Why yoga is not what you think it is

Just now, as I was driving home from teaching my Vinyasa Flow yoga class, I was marveling at the “yoga high” that I and my students experienced and some of the open hearted conversations that came from it. It lead me to think about the (multiple) benefit(s) of yoga and how and why it began. As a good English major and journalism minor University graduate (should University be capitalized? ;), I wanted to do a bit of yoga history research to back up my idea for this blog. What I found was VERY interesting and my intention for this post went from “yoga was created to exercise and move the bodies of early Indian philosophical scholars, perfect for our mostly sedentary society today” to “the yoga that we know today looks NOTHING like what those early Indians started thousands of years ago and in fact, they probably wouldn’t even recognize what we do as yoga!”

The asana (the physical poses of yoga) practice that we do in yoga classes today was a minuscule part of early yoga. The 15th century book Hatha Yoga Pradipika outlines 15 yoga asana poses. That’s all: 15! The asana practice we know today was nearly never the focus for early students and it looked nothing like what we do now. Today’s yoga was developed from a melting-pot mixture of a 19th-century Scandinavian gymnastics program that served as the foundation for physical training in armies, navies, and schools, the 20th-century Danish system called Primitive Gymnastics, the desire of the early 20th century world, and India in particular, to gain national independence and in their minds this equated to stronger bodies in case a war broke out against colonizers, and a man named T. Krishnamacharya (1888-1989) who created a dynamic asana practice, intended mainly for India’s kids, that was a blend of hatha yoga, wrestling exercises, and modern Western gymnastic movement.

The yoga we know today is unlike anything ever seen before in (yoga) history; it’s a complete hybrid of tradition and innovation that demonstrates a God who cares deeply about (all) people and desperately wants to invade our everyday life. Yoga began with a focus on pranayama (breathing practices), dharana (mental strengthening), and nada (sound), and did not have many health or fitness aspects. The “yoga high” that I was referring to from this morning’s class, is a physical manifestation of the Great Spirit invading our physical beings. We are triune beings and as we continue to erase the lines between our body, mind, and spirit and put our full-self into purposeful activity (life), our experiences on plant earth will match our heavenly reality all the more. What a “high” it is.

If you want to read more about the history of yoga check out: http://www.yogajournal.com/wisdom/2610

Namaste!

Wrapping up my Bali experience

It’s over! What a trip it’s been. I am exhausted right now, understandably because Bali is 15 hours ahead of Redding, so I’m used to being asleep when I’m awake. It kind of hurts, to tell the truth, how discombobulated I feel. I was hoping to not sleep during the day so that I could reset myself, but I took a 2 hour nap yesterday and probably will do something similar today. I’ve slept for about 4 hours each night since returning. 😦

I went a little long on the video but with it being the last one, I wanted to share more of my experience and thank you for coming with me! I am still processing what happened during the 25 days in Bali. I think I will be forever processing, actually, and I will write more here about my revelations here in the future. I haven’t yet settled back in Redding life. I think that is partially why I haven’t been sleeping straight through the night either. I’m glad I took 4 days after the trip to explore Bali, relax, and reintegrate into more of a “normal” life. Four plus hours of yoga a day, on a tropical island, with no concerns other than classwork and which buffet food item to eat isn’t my normal and I’ve been doing that for 3 straight weeks from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm nearly every day. It was glorious. Now, I get to reintegrate into my normal life, and, as a new person. I am thankful for grace. Thankful that my friends, my family, my students, and my God give it to me, and that I am really learning to give it to myself. I am perfect. That is probably the biggest thing I learned while at the yoga training: that no matter how much growth I get to do, no matter how many silly mistakes I make, no matter if I offend people, no matter how happy or sad I make myself or others, I am perfect. This will be something I meditate on for years to come. I hope that you know how perfect you are as well. Just. As. You. Are. You and I couldn’t be any more perfect! Right here, right now, God doesn’t make junk. How wonderful. How mysterious. How magnificent. You and I are whole. Oh the complexity of it!!! And the simplicity.

I think I’m going to take that nap now. Bless you. Thank you. See you soon.

xoxo

Bali Yoga Trip: Day 23: Candidasa to Ubud

From the ocean to the city, I’m now in Ubud now that my yoga teacher training is over. Ubud is a yoga mecca of sorts. There are lots of yoga clothing, statue, and accessory shops here (along side the surf and general tourist stores). There are several yoga studios and many, many, energy healing centers here. It’s a large city, much different than Candidasa, but yet, there are still the farms (rice, I think mostly) within the city and we ate the Café Angsa tonight that overlooks a rice farm. It was beautiful. I am typing this in my new room at the Indra Homestay, sharing a room with one of my roommates from the yoga training, Joey. Our friend Nicole is also here, staying in her own room. We were at a resort in Candidasa, Puri Bagus, with room service, pool, bar, restaurant, beach, cabanas, spa, etc. This place is much, much different. We are paying 10,000 rupia per night (which is a little less than $10) which should give you an indication of the difference, but, I LOVE it! I will definitely make a video of this place to show you. It is SO Bali! I’ll save the details for then.

My plan tomorrow is to go to the Radiantly Alive Yoga Studio in town and take 3 classes: either the Radiantly Alive Vinyasa class or the Hatha class, the Roll and Release class (using tennis balls and other props to release myofacial tissue in the body), and the Flying High Yoga class (described as “using the aid of gravity and the Hanging Yoga Belt, learn how to lengthen the spine and increase your flexibility. The hanging Yoga Belt is a fantastic tool to perform restorative inverted poses, and to intensify ground Yoga poses as well. It relieves tension in the muscles, elongates and decompress the spine, and increase flexibility.”) It may sound odd to have just completed a 200 hour yoga training and then go to a studio to take more yoga, but I love it! This studio has a special day pass where you pay 15,000 rupia (a little less than $15) and you can take as many yoga classes as you’d like for the day. After the amount of yoga I’ve been doing each day, 3 classes will be easy in comparison! I’m thinking it’s a good deal and I want to increase my experience with different styles, teachers, and make the best of my time here in the yoga mecca. ☺

From underneath the most powerful ceiling fan I have ever experienced, I say goodnight and Namaste!

Bali Yoga teacher Training: Day 20: teaching!

Today was the big day: my group of 7 taught our 2.5 hour Vinyasa yoga class! I was only able to get these 2.45 minutes of my teaching, but it at least gives you a great look into what I have been doing and the scenery over the past few weeks.

I taught the peak pose section and led the students into visvamitrasana. It’s quite a challenging pose and I picked it purposely so that I could get some real feedback on my teaching cues, adjustments, and style. I, admittedly, was a little nervous. I felt mostly confident, but I taught to an entire class of yoga teachers and was being critiqued by skilled and long time teachers of yoga teachers. It was great, but I’ve definitely been celebrating that it’s over.

The feedback from my instructors was good! I was told that I picked a really complicated pose and that teachers of 10+ years wouldn’t have cued it as well as I had. I was complimented on my attention to breath, my adjustments, and sequencing. The biggest suggestions to my teaching are: to describe exactly what to do when people are holding the pose (alignment ad what to do with the breath: I kept repeating inhale extend, exhale deepen, I think out of nervousness) and change/better the cueing for the straddle to inner thigh stretch pose.

We have only 1 more full day of class! Tomorrow is a half day and Sunday is a Vinyasa class and some wrap up time. Some of the girls and I will be traveling to Ubud on Sunday and leaving Wednesday evening. I am really sad that this training time will be ending! Something really special has happened within me and among us all here. I’m going to savor these next few days. I’ll start by going to bed right now and then tomorrow it’s meditation at the ocean.

Thanks for reading. Until next time, Namaste!

Bali Yoga Training: Day 19: half day off!

Again I’m sitting on my bed listening and chiming in with my goofy roommates and laughing hysterically. It was a much needed half day off today and I had a goal of creating a creative video for you today, but instead I happily took some down time by the pool, in the restaurant, and via a massage before I practiced with my group for our 2.5 hour Vinyasa Flow yoga class tomorrow morning. Now, as my roommates are settling into their beds for our 5:30 am wake up and 6:30 am class, I’m typing via the bright glow of my computer amidst the darkness.

It’s coming to an end, my yoga teacher training program. It has been an incredible time. It feels like it’s been so long, yet we just arrived. I have made some really great friends and as we get to spend some down time, find each other on Instagram and Facebook, and share our hearts as we lead the yoga classes, I’m learning a whole new side to these people who I’ve meditated with, explored around the island with, and sweated and groaned next to on the mat.

This video is from one of the past few days’ explorations. It’s from the traditional Balinese dance performance a few of the girls and I went to here in Candidasa. This time, it’s me on the stage! Enjoy my first time ever attempting this art and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Namaste!

Bali Yoga training: Day 17: peak

This is the final week of my yoga teacher training! I can hardly believe it, yet it does feel like it’s been a long time. I’m very, very happy to be here, in hot, humid, sweltering Bali while there is SNOW in Redding! God is so perfect. I am not opposed to snow, at all, but it does present a challenge to leading/teaching a stand up paddleboard yoga class with On Water Yoga when the lake is frozen. I actually hope that it begins to warm up for when I return! I would love to be able to take my new skills to the water, but one step at a time, which leads me to this video.

I am scheduled to teach an active Vinyasa Yoga class this Thursday morning with my group of 7 (8 total including me). We will be the last group to teach and so far we’ve seen 2 groups go already. It’s been really nice to slowly take our time, practicing, gaining insight via what other groups have done, continue to learn adjusting techniques, sequencing, alignment, etc. I am really happy with my group, our choice of poses, intention, meditation and opening, and the peak pose I picked and am leading. Each of in the group teaches 15 minutes of the 2 hour class.

A Vinyasa Yoga class is designed around a “peak” pose so that the warm up and middle of the class is designed to prepare one’s body to be ready for the most difficult, or the peak pose. I picked one we haven’t done yet here in Bali and one I have introduced to my land yoga classes in Redding, but would like more guidance and skill at teaching, particularly the modifications. When I asked my yoga instructor Gabrielle about the pose and it’s name she said, “Wow, you’re not messing around! Going straight into it!” Well, yes! Yes I am! It’s been a good challenge for me and the group to think how to structure for something we haven’t done in class and which no one in my group has ever done before, yet, it’s been easy at the same time. I am really happy with the way my group is working together, being supportive, open, and up for the challenge. There was really no questions asked, just an ok, let’s do it attitude!

There has been an overall sense of things starting to wind down and come to an end, along side the energy around us teaching classes. Today Chris, one of the co-founders of the Awakened Life School of Yoga, talked about meditation after our training is over and suggestions for how to integrate it in to our everyday lives. I have to admit that when we first started I wasn’t that interested in the meditation component as was presented in our pre-work assignments, but I can really see and feel how meditation can be used to tame the wildness of the mind and let our spirit be our guides. Before this yoga training, I had only done contemplative prayer meditation (choosing a verse, some words, or other such inspirational teaching and turning the mind repeatedly back towards it for a set amount of time) but now I’ve done several different types of meditation here, maybe 5 or 6 different ones. I’ll probably write more about this in another entry. It’s late now and I’m starting to fade, but to touch on it briefly, I am beginning to think about how I can incorporate more meditation into my life back in Redding.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for supporting me. Thanks for praying for me! I pray that you are encouraged, enlightened, and that you experience more freedom and happiness in your life from reading this.

Until next time, namaste!

Bali Trip Day 2 Video

I’m here! It’s going to be a different place tomorrow, when I can see it, but what I can make out, this place is amazing! The people I have met already are so great. Everyone is excited to be here. This will definitely be unlike anything I have ever done before and that is exactly why I came.
I’m off to sleep now so I can start tomorrow well.
See you soon!

Travel, adventures, Bali, and yoga: Day 1

It’s happening! After all this time, preparation, anticipation, studying, packing, saving, and praying, I’m headed to Bali, Indonesia for a month long yoga training! The hardest part so far has been this blog, actually. It’s the new experience for me; one I’m happy to accept and experiment with though and at this moment, it’s helping me stay awake. I hope my $50 Mac “World Travel Adapter Kit” works or this may be the last of these videos….

Enjoy!