Weekend #6 Word: Powerful
I can’t believe I’m halfway done with yoga teacher training. I remember starting 3 months ago and thinking that 7 months for this training is a l-o-n-g time. But here I am telling you that I’m already halfway done.
This weekend actually started a little stressful for me because I was also right smack in the middle of launching my online course, Intentional Instagram (Instagram 101 for yoga teachers specifically). So I was really concerned about being able to concentrate and really be in the room. But one of my favorite things about yoga is that when you include some asana in there, it really helps your body and mind settle. We start every class with an asana practice and it was a BIG help to me this weekend. I needed to get out of my head and into the room and asana did that for me. I love yoga because I can start feeling one way (stressed) but finish the practice feeling completely different (settled and calm).
We focused on back and shoulders anatomy and inversions this weekend. It was fascinating! Learning how the shoulder moves and how to best support those muscles was really intriguing for me. I was taught early in my life to “sit up straight” and “not slouch” and since I was told that my entire life I think I do pretty well with this. But I also sit at a computer most of the day and therefore, I am prone to forward-head and it can stress those neck muscles. But we learned a new stretch to reverse the shorting of this muscles and it was great. I know I will be using it for years to come!
Reversed Neck Stretch – YES!
Stand in tadasana. Take a strap and loop it so that you can put your arms through it, a little more than shoulder-width apart. Place your arms behind you and then put the strap around your wrists. Lean forward and bring your arms overhead (behind you). Let your neck muscles completely relax. So much so that if someone was standing in front of you they wouldn’t see your neck at all. Just a head and a body. Stay here for a minute and a half (unless you get dizzy or are uncomfortable). By making the neck muscles shorter in this posture, they are able to relax and reverse the shortening of the muscles.
On Sunday we had a really interesting thing happen in our class. So Sunday was all about self-care. I was seriously counting down to this day and it was great! The teacher who was presenting this module specializes in teaching yoga to communities who otherwise don’t have any exposure to yoga (think detention centers, jails, domestic violence centers, low-income schools) and she taught the class with this in mind (trauma informed). So her plan was to lead us through an opening practice like she would one of her classes. This is exactly what she did but we had such a twist in the morning that, while it’s not ideal, I think actually added to the class. Here’s the story:
We were just getting started with the day and a homeless man walked into the studio. Like right in without hesitation. The teacher quickly asked how we could help him and one of my fellow students (a male) walked up to him quickly. The homeless man asked where the church was and another student quickly looked up a church for him and gave him directions. Then the homeless man wanted to sit down but the teacher asked him to leave. He then started to get a little upset and we knew it was time for him to leave. The male student who was standing there was able to guide him out of the studio but there was definitely a moment that we all weren’t 100% sure what was going to happen. It all ended up just fine but we did learn a lesson – always lock the door! We typically do but for some reason it wasn’t locked that day. I doubt that will ever happen again.
I give you this context to say that the teacher had planned to start the practice with a certain exercise/game but she decided against it due to what just happened. She modified. She went with it and continued to go with it for the entire practice. It was the best practice I’ve had. So much so that I wanted to write down the sequence as she was talking. I didn’t but fortunately, one of students was observing and he wrote the sequence and now I have a record of it! Yay! When I asked the teacher if I could take a picture of her notes she said “you can, but it’s not what I taught today. I went a different way after what happened and watching everyone’s body after we got started.’ THIS, my friend, is what yoga is all about to me! Adapting. Learning to adapt to whatever situation is thrown at you in life. And she did that in a beautiful way.
So after the experience we had, one thing that I took away from how the teacher handled everything was that before we move onto any asana practice, she walked us through a grounding exercise. And she told stories about when she has used this technique with other classes and how beneficial it is, especially for trauma-informed yoga. Here are some notable mentions of her words, although I truly do wish I had voice-recorded her beautiful voice as she took us through this exercise.
Feel the ground, what is supporting you. Get grounded and take some breaths. Notice what you are doing when you are uncomfortable. Do you clench your jaw or tighten muscles. Then think to yourself ‘what would feel like to take a deep breath right now and change the pattern of what your body does when you are uncomfortable?’ This pattern will take time to change so be sure to give yourself some grace when you are trying but you can change a pattern and your body will begin to respond differently.
Self-Care….can I get an amen?!
When we dove into self-care, after the asana practice we learned about the need for boundaries, how this works with self-care, active listening and holding space for others. This might not be everyone but the idea of self-care can often be pictured as a spa or some type of self-pampering moment but we talked about how it can also be taking a deep breath, or thinking positive, or going to the doctor when you need to. It’s really about being self-aware of what your body needs and yes, some days that could be a massage at a spa (okay….that’s my dream of self-care on a daily basis but ain’t nobody got time for that every day) but it could also be talking to a friend or having a good cry. Tapping into knowing your body and what it needs is the ultimate self-care exercise.
We can’t hold space for others if we can’t hold space for ourselves.
Once you know how to tap into your body’s needs, you can then take care of yourself better, which allows you to hold space for others. As yoga teachers, we are called to hold space for group classes which, as you know, can have a multitude of people’s situations include. So many turn to yoga when they need a stress reliever or if they’ve had an injury so your students are coming into class with ‘stuff’ going on. You likely don’t know what’s going on unless they tell you but as the teacher, you are holding space for them and you will best do this if you are okay holding space for yourself.
The idea of being comfortable in the uncomfortable is a biggie for me. We all have something so I know I’m not any different from you in this. We all have something in our lives that is uncomfortable and we need to learn to be comfortable in the uncomfortable. And this happened for me this weekend. As we stood in a power pose at the beginning of our trauma-informed class on Sunday I stood with my fists on my hips (think super-hero here), my chest held high, and I began to cry. I closed my eyes almost immediately. And this was quite the moment for me. I was uncomfortable. Me, the strong-willed, seemingly confident marketing coach. I was uncomfortable and the teacher said “notice how you feel the longer you are in this pose, recognize the feeling. Find the power pose in yourself.” As tears streamed down my face I felt the power pose and processed that moment as she said these words:
We are allowed to take up space.
We are changing in the world, for better or for worse, that’s up to us but every single person on this planet is changing the world in some way.
We have the ability to make change happen and take up space.
So this is where the word of the weekend comes in – POWERFUL! Not only do I truly believe that my yoga teacher training is powerful but I am also learning to embrace my power. Maybe this comes easier to others but I don’t think I’ve ever been taught to embrace my power. I was taught to be confident but to me, that’s different because I’m super confident that I can talk with you about marketing stuff but if you ask me about neuroscience, all confidence goes out the window. But embracing power, to me, won’t be dependent on my knowledge (or lack of) on something but rather my self-power, regardless the situation.
Wow, I just got heavy on this one but you can tell that it hit me hard this past weekend. There were others in the room that said similar things and then there were others that didn’t. We are all on our own journey and I love that about yoga, everyone’s journey is different but we can be standing right next to someone and respect their journey as much as our own.
I find power in pie…
But the best part of the weekend….PUMPKIN PIE!!! We had pumpkin pie in class this weekend! One of my fellow students brought it in before the Thanksgiving break and I could serious hug her again for this act. Fun fact about me: I love pumpkin pie. It’s my favorite desert, so much so that my mom makes it for my birthday every year instead of a cake….in July!
All in all, I’ve never been one to walk around saying how amazing I am and I doubt I will ever be that way but I am currently working on holding a power pose in the middle of my dang living room for longer than it feels comfortable!