One step forward two steps back
My home practice has been developing well these past few weeks, however, a few highlights stood out:
The first was practising our exam sequence to the beat of a metronome on YouTube (to help with counting the number of breaths for each asana). I started with Pranayama and gentle warm up at 80 beats per minute. Then, not realising the track would only last me ten minutes, YouTube decided to progressively speed up my practice going from 80 to 90 to 100 beats per minute by the end! I was in hysterics afterwards thinking how funny it would have been observing me on fast forward.
The second has to be practising at Mum’s because it was more ‘Cat Yoga’ than anything! Her cat Lucy accompanied me during Surya Namaskar A and B, threading her way through my legs whenever she saw an opening between the Caturangas – she obviously thought it was a game. Then another cat accompanied me for the seated sequence and watched intently on the corner of the bed as I moved into Savasana, he into Catasana!
The same weekend I also got the opportunity to practice the exam sequence on my Mum who was a great guinea pig. I was generous with timings and found it tricky keeping my stamina for the whole sequence with the explanations, especially as we haven’t learnt the finishing sequence yet. I made up some spiel moving into Savasana and Mum was suitably impressed afterwards and enjoyed the amount of detail required for correct alignment in each asana.
OM Yoga Show
Since I started my course, I was excited to finally make it to the OM Yoga show and pleased it didn’t fall the same weekend as one of our Teacher Training weekends! It was a beautiful day, Spring-like for October with not a cloud in the sky. I loved attending several yoga classes and talks and bought a beautiful hand-stitched chakra mural part of the Chakra Project. One session was about releasing the Psoas muscle – I didn’t know what this was, but would soon learn more in our anatomy lectures my next training weekend!
Jonathan kicked off our practice quite abruptly for a Friday evening ‘You know what time it is! 6pm – warm up, Sun Salutations!’ We then did the exam sequence on our own with Jonathan guiding us through the middle part. My training partner adjusted me in Fish Pose (Matsyasana) and it felt amazing – I think I gained 5 more inches in my upper back!
After the exam sequence, we had a fascinating lecture on Cakras. It was incredible learning about these energy centres, and I didn’t fully appreciate how much depth there was to them. Each Chakra is said to have its own musical note, bija mantra, emotional and physical associations. For Mūlādhāra (Root Cakra) its note is C, and takes the bija mantra ‘Lam’ and associated with security and survival. On the physical side, Mūlādhāra is said to be connected to your skeletal system. People with good and bad ‘energies’ started to have a whole new meaning for me. Then I wondered, could your vibrations be out of sync with others you don’t get along with?
During our lecture we then discussed the significance of 432HZ and how all living things (including the Earth, Sun and Moon) are said to vibrate at this frequency. Woah! Once home, I Googled what 432HZ sounded like and had a long chat with my scientific brother about vibrations and radio frequencies. He’s also a musician and shared with me that an A note on guitars are typically set to 432HZ which I found intriguing.
Our usual two-hour asana practice with Jonathan this morning was incredibly tough for me today and I sweated a ton. I also had the beginnings of a cold. I welcomed Childs Pose (Balasana) on two occasions to catch my breath. In the end, Jonathan cradled into Savasana, which couldn’t have come sooner…he also led us through a series of hypnotic affirmations and relaxations. It was amazing and I got the impression no one wanted to be brought back into the room after experiencing such a state of calm.
In the afternoon, Chloe then joined us for our first set of anatomy lectures. I was surprised at how quickly we all took to naming our bones and main muscles in the body – the dregs of GCSE Biology slowly started to surface!
Use of Language
In our final lecture of the day with Jonathan, we discussed the importance of language and how we should be mindful of this as we develop our scripts on this course and beyond. To bring this to light, he shared an anecdote with us about someone who invited their other half to a Yoga class. The teacher decided to add in a few embellishments in that class to test their staying power. One of them in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) was ‘Let your anus bloom like a flower!’ And yes, they left after that.
Abby on the 500 Hour Teacher Training took this morning’s practice and had recently been researching Mudras so she peppered the class with different hand gestures. We started with Ganesh Mudra, which is said to help remove obstacles and ended with Chin Mudra, which is said to promote physical and mental health.
My body was soooo stiff and sore from the vigorous practice the previous morning. I was also feeling very ill and had a tap for a nose. Abby’s class was amazing and part way through, she brought us into a little secret that there would be more than one Boat Pose (Navasana) in our practice making everyone chuckle – as by now we clearly know there are four in our exam sequence!
Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes
Chloe then joined us for our second set of anatomy lectures and was impressed by how much we’d remembered. Today we talked about the spine and the differences between flexion and extension and postural patterns. We touched on why, for the modern-day person bound to their desk, they may find extension difficult and why they would benefit from yoga – the majority of asanas encourage extension across the body.
Two things that blew me away from Chloe’s lectures were reciprocal inhibition and what happens when you massage the undersides of your feet…Firstly, reciprocal inhibition is where you contract one muscle (agonist), which allows its pair (antagonist) to relax. An obvious example of this in action would be your bicep and tricep. However, take this to your hips and if you engage your glutes, then your hip flexors will release! Very handy for asana practice moving forward.
Next Chloe got us to come into Uttanasana and note where we were. Then she asked us to massage the undersides of our feet (planta fascia) and try again – we all went further because our feet play a crucial role in stretching our leg muscles which is why its good to warm them up at the start of the class too. Mind blown.
For our teaching practice that afternoon, we practised a 5 minute warm up, Surya Namaskar A & B and the finishing sequence. I teamed up with Alex and by this point, I was so sore and stiff and had a whole hour of yoga to muster up the energy for. Alex was brilliant, kept to time, offered me modifications and much needed positive reinforcements. Having missed our third Teacher Training weekend because I was away, I felt super behind with no practice script. This was further exacerbated by my cold. When my turn came to lead Alex through a sequence I didn’t know, I winged it defaulting to just inhale/exhale as I’d reached my limit.
By the end of the weekend, I felt less energised, more like an anaesthetised sloth, wondering how I was ever going to catch up. All I knew is that for the coming days I would rest and treat my body to more restorative yoga when I felt able. Priority one, get home and thaw out in the bath!