Yoga School – Day 1

Today was the first day of my 200 hour teacher certification training.  I’ve decided that in addition to journaling my experience throughout the day, I would blog at night about what went on and any thoughts/feelings/emotions that came up.  I think there’s going to be a lot of blog fodder from this experience if today is any indication.

Please excuse any typos that may appear.  I’ll be writing these entries after 12+ hours of yoga, so any mistakes can be attributed to “yoga coma.” 🙂

Currently, it’s 10:15pm and I am physically as exhausted as I have ever been in my life. Yoga School (aka 200-hour teacher training certification program) just might be the hardest thing I have done.  At least, that’s how it feels at the end of Day 1.

The day began on our mats, meeting those around us, squishing together to make room for 45 in the studio.  T & P arrived shortly after 8:00am, and moved us off our mats to sit in a circle around the room.  We meditated for god knows how long (I’m clearly not good at the meditating yet) and then jumped right in to teaching.  T says it’s to flush the fear up and out of our systems.  We got back on our mats and one by one, in random order, she called each of our names to lead the group through two Sun Salutation As.  I was the third called.  Oh god.

Petrified I stood, clutching my instantly sweaty palms together and tried to remember how the flow went.  My voice shook, I knew I threw in some extra forward folds, and sent people back to chaturanga from a fold instead of from a flat back.  What can I say — I was petrified.  It’s one thing to be doing the action, but to try and talk it through, cueing people to do what you say — it’s totally different.  I went back to my mat shaking and utterly disappointed in myself.  Where was my “radio voice”?  Where was my confidence?  I have always been proud of my ability to speak in public, in front of strangers or people I know.  This is my strength!  Or, at least, I thought it was.  Maybe it isn’t?  I don’t know.  Lesson 1 learned in Yoga School: show up, do your best, and let go.  I have to be satisfied at failing my first attempt at teaching (or at least how I perceived failure in comparisson to how I expected to be, how I wanted to be, and how others did after me.)  Gotta let all that go and move on.  (Easier said than done!)

After we went through about 15 people (30 Sun A’s  ACK!) T & P gave us some feedback.  Even though I felt most of the critique was directed at me: don’t fidget, don’t clench your hands, don’t apologize (it’s selfish), I can be confident that I remembered at least one thing: to smile.  I probably grinned like an idiot, but at least I got that right.

One of the important take-aways from the first round was how important economy of words is when cueing.  The less said, the better.  It’s important to make cues descriptive but succinct.  (KF would be happy: this means no “imagine your spine growing like a flower towards to sun talk).  Succinct cues get the point across without taking people out of the moment, the practice and their own meditation.  Definitely something to work on, and T & P assured us that we’ll get more comfortable with it as class progresses.

We got a snack break and watched a quick film on the history and various practices of yoga.  The film closed with the reminder/admonition to always teach to the abilities and possibilities of your students.  Egos are checked at the door.

The second round of Sun A’s brought some humor as one person said “chimichanga” instead of “chaturanga.”  Got a good laugh out of that one.  Another person cued the class to come into “up-hale” — a hilarious combination of “inhale to up-dog.”  Ahh, yoga humor. 🙂

After round two of Sun A’s we broke for snacks, water and a more formal introduction.  Sitting in the big circle we introduced ourselves, said where we lived, and then chose one word that was reflective of what we hoped to get out of the teacher training.  It was interesting that with a few exceptions, most people chose words reflecting a desire to relax/release/connect/be present/renew.  Given the demographics of the class, it got me thinking about how I am a daughter of the feminist movement: raised by women in a culture that told me: as a white, middle-class American, that I could have it all: career, multiple degrees, a husband, children, etc…  But, what doesn’t get articulated in the midst of all the Science Camp for Girls, and women’s rugby, is that “with great power comes great responsibility. (Apologies to Spiderman.)  We, in our mid to late 20s, have achieved all our mother’s fought for, and yet ….

And yet, there’s nothing left for us.  We are defined by external entities: jobs, children, husband.  Which is why I think so many women my age are turning to yoga.  It gives back something vital lost long ago on the path to having it all.  We learn how to identify what we really want — and to be ok with that.

I think this is one of the mjor reasons why yoga is so popular in Western culture.  We are a cultre without a culture and are looking for ways to reconnect with some essential part of ourselves.

(All this on Day 1, before lunch,  from the confirmed aetheist.  Chalk it up to the hunger pangs.)

T & P assured us we would learn how to channel energy from our classes, into ourselves, and back out to the students.  Doesn’t make much sense to give out all our energy to a class and be so drained we can never teach again.

Before we broke for lunch, T & P laid down some ground rules: lunches and dinners are to be silent and meditative.  Ooookay.  I feel very lucky that I can go home to my apartment for meals, rather than dealing with the hustle and bustle of Central Square.  [Lunch: water, white bean & kale soup, slice of homemade whole wheat bread, and a clementine.]

The afternoon/evening session was spent with AA, the alignment specialist.  He broke down every pose for us, had two people demo it in front of the group, and once we had broken down a series of poses, we split into groups, taking turns teaching the sequence and then practicing the sequence.  This was awesome!  Exactly what I was waiting for — the chance to really break the pose down into the nitty-gritty, learn the cues, the muscles, the movement.  I ate it up — and would give my right arm to take an anatomy/phisiology/kinesiology class!

AA led us through a basic, 60-minute practice session to even us all out after 90 Sun A’s from the morning, and then a whole lot of sitting and getting in and out of unconnected poses.  It felt amazing.  It was also great to listen to a teacher and think “How would I cue this?”   “What am I doing to my body to make this pose feel better?”  “How would I tell people to do what I’m doing?”

We broke for a silent dinner and I tried to catch up on my journaling and resisting all urges to check my cellphone and email. [Dinner: panfried dumplings, rice, chocolate.]

After dinner we finished up breaking down the Sun B sequence, AA answered a few last questions, and then let us go.

My hamstrings feel like they’re on fire from all the Sun A’s and I can’t wait to lay down and sleep.  I was assured that during the seven weekends of training, it’s the best sleep you’ll get in your life.

On that note, it’s bedtime here: 10:55pm.  Up at 8am tomorrow for Day 2!


7 responses to “Yoga School – Day 1

  1. Good lawd, that’s intense. I have every confidence you’ll be just fine. In reading about your lesson on succinct cueing, I sure wish that Denise Austin would have been taught that before she taped her yoga/pilates series that I use. Her incessant, overly dramatic chit-chat drives me bananas.

  2. Fabulous post Abby. I look forward to more and of course taking lessons with you when you finish.

  3. I wish I had kept up with my journalling while I was doing my 200 hr certification. Some advice, if I may… remember that as important as it is to practice to learn, you always need your own practice and as I’m sure you’re already come to learn, teaching is not practice. I still struggle to find my way of immersing myself in daily practice that doesn’t degenerate to me trying to teach the practice to an imaginary class of students. But in the end, it is the abiding practice that sustains us. Guard yours fiercely and with possessiveness.


    • Wow, thank you for the very thoughtful response. You are absolutely correct that the personal practice is what fuels any good yoga teacher’s ability to guide her students. I think I will share the challenge of trying to focus on my personal practice and not constantly try to think how to teach it to others. My goal for the next few weeks is to try and introduce a daily meditation to my life. I’ve never meditated until this training program and until recently only saw savasana as nap-time. 🙂 Perhaps this will being some insight into how I can better focus in my own practice.

  4. This is so interesting, Abby– can’t wait to hear more.

  5. Wow, that sounds super intense. Can’t wait to hear more about how this is going and what you’re learning abotu yourself.

    I agree that it’s sometimes hard to be of a generation of women that was expected to be able to have it all and do it all. For me, I think that is compounded by being the first in my family to do four-year college and then a master’s degree. (Luckily, I don’t have any pressure from my family to provide grandkids.) Now that I’m here, and I have this supposedly great job, what’s in it for me? There’s a lot I can’t afford to do because of my educational loans. Granted, that is a choice that I made, just like I have made the choice to live by myself. But still, where is the time and money for me to invest in the non-career aspects of me?

  6. Excellent and insightful statement, Alison. It’s a case of “we’ve made our bed, now we lie in it.” But really? Truly? That’s all there is? Does it make the student debt worth it? Somedays, I’d answer absolutely. Other days, I wish I had chosen a different path. One that won’t define me for the next 30 years in the career I’ve chosen. Is it so very bad to get an advanced degree and then decide maybe this isn’t for me?

    I don’t have the answers to these rhetorical questions, but they are things I think about in those rare moments of quiet time.

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