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Ignite Mentorship Teacher Training Part 2: Making Postures more accessible to Students

 

“If you are feeling something you are doing it” Bernie Clarke, Semperviva

 

For this next section of the training it will be a recap of what I learned regarding postures. How we feel in postures, how to demonstrate, options we can give, how ego can take over a shape, how doing less can be more & finally why breath is so important.

 

Listening to our bodies can be really difficult as most of us live in our heads. Yoga is about bringing our awareness from our thinking mind to areas in bodies we want to work on. For example, if the teacher demonstrates plank pose and you are in it shaking, stressed and the mind is creating numerous ways of how to harm your teacher…. ease off a little. Place your knees on the floor, start taking deep breaths into your lungs so the body can relax. The body will still be working but now you feel the challenge & can truly benefit from your work because you can breathe. Yoga is all about “No pain, no pain” We do not need to be in pain to think a posture is working, if we feel a challenge and we can remain in a shape with integrity & breath then we are in the right place.

 

As a teacher it is our responsibility to guide our students into the best shape possible for their bodies. Reminding them of all the different options we can take in a pose and to choose the option which works for them the best. Providing 3 options of the same pose can make a shape more accessible to a wider rage of students. For example, if you would like your students to try tree pose demonstrate 3 different options in tree pose.

 

  1. Option one: Hands in prayer & left ball of the foot placed on ground and the heel resting against the right ankle
  2. Option two: Hands in prayer & left Foot placed on shin above ankle
  3. Option three: Hands in prayer & Left foot placed inside right thigh

 

For extra challenge in all the above students could raise their arms in a V-shape over their heads and maybe try closing their eyes if it feels good……its ok to fall out of the shape.

 

Julia mentioned as a teacher we should remain in option one to show our students that they don’t always have to go to options two & three and for new people in your class option one will be more accessible. I believe this is key to making your classes more accessible to a wider range of students. Offer options but let your students know that they are only options and not requirements. You as a teacher need to demonstrate that by taking your own ego out of the equation and support the majority of your students while still offering challenge.

 

Julia reminded us that we need to encourage our students to be kind to themselves, ensuring they can breathe and constantly asking how they feel in a shape. Notice if people are pushing too hard, muscles are shaking and the breath is lost. Ask your students how would this shape look if you did not feel pain or stress, encourage students to ease off a little and find their breath, bring their awareness to how they feel after that adjustment. We need to constantly remind our students to bring their awareness to a shape and to notice if they are pushing too hard or not enough. The breath will be the guide. If the breath is lost the student has gone too far, if the student cannot feel challenge ask them to go a little deeper but still breathing deeply. People need to feel & be aware of their bodies more.

 

If we need to verbally assist a student in a shape Julia advised to ensure we compliment them first, like great breath work or this looks great before offering an altered shape. This will encourage the student and it wont feel like they are being corrected as they are doing something wrong. You are only offering another option that may feel better. After assisting ask how it feels, if its good let them stay there, if not let them decide where they would like to be or offer another option.

 

If you have very flexible students in your class and you notice they may be hanging out deep in a pose ask them to ease out of the pose so they avoid hyper extension and to create more strength and stability in the shape.

 

Julia mentioned that we as teachers should always verbally assist first before attempting to physically assist. Be mindful of how you physically assist as everyone’s bodies are different and you do not want to injure anyone. Ideally if you want to physically assist you should take more training in this area.

 

Before physically assisting any student, you should ask for consent. This can be done before class by asking your students while their eyes are closed if they want to be physically assisted or get them to place a token in the front of their mat to indicate they are good with physical assists. Really helpful & safe physical assists can look like:

  1. Placing your palm gently on the top of a student’s head and asking them to push up into your palm so they sit up taller
  2. Placing your palm between their shoulder blades in plank and asking them to push your upper back into your palms to avoid slumping into the shape
  3. Placing your palm in front of their bent knee in lounge and ask them to push their knee into your palm
  4. To encourage deeper breathing place your palms on the students back & ribs and ask the student to breath into your hands

 

These are all simple adjustments that give the student the control of the movement. After your assist always ask the student if that feels better or worse? Ensure to ask closed ended questions so a conversation doesn’t start in the middle of your class;-)

 

The postures we focused on day 3 of our training were:

 

  1. Childs pose
  2. Saddle
  3. Tabletop
  4. Downward dog

 

 

We focused on each posture and went through many different options of how we could alter a posture to make it more accessible.

 

Childs Pose

Childs pose is often considered a resting pose, Julia reminded us that for many people it does not feel like a resting pose. This is where we can offer options to students to help them relax into the pose more.

 

Knee Issues:

 

If your students have knee problems suggest placing a bolster between their knees and calves. Let them rest their bum on the bolster.

 

In addition to the above a bolster could be placed under the student’s chest and a blanket placed on top of the bolster behind to add more height.

 

Variation:

Another option for child’s pose could be wide knee child’s pose.

Spreading your knees wide and sitting back on your heels or bolster with your arms placed down the centre of your body turning your face in one direction and after a few minutes switching to the other side

 

Tip:

Always have the student rest their head on something, do not let the student hang their heads. Students can rest their heads on a block, bolster or stacked fists

 

Arm Variations:

 

The student’s arms can be placed:

  1. Alongside the body, palms facing up or down
  2. Stretched out in front actively pressing palms into floor

 

Point to note:

The above will depend why you are teaching the posture; do you want the posture to be more restful or more active?

 

Julia advised to encourage your students to make space and to take up space ensure to remind them to take a workable shape where they can breathe deeply and mindfully.

 

Saddle

 

Saddle pose can be difficult if you have knee problems. The below is an option the students can try but if it is painful in the knees ask your students to take a different pose.

 

Knee Issues:

 

Place 2 foam blocks end to end on the middle of your mat with a bolster placing lengthways on top.

Saddle the bolster by placing both knees and shines alongside the bolster and lowering your bum on the bolster. Encourage the student to stay here if that feels good.

 

If the student would like to take it a step further reach back with your arms and place hands on two blocks behind you while reaching your chest to the sky. If the student does not need blocks, they could place their hands on the floor

 

Tip:

  • A tip Julia gave us to cue to help with the back bend it to ask the students to lift their hips and tuck their tail bone under and lower their hips to the bolster.

 

  • Also, if you see your students’ knees begin to lift, they have gone too far and should ease out of the pose.

 

Table top

 

This is a great posture for opening the chest but it may not be accessible to everyone.

 

An alternative shape which provides the same chest opening is:

Sit crossed legged with 2 blocks placed behind you shoulder distance apart.

Reach back to your blocks placing your palms on each block and shinning your chest forward, if the student would like to take it a step further, they could lift their hips and draw them forward also.

 

In the traditional form of table top where the student can hold the shape offer different hand variations:

 

  1. Fingers can face towards the feet or
  2. Fingers can face away from the feet

 

Tip:

For students whose knees are splaying out too far or to add more heat to the posture place a block between their thighs and get them to squeeze the block.

 

 Downward Dog

 

Downward dog can be considered a restful pose in yoga however people who have wrist issues do not find this shape very restful!

 

Wrist Issues:

 

Other options that can be offered to students with wrist issues are:

  1. Puppy dog
  2. Dolphin

 

 

If students’ wrists need more support in downward dog offer them to use a wedge.

Place the wedge about foot down from the top of the mat. Fold the top of the mat over the wedge to prevent the wedge from slipping.

The students can then place their palms on the wedge.

Tight upper back

 

If you notice students whose upper back is humped in this posture ask the students to place blocks underneath their hands which will move the pressure of the pose to the back body and give more space for their shoulders and back to straighten.

 

 

Tight calves & Achilles tendons

 

Ask the students to slightly turn their toes inwards to create more space in their lower back while lifting their abdomen. Pressing heels downs and lifting up toes.

 

Another option would be to place heels on a wedge or bricks underneath heels

 

Point to note:

Ensure your students are feeling the stretch in the belly of their hamstrings in downward dog and not in the area at the base of the bum…. if this occurs get your students to bend their knees to avoid injury to the hamstring.

 

High blood pressure/vertigo/dizziness:

 

Get the students to use the wall for downward dog.

Placing their palms of the hands on the wall and walking their legs away from the wall until their back and arms are in line and they feel a stretch in their hamstrings. The head should be kept above the heart. Encourage your student to push into the wall with hands

 

The above concludes with Part 2 of this 3-part series of blogs on our Ignite Mentorship training with Julia Dotty.

 

Please feel free to offer any other insights you have or if you have any questions & feedback please feel free to leave a comment.

 

Chat soon,

 

Theresa xxx

 

Screentime – Remember To Take A Break

I took a class in a beautiful yoga studio last week. The room was open and spacious, the decor was calming and the mood content.

The teacher brought us through a relaxing sequence which was ideal after a days work to quiet the mind and come down from the stress and stimulus of modern living.

At the end of the class, after we closed and we started to move again I noticed two people immediately had phones in their hands before they even left the mat. They sat with their shoulders hunched and their eyes close to the screen as if they would be sucked inside of it.

There was no worry or consternation on their faces after to suggest that there were circumstances which required both of them to check their phones immediately after class.

This was disheartening for me to see. There is so much more to yoga than just the exercise. Meditation and looking inwards are an equally important part of yoga just as much as the postures.

How can we look inward to ourselves if we cannot resist the urge to go to our screens immediately after our yoga session.

I wonder how the teacher who offered the beautiful class felt when she saw two of the recipients immediately pick up their phones and hunch over them like Golem with the ring.

There are mental benefits to be taken from yoga and meditation, which are lost if we do not allow them to sink in.

I too am guilty of too much screen time. I am writing this blog on a device as I speak. My screen-time app on my IPhone tells me that I spent an average of 2 hours a day on my phone in the last 7 days.

Surely though there is a time and a place.

All to often I see people stare into a screen with their thumbs moving furiously while out for dinner with a group or in a meeting. It is a well known fact that we cannot multi task, we simply jump from one task to another and loose efficiency as we do so. If we are focused on the screen we are not focused on anything else.

There are certain spaces which have no place for screens, those places we come to relax and unwind. Your bedroom for example. The yoga studio. The church or the temple.

My fear is that as a society we will become entranced as a whole, unable to detach and therefore unable to destress. We will become blind to what is around us because we see everything through a 7 inch screen.

My hope is that as a society we will see these screens for what they are. Useful tools, but nothing more than interactive two dimensional surfaces which cannot replace real experiences.

My hope is that we take the time to let our minds digest the experiences laid out before us before we get sucked back into the black hole of a screen.

A black hole is so powerful that even light cannot escape, an IPhone screen is so powerful that it takes our thoughts, ideas and feelings.

Here are some simple tips we can put in place to limit or become more aware of our screen time:

  1. Leave the phone at home a little more. Recognize that it is not always required.
  2. Leave it in another room while you sleep.
  3. Use screentime – you’ll find it in settings for IPhone. Im not sure about android.
  4. Take a break from social media. See if you miss it.

I hope this helps.

Peace,

George

The Second Trimester: A Personal Experience

Here we are on the edge of entering into the third trimester of our first pregnancy. A good time to take a moment and reflect on the past few months and document the personal experiences along the way.

 

Overall pregnancy for me has been a positive and gradual change. Honestly there hasn’t been any major dramas or changes that were overwhelming to deal with. Changes are slow and steady, just what we need when our bodies are changing shape, hormones are being produced, extra blood created and a little human growing inside.

 

Before getting pregnant I had a completely different perception of what pregnancy would feel like. Uncomfortable, large, sweaty, swollen, tired & different. These are some of the words I would have used to describe how I would predict I would feel during this experience. The reality is none of these apply…..yet! Right now, I am really enjoying the whole experience and living each day as it comes. Sure, towards the end, all of the above may apply but I want to remember that that was just the end, a small percentage of the time. I think sometimes we can remember the not so great parts of an experience better than the regular everyday “how it really was” parts. This is one of the major reasons I wanted to document my experience so I can pass on my experience to other new moms and my daughter in the future. We need to document how pregnancy really is so we can create an accurate picture of the whole experience instead of just the later not so great part, a tiny portion of the journey.

 

The following is a memoir of my second trimester, the highs and lows and how we (myself & George) dealt with everything that came our way.

 

The first major exciting event for us in the second trimester was seeing our baby for the second time. The ultrasound this time round was far more detailed and we got to see our baby’s heartbeat, legs, arms, feet, hands, spine, head and all the facial features. At first our baby was shy and was facing towards my spine so all we could see was the back of the body and a side profile. The technician asked us to go for a walk so that the baby would turn around as she needed to take photos of the baby facing away from the spine. After our walk the baby moved and we could see it from a different angle which was really nice. The baby was super active and was moving and kicking the whole time. It was really funny & emotional seeing the little legs on the screen back kicking my belly and feeling it at the same time……surreal.

 

We were both so happy to hear that our baby looked healthy and had a strong heartbeat. We had decided we wanted to find out the sex but were disappointed that day as the technician could not tell us. She would pass the scans along to our midwife and they would tell us. That meant we had to wait another week. Disappointing but not the end of the world. Just relieved our baby was so healthy looking.

 

After the scan George and myself went for a cup of tea and a sweet in an afternoon tea café called “The Secret Garden” and we were both beaming looking at the baby pictures from the scan. We both had to go back to work after so it was nice to have that time together before going back to real life.

The weeks leading up to the scan were a little bit stressful as we got a positive result back from our genetic screening test that meant I needed to get additional tests to confirm if our baby had down syndrome or not. Apparently 80% of women who take a 1st genetic screening test get a positive result but only about 10% or less of those babies would have a genetic defect.

 

At first, I was not worried because the odds were so low but as time went on it was the only thing I could think about. The worry if our child did have down syndrome, what would we do? We would have to research a lot about raising a child with down syndrome and connect with other families who had down syndrome children, find professionals to explain how having a child with downs would be different and how we would have to adapt. It took 2 weeks to get the results back from the second screening and those 2 weeks I have to say were emotionally hard. Of course, everyone wants their baby to be born healthy and free from any genetic defects. However, the reality of life is we have no control. It was completely out of our hands and for those 2 weeks myself & George really did have to come to terms with the fact that we may be having a baby with down syndrome.

 

First of all, we both had made the decision very early in the pregnancy that no matter what kind of baby we have we would be keeping our child & abortion or termination would never be an option for us. This is a totally personal choice and not associated with religious or spiritual believes, it was just our choice. We confirmed this decision when we got our genetic results back. Georges reaction to the news was so comforting, it wasn’t even an option for him that we would ever give up our baby. Nothing changed in those 2 weeks about how we felt about our child. We both loved the little human so much already that we couldn’t imagine losing it. The connection was there and no matter what, we wanted to parent this child, even if the road might be a little different or more difficult than what we had first imagined.

 

We finally got the call from our midwife at 7:30pm on a Thursday to confirm that our baby did not have down syndrome and that we no longer needed to worry about it. Honestly, I was so relieved. I cried. Going through this experience was a huge eye opener for both of us. Right away it puts life into perspective. The little worries you may have on a daily basis fade away and all that matters is your child and your family. How can we provide the best for our child and how we as parents can cope with unexpected news. It was definitely a growing experience for us and one that personally I won’t forget.

Life can turn all your expectations upside down in minutes, it’s how we deal with this unexpected change is what’s important. This is something I want to keep close to my heart for the rest of our lives as our child for sure will test us in ways we will never even imagine. This experience has thought me to be open, to not be cemented into my own expectations of what my child will be, we as parents really hope that we will let our child be whoever it wants to be without placing our ideals & expectations of what our child should be onto it.

Even though those 2 weeks were emotionally though, I wouldn’t change a thing as what we gained from that experience was invaluable. When I told my parents that there may be a chance, we may have a child with down syndrome my mother automatically responded saying that down syndrome children are wonderful. That’s who I want to be for my child.

 

The next big memorial moment from the second trimester was when we found out about the sex of our baby. We really didn’t care wether our baby was a boy or a girl. We wanted to find out so we could refer to it by he or she and not by it! We are those people who could not wait until the birth to find out the sex. We needed to know. We were told after our second scan that our midwife would call us in a week or so to let us know about the sex. However, we didn’t get a call and I followed up with our midwife to see why and they had made an error on the ultrasound forms and forgot to tick the box that we wanted to know the sex of the baby.

 

However, because we had done the 2nd screening for the genetic testing they can tell by those blood samples whether our baby was male or female. It took a few extra days but we got the call from our midwife around 11:00am midweek to let us know we were having a little baby girl. That moment I was on my break from work on my regular 30min walk. I was so happy! It felt like a real surprise as everyone was convinced, I was having a boy, even my dentist! Lol! George was certain we were having a boy, apparently, he could feel it in his bones! So funny! He is from a family of boys so the idea of a girl was alien to him.

 

Straight away I couldn’t wait to tell him…..he was in a work retreat that day and I could not get through to him until the end of day. When I told him, it was a girl he was so surprised! It was so great to hear him thinking out loud of how he was going to be a father to a little girl. “I don’t know how to deal with little girls” was his reply, I was laughing so hard and told him he would have to learn. He was so happy! Again, our expectations were turned on their heads. We only had boys’ names picked and had no idea of girl’s names. Our little girl is testing us so much and she isn’t even born yet! It was the best surprise yet. Now we could call our baby our little girl.

Over the 3 months in this semester I felt great. I had lots of energy and was trying to get in my 10,000 steps a day, going to a prenatal yoga class at the weekends and snow shoeing here and there when I could. I love moving and walking was my preferred choice of exercise throughout my whole pregnancy so far. Being outside and moving makes me feel so good and I really think our baby likes it. Before my 11am and 2pm break in work baby begins to move and kick as if she is telling me it’s time to go for your walk, get up and go! I have the same routing in work, I go for walks on my breaks just to get energy following and get outside in the fresh air.

 

Don’t get me wrong I would not be up for going on major hikes like what we would normally do but walking along the beach and up moderate hills feels good. Elevation is where I really feel the difference in my breath while being pregnant. I’m much slower going up the tougher hills than I used to be but I am pregnant so I just take it slow;-)

 

Emotionally I would say I have been stable throughout so far. I believe George will agree! Lol! The one thing that I really have to work on is getting my iron levels up, a common problem in pregnant women, except my Iron levels are extremely low and I may need transfusions closer to the end if I cannot get the levels up. Right now, I am on 300mg of iron a day and take it in the evenings as it is supposed to absorb better at night. Fingers crossed the levels rise. Even though the iron levels are really low, I am feeling great, I don’t feel tired and forget I am pregnant sometimes, until I go tie my shoes or move too fast to turn in bed and my belly muscles start telling me to slow it down.

 

Food wise we have been eating really well and haven’t been craving anything weird. We are eating lots of whole foods. I love to cook and really love cooking healthy, hearty meals that are tasty. I believe this is probably helping with how I feel too. Food is so important to help nourish mommy, daddy & baby. Both of us haven’t been sick at all during the pregnancy either so we are doing well.

 

Meditation is something we do every day in the mornings but since becoming pregnant I have been drawn to it even more. Yoga Nidra is something I had never tried before pregnancy and now it is a class I look forward to every week. My friend Aisling provided a 6-week course of Yoga Nidra sessions for 1 hour on a Sunday at 6pm. I looked forward to Sunday evenings just to get that hour to fully relax and meditate. Her new class series begins again this week and I cannot wait.

 

The below are some other little highlights of the second trimester:

 

  • Feeling our baby kick for the first time and every day after (around 20-21 weeks)
  • Choosing our babies name which we love so much but wont’ reveal to anyone until she is born
  • George reading our babies first book to her every night. I swear she stops moving when she hears her Daddy read. The first book we bought her was of course on Irish Mythology
  • Sourcing the stroller, bassinet, car seat and chair from Facebook market place (a blog coming soon on what we bought and why)
  • Starting to read some books on how to plan for the 3 months after the baby arrives (will give the list of all books I read in the third trimester blog)
  • Asked my Mum to come over to help with baby once George goes back to work after taking 2 weeks off…. super excited as my parents have not been in Vancouver for about 6 years…. we go home every year

 

 

Overall the second trimester was a hugely positive experience and we learned so much about being a parent already. We are looking forward to the next phase and what it may bring. We are enjoying each day as it comes and trying to savour our time together as a couple before our world is changed forever. A duo becomes a trio, a family.

 

Thank you so much for reading.

 

If you would like to share anything please do.

 

Have a great week.

 

Chat soon,

 

Theresa xx

How I Overcame My Anger Issues

When I was a small boy I was always considered to be a little bit irritable. I was particular and meticulous and very detailed orientated. Maybe this played a part in the tendency toward annoyance or lack of tolerance towards things not working out.

As I grew older I was more interested in books and small toys than soccer or being outside. It’s funny now, though I still love to read and I still love toys I live for the outdoors. The outdoors changed me.

I’m not sure when my bad temper developed, maybe it was always there but it grew more intense. I was never unhappy child, nothing in my life contributed towards it, I think that some people need to work on their reactions more than others.

I have never been in a fist fight in my entire life, I am not a violent man but there is a destructive nature inside me. As I write this I try to remember when I first noticed it or when it first became a problem. The earliest I can remember breaking something through anger was probably when I was in my twenties.

I am sure that an immature disrespect for other peoples property played a part also but it followed through my twenties and into my mid thirties until I finally realized I had to do something about it.

The anger I felt never interfered with my life or my relationships but I know now through research the effect that intense anger has on both the body and the brain.

The emotions I felt were not simply anger or irritation but rage. A rage which would build up to an uncontrollable level where I could not hold my reaction. It was blind and uncontrollable, like a drug in my veins.

It took a long trail of little broken items before I realized it was effecting my mental health through the stress it laid on me.

It is difficult to describe the hold the rage took on me. From my perspective I went from zero to ten (on an anger scale) immediately with no warning. In all reality it was building and I was too distracted to see it. The pressure built until it could no longer be contained and I reacted physically by breaking something.

There is a misled idea out there that it is macho to lose ones temper and that someone who smashes things is someone you don’t mess with. If you met me you would realize this is not the case but on a serious note, we cannot associate losing control with strength. It is a weakness, in fact it is probably one of the weakest acts one can commit.

In my angry outbursts I put my fist through several windows, doors, laptop screens, smart phones, I once cracked a car windshield. I mention these because I want to be honest. It will seem funny to some people and pathetic to others but the simple fact is that losing control is and act of weakness brought on by lack of awareness and mismanagement of my emotions.

It wasn’t just the outburst or having to buy a new phone or laptop screen or door or whatever it happened to be this time, it was the low I would feel afterwards. What comes up must come down. The low was every bit as extreme as the high of the intense rage. A great sadness that would swallow me up.

It was maybe four or five years ago when I went to see a professional about my anger issues. It wasn’t a particularly difficult step for me and to be honest I don’t think I took it seriously, but never the less I went through my own choice without suggestion or coercion.

The funny thing is that, for me the answer was so much simpler. The professional I spoke to encouraged me to make the visits a part of my ongoing lifestyle but I did not keep it up.

I believe every situation is unique and I am writing about my own experience only. My opinions on my own therapy sessions do not bear any weight on the experience in general or the importance of seeking help.

In my own particular case I eventually realized that the solution was there all along, within my grasp, ready for me to take hold of. I just couldn’t see it.

I do not remember exactly where and when I put the following practises in place, I believe it was a gradual process but the simple practises I will talk about changed my mindset and in doing so changed my life.

Journalling and reflection:

For some years I have been keeping a diary, inspired by my father I think who religiously writes about his day in his spidery writing, documenting his days.

I like to document my day and read back through it sometimes, but it is also important to offload everything onto paper, your thoughts, your dreams, your worries, your feelings.

Now, I understand again the macho attitude that writing in journals is not how a man deals with things. This is the bullshit attitute we need to make a thing of the past. Times are changing and, we as a race are waking up to what we need.

If I did not incorporate these measures I would be out of shape, stressed out, unhappy and unhealthy.

Exercise:

Movement is so important. I sit at a desk for most of the day, but even if you have a reasonably active job the important thing here is to get the heart rate up.

Vigorous exercise produces brain chemicals which are proven to make us happier.

Cut out negative people:

Life is too short to deal with negative attitudes. Negative talk effects our brains. How can you remain positive if you are not receiving positive vibes and energy.

This sounds callous, but to be honest, so what? We are not users who hang around with people just to gain something, but conversely, we do not have to tolerate people in our lives who offer nothing positive and negatively effect us.

Get away from a negative environment:

My work environment was stressful. It was only in hindsight that I realized I did not enjoy my job and that it was chipping away at me bit by bit every day. It is hard to make a change when you do not realize the change needs to be made, but deep down I knew and eventually it surfaced, and I became receptive to moving on.

It was when I opened up to the possibility that the opportunity presented itself.

Gratitude:

I listened to a TedTALK where a Fransiscan monk spoke about the merits of gratitude and that it is the path to hapiness.

This may seem unrealistic. If you think so just try it out for a week. Write down three things you are grateful for everyday and see how it feels.

Smile:

Again, this may seem like it can’t make a real overall difference but it does. Smile, even if you don’t feel like it, just fake it. The happy chemicals will come flooding straight in like a whole bunch of happy drugs.

Have a read of my blog on the effects of smiling.

Eat healthy:

You are what you eat. Garbage in, garbage out. Be smart with your food choices. I ate crap for about 28 years of my life, actually it was when Theresa and I moved in together that my diet changed. I wonder why?

Yoga:

Yoga saved me. It was through yoga that I found so many other practises like meditation and really looking inwards to see myself. It also brings so much focus to the breath which I think is the most important aspect of our lives.

Fresh air:

There is no better medicine than clean fresh air. I have not been sick in years, but I remember heading up into the fresh winter air of the north shore mountains in Vancouver and feeling all the symptoms immediately disappear once I got out into the crisp clean air.

It has the same effect on the mind, cleaning out any crap which is clogged up in there, whether it be thoughts, emotions or just general junk.

Be positive:

Negative self talk will literally kill you, eventually. You cannot change your self talk until you start to listen to it and for that you need space and silence which brings me onto my next topic.

Meditation:

In my opinion everybody needs to meditate. It should be thought in schools and encouraged in the work place. My daughter will be brought up with meditation being part of her life like brushing her teeth or washing her hands, a part of daily life.

I cannot stress the importance meditation enough. A friend of mine once told me he wasn’t a meditation kind of guy. I had suggested it when he spoke about his many stresses. It seemed better to remain stressed out rather than do something about it.

If the body is tired or stressed we rest it. The mind is no different. We need to create space and silence in the mind so that we can see ourselves and observe our state.

I could never change my course of action when I was to wound up because I couldn’t even see the issue. I just spiralled out of control

Breath:

The breath controls everyhing. Without the breath we cannot live, we cannot move. The breath creates space both in the body and mind. It also gives us the chance to pause.

How many times have you been told to take a deep breath?

It works. Take a slow, deep breath and you take the time to pause, take stock of the situation and come away from the shallow, quick (fight or flight) breathing to a more controlled state of mind.

If one deep breath has this effect, imagine what you can do with ten deep breaths.

I have given a lot of information here, to simplify it, if I were to pick the top three things that helped me overcome my anger issues I would say:

  1. Exercise (yoga and hiking)
  2. Fresh air
  3. Meditation

So after all that, where am I now? It is about four years since I have started to take yoga and meditation seriously.

Maybe I lie in the title when I say I overcame my anger issues. The anger surfaces from time to time, though far less often than it used to. It probably always will, but the difference is that now I can see where I am at.

I am aware of what is happening and I am aware of what I can do to take myself out of the situation or deal with it in a calm manner.

I think I am healthier (physically and mentally) now than I ever have been in my entire life.

It takes effort, it is something I will work on for the rest of my life but the only effort is in being consistent, it is in remembering to be kind to yourself and in knowing that you will slip up sometimes but that there is a way to calm the rough seas and let everything become still.

There is a way to slow down and stop you just have to give yourself the space to see that.

Peace,

George

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Ignite Mentorship Teacher Training Part 1: Help Make Classes More Accessible to Everyone

Both George & myself completed our 200-hour yoga teacher training in June 2018. We loved it; it was something we wanted to do for a long time.

Since then we both have been teaching free classes. George signed up as a volunteer in the YMCA on Burrard street In Vancouver, his class is 7:00am every Thursday. George also subs evening classes in the YMCA when he is needed. I offered free classes for the summer to my work colleagues, which we scheduled every Tuesday after work for 8 weeks in Queen Elizabeth Park. The owner of the company who I work for also requested private sessions with her every Thursday at her home. It was great to get teaching straight away after the training.

George continues to teach in the YMCA. Personally, I have put teaching on hold since December until after my pregnancy. I am 30 weeks pregnant now and want to focus my energy on rest in the evenings and my own practice of movement. Making the decision to slow things down felt right for me.

We both knew the realities of acquiring a paid position after the 200hr was next to near impossible. Vancouver has lots of yoga studios and many yoga schools which pump out a magnitude of new teachers each year. Getting paid work in a studio as a new graduate would be highly unlikely. Therefore, we both made the decision to volunteer for 2 years, do a lot of self-study and increase our knowledge even further by taking as many courses/ trainings that appealed to us. After this period of practise and self-study we would be ready to share our teachings with a group of people & get paid.

Julia’s Doty’s Ignite Mentorship training with semperviva was one of those trainings that we both wanted to take. Julia is a teacher with semperviva and also part of the faculty for teacher training. We love Julia’s classes, her humour, emphasis on the breath and warm manner is what we love in a teacher. She is extremely knowledgeable and we wanted to learn as much as we could from her but also what the course was offering.

This training was created to make yoga classes more accessible to more people. It was designed to teach teachers to use props to help people with & without injuries to access a shape in a more beneficial way. How to be mindful of your voice, the words you use including the use of traditional Yoga language so you can encourage people from other religious and spiritualities to feel comfortable and safe in your class. Yoga truly is for everybody but we as teachers need to be mindful of how to make it more accessible to everybody without losing the integrity of the practice.

The first exercise we were asked to complete was to answer the following 3 Questions in our notebooks:

1. Describe your first yoga class, atmosphere, location, music, studio. How did it make you feel, why is it so clear in your mind?

2. Think of a yoga teacher that really inspires you and list 3-4 of these qualities?

3. What are the 1-2 obstacles that are holding you back from teaching how you want to teach?

We were instructed to answer the above questions to help identify what kind of teacher we wanted to become. Julia explained the teachers you love the best have the same qualities you have and their teaching style is similar to how you would like to teach. This was really helpful as a new teacher because there are so many different styles and methods of teaching that it can become over whelming. She also mentioned that it took her at least 5 years to find her own style. As new teachers we need to give ourselves time to try out different styles and different forms of yoga to see what we are naturally guided towards more. Julia’s openness and honesty about the first few years is what I believe new teachers need to hear. For the majority of us, we don’t know our niche yet. Time, practice, trainings and self-study are what we need in order to arrive to our happy place.

The first key and most important aspect of yoga is breathing. This is where are training began. Julia thought us all how-to breath properly and how to show our students to breath properly. Focus the student’s attention to their current breath and guide them how to breath deeply into their rib cage and back, to expand their lungs to the fullest capacity. We placed our hands on our upper ribs (bra Hight) and felt our ribs expand and collapse with each breath, another option we used was tying a strap around our upper ribs, just under chest area to feel the strap move in and out with each breath. This technique of breathing is also thought be Max Strom who Julia admires and has done multiple trainings with.

Teaching students how to breath will change their lives. Deep quality breaths help our bodies rest, digest, improves our immunity and most important helps people to relax & sleep better. Sleep deprivation is a major issue in our society and if we as teachers can help people sleep better, we are having an enormous positive effect on our student’s life. Breathing is the most important aspect of all classes; this is what will help student the most once they step outside of the studio.

Giving students options is important to make our classes more accessible. Offering options in all the shapes by advising what props we can use and giving alternative gentler shapes is key to making the same class accessible to people with injuries and bodies that cannot get into certain shapes. Remember we can only offer alternative shapes to help our students but it is their decision whether they take the shape or not.

The options do not only stop at the physical shapes. The traditional use of “OM” at the beginning and ending of each class may freak some people out. When people do not understand the meaning behind something their imagination can bring them to all sorts of places. We as teachers should explain why we “OM” and that its completely personal and voluntary to participate in. “OM” helps us take deeper breaths and slows the breathing down at the start of the classes therefore helping our students get grounded. Offering different versions on “OM”, humming, vocal or silent are good for people who want to participate but are uncomfortable hearing their own voice. Religious people may want to avoid altogether so give the option to remain silent and maybe repeat their own prayer in their head each time “OM” is used. The option of not using “OM” at all is also a reality, it will depend on your class and the environment you are teaching in.

Sanskrit the traditional language of yoga I find extremely hard to say and cannot remember the words for shapes except for “Tadasana” Mountain pose and “Shavasana” corpse pose. For some teacher’s Sanskrit is in important in their practice and they want to use it throughout. However, students who are new to yoga and join their class will be confused by the words and will not know what pose to take. Most people know downdog, cat/cow, easy pose, warrior pose but in Sanskrit, I cannot even remember. Julia mentioned its important if you mention a pose in Sanskrit to follow it up with the English translation, this has automatically opened up your classes for new students to join. Only use Sanskrit if it feels comfortable to you and you are not limiting your classes by using too much. For me the only Sanskrit I use is Shavasana because I don’t like saying corpse pose, everything else will be in English. That’s my personal choice. You really don’t want to hear me butchering these beautiful words in an Irish accent which I cannot drop! Lol!

Julia gave the following 4 pointers on how to teach to a broader range of students:

• Teach by example: Beware of your body language, don’t fidget, use appropriate hand gestures and demonstrate what you want the majority of your students to do. For example, if you want your student to use props demonstrate by using props, if you want the majority of the students to stay in option 1 of a shape instead of option 3 demonstrate in option 1

• Teach by what you say & the order of how you say it: Breath should always be priority in our classes, this should always be the most significant thing we complement our student on, we should be encouraging our students to breath more and not pushing more. Are your students able to breath comfortably in a shape? If not ease back and find a different shape so they can breathe.

• Teach by what we don’t say: beware if the only positive feedback we give our class is how one or two people look great in a handstand while the majority of people are in child’s pose.

• Teach by touch or lack of: Be conscious of assisting students into poses as we are not anatomy experts and everybody’s body is different. You do not want to harm any student or be liable for harming anyone. Use as many verbal and visual ques as much possible before assisting any student. Only assist if you have received training and are comfortable in this area.

My very unique note taking skills, unreadable hand writing & stick men…..nobody ever wants to use my notes! lol!

The power your voice can have in a class is significant. Julia mentioned to keep our voice authentic and not put on a “yoga “voice. Ask yourself is your voice the same in class as it is after class when a student asks a question? Be loud enough so everyone can hear you, about twice as loud as normal conversation voice. (depending on studio size) Avoid using the upper inflection at the end of your sentences that sounds like you are constantly asking questions! Super annoying and you will lose students because of this.

Be mindful of any curse words or slang you may use and avoid using them in your class. Some teachers do use these words but curse words and slang do have a negative energy and can affect how people feel. Anyone who has lived through trauma or abuse may find these words especially upsetting. Best to avoid. Remember we are encouraging as many people to come to yoga to feel safe & secure.

One of the students in this course recommended the book “The Hidden Messages in Water” by Masaru Emoto which explains how words can affect us. It’s on my reading list.

Speak in a command form, give instructions but in a kind way as if you are speaking to your best friend. Slow down your words to speak much slower than your usual speed. Record your voice during classes to see how you really sound and this will help you improve your teaching in areas you may never have noticed you needed to work on.

The above information is so beneficial to teachers and everything mentioned will help make our classes more accessible to more students. We as teachers have a lot to work on and we may not see the results for many years but everything mentioned above will mould us into better teachers and hopefully encourage a much wider & diverse group of people to arrive to our classes. Our classes should be open to everyone, we as teachers need to know how to make this happen so more people are exposed to the wonderful benefits of the breath and shapes.

Hopefully you enjoyed Part 1 of this series of reflections on our training. A special thanks to Julia and semperviva for providing such a beneficial course.

In the next blog in this series we will include how to make the popular poses more accessible to people with injuries, limitations and pregnancy by using props. And lots more wisdom & advise from Julia.

Have a great week.

Chat soon,

Theresa x