‘Whilst speaking words of wisdom, you are mourning that which is not worthy of grief’
Krishna – Bhagavad Gita
Practising the exam sequence had a different feel to it this evening. Partly because I’d witnessed the aftermath of a road traffic accident on my way to class. It brought home the fragility of life and the importance of being in the present moment. I only had to glance at the sequence a few times as I was very much in the zone, and somewhat guided by muscle memory. Our course director, Jonathan sealed our practice with one OM before the Mantras lecture.
Jonathan explained how mantras are another tool to reinforce a phrase that, according to Patanjali encompasses the whole of Yoga:
Yogaś Citta Vrtti Nirodah
The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga
In this lecture we learned about the origins of Sanskrit and how the vibrations of the words are said to affect the body and mind in different ways. For example, the vibrational frequencies of the asanas when pronounced in Sanskrit are said to resonate with specific parts of the body – wow!
We then learnt two mantras in our course manuals, which was a lot of fun and I finally understood the meaning of OM Shanti Shanti Shanti: Peace to the world, Peace to your neighbours, Peace to yourself.
Today we were treated to a slow flow class to the delight of the room with YogaLondon course leader Sandra. After morning practice, Chloe then joined us once again for a refresher on anatomy.
There’s something about Drsti…
Before we finished for the day, Jonathan spoke to us about the importance of Drsti (focused gaze) during physical practice. Jonathan then got the room to attempt Surya Namaskar A and B with our eyes closed to see how we’d feel without a focal point. The first wasn’t so bad, but the second made the room burst into fits of laughter as we wobbled and lost our balance!
I really enjoyed the next exercise which saw us practising the Sun Salutations again, this time with the Drsti points being called out. I noticed how it helped not only focus, but lengthen the poses. I then thought how timely this lecture was, seeing as I’d almost taken out my coursemate Violetta when I fell over in Parsvottonasana (Standing intense side stretch) earlier that morning!
Ian on the 500RYT course led this morning’s practice. The sequence was both challenging and fun as we worked our arms a ton and experimented jumping back from Bakasana (Crow) into plank. I face planted both times but it was fun to try…after quite a lot of hip-work, by Savasana I was crying. This happened once before during my first weekend, as I found myself in a similar state of release. I was both very raw and very zen, reminded of the intention I set at the start of the course, let go and explore.
Fight or Flight
We were back with Chloe learning about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which was incredible. Partly because of these lectures I felt a lot more knowledgeable about the way my body works and better equipped to help improve other people’s physical and emotional wellbeing through the practice of Yoga. In today’s world, we hang out in our stressed sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous systems, which over long periods of time can be damaging to our bodies. We learnt how stress is important, however returning the body to our parasympathetic system (relaxed state) can help promote a happy healthy lifestyle.
Something so small as taking control of our breath can return us to this state of calm. I’d certainly felt this with my own body when I was suffering unnecessary stress and anxiety compared to now where I feel more in control.
This afternoon we practiced the seated section of the exam under the helpful guise of Jonathan and YogaLondon 500RYT students Abi and Ian. I was so pleased to actually have energy and felt more prepared for what to say for each asana. Teaching felt great today and for my partner Alex too. After some group feedback, I left feeling motivated and excited to try weening myself off the exam sequence visuals as we won’t be allowed those moving forward.
I was astonished thinking about the progress I’d made this evening as we practised our exam sequence without visual prompts! My body knew the sequence, it was just a case of keeping to time. I was surprised thinking back to when I first attempted our modified ashtanga primary sequence in August and how battered my body felt, compared to how comfortable I feel now.
Today Jonathan treated us to a Sivananda practice, which has tons of relaxation in between asanas – amazing! It was a beautiful class with a different style of Sun Salutation. As we flowed, Jonathan sped up to an incredibly fast pace and I couldn’t believe how quickly we were moving at one point but it felt great! I was also elated after being assisted in my second ever attempt at headstand, which is something I never thought I could do.
Quite a serious practice class became not so serious – the highlight being Jonathan explaining the best way to come into Bakasana (Crow) involving imagining you have diarrhoea and can’t go to the toilet…
Sanskrit and Yogic Philosophy lecturer Gabriella Burnel joined us that afternoon for our philosophy lectures, starting with Patanjali’s sutras. According to Patanjali, all our thoughts or mental modifications can be categorised into five things: Right Knowledge, Misconception, Verbal Delusion, Sleep, and Memory.
Gabriella then gave the most incredible introduction to the Bhagavad Gita, bringing our sacred texts to life with passion through discussion and song…get ready for YogaLondon: The Musical…! It was interesting learning how these sacred texts have the ability to inspire more recent story tellers James Cameron/George Lucas with the likes of Avatar and Star Wars! What I took from the lecture is that The Bhagavad Gita is to be considered as a text to help deal with the daily struggles of life.
We then analysed passages from the Bhagavad Gita and discussed some of the common themes and how they apply to our understanding of Yoga. Three we picked out were Dharma (duty/natural ability), Karma (Action) Jñāna (Knowledge)
I received a round of applause from my course mates for making it into class after my work Christmas party and 4 hours sleep (yes, I was in child’s pose for half the class…) Today, my classmates Alex, Alice and Aneta were adjusting and teaching parts of our exam sequence. Despite my tired state, I was able to appreciate how good they sounded, like naturals – yoga teachers! I’ll be assisting during our next training weekend and they set fantastic examples to follow.
Our mindfulness and meditation lectures couldn’t have been timed better – YogaLondon lecturer Dézi Olle led us through a wonderful afternoon which she called a retreat for the body and mind. This was much needed after an intense few months of learning! Dézi then opened with a lovely quote on mindfulness:
‘Enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes, which it will.
Being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way, which it won’t.’
We discussed the numerous benefits of meditating, including helping to manage stress, increase immunity, foster creativity, restore energy and expand our awareness. Dézi invited us to contemplate why ‘mindfulness’ has exploded onto our bookshelves, and how today’s generation has less time to do mindful activities compared to our parents, or grandparents.
Dézi shared with us a few techniques for introducing meditation into our classes as Yoga teachers and suggested a nice way is either going straight into an exercise, or replacing the word ‘meditation’ for ‘short sit’, which could be more accessible to a modern day audience, which I really liked.
I didn’t think the day could get any better until Dézi suggested we spend the final hour of the day learning Thai massage techniques in pairs – bliss!