Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Absorbing It All

Last week was very busy. It was last weekend of training. On Friday we did our last freedom practice for about 45 minutes or so. Almost all of us used that time to practice the VINYASA class that we were going to teach the next day. I was taking it extra easy and being nice to my left hamstring. I could feel a positive energy in the room. Everyone was in high spirits. My mind went into a flashback mode and landed on the Friday evening on September26Th when we all started with our training. That night we heard the word freedom practice for the first time (I know I did!). When Sloane told us to do the freedom practice we all kind of looked at each other and started doing whatever we felt like doing. But the freedom practice on last Friday of the training was something unique and very special. We all started flowing. We came a full circle!
Exam went well and everyone scored an “A”. Sloane gave a big hand written review of our practical exam to each one of us. She said some nice things about my accent which was nice. I always feel a little self conscious about my Indian accent, not sure if people are understanding what I am saying or not. But, Sloane’s remarks put me to ease.
The class I taught started out with 5 minutes of meditation. It was my job to relax my students who were nervous about the exam (my students were my fellow trainees). The sandalwood incense sticks help set the mood for the class. I started out with kapalbhati. I spent a little longer in warming up before going into 2 rounds of traditional sun salutes followed by 2 sun salutation B. I included sequence involving a lunge, prayer twist, pyramid poses and another small sequence with eagle. In the closing postures I taught locust, bow and janu-sheershasan. To me, it was big challenge to put it all in just half an hour. I hope the class was balanced and not too much of just one thing.
Reflecting on the whole training, I enjoyed the weekend when we all attended the Beryl Bender Birch workshop. I really enjoyed the freedom practices. In the last month, we all took turns and taught each other sections of the class which was very enjoyable. Everyone got their turn to teach centering, warm-up, sun salutations, sequences and closing postures. The parts that I did not quite enjoy in the training were hours spent on anatomy. Remembering the names of those muscles was scary!
Now that the training is over, the main focus will be shifted on getting a few teaching assignments. I am not planning to leave my part time job as a software developer at all. Let’s hope I get to teach what I love to practice. I noticed that we don’t really practice pranayam apart from UJJAYI breathing. I would love to include any one pranayam technique in every class I teach. I don’t know if that is going to be practically possible. Until then I can enjoy my day dreaming.
I plan to start reading the “yoga sutra” book written by my great grand-father more than 40 years ago. My mom mailed me that book from India last month. I have not been able to read it yet. Every time I open the book I start feeling too proud to read it calmly. All the time I was growing up, copies of that books were in our attic (yeah, you read it right.). I vaguely remember my great grand-father. He was 6 ft. tall, light complexion and bluish-green eyes. All features quite unusual for Asian Indian. It is amazing to know that he used to practice yogasanas for 4-5 hours at a stretch. I never spoke with my mother about him. Its only now after I started taking yoga more seriously that I started asking questions to mother about him. That book I have is a token of my family heritage. I do not think that I will ever be able to read it with an unbiased mind. When I visit India next time, I am going to spend a lot of time talking to my mother and my aunt about their grand-father.
On a closing note, I would like to write about a funny but thought provoking incident. We went to hang out with our friends after I finished my training and got excellent score. I said to our friends that they were talking to a registered yoga teacher. The very next morning, Ira, my 5 year old told me that she heard what I said to my friends and that she was not proud of me as I was boasting. I was too stunned to explain to her that I may have been just too excited! I am sure my daughters will keep my feet firmly on the ground.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The above posture taught me a lesson yesterday. I hurt my left hamstring trying to get deeper into the strech in order to inflate my ego...
Lessons to remember:

Never go beyond your limit.
Be mindful while practicing.
Remember that my left leg is not exactly like my right leg.
It is OK if I can not get a picture perfect pose.
listen to your body and NOT to your ego.
Be happy with the body you got.
Do NOT try to be someone or something you are NOT.
Apply a little china gel.

This is the last weekend of your training. Next weekend we will have a review and our exams. I am not ready for thetraining to end just yet.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

All these years I have been a yoga student. I have been a yoga student in India and learned from various teachers. To begin with I learnt from my maternal aunt who follows the KAIVALYADHAM style and philosophy. I learned from Abhay in Pune who teaches the Iyengar style. In the USA, I have practiced only in health club and lately in a yoga studio where it has been mainly VINYASA flow.
Unconsciously, I have registered the things a really like about all my past and present yoga teachers. I recall how I felt during and after the class with each of these wonderful yogis and yoginis. Thinking about all my yoga teachers from past and present helped me write the paper that was a part of our coursework about qualities of a yoga teacher. I remembered having a lot of fun in Abhay’s classes even though they were challenging. I recall how my aunt is creative in her yoga classes and can just show you number of helpful poses for little aches and pains and discomforts without making one feel like attending a class. It happens so naturally with her as if we are just hanging out together doing our favorite activity. I love the balanced feeling after Jasmin’s class; totally adore Mary’s creative sequences. Love how Sloan has themes for each of her class. Ricky says some wonderful things about yoga as a philosophy which we can ponder upon. At times though his classes seem a little too yang for me, very cool and impressive performance but totally unattainable in this lifetime! At the health club, I like Adriana for her quality of demonstrating how to do the posture and also demonstrating how not to do it. Dawn had nice easy going class, she used to bring her lesson plan written on a piece of paper and referred to it once in a while during class but that did not seem to me like she was novice and didn’t know what to do next. I could still feel the warmth and dedication in her teaching. Amy had wonderful poses for us to practice but she always seemed a little distant and indifferent, a little unapproachable to me.
The important thing is that being a student will teach me how to be a good teacher.
I did conduct a KARMA class on Sunday morning at my place. Initially 7 of my wonderful friends were keen on taking the class but finally 3 attended it which included my dear husband. I included sun salutations (traditional, A and B). Taught them warrior poses. I also included a lot of hip opening postures I went little over an hour, forgot to play the music. But, hey, it’s allowed. I am just beginner right now. I will get it eventually I am pretty sure. I got some wonderful feedback from my friends. I am listing the feedback as well as my reflections after the class.
1. A teacher should set expectation at the beginning of the class
2. A demonstration by the teacher with students just watching and not doing helps
3. A teacher should tell the benefits of the pose they are teaching (what’s in it for me).
4. Assisting them physically is helpful as they may not ever get it right by listening or watching the teacher. (I got a pat on my back for this one)
5. Selection of poses should be level appropriate so that students get a sense of achievement and not get totally discouraged.
6. A teacher should suggest modifications to all poses to make it easier or harder.
7. Not everyone knows the muscle names so instead of telling muscle names teachers could simply name the body parts eg. Front/back thigh muscles, neck muscles. Saying muscle names and synovial fluid function may impress some students about teachers’ knowledge but some may think of it as just showing off.

From a student’s perspective, I believe it is most important to figure out if the teacher genuinely wants to teach in order to share his/her knowledge and/or passion. If you are honest, hardworking, compassionate and dedicated, it will come across without you having to make any effort.
In the end, only growing or decreasing number of students will tell you if you are a good teacher or not.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Right after the Nutrition focused week at training, we started with Diwali(The festival of lights) celebrations at home.
No prize for guessing that my resolution to cook and eat only healthy food went down the drain.
I made "Besan ladoos"(gram flour, sugar and clarified butter) and they turned out well. My little ones too ate and appreciated them.
Otherwise it is really annoying when I make some desi goodies and my daughters just refuse to even taste.
MIL made chivda which was nice too. Diwali was during the weekdays so we all had to rush through the celebrations and rituals in the morning.
I still have some issues I need to work on regarding embracing my husband's family rituals as my own. It tells me that my heart isn't open wide.
Surprisingly this week at the yoga training we studied the seven chakras in our body and had to take a chakra test to determine which ones are underactive or overactive.
Even before taking the chakra test, I knew what the likely outcome was. It's just that I need to open my heart towards some people in my personal life. I guess my answers to the chakra test were based on my behavior with some close family members that I do not very well get along with. I have a feeling that I am open, frank and embracing in the outside world but I need to cultivate that in my personal life. I need to learn to get along with everyone.
For those of you interested in taking the test click the link
After we studied the 7 chakras, Sloan taught a intense Chakra class. She incorporated all the poses to open all the chakras starting at the root chakra.
She caught us by surprise when she made each one of us get in the front and teach and talk about a chakra. I was the first person and hence I covered the “mooladhar (root) chakra”. I just had the rest of the group practice tree pose on both sides and the “moola bandha” (root lock). I hope it went alright.
On Sunday, we focused on eastern and western anatomy. I know I do not have any trouble with the Sanskrit names but boy will I have trouble saying the names of all the muscles and bones and joints!
Sloan also went over assisting students in different postures. We are going to have to assist either Jasmin or Sloan for 7 hours. I did my first assist with Jasmin who herself does not touch or assist much during the class. She focuses more on just demonstrating which is cool. After I got over my initial nervousness, it went smoothly and I also got a positive feedback from a yogini in the class which is encouraging.
Coming back to Diwali celebrations, we had a rocking Diwlai party at a friends place. Everyone got a yummy dish and some sparklers for the kids. We all got an opportunity to show off our fancy Indian attire. I chose to wear the green saree to open that heart of mine :)
Now that my in-laws have gone back, I have to run my own house after a long gap!
Not to mention all the homework that has piled up. How can I afford to spend so many hours blogging and reading my favorite blogs? So bye bye, until next time!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How purple Am I?

Dark Purple

To others, you seem a bit dark, mysterious, and moody.

In truth, you are just a very unique person who doesn't care what others think.

And you really enjoy your offbeat interests and friends.

You've decided that life is about living for yourself - simple as that.

I saw this link on one of the blogs I visit regularly.Was curious about it. They have plenty of other fun tests. Check it out!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The title above sums up my third weekend of yoga teacher training. This weekend was by far the best one so far. I learnt so much and worked hard and still enjoyed every minute of it. We discussed the book by John Robbins named “Food revolution”. The book is really good and states plenty of benefits of going vegetarian.

The book gives ample statistics as well has some really heart warming stories. He talks a lot about how animals are treated in these factory farms, what they are fed and their hygiene, the cruelty level in order to reach the profit level intended. The one line that hit the spot was “America is a protein obsessed nation”

I was born and raised on vegetarian diet and started eating meat on a regular basis (chicken, fish and deli style turkey) more or less 10 years ago (after I moved from India to USA). The book was such an eye opener that I cursed myself for the way I ate for past 10 years. We also learnt about deadly hidden ingredients in seemingly harmless foods like nuts and even cereals. After reading and the lecture on Friday I was so overwhelmed that I did not know what to do to fix it all. I just wanted to fix my mistakes quickly. I was really obsessed. Something just took over me I guess. I went home and lectured my daughter, argued with my husband and basically forgot the fact that I had just reached an important destination in my own journey. Everyone has to take their own course and reach their destination on their own. There is just no point in forcing my ideas on anyone else. All I can do is just being a good role model and hope my near and dear ones reach there sooner rather than later.

Every time we meet for the training we always do freedom practice for half an hour or so. This time we focused on detoxifying postures. Everyone incorporated different twisting poses, back bends, pranayama techniques into their practice. We spend a good amount of time learning the correct alignment of some of the basic poses like Tadasana(mountain), adho-mukha-swanasana(down dog), chaturanga-dandasana(low plank/low push up) and urdhva-mukha-swanasan(up dog). Alignment is I think the key to success in yoga practice. It gives you the maximum benefits of the pose avoiding any injuries.

I was very excited about Sunday session with BERYL BENDER BIRCH. She was the first person who coined the phrase “power yoga” (along with Bryan Kest). The workshop was from 9 to 12 in the morning. It started with a lecture. Beryl spoke about awakening oneself, awakening our true nature. It is so silly the way we all associate our identity with things like our net worth, how smart our kids are, which city we belong to, which car we drive. It is hard to detach ourselves from these things. How it makes us happy and proud when people speak nice things about any of the above mentioned things. How it affects us negatively when people around us start talking about the same things in poor light. We forget that those things are not us. We are separate from it. We all need to work towards it. It is always easier said than done. Being undisturbed or unaffected by outside world and errors of others is the hardest things anyone can do. The trick is how quickly we catch ourselves building negative emotions due to external stimulus.

Listening to Beryl was pure pleasure. She was very sweet and compassionate. She seemed very grand motherly. Kind and gentle!

We practiced power yoga for next 2 hours or so. I had heard the term when I was in India. I was sort of scared of it. Thinking God knows what these people in the west practice in power yoga. I had judged it as some new crazy western fad yoga without ever making any effort to know what it was. I am feeling a little embarrassed to write this.

After doing it I realized that it is just good old yoga poses. No matter what style or what names they have, underneath it all it is all the same. Some people do it to get workout, some do it as a therapy while some do it to get peace of mind. Important thing is that lot of people are doing it. More power to them!

After the workshop we all ate lunch at this cute vegetarian place called “cosmic cafe”. The food was great. They offered variety of menu choices. We need more restaurants that cater towards the vegetarian crowd. It won’t happen unless being vegetarian is considered cool.

We get next weekend off. I am really happy about it as we will be celebrating DIWALI at home. Until next time, Happy Diwali to you all!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Week 2 of Yoga Training

We started off on Friday afternoon by first discussing the observations that we did of different yoga sessions taught by different teachers. It was fascinating that each one of us noticed different things. Catherine noticed how not everybody was chanting AUMs. Alex appreciated the very creative sequence in Mary’s class. Stephanie was glad that she was’t doing the very sweaty class and just observing it. Kristina could not believe that she does the same challenging sequence everyday.

We also talked about the presentation that we were scheduled to give to the yoga newbie’s.
Saturday started with our presentation. My part was to present Pranayam. I was a bit tensed about it initially even before I prepared anything. I wasn’t sure how to approach the subject. I did not want to use too many Sanskrit terms and scare away some potential yogis! I just explained that Pranayama in simple English is nothing but yogic breathing exercises. I also had them practice full yogic breathing while explaining the numerous benefits of it. Everything went really well (or so I think until I get a negative feedback).
Then came the part I was waiting for. We watched the remaining part of the “Yoga Unveiled” documentary. It talked about Swami Vivekananda and how he got first introduction and recognition of Hinduism and “yogic philosophy” (I am not sure if I am using the right word here but you get the idea, right?). indeed we owe so much to this great fearless yogi-saint! The movie then gave the life stories of a few pioneering hatha yogis. It began with T.Krishnammacharya and his disciples like K Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S.Iyengar, Indra devi, TKV Desikachar. One of our homework assignments was to write on anyone of these prominent personalities. I chose to write on K. Pattabhi Jois as his name itself was so intriguing to me. Pattabhi sounds so much south Indian and the last name Jois is totally western. After writing my paper my curiosity about his name is still the same as I have not received my answer yet. I will keep searching though.
On Sunday, after the initial meditation and yoga practice Jasmin worked on head stands(salamb sheersasan) with us. It feels like I am pretty close to having a breakthrough there. I will just have to keep practicing without judgment and I will be there eventually. We also talked about setting an intention for the yoga practice. I have always noticed that whenever I do not set any specific intention and just go with the flow then my practice is much more fulfilling and enjoyable. When I try hard and stay in the pose for as long as the instructor wants us to, then I almost always end up getting frustrated for not being able to perform well. Henceforth my mantra may as well be “just chill chill, just chill”

Second weekend of the teacher training was a bit hard for me partly because I was not feeling too well. I was coughing a lot. I got that bug from my younger daughter who had been coughing all over me for more than 2 weeks. I am kind of proud of myself that I could fight it for 2 weeks before surrendering to the cough!
I have signed up for the yoga challenge at Yoga Island. The idea is to take 25 classes in 30 days and if we do, we will earn ourselves a yoga t-shirt! It looks like I will have to let go of that t-shirt this time around. I had to take Monday off and rest at home as I was coughing all night long. I used that day to also finish up some assignments.
Another adventurous thing on my part was to try neti-pot to cleanse my nasal passages. That did not go very well I must admit. First of all, I should not have done that when I was already coughing and congested so much. Lesson learnt. I will wait for a few days to try it again.
I am also keeping a food diary as we will be learning a whole lot about yogic life style and healthy eating habits in the next weekend session. My diary is not that impressive. I ate out twice already. My diary is not nicely written food log but just scribbled on post-it notes. I think writing a food log might help all those who are trying to lose weight because every time I wanted to eat something, I thought to myself if it was something worth writing in a diary.

It is already Friday and time for the third weekend of yoga training. I am so looking forward to it. Week 2 in short was a bit hectic due to health reasons yet I moved forward a little bit.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I am spending this weekend alone at home while rest of my family is enjoying themselves with a few friends at a nearby resort. I am so grateful for this wonderful day and half that I got just for myself.
The last time I spent some time alone was way back in 2001. Back then I did not value it as much may be because I was not craving for it. Never the less I still enjoyed it back then. This time though it is different.
Over the years I had 2 cute little girls, a job, increased work at home. Life has become very busy. It is one chore after another. It is hard to get even a few minutes to unwind and just be alone. I am not exaggerating when I say sometimes I can’t be alone in the bathroom (that is probably too much information, but hey, I have a little one who is the queen of clingy land). So when I decided not to go to the Cliffs (the resort looking over the possum kingdom lake), I couldn’t be happier!
I started my weekend by taking a wonderful yoga class taught by Pam Ryan at Yoga Island. This was the first class I attended taught by Pam. She focused on twisting poses. Interestingly, she included a minute of Kapalbhati into the practice.
I pampered myself by getting an ultrasonic facial (whatever that is). I had to fill out this form about my skin care routine. I nearly blew away Layne by admitting that I do not have any routine. It was almost embarrassing. I do not use any cleansing, exfoliating and moisturizing products. I bought this facial cleanser more than a year ago (probably the last time I felt embarrassed and guilty about not taking care of my skin) and that bottle is still 90 % full. Layne did try to make me feel better by saying that westerners focus more on outer beauty and in the east people focus more on the inner beauty. (That was sweet. Thank you Layne!) But I guess it never hurts to have the outer beauty with healthy body, glowing skin. Don’t we all want that! East or west we all want to look our best.
In the afternoon I caught up with some required reading. I read parts of “Food Revolution” by John Robbins (http://www.foodrevolution.org/). It is an amazing book revealing flaws of many fad diets, genetically modified foods, mad cow disease, and the health effects of what you eat. A must read for all.

I had a lovely evening with my co-workers. The occasion was retirement part for Michael. We ate in the kitchen of P. F. Changs restaurant. Delicious food and company of people you are comfortable with can make you feel relaxed.

I dozed off around 10 at night. This morning started at around 7:30. I never slept better. I did not have to worry about my younger daughter sleeping on my older daughter’s stomach or chest. I did not wake up even once to adjust or pull down my daughter because her head was hitting on the headboard. I know my daughters are 5 and almost 3 years old and they still sleep in our bed. I just tell myself to enjoy it while it lasts. They won’t be sleeping with us when they go to college. It is just a matter of time.

This morning I made myself nice hot cup of tea and sat at the dining table sipping it slowly taking my own time, totally undisturbed. The biggest pleasures in life are in these seemingly little things.
I spent entire morning reading about pranayama and writing notes for the presentation that we yoga teacher trainees are supposed to give next weekend at Yoga Island. It is free class for beginners who have not done yoga. Jasmine will teach a mini class after our presentation. I am really happy and thankful to get this opportunity given to us to share what we learnt so far.

Well, my solitude is about to be over in a few hours. It was awesome to get this time for myself to relax, unwind and to do things for myself (selfish! I know!). But it has certainly refreshed me to take on life, to steer the ship of my life with newfound energy, vigor.
We all need periods of solitude, although temperamentally we probably differ in the amount of solitude we need. Some solitude is essential; it gives us time to explore and know ourselves. It is the necessary counterpoint to intimacy, what allows us to have a self worthy of sharing.
When did YOU spend just a day alone? Go for it. You will love it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A New Beginning

It’s been a long silence after the initial ranting on this blog. But, hey, I did not have anything worth talking about.
Now I do have something to share. I have started with my 200 hour yoga alliance teacher training at Yoga Island (
http://www.yogaisland.com) just last week.
It is overwhelming, intense, challenging and a little frustrating at times. Above and beyond all, it is a lot of FUN.
We started out with introductions. We are 7 trainees (including me). All are at different stages in life, different backgrounds but with one common passion which is yoga.
A very interesting group of cool women!
During the first weekend, we watched a part of a very informative movie named Yoga Unveiled (
http://www.yogaunveiled.com). Sometimes I think as a person born and raised in India, I feel proud of the fact that Yoga was born in my homeland, it is a part of India heritage. I saw some familiar faces in the movie (B. K. S. Iyengar) but there were so many knowledgeable people I did not even hear of until then. It is humbling to listen to them talking about history and origin of yoga.
One lesson I learnt by watching the movie is that I have no right to feel superior as compared to other western yoga enthusiasts just because I am from India.
I may have the slight benefit of being able to pronounce the Sanskrit names right but I DO NOT have any bragging rights whatsoever. Knowing can take you only so far but doing it makes all the difference in the world. I can’t wait to watch the rest of the documentary.
We also started with our meditations. We talked about the 8 limbs of Yoga as well.
I have started reading “Light on Yoga”, every yogi’s bible written by B. K. S. Iyengar. I am planning to finish at least the first part before next weekend.
Another assignment was observing at least 3 classes taught by RYT certified teachers. I have observed 2 so far.
First one that I observed was taught by Sloan Park (owner of Yoga Island). What a wonderful teacher she is! It was interesting to watch her teach the class the sequence that I practiced in her previous class. I knew exactly how I felt doing it just a few minutes earlier. I remembered how my body was dying to go to child’s pose while doing and holding 3 legged dog. Watching a yoga class is a whole new experience. You notice things like the temperature in the room, selection of music, how the teacher is assisting and giving adjustments. Jasmin(another teacher at Yoga Island) was practicing. It was a delight to see her doing the sequence taught by Sloan. Her movements were so flawless. She was floating from one pose to another never moving hastily.
The second class I observed was taught by Mary just yesterday evening. Mary has a very energetic personality which was evident from the beginning chants of AUM.
She introduced me to the class and she said my name correctly (Yahoo! More power to her)
I plan to observe either a gentle or a prenatal class next.
I must admit that I was a bit scared when I started out with the training. I did not know if I am ready for it. Now I know I have taken the right step. I have started the journey of a thousand miles. It is going to be quite a ride!