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Semperviva

Vinyasa 40 hour Yoga Teacher Training at Semperviva

As I have mentioned many times in my blogs, it was stress and anger issues that brought me to Yoga in the first place, then it was through Vinyasa Yoga at Semperviva that I started to really enjoy it and started to believe that it was something I would be practising for the rest of my life, so when I took my 200 hr yoga teacher training last year I always had the intention of taking some vinyasa training.

I love practising Vinyasa and I love visiting Semperviva’s studio (Kits beach studio is a 4-minute walk away from my home) and I am striving towards 500 hr certification, so I signed up.

Turns out I had to walk another 8 minutes all the way to the City Studio but such is life.

I hadn’t met or practised with Clara Roberts Oss before. I had intended to but the baby yogi in our home kind of meant I had a busy schedule.

From the get go Clara lived up to her reputation, people had told me I would work hard in her training and true enough, 2 hours in, there was so much sweat on my mat, I could have drowned.

To begin each day we came to our mats which were arranged in a circle around a beautiful alter. We were later given the chance to add something to it if we wished. We chanted together for between 20-40 minutes. No pressure to chant if it is not your thing and then we got stuck into a physical practise.

The physical practises were tough, especially 7 days in a row (I skipped one) but we had the option to skip it so long as we observed and noted the poses all the way through.

Lucky, after the second day, I remembered to bring a spare T-Shirt and Towel as we were certainly putting in the work and banging through content also. “Momma aint got time for that,” Clara would likely say.

Some of the physical practises contained little or no vinyasas (flow from downward dog to plank to half plank, up dog or cobra and back to down dog) and sometimes we held the poses for quite a while. This surprised me as I thought flowing through vinyasas and quick transition through the poses were trademarks of Vinyasa.

How much I have to learn.

From a practical standpoint Clara made sure she knew what each individual wanted to learn or take away from the course and she seemed to have memorized everybody’s name after about 22 seconds

Not everybody in the group were teachers. It’s inspiring to see people take their own practise seriously enough to invest time and money into it.

I was disappointed to find I was the only male, we need to see more men in yoga and I think that Vinyasa is exactly the type of practice which can attract more men. Men who are not yogis.

We need to bring the gift of yoga to the bricklayer on the building site, the gym addict who only lifts weights, the bloke who is intimidated to go into a female dominated environment, we need all of these fellows practising yoga because we, as men need it both for our state of mind and for our attitude.

We discussed class sequencing and Clara introduced the concept of Wave Theory. (No, not the theory of the wave motion of light with molecular vibrations of the radiant body, but waves and troughs, peaks and valleys in a yoga class). Planning a Vinyasa yoga class is a whole lot more complicated than I imagined.

This lead into the exploration of different poses, for example handstand and wheel, and a multitude of different ways to assist people. It really brought home the importance of being able to read your class. There is no point in teaching handstand or wheel if it is not something the majority of your class will be willing or able to attempt.

We then went on to dissect peak poses like CSI experts, pulling them apart in so many different ways that allowed us to construct a class from the bits and pieces we found and put them back together like the tin man into a class that consisted of everything we needed to prepare for a peak pose.

We also explored where we have come from as teachers by looking at the lineage of our teachers, that is, who I consider to be my teachers and who they consider to be their teachers?

I always think that from an ancestral point of view that knowing where you come from tells you a lot about yourself. I think the same applies to our teaching, knowing who has thought us and who influences us and in turn their influences. It is something I should make a point to find out more about.

The final day, after another tough practise we had a discussion on the Bhagavat Gita. I enjoyed this book. Stephen Mitchells translation is an easy read and it has lots to offer in the line of living well and it is a topic that one could discuss endlessly.

One of the main things I took away from this course is how much I don’t know and how much more I have to learn. I suppose that partly comes with experience but I would recommend this course to anybody who is either interested in deepening their practise or improving as a teacher, even if you have no intention of ever teaching vinyasa, the knowledge that was available to us through Clara was immense.

Peace,

George

 

 

 

 

Meditation Challenge: 40 Day Sadhana “Your Habits Define You”

Myself & the bump just completed our Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training with Semperviva Yoga guided by Teresa Campbell @lalupavia. To say we learned a lot is an understatement. Each yoga training completed has taken us on a journey which reveals what we need to work on to become the people we want to be for our family, community & workplace.

 

Self-discovery and self-development are not easy, its hard work and its supposed to be. To be the best version of yourself will take time and effort. True self-development doesn’t come from reading lots of books, it comes from doing the hard practices everyday no matter what life throws at you. A daily practice that you commit to for a period of time or for the rest of your life will change you.

 

For example, if you want to save more money, what can you do every day for the rest of your life to have more savings and live a financially secure life? Spend less and save more. Instead of buying that coffee every day or eating out every day, put that money into a savings account. Do this practice every day and see what awards you will have in just a few weeks.

 

The same goes for daily practices for the mind & soul. A daily practice like meditation can alter the way you think & feel. If you wake every morning and sit to do 10mins of mindful breathing you start your day relaxed, focused, in control and over time confident to deal with any situation. The reminder to come back to the breath will remain with you from your daily morning routine.

 

As part of our prenatal training we are required to complete a 40-day Sadhana which is a daily meditation practice for 40 days which you have a certain mantra to repeat for a set period of time. For example, your mantra maybe “I am strong”, “I am Confident”, “I am enough”, “I am a leader” …. for 11 minutes you repeat this mantra along with having the arms in an active position. This is a Kundalini yoga practice, there are many different arm positions for the meditations, look up Sadhana and find one that works for you.

 

For my 40-day Sadhana challenge I have chosen an Arc line meditation. The Arc line exists as a halo of energy, stretching from ear to ear over the crown of the head. Our Arc line is the connection to the Devine, when strong, the universe delivers. We strengthen the Arc line with committed, steady practice (sadhana). Having a strong Arc line gives us the presence and desire to serve humanity in action; it gives us balance in words & deed.

 

When weak, we are easily influenced by others, ineffective, inconsistent in mood and behaviour and unable to focus or manifest our goals. Arc lines are connected to our immune system. To remove any negative energy or subconscious garbage which has collected in our Arc line we need to practice to actively clear away the crap that gets stuck in this energy field. A daily practice for the Arc line is said to help clear away any past held onto negativity and make space for more clarity & true connection.

Apologies for bed head, I like to meditate first thing in the morning so hair is never brushed! lol!

Right now, I am on day 13 of the challenge. I play Waheguru by Nirinjan Kuar for 11 minutes with my arms overhead (see above) in a seated (non-moving) meditation. I record my meditations on Insight timer and Journal after each one. The arms are feeling it in the morning but I keep telling myself I know I can keep my arms up as I have done it multiple times already. When the mind starts to focus on the discomfort in my arms and shoulders I start to sing along with the mantra. Also I imagine others in far worse situations that they don’t have the privilege to change and I send positive thoughts to them, I sometimes imagine struggles animals go through to survive, I tell myself If these creatures can survive such struggle I can sit here with my arms up for 11 minutes. It’s a constant conversation with myself to tell my thinking mind I can do more, I am more…. this type of meditation builds up so much confidence for me personally. Being pregnant and having additional fears about pregnancy and labour this meditation is great to highlight how much further you can push yourself even when your mind is telling you to quit. Such a great confidence booster for everyone!

 

I will report back after the 40-day challenge is over, if you want to follow my daily process check out stories on our Instagram account back2basicsmovement. Watch this space everyone.

 

Not sure what the 40-days will bring but up for the challenge…. oh, and somewhere in there hopefully give birth to our little mini human;-)

 

Have a great week.

 

Thanks so much for reading,

 

Theresa Burns xxx

 

 

Our Experience with a Doula: A Private Session to Empower & Prepare both Parents for Birth

Honestly if you were to ask us what a Doula was 1 year ago, we both would have looked at you blankly with our mouths open. “Doula” seems to be the buzz word during this pregnancy. We get asked “Are you planning on have a doula during birth?”, “Are you going to hire a Doula?”, “Will a Doula help you after birth?” Midwifes, friends, work colleagues & people we don’t even know ask us these questions, and to be perfectly honest we said no because we didn’t know why you would want to hire a doula…. we didn’t know what they did or how they would add value to the whole experience. Researching doulas and their role during pregnancy was high on my list just to settle my own curiosity and to be able to give an educated answer when asked if we are planning on having a doula at birth.

 

Saturday afternoons I go to a prenatal yoga class in semperviva and the teacher is a Doula, Teresa Campbell. Teresa is an awesome yoga teacher and as a pregnant lady I feel safe and comfortable going to her classes. She gave hints of her role as a Doula throughout the class and it intrigued me. She has over 20 year’s experience and has seen hundreds of births. She mentioned that she was holding a prenatal couple’s workshop that would be beneficial for both partners & moms. Unfortunately, it was held on a weekend we had signed up for another yoga workshop and we could not attend. Instead we signed up for a private class with her in our home.

 

I had just finished the book called “The Fourth Trimester” by Kimberly Ann Johnson and had my midwife explain to me what the doula’s role is during birth. I had a much better understanding of a doula’s role before Teresa came to visit. Doula’s are present to take in the whole experience which cannot be done by doctors or midwives as they are so busy charting & documenting the mother & babies progress. The doula is person who can help with all the emotions that come up during birth and after for both partners, she/he is there to provide encouragement & confidence to both people. I see a doula as someone who is completely dedicated to the emotions and experience of the mother so the birth can be the most positive experience possible for the mother & partner.

 

The major reasons why we wanted to have time with a doula before birth were personal to us but maybe useful to others.

An observation we both had was that the role of the partner during pregnancy, birth and in the early months after birth is unclear and often the partner can be ridiculed for being useless or confused. I believe this is really unfair. The more support and guidance we can offer our partners during this huge life changing event the better. Yes, the mother & baby are so important and are the leading characters but we also need strong supporting partners to make everything run smoothly.

 

We are so lucky we live in a time where men are actively taking more of an equal role to raising their children. Moms are no longer expected to give up their jobs and take the soul responsibility of raising the children. The new modern dad carries the baby in the carrier, has skin on skin time with the baby to help with bonding, changes diapers, feeds the baby pumped breastmilk/formula, helps with night feeds, the list goes on. It truly is amazing how times have changed since my parents’ generation. This is something I am so grateful for, now let’s help our partners by providing them with the information & tools they need to feel useful, loved & appreciated.

 

The modern dad has come a long way and it is inspiring to watch but it has not been easy for them or their partners. There is not much support for men out there who want to be more involved. Their role can be unclear and confusing especially during the early months of birth. I think they can be overlooked for the value they can add and how helpful they truly can be during the whole process of pregnancy and after.

 

I believe we need to offer our partners a roadmap of how they can truly help. Who better to do this than an observer like a doula? They get to observe the dynamic of partners during the birth and after. They have witnessed so many births and situations where partners have been excellent help and where others were not as prepared. Why not seek advice from a person who knows what works during labour for both mom & partner and who can empower both people by sharing their experience, knowledge, do’s & don’ts.

 

 

When Teresa visited our home for our couples’ prenatal course, we started off the session with why we wanted to take part in the course. Basically, we wanted more of an insight to both of our roles and visuals of what the birth would potentially look like and what we may be doing during this time.

 

Teresa explained what things George could do to make the experience more comfortable for me.

Some suggestions were:

  • Ensuring I was drinking enough fluids and eating enough snacks
  • Providing massages to help relieve pain (Teresa demonstrated particular massages George could do and we confirmed which I liked the best and the pressure I liked so George would know before the birth)
  • Keeping eye contact with each other to reassure mom that all is good, sometimes words are not needed
  • If it happened that the nurse, I had didn’t suit George can request for another nurse, he can ask for people to be silent in the room (staff included)
  • He could turn down the lights if they are too bright
  • He can play my favourite music
  • Basically, he will be the one who controls the atmosphere of the room with guidance and requests from mom

We had no idea about any of the above options. Instantly I felt more at ease about the birthing process. I had mentioned to Teresa I do not like hospitals and was worried how I would react arriving there. Thank goodness I have never had to stay in a hospital so the whole idea of it is alien to me. It’s nice we can make the room as homely as we can by having control over the above.

We practiced some exercises called eye gazing where it is to promote connection and intimacy between partners. We really liked it. We stared into each other left eye without saying anything, just looking into the eye. Then after a while as we kept eye contact, we mentioned 3 things we loved about each other, 3 things that we were most excited about and 3 reasons why we loved our baby. It was really special to take time out like this to just focus on each other because things can get out of control and the bond between partners can be stretched & pulled in different directions as time gets closer to baby arriving. When the baby arrives, you want to feel as close as ever to your partner but without truly taking time out to connect the bond can overly stretch and cause lonliness in a relationship. We do not want this to happen and really feel by just taking 3 minutes every day to connect is super powerful and will definitely help with build a stronger relationship after birth & help encourage intimacy when it feels right for both partners.

 

It’s important for the partners to know that the mother will go through several emotional waves after birth and that they should be mindful of what they say and who comes to visit. This is where the partner is great help. They can be the ones who text family when labour begins, they can be ones who tell family & friends that mom and baby are resting and to call back next week.

 

Teresa’s prenatal partners workshop was insightful for both of us. We learned a lot & felt reassured about the birth experience & our roles during the experience. The bonus from this workshop were the exercises Teresa showed us to help keep & build our strong connection after the baby arrives. After all we both love each other so much & we want to keep that bond even when we are sleep deprived & not feeling like ourselves. Something as simple as kind words of encouragement & eye contact can make all the difference. Our relationship with each other is just as important as our relationship with our new baby girl. My aim as a new mom is to show as much love to my baby & husband as possible because we all need love, support, respect and encouragement through times of change. No one should be left on the outside or feel not as important as another in our little unit of 3.

 

We would highly recommend incorporating a doula somewhere throughout your prenatal experience to prepare yourself as much as possible for during & after birth. We have decided not to have a doula present for our first birth as we want to see how everything goes with just us & the midwives.

 

Let us know your thoughts on the above and if you would recommend a doula for your first birth or not? We would love to hear your feedback.

 

I hope you enjoyed the above.

 

As always feels free to leave any comments.

 

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog.

 

Chat soon,

 

Theresa xxx

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

 

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