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Yoga Teacher Training – Days 11-13

by on February 15, 2013

I’ve been slacking! Here’s a rundown of the last couple of days:

Day 11

We started, as usual, with a game. These games usually lead into one of the many concepts we learn about here (such as yamas/niyamas, duty, etc.), but today, the games got kind of crazy, involving tossing tennis balls around between people in strange configurations, and them passing them from one person’s chin to another (like the balloon game). Finally, the topic was revealed, and it turned out to be coordination, followed by a lecture on how specific yoga poses help to develop coordination.

During the asana session, we worked on camel pose (ustrasana). I’ve always had problems with this pose triggering lower back pain, and eventually developed a system where I can ease into the pose slowly, keeping my core muscles tight, spine elongated, and hands supporting the lower back. However, today’s teacher made us go into several variations about the pose without any talk about avoiding lower back compression! Maybe this is a big deal only to me, so I voiced my concern to the teacher afterwards. She told me that my modifications were correct! And asked me if I had experience teaching (yes, I do). She also told me that the body awareness lesson should have covered these topics, but the teachers were new, and may not know their stuff too well.

Another sign that the oldest yoga institute in mumbai (or even the world) focuses very little on quality asana instruction, instead favoring detailed instruction on the yamas, niyamas, sutras, and psychology / health of mind. At least for our 1-month course, although a few brief conversations with the 3-monthers reveals similar trends.

Prabhakar then led us through some tratak exercises. I’ve done these so many times before, but I was surprised at his instructions to not blink, whereas I’ve practiced blinking a lot to lubricate the eye and keep it healthy. Until I asked him about it, and he said that few people can follow the non-blinking principle anyway, and brushed it off. I’m still unsure how to feel about this approach – is it an instruction to not worry and let people find their own path, or simply ignorance?

Oh, some interesting rules about pranayama, specifically the need to follow yamas and niyamas first, and to find a solid instructor. I’ve been skeptical about these requirements in the past, choosing to instruct my students in basic pranayama regardless of their past, believing that enlightenment is available to everyone. But today’s discussion made me rethink a little bit – pranayama can be dangerous when incorrectly performed, and yamas and niyamas definitely teach discipline and improve body awareness, minimizing the risk of any harmful effects.

Then watched a video on mind, and how it can be the cause of many physical ailments, i.e. most body conditions are psychosomatic in nature.

Day 13

Yes, you read that correctly. I skipped day 12 for numerous reasons (one involving staying out late with a cousin and eating bar food that made me feel really sick the next day). Copied some notes from classmates, and realized there was nothing much except for a homework assignment to prepare a short (~5 min) talk about our hobbies, with the focus being on public speaking skills. Easy peasy, I can talk for hours on end about anything.

However, today a few people performed their talks, and they were amazing! Very first volunteer (Hitomi from Japan) brought large-format pictures of the peaks she had scaled, including trekking to Kanchanjunga and Everest Base Camp! Another great talk by hindi/sanskrit speaking Girish from Rajasthan, who’s hobby was journaling since he was a young boy, and shared some of his favorite quotes. The icing on the cake was Jharna (from ? in India) who started with…a song! and explained that her hobby of singing classical hindi music started at a very young age. I had, a few minutes beforehand, prepared some brief notes on my guitar-playing hobby, but given time, have now decided that I need to bring in an instrument and show them what I do, rather than talking about it. The bar has been raised!

We had a lecture on mind, including an interesting talk on the motivations of mind, which are (in order): hunger, family (including love), society, work/duty, and charity. Apparently, skipping forward to charity enables one to successfully accomplish all of the others as well. I raised my hand and asked the teacher where she got this information, and she referred me to several portions of the vedas, and then made us all chant the gayatri mantra. I wasn’t sure if I got the answer I wanted, but then again, there’s been a general lack of communication with the teachers here, with sort of an attitude of being able to absorb what we can without thinking too much about the details.

A talk by the queen bee on Karma Yoga followed. Nothing I really don’t know here, with the simple moral being that if we immerse ourselves in our actions, with an attitude of detachment towards the fruits of these actions, we’ll end up happy. Also learned a new word for imagination: kalpana. Will devanagari-script it once I figure out how.

Finished off with a lecture on the sutras – probably my favorite topic besides lesson-planning. We talked about the states of mind, including muddha (dull and full of crap, tamasic), kshipta (perpetually distracted, fluctuating between tamasic and rajasic), vikshipta (a little more focused, but also distracted, i.e. rajasic and sattvic), ekadra (focused, sattvic), and nirodha (I translated this as “no mind“, or in a state of yoga). Practicing abhyas (steady constant inner practice) and vairagya (non-attachment) enable us to jump from one mind-state to another. Will read these sutras and provide more detail soon.

Meanwhile, here’s the quote of the day, thanks for reading!

“Do your best, forget the rest.”

One Comment
  1. Girish Bhatt permalink

    Thanks Sachin for the appreciations for all speakers of the day, I hope such appreciations keep us motivated throught th course….Good going keep it up.

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