I'm well on my way to achieving the status of all natural certified organic yoga teacher. The first weekend of training has come to a close. I've been wanting to write about the training every day, but have refrained because of some conflicted reactions to the system and organization of the program. I don't want to be critical, it's still early, but I do want to be honest... so here it goes:
I was aware going into the program that there would be some tai chi and chi gong involved. I did not know there would be polarity testing and energetic healing... The very thought makes me cringe. It's not that I absolutely deny the subtle body, chakras, meridians and all that jazz... I'd just rather feel it than talk about it, if you know what I mean. The tai chi and chi gong are alright. I'm actually really enjoying some of the tai chi that we've learned. It's good breath work, and very meditative. Apparently, APY teachers begin each class with some tai chi as warm-ups instead of sun salutations because they're more accessible movements for most people, and it's difficult to overreach while practicing. While I'd prefer to begin with salutations in my own practice, I remember the first time I tried to do a sun salutation. As tense as I was, it was not a pleasant experience, and actually put me off of yoga entirely for a bit, so I can see why this might be a good alternative to begin a low level class.
But as for the energy stuff... meh. I'm just not into it. Thankfully, it seems to have been a brief segment, and we have moved on to the principles of instructing breath based movement. Whew! *wipes the sweat of impending regret from brow* That's more like it. I had no idea how difficult it would be to verbalize cues and lead breath based movements. I actually thought it might be easy, since I hear it in my head every day when I practice, but actually speaking the words in rhythm with the breath, articulating even just the most important points was a tad overwhelming at first. With just a couple days of practice, however, it's starting to come more naturally. I'm encouraged. Yesterday we instructed each other through surya namaskara A in a round robin set up, taking turns, doing one salutation after another, over and over for what seemed like hours. But it was fun, and we all got a lot better after just a few rounds. One frustrating point, however, is that we're being taught to lead the salutations with a different breath count than I normally practice. We're exhaling on the step/jump forward from down dog and then inhaling the spine long, where I (and most practitioners, I think) would normally inhale forward and extend the spine in a single inhale. Considering the thousands of suryas I've done this way, the habit is deeply ingrained.
Speaking of habits, I miss my home practice :( School (yoga and otherwise) and work have kept me from taking any extra time on my mat, but I've got a few hours blocked off for a good long practice this afternoon. It's been a long time coming... truly just a few days, but it seems like eons. Friday evening and Saturday morning we began the training day with a studio class. Fun, but not the same as a personal practice. The music in the studio was distracting, and the rhythmic, percussive voice of the instructor grated my nerves at first. He spoke very rapidly, so I had a hard time following him. The class on Friday was rough, difficult to get a flow going, but the Saturday morning class was better, though neither class had much of a seated sequence, and only one backbend toward the end. I missed the backbends and the seated twists, but there were other challenges, and lots of good shoulder opening. I do like the alignment instruction taught by this school. Lots of neck/shoulder cues. There also seems to be a good emphasis on keeping the joints soft to prevent hyperextension. All the instruction, as rapid as it may have been at times, was very safe and comfortable. I feel it's of the utmost importance that I learn how NOT to hurt people, so I'm glad to see structured and enforced alignment principles intact in the APY system.
For more on habits, we've been given two nutritional challenges this week. The first challenge is to drink at least one gallon of water per day -- this seems like a lot. As I recall, Yoga Gypsy published a post on water consumption and the importance of hydration not too long ago. According to the simple equation she provided, I should be drinking about 67 ounces of water each day, or just over half a gallon. I wonder what will happen if I double that. The second nutritional challenge is to cut all dairy from our diets for one week. My jaw actually dropped when we were given this assignment. I'm a Wisconsin girl, after all. I grew up on cheddar. I could live the rest of my life happily eating nothing but cheese, fresh bread, and tomatoes. This will be a struggle. I guess that's the point.
Physically, I am feeling a few notable effects from the training. The tai chi stance, which we spent a lot of time in on Saturday, is doing something nice to my upper thighs and glutes without straining the lower back at all, and the breath work is definitely strengthening my core, particularly around the ribs. All the hours of floor sitting are really opening my hips and knees, and I can feel the effects of the many, many salutations we practiced yesterday. My hamstrings are feeling nice and long from all the forward bends, but we're being forced to clean up our chaturangas, which is something I've probably needed for a long time. I can feel the difference in my shoulders, chest, and upper back. We've been given a morning routine which includes some movements to loosen the hips and shoulders, some tai chi, and some alternate nostril breathing. I went through the routine for the first time alone this morning right after I woke up. It was a little strange at first, but left me feeling pleasantly warmed and wide awake.
So, is the training what I thought it would be? Yes, and no. While I do find the energy workshops distasteful, the body and breath work so far has been good, and I'm glad that we're jumping right in with practice teaching. I'll take as much of that as I can get.