It's a marathon, not a sprint: halfway through teacher training

It’s the end of weekend six, and there are 11 weekends in my 200-hour teacher certification process… this means I am just over halfway through the program!  Though I did come in with a pretty good yoga foundation, (taking class for 10 years will do that, by osmosis if nothing else!) it has been a very dense and intense (and joyful!) learning experience.  A few highlights:

  • Anatomy!  I am by no means an anatomy expert, but what we have learned about the spine, our joints and the pelvis have been downright fascinating.  I am pretty amazed at how easy it is to feel disconnected from one’s own body, even while practicing a lot of yoga.  I mean, did you know that there are four curves to the spine?  Because I thought there were only three, and I would venture to guess that most people would sort of say, uh, my spine is curved?
  • Extended side angle!  This is one pose I have never been very friendly with.  I always used a block under my bottom hand, and preferably on the inside of the front foot, thank you very much.  It just felt inaccessible and impossible.  With a few simple adjustments, I found that I am able to put my palm flat on the outside of my front foot in the classical position.  It just goes to show that sometimes a simple change of perspective is all it takes to make a big change.
  • Philosophy!  For me, studying the yoga sutras has been a big part of this training.  I have become more interested in the philosophical aspects of yoga as I’ve gone on in my practice, and I appreciate the sutras as a framework for looking at one’s life and actions.  Some of the ideas about detachment and the willingness to endure intensity for the sake of transformation really resonate with me and have really helped me through rough patches in everyday life.  I love talking about the sutras in class and hearing perspectives from the other students.

The path of least resistance

I’ve been thinking in the last week or two about the yogic law of compensation, or the path of least resistance.  In the physical body, this basically means that when you’re tight or weak in one place, your body automatically compensates by going into another (usually less safe) place.  For example, think about doing a standing forward bend.  Most humans are tight in the hamstrings and many may have trouble touching the toes.  If you have tight hamstrings (those are in the backs of your legs), you are likely to round the back and scrunch your shoulders down by your ears, creating tension in the neck and putting your spinal discs at risk.

But we do this in life, too, right?  When something comes up that makes us uncomfortable, fearful, anxious or unstable, do we confront it head on?  Maybe sometimes.  But more often than not, I think we tend to push that stress into other areas, avoiding the real issue at hand.  (Help a sister out.  I’m not the only one, am I?!)  If we’re lucky and we have the tools and wherewithal we can identify these obstacles before they cause too much damage.  (Having a great mirror, that is, person to reflect your thoughts and feelings off of, in a partner, friend, roommate, sibling, parent, etc, doesn’t hurt either!)  Yogic philosophy tells us that the root of most of our obstacles comes from ignorance, misapprehension or confusion about our own selves.

If we could only see ourselves clearly, we’d know that we were picking fights about trivial things because we were really avoiding what was really bothering us.

Sutra 2 gives it to us:  Why do we practice yoga?  Because yoga helps us still the fluctuations of the mind.  Sutra 3: When the mind is calm, we can see ourselves more clearly.