

Why am I teaching a yoga teacher training?

Simply – because I want to share the experience of yoga. Yoga can’t be captured in images of lithe women doing poses;

Side Crow

it can’t be captured in swirling platitudes set against backgrounds apropos of nothing;

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Yoga can barely be described. But it can be experienced. It can be felt in a visceral way that defies description. I practiced for five years before I started teaching and then I decided to teach because I believed in the power of the practice.

And now, in my tenth year of teaching, I’ve amassed some experience and curated my personal practice into a 200-hour perspective.

Land and Heart Practice
click on the image for information and registration details

Am I ready to share what I know about the practice? Yes.

Am I intimidated at the prospect of inviting students into my weird little yogic world? Yes.

Do I believe that I can make a difference by describing my version of yoga? Yes.

Truthfully, the amount of knowledge I have about yoga (or life) is laughably little. I don’t know what life feels like for anyone but myself. But I do know about the positive effect of yoga on my life.

Side crow? My version of the poses isn’t the prescribed recipe for advertising the practice.

So if I know next to nothing about yoga, what the heck are we going to talk about in teacher training?

We’ll talk about the different types of yoga (karma, jnana, bhakti, hatha, raja); we’ll talk about the eight limbs of yoga (yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, pratayahara, dharana, samadi); we’ll talk about the subtle anatomy of yoga (chakras, nadis) as well as the physical anatomy of yoga (muscles, joints); we’ll talk about poses and alignment; we’ll talk about meditation; we’ll talk about yoga as therapy and finally we’ll figure out the methodology for teaching all this stuff.

I have a well-researched curriculum that I’m ready to share. But prior to writing the curriculum, the first step was to experience it. I’ve practiced in dozens of countries, I’ve practiced every lineage I could find, I’ve practiced through the thrill of falling in love and the subsequent crush of breakup. I’ve practiced as a teenager and as a 35-year-old.

I’ve practiced to show off…

I’ve practiced with and without anti-depressants, I’ve practiced with back pain and, most recently, I’ve practiced in the days and weeks following knee surgery.

…and I’ve practiced to stretch

And of course, there have been times when I didn’t practice at all. But through it all; the pain, the joy, the ecstasy and the ignorance, yoga has always saved me from suffering. And that’s why I believe in it.

Across the lineages and through the centuries, yoga is about surviving without suffering. Pain is mandatory; suffering is optional. Yoga takes you by the scruff of the neck and helps you survive maladies and disease. It forces you to look within and ask the tough questions about what you really need. Relationships, jobs, injury, medical intervention…it all comes and goes, but yoga is constant. 

Yoga is the foundation for knowing yourself in spite of the tragedies and triumphs.

The point is that nothing makes the journey easy. Even with yoga, it’s still up to you to get up, get dressed and show up – to everything. But your yoga practice will ease the way. And that’s what we’ll examine. This teacher training isn’t about my practice, but it is about the practice. And it’s about what the practice means to you. There isn’t a correct way to do yoga, only that you do it.

One of my favourite studios – Loka Yoga

Along the way, I’ve practiced at countless studios and with hundreds of teachers. Each teacher had an original interpretation of yoga. But all the teachers are unified in their unwavering belief in the practice. Whatever they say, wherever they were, whether I agree with their instruction or not, every single teacher presented an unshakeable opinion that the practice is worth it.

So if you believe in this elaborate practice, join me to examine your yoga and refine your ability to describe its value.

That’s what we’ll be doing in teacher training: figuring out how to articulate this exquisite practice. We’ll examine its history, lineage and philosophy and we’ll discuss descriptive techniques. You already believe in the power of the practice. Yoga teacher training will provide the tools to inspire that same belief in your future students. You know the potency of the practice. Now come and learn how to convey that power and pass it forward.

Do you believe in the power of the practice? If you’re still unconvinced, click on the image for a blog post on why you might as well believe in it.

Ready to sign up for teacher training this summer?

Registration Page

Scholarship Information

Schedule – June & July 2019

Information and FAQ

 

Categories
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.

 

Categories
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.

Categories
Yoga

The Wheel of Yoga

What is yoga, anyway? This week marks nine years since I started teaching yoga. And I still have only a vague idea what the practice is all about. It’s somewhere between renouncing all worldly possessions in the pursuit of a higher understanding of the universe and ensuring that you aren’t overinflating your ego as you admire your ability to do hatha yoga poses. I’ve been examining the practice and chronicling my observations for more than a decade. Here’s a sample.

On and Off the Mat

Yoga is a complete system of living.  I, like many of my students, started yoga because I wanted to “stretch.” Yoga is a good physical activity, but the practice has been around for millenia; there must be more to it. Indeed, as I delve into the more esoteric aspects of the practice, I’ve discovered there’s a lot more to it than just stretching.

There’s several types of yoga. The wheel of yoga represents the unity between disciplines. The techniques for practicing are diverse, but every discipline agrees the intention is freedom from suffering. Students return to the practice again and again with the aim of reducing suffering by shedding the habits of the ego.

Pain is an inevitable part of the human condition. Heartbreak, loss, failure, rejection…are just a few examples of experiential suffering. The attachment to this suffering is optional. As children, our personality structure is based on seeking love. Seeking and finding love is a strategy of the ego and children must pursue 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 change or disappear.

The intention of yoga is to understand the Self in relation to the self. The Self is the underlying nature of bliss and shared with all living beings. The self is the personality and ego unique to each person. The strategy for navigating difficult emotions and suffering less is to train the mind to be free of misunderstanding of the true Self. Yoga addresses this freedom from misunderstanding through six different disciplines: Raja, Karma, Jnana, Bhakti, Hatha and Mantra Yoga.

Raja Yoga

Called the king of yoga, Raja yoga is inclusive of all yoga brands. It’s a goal rather than a technique and teaches that the intention of yoga is to unite the self with the oneness of the universe.

Raja yoga can be practiced in any way and at any time and does not require any particular poses or rituals. The absence of “process” means that this type of yoga is accessible to anyone, regardless of training or knowledge. Raja yoga devotees teach themselves to find harmony between themselves and the universe as a whole. They practice self-mastery by turning inwards towards love and light and eschewing external stimuli.

Try…

Right now, without changing anything in your surroundings, close your eyes and listen to your breathing. Withdraw from the sounds, smells and external stimuli around you. Without judgement, observe yourself. No blame if your mind doesn’t settle right away. Thoughts will come to you, but regardless of what they are or what circumstances they represent, repeat the following: “my well-being and my freedom is not attached to any outcome.”

Raja yoga is the ability to withdraw your senses from your circumstances and find freedom within.

Karma Yoga

The yoga of action is karma yoga. It is participation in selfless service without expectation of receiving anything in return. True karma is diligently doing your work without feeling attachment to any outcome. Participating in karma yoga teaches kindness and compassion without expectation. It is selfless generosity of spirit without needing payment in kind. As with all types of yoga, the intention is freedom from selfishness and release of the self-serving ego. According to the Bhagavad Gita, life gives infinite opportunities to act, but you must never allow yourself to be affected by the results. Karmic action is a selfless contribution to the world without expectation.

Try…

It’s difficult to find volunteer opportunities that do not offer anything in return. There’s always parties or gifts for people who volunteer their time. But most volunteers don’t do it for the gifts. What are other ways to provide selfless service? Picking up garbage? Shoveling your neighbour’s sidewalk?

Practicing karma yoga provides freedom in the form of selfless service. It’s an active reminder that everyone is equal.

Jnana Yoga

The yoga of knowledge. Practitioners of jnana yoga use the mind to understand the greater truth within the mind. The premise is that all knowledge and truth already exists in the mind. Just like an ice sculpture artist who finds a shape within a block of ice, students of jnana yoga learn how to access knowledge and truth within their own mind. Practicing jnana yoga demands great concentration and strength of will – you must figure out how to transcend your own thoughts and ego.

The process of jnana yoga is to consistently question the self and reflect on the limits of the ego. Through this process, you arrive at a place of yearning for freedom from suffering. The process of jnana is a six-step process. Patience is the key to success in the process.

Try…

The Six Steps of Jnana Yoga:

Tranquility The perseverance to maintain peacefulness in spite of external stimuli.

Control Ongoing mental fortitude against the senses. Train the senses to be used only as instruments of the mind, rather than the other way round.

Withdrawal Renounce everything not directly related to your duty. Jnana requires a lifestyle of simplicity where there are no distractions from the spiritual path.

Endurance Hardiness in the face of external forces that create suffering. Success/failure, pain/pleasure are examples of these forces. Endure all forces and resist the urge to suffer.

Faith Be confident that this is the correct path and that the teachings of jnana will guide the way.

Concentration Complete focus and attention on the greater truth of the universe. Abandon all attachment to thoughts and perceptions of the world.

Bhakti Yoga

The practice of bhakti is union through devotion and love to a personal god. Bhakti is also described as “love for love’s sake,” and includes ceremonial offerings, devotional meditations and reminders of gratitude.

Bhakti yoga includes references to “the lord,” “the divine,” and “god,” but note the lowercase letter. For the secular, bhakti is the belief that love is all around, available in abundance to be given and received. Bhakti Yoga teaches that the divine exists in whatever form you choose; the yogic divine is formless.

The intention of bhakti is to create love and gratitude outside of the self. Recognize that  attachment to relationships and possessions is fleeting, but receiving and giving love to a divine energy is absolute and permanent. Bhakti devotees describe their practice as “romance with life itself, rather than a specific person or object.”

People come to bhakti yoga as a remedy for heartache due to loss of love. In the face of extreme loss, people seek to understand how to love again. Bhakti teaches that love is abundant and that by spreading love and receiving love from all sources, suffering from heartache can be alleviated.

Sufferers of heartache feel heavy because they’re carrying around a feeling of love and loss. Bhakti yoga is the practice of finding an outlet for that love – regardless of which relationships or possessions are present. Bhakti yogis give love to the earth and the sky and everything in between.

The practice of Bhakti includes devotional meditations such as Kirtan chanting, ceremonial offerings such as flowers or sand represent love for the earth, and offerings of gratitude such as giving thanks before a meal.

Try…

Remember a time that you were consumed by grief. As a tool to focus on the abundance of love, ask yourself the following: If the world around you – the trees, the stars, the moon, the sun, the earth, the water – could speak to you to console you, what would they say? What would you say to them?

Practice bhakti yoga as a reminder that love is formless and abundant.

Hatha Yoga

Alternately referred to as “forceful yoga,” Hatha yoga is focused on developing strength and tenacity in the physical body. Like every yoga practice, hatha aims to transcend consciousness and find freedom by understanding a divine reality. The practice of hatha is a physical pursuit that prepares the body for the rigours of transcendence. Transcendence must not be mistaken for a purely mental achievement. Arriving at a mystical state of consciousness has profound effects on the nervous system and other bodily systems. Hatha yoga is the tool to prepare for these effects.

Hatha yoga is the technology to realize transcendence. Tread cautiously though. Due to the intense physical nature of hatha, practitioners are susceptible to body-focused egocentrism. The intention of yoga is to transcend the ego. Be careful not to inadvertently inflate the ego through admiration of yourself in the postures of hatha yoga.

Use hatha yoga as a tool to prepare the body for the rigours of the finite life and the infinite reality. Be cautious though. The poses are a tool to transcend the ego. Don’t admire yourself in the poses. Don’t overinflate your ego on the path to freedom.

Mantra Yoga

Mantra is a tool to focus meditation. Mantra yoga is the use of a phrase or a sound in the practice and its use protects the person who is using it! Traditionally, Mantra is passed from teacher to student when the teacher clearly sees what the student needs. In a moment of revelation, the teacher knows exactly which mantra to provide. The student receives the mantra and repeats it over and over in meditation. Its use creates a shield and protects the user whenever protection is needed.

If you haven’t been offered a mantra yet, start with OM. With practice and patience, a personal mantra will be revealed to you, either from a teacher of from your own intuition (the teacher within).

So what is yoga?

Yoga is a multi-faceted technique for existing in a mindful state. To do yoga is to adhere to a set of guidelines for coexisting with the world around you. Life is full of challenges, surprises, victories and moments of euphoria and sorrow. Doing yoga is allowing the moments to happen around you, but not being reactive to their outcomes. Also, life includes possessions. Things, relationships, jobs, friends, experiences. All of these possessions contribute to a rich and fulfilled life, but their presence is temporary. Doing yoga is observing those things and experiences as they gracefully come in and out of your life but not allowing their absence to cause you suffering. Pain from their loss is inevitable, but suffering due to that pain is optional. Doing yoga is peacefully accepting that everything is impermanent. Yoga is the template for freedom in the face of all worldly experiences, whether they be exhilarating or debilitating.