How Yoga Teacher Training Helped me Find My Voice

KayVee INC - Wearing your heart on your sleeve

Has speaking in public ever been a fear of yours? One of our Yoga Teacher Trainees was dead-scared of speaking in front of people – now 8 months through the program that has changed a great deal for her. Read on to hear about Jess’ journey in finding her voice.

Finding my voice

Months ago (I can’t believe it’s already been that long) we started our teacher training program by introducing ourselves and by sharing an item that was particularly special to us. We sat in a circle and shared our names for the very first time. When the spotlight hit me, I shared that public speaking, or speaking in any group setting really, made me extremely uncomfortable. It was something I was consciously working on, but it still proved to be a bit of a hurdle. I’d brought a mala necklace with a smoky quartz stone, that I had recently started wearing, that acted as a constant reminder that I could open my mind to connect with my voice. Even just sharing this with the group made my palms sweat, my heart race and my face hot. Explaining the discomfort made me even more uncomfortable- shocking, right? I knew that this program would challenge me in more ways than one, but I also know that they very best kind of learning and growth comes when you are uncomfortable. So here I was, ready to learn.

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Confessions of a Lipstick wearing Yogi

A blog post in which Shannon (who is currently in our Yoga Teacher Training Program) reflects on her yoga journey via the curious path of lipstick and birthdays. She recommends reading the book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown.

I turn another year older. Big deal! Right?

I decided in the wee hours of my newest year of living that I was going to make a change.

Ridiculous? Brave? Random? (UN)Necessary? Who knows what you call it…

Chelsea Grimsley - red lips

A little background for you…late 1980’s-90’s. Having always heard what beautiful and luscious lips I had, naturally I wanted to hide them! Not just my lips, but my less than perfect, crooked, teeth that goes with them. I don’t know how you react when someone compliments you, but I feel we all know a little about how uncomfortable it is to receive a compliment about ourselves, we may not accept them with grace, or with ease, and if we do, it’s been work for us to get to that point.

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yoga without Yoga: Reflections on posture, practice and prayer

Barry Silver kurmasana

This post is by Neman, one of our yoga teacher trainees. In this post it he reflects on the relationship between asana (yoga postures), philosophy, religion and teaching yoga in the modern world.

Halfway through this inspiring yoga teacher training program, I’m stuck on something that seems to be nothing to pretty much everyone else. When I started, I thought that yoga meant asana – the postures. Wow, was I wrong. Karma, bhakti, jnana… where was asana? Fresh new words (some I didn’t even realize I knew – cool!) were describing much more about yoga to me than I bargained for. Hey, it’s not like I pretended I knew my way around the (yoga) block, but it was fascinating to see how much more there was, and how relatively insignificant downward facing dog is to yoga itself.

The core yogas as described in the Bhagavad Gita – there are many – include work (karma), devotion (bhakti), and knowledge (jnana). But where was the yoga for my core? Not there. The Bhagavad Gita is a primary text in Hindu philosophies and yoga studies. It’s a discussion between Arjuna, a very important prince and conflicted warrior, and Krishna, his chariot driver, who just happens to be, well, the Krishna. Yeah, that one. God. Krishna discusses duty, devotion, destiny, and dharma – but not down dog. References to asana are very limited and do not at all describe what we do in stretchy pants.

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Yoga for Kids: Tips for Creating a Fun and Healthy Practice

Thinking about introducing some yoga to your children, or children in your life?  Try some of these simple strategies for a fun and empowering experience. Forget what you’re accustomed to from yoga classes geared for adults! If your kids love yoga, consider signing them up for our upcoming Kids Yoga class, starting Wednesday Oct 8. 

Amanda Hirsh - kids learning yoga tree pose

Do you ever wish that you had started yoga sooner? Imagine if your practice began when you were a child.  Consider how a yoga and meditation practice might have benefited your approach to homework, tests, competitions, parties, and knowing what you need.

Just like adults, children have tight spots too.  They’re spending many hours in front of screens, sitting in class, and experiencing growth spurts. They will benefit from exercies that increase range of motion. Yoga can also help children feel more confident and to trust themselves. They may even learn when it feels good to transiton from hyperactivity into feeling calm, and how to enjoy relaxation and stillness.

That being said, put 30 kids in a field and ask them to assume Mountain Pose and quietly breathe laterally into their rib cage – it’s probably not going to happen. Unless you try some of these techniques!

Keep it short

Set an intention to make the experience feel good and be realistic about attention span. If it’s a fun memory, they’ll want to do it again another time. For toddlers, aim for no more than 5-15 minute sessions. Older children may enjoy half an hour or 45 minutes with games and a brief relaxation.

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Playing with Yin and Yang in your Yoga Practice

Ying_yang_sign

In this post, QSY teacher Jen shares about incorporating the principles of yin and yang into your practice. Check out her weekly Yin class to learn more, or sign up for her upcoming workshop on Sunday Sept 28 – “Wonderwall: The Ultimate Yoga Prop“.

What is Yin and Yang?

Philosophically, yin is comparative relativity; the idea that without dark there can be no light. We’ve all seen a yin yang symbol, at least in passing.

Looking at this graphic representation, you can see a few things. One is that yang and yin are two pieces of a whole. One cannot exist without the other. Another is that yang contains a piece of yin and vice versa. There is a contrast, and within that contrast you will also find relativity. Surrounded by black, the smaller white circle looks a little more gray. Surrounded by white, the smaller black circle looks a little more stark.

How do Yin and Yang show up in yoga practice?

In practice, when you add just a bit of yin to your yang practice it will most likely feel a little more active. Your muscles will be firing and may resist softening. In reverse, if you add just a bit of yang to your yin, it will feel even more starkly active. Finding the balance is your practice. This will be different for everyone. I have a pretty busy day to day in the summer, what with four kids at home. I also practice a different active sport, so I find my balance in slower yoga practice. In the winter when I am a little more sedentary, behind the computer a lot working on school work, I tend to gravitate a little more towards flow yoga. Finding balance incorporates your whole life. Consider yin as a spectrum of experience (maybe, consider everything that way). If your experience with water has been only hot springs, jumping into a swimming pool will perhaps be a little overwhelming. You might tense up, you might be afraid that you won’t make it. Instead you can ease in, starting at the shallow end and getting a little deeper every time. The best preparation for practicing yin poses is to practice yin poses.

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Stop Worrying About How Long You Can Pay Attention To Your Breath

This post about meditation is by Dave Wellstood, who is currently in our Yoga Teacher Training Program. In this post he shares a simple but very helpful instruction that turned his meditation practice around.  

IMG_7419I find my meditation practice to be very rewarding.  When I tell people that, they often respond by telling me that they are no good at meditation or that they simply can’t do it.  I remember when I felt just like they do and I want to tell you about the small change I made that turned it around for me.

When I first started to meditate, someone told me I should sit quietly and pay attention to my breath. In hindsight that instruction was where things started to go wrong.  It gave me completely the wrong idea about what I was supposed to do.

I thought that meditating was like doing tree pose.  In tree pose, the goal is to balance on one foot.  Success means standing on one foot for longer and being more stable.  Sometimes you lose your balance and that’s expected but not desirable.  Similarly, I thought that success in meditation meant being able to keep my attention on my breath for longer and longer.

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Staff Spotlight – Get to know Leslie and Jason

picmonkey_image (4)Leslie and Jason are two of the organizers/hosts behind Queen Street Conversations. Leslie has been a work trade at the studio since November (she makes the graphics for the QSY newsletter) and Jason was a work trade for about seven months before he started working at Community Justice Initiatives (he was on the front desk on Friday mornings). They are both super passionate about yoga, community engagement and looking at the big issues head-on, which is why they love planning for and hosting Queen Street Conversations. Read on to learn a bit more about them, and don’t be shy to approach them at the studio to talk about Game of Thrones (they are both big fans) or share your thoughts about the complex issues facing the world. You know, just casual water-cooler talk. Meet both of them at our next Queen Street Conversations event coming up on Saturday Sept 27, from 1pm-3pm at the studio. (This event is free and open to all.)

jason-les-QSC

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September Sequence for Hips & Shoulders

I am relishing every last bit of these warmer August days, but it’s undeniable that September is on its way. In the yogic and Ayurvedic understanding of the seasons, autumn is the season of wind and movement.  It brings cool and blustery days, crisp nights, the bustle of back-to-school, and the intensity and pace of work often increase. To help yourself stay grounded and even-keeled for whatever the fall brings, commit to more regular yoga practice, make time for coziness and cuddles with loved ones, and nourish yourself with warming stews and root veggies. Here is a sequence that helps to cultivate over-all strength and release tension shoulders and hips. I hope you’ll find it both energizing and grounding as we savour the end of summer and transition to September.

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Your Yoga Teacher Isn’t a Magician

In this post Leena reveals some trade secrets of her profession…

Have you ever been in a pose and your yoga teacher came along and said one tiny thing to you or gave one little adjustment to you that changed the entire pose and made it feel better and way more possible? Sometimes that moment feels a little bit magic. Though it’s kind of fun for people to think we are psychic wizards, here’s the truth:  yoga teachers aren’t magicians. Teachers that study alignment-based yoga have systems of understanding the mechanics of the body, and there are reasons why that little adjustment made all the difference. When applied carefully, and in sequence, these biomechanical principles can help make an impossible pose feel more doable, help you stabilize when you feel you’re about to collapse, or help you open up just a bit deeper in a pose.

In a survey of our 2014 teachers-in-training, we asked: What are the most helpful things you’ve learned so far in the training?  The most common response was: Learning about the Loops!  The 7 Loops (which are a foundation of alignment methodology from Anusara Yoga), are a concept that help us align our body and support key joints and junctures in the body.

Realign with Gravity

The the aim of Mountain Pose (Tadasana) in our yoga practice is to find equal standing (Samasthiti). The knees are stacked over the center of the ankle, the pelvis is centered over the legs, the spine is elongated with its natural curves, and the head is centered on top of the spine. When our bones “stacked” in this way, then the force of gravity moves through down a central vertical axis evenly, our joints can decompress and our muscles can be fairly relaxed.

tadasana

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How I Fell in Love with the Tensegrity Repair Series

In this post Leena reflects on what she has learned from practicing the Tensegrity Repair Series, and shares a bit more about what the term “tensegrity” means and where it comes from. 

Grease for your Rusty Parts

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Photo by mtneer_man on Flickr

Ever get up from your desk, and feel your joints creak like a rusty old car? Perhaps due to the amount of time we spend sitting in chairs, seats, and couches in North America, the average person I see has core weakness. This instability in the core is often coupled with tightness and lack of mobility in the hip joints and shoulder joints (and by core, I’m not solely referring to the abdominal muscles, but also muscles of the pelvis, deep core and back muscles.)

The Tensegrity Repair Series is a set of 20 simple exercises designed to restore healthy range of motion to the hips, shoulders, and spine. It helps to build supple strength in the core muscles, and balance and stabilize the pelvis. Overall, I’ve found it to be an amazing antidote to the most common structural and postural imbalance issues that I have personally, and that I see in the general population. It brings that little bit of grease back to our creaky parts.

It wasn’t love at first sight…

I was first introduced to the Tensegrity Repair Series a few years ago by my friend Christi-an, and I was intrigued but also annoyed by it. Trying it was a total hit to my ego. The exercises looked so simple, yet seemed to point a finger directly at all the little places in my body that were weak or not fully participating in my yoga practice. Unlike yoga asana (postures), in the Tensegrity movements, it was much harder for me to cheat. So, in the way that you often do when you encounter something truly good for you, I completely ignored our brief encounter and kept doggedly doing what I was previously doing.

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