I really enjoy these absolute beginner yoga sesssions as they do what it says on the tin.
The sessions are for absolute beginners! So week one we do a few warm ups, take in some basic yoga breathing and then work gently through some moderate classic yoga poses enabling the students to grown with these essential asanas that can be seen at most yoga classes.
The instruction is in English! Leaving out the ancient sanskrit (that can come later) and there are alternative or modefied versions of every pose so that no one is left floundering. This makes for greater comfort and allows students to feel confident from the start that yoga meets them at what ever stage they are on the stretchometer.
There is time for relaxation in the closing 5-10 minutes with guidance on being aware of the passive breath. This helps the budding yogis to get on a new and better footing with their breathing.
No one is run ragged and everyone's body is allowed to have their old them still in tact while the new them begins to make its early appearance at that all important steady pace.
Next week will see the simple introduction of the Salutations to the Sun. A neat routine of 12 postures of which only 7 need be learned as 5 are repeated in the closing stages of the flow. This will need to be visited throughout the course (5 weeks) and is a useful well rounded sequence getting to allparts of the body including some toning of the inyternal organs and glands.
A great way to ease our tense and stiff bodies into something approaching open and flexible.
Yin Yoga has to be the most overlooked style of yoga around which is a crying shame as it has so many assets. That being said I know it will not be for everyone even the most convinced yoga practitioners probably because it is a very introspective an meditative type of yoga and there are those of us who will prefer something more dynamic.
Nevertheless, don't be deceived as while Yin Yoga is not necesaarily a restorative cosy practice it should have the same outcome as hatha albeit a differing path.
Yin Yoga could be said to have come out of hatha yoga in that it uses many of the conventional hatha postures with a few of its own thrown in that are growing in number every year along with some familiar but modefied poses too.
There are three practice elements to yin yoga.
One: come to a suitable or appropriate stretch (twist or squeeze)
Two: Relax, connect with the breath and relax into the pose
Three: Stay for time
The first element is of great importance and it is the one that many who are new to yin take a while to adjust to and sometimes they don't. Element One requires a little vigilence. The key is in the words suitable/appropriate. In Yin Yoga we are going to try and stay in the pose for anything from 3 to 6 minutes or longer (element three) and if we attempt to do this applying our selves in the same way that we might in a 30 second pose will be very tiring, stressful and build unwanted tensions.
Yin appeals more to our soft connective tissue which prefers gentle considered movements and stretching and if we cultivate this kind of approach it will help our tissues and skeleton to tone and strengthen over time.
The relaxing element is important as by letting go once we are in a yin pose then we build less tension and are less likely to feel stiff the following day.
We are also able to get into a better relationship with our breath because we are in the poses for longer and this allows us to be more focused and introspective. This latter value makes yin appealing to those interested in developing meditation.
So who might yin yoga benefit besides everyone!
Well, it tends to appeal to an interesting mix. On the one hand it is great for those who wish to conserve energy or who don't have a lot. It is also useful for sports people as it can be a great complement to active exercise. Over the years I have people with M.E. an CFS together with weight trainors, footballers, runners, cyclists an ju jitsu martial artists. But it can be beneficial to those who do other yoga during the week or simply walk for exercise. It is a good idea with yin to be sure to complement it with something more aerobic at least like walking during the week as out and out all stretching can weeken us an we don't want that.
So if you practice yoga already why not give yin a chance sometime or if you are in sport or want to complenment some other kind of daily exercise with a more prolonged stretching style yin is well worth a try. It can really bring on your flexibility.
There has been some interesting research recently in Japan that is showing that the kind of work we do in yin yoga can help heal soft connective tissue that might not respond to other kinds of treatment so yin is evolving.
Yoga is often a science of misconception. What I thought yoga was about when I started practising many years ago has changed many times over the years and in fact the whole idea of yoga is open to interpretation. Having said that everyone can find something they need in yoga whether it is toning and flexibility, a calm mind or stronger mind, undestanding thoughts an feelings, a complement to their sporting regime, better mental health, focus and concentration, physical and emotional balance, spiritual fulfilment etc etc. or they may want all of these things.
I started when I was preparing for my GCE's at school when a fellow pupil told me a friend of theirs only needed 2 hours sleep and had amazing concentration skills because of yoga. I was impressed and curious and wondered if yoga could do the same for me. I wasn't totally sure whether to believe the sleep thing but some adults at the time said it definitley had a connection with calmness and relieving nervous tension which I had loads of! I just had to try it. I must say that very early on I felt a bit special knowing that I was now a "yogi" practising this ancient mystical discipline and revealed it only to those very close to me. They thought it was just a phase I was going through. Well, many years later I'm still with it.
Yoga definitely helped me through my GCE's then later A Levels and subsequent examinations by practising the postures, the breathing, relaxation and meditation. If not at the time, I probably came to realize much later how it all worked. How the postures began to make me feel physically more comfortable. The relaxation putting me on better terms with my feelings and emotions and the meditation bringing the incredible benefits of sitting in stillness. That also impoved my patience! The breathing sort of glued everything together.
The greatest thing of all at that time when under the control of a structured school and later college regime and still at home under parental house rules so to speak, was that yoga began to give me a growing sense of self empowerment. When I was in a tight corner in class, in the exam room or with the occasional family or friend confrontation I could just connect with my breath and find that calm abiding that all the great yoga sages talk about. It takes daily practice over time but it gets stronger. Cultivating that growong sense of physical awareness and the subtle power of the breath and stillness can help your own yoga practice evolve in a personal and individual way.
You get on better terms with feelings and emotions and the continuous self enquiry improves the relationship you have with yourself and this translates onto relationshigps with others. You see things coming that bit quicker than the next person, you become less reationary and you begin to get over those day to day mini traumas more quickly so you can get on with your life in a more positive and creative way.
So try yoga. By all means try it to get more toned, flexible and strong. To get calmer and more focused. To improve concentration. As a psycholigical buttress. But always remember that thread that runs through all practice that thread of self empowerment. Yoga can be that life long friend and rock from hereon in. The one nobody else sees but can sense it in your demeanour and the way you deal with life.
I have been a yoga teacher for about 15 years and in the early days most of the attendees were women. Well I might as well say, all the attendees were women. I can't really remember any men attending in the earlt 2000's. Then around 2010 there were a few men attending with wives and girlfriends mainly from curiosity or compulsion!
It's all strangely surprising when you consider that yoga all started with men, for men despite it's notionally being open to all humans. Still for many years it has appealed to women with men often seeing it as the soft option to exercise. Of course those who practice yoga know it is neither of those things. When you've tried some of the core postures you soon realize its not a soft option. Further more it's not strictly an "exercise". It is physical but with a different agenda.
Yoga is really about calming the aggitations of the mind through the body. As we know it's difficult to separate the body from the mind. Humans are somapsychic animals and yoga practice gives us the opportunity via a diverse range of postural positioning to work deeply with our muscles and soft tissue to release knots and tension so allowing us to deal better with pains and discomfort and provide a physical environment that allows us also to be mentally comfortable.
Even if you wish to avoid all the mental, emotional stuff of yoga there are physical bye products such as greater flexibility, toning and strength and more joint stability. This is great for sports people and sportsmen. Ryan Giggs the great Man United player swore it transformed his game and allowed him to avoid injury more and play into his 40's. There are also many other celebrities now turning to yoga both sports and none sports.
I said about avoiding the mental stuff and you can decide to do that but in reality your body won't let you. Over time regular yoga practice incorporating correct brathing and relaxation will naturally begin to quieten you down and bring greater calmness enabling you to see tensions and callenges coming earlier so you can deal with them and recovering from stress and emotional attacks more quickly.
In the last few years I've seen an increase in male attendance at classes. Just yesterday the majority of my students were men. Some come for physical reasons such as a compliment to their sport or sports injury recovery. Others to relieve stress from a pressurized job. Still others who are at a crossroads in their life and are seeking to engage better with their inner self - yoga can be "spiritual" but at the very least it is always self enquiring. The increase in male interest in yoga is great because it begins to signal that yoga is a beneficial practice for everyone and can only bring more harmony into the lives of both women and men.
In recent years there's been a lot of speculation about how long yoga teacher training courses should be. Perennially, we have had the 200 hour courses. Then some of the yoga associations began proposing 500 hour courses and then almost as an afterthought along came the 300 hour compromise from some yoga schools. Recently, we have been getting suggestions about a 1000 hours! Of course you could always opt for the 30 day fast track style course in some far flung exotic location but who would seriously fancy that!
So which is right?
I'm grasping here for the piece of string concept. There is a belief in learning circles that anyone wanting to become adept at any subject has to be looking at around 10,000 hours of application and of course this would take years. So we are moving towards the idea that the more you do the better you get and that's obvious of course.
There are a number of variable factors that ought to be considered when thinking of how long you initially train and what might help project you forward in your progress.
My first concern about extended training courses such as the 500 and possible 1000 hour courses is trainee commitment. Even the 200 hour courses can require a full weekend every month for a year with additional attendance for observed teaching practice and maybe assistance work plus added homework. Many of my trainees over the years have missed days and even whole weekends of their course despite signing to full commitment.
Some prospective trainees also have the hidden belief that a 200 hr course is a softish option and really just about attending the weekends when they can have an interesting interaction with like minded students and practice a bit of yoga with a bit of philosophy thrown in. It really depends on which 200 hour course you do and the syllabus is worth looking at and even asking the trainer what the course work is like and what to expect. Some 200hr courses are superficial and can be a bit like some of those in Australia where many 200 hr graduates are only expected to act as yoga teaching assistants.
There are 200hr courses that have a lot of depth and where the homework can be more demanding.Its often about striking a balance between exposing trainees to enough (probably 50%) practice and training with methodology and the philosophy, traditions and thinking behind yoga.
I insist that trainees do several of their later observed teaching practices with invited members of the public as this gives them a more realistic experience so they don't have to wait till after the course to teach "real people" as opposed to peer group teaching. My trainees are also preparing yoga sequences from month two and teaching their per group from month 3. Where appropriate I also encourage them to start teaching in the community if there is the opportunity and I think they are ready. This will depend on their confidence and early knowledge. Remember, insurance is needed and their students must be informed that they are on a training course and perhaps charge a bit less. In my experience those trainees who can find this opening (not always easy but doable) progress more quickly even if they start the course with less experinec than other trainees.
Also it's easier to get to grips more quickly with a teacher training course if you have first attended a short (6mnths) Yoga Foundation which is aimed at deepening your practice.
In conclusion I think the 200hr can be enough to be ready to teach if you apply yourself to the course work and do plenty of background reading while also considering some of the other factors I have mentioned above. It's worth noting that those who embark on a yoga teacher training course will no doubt have been personally practicing for some years and attending regular yoga classes weekly. This should give them a strong start especially if they have been getting their heads into yoga thinking behind the Yoga Sutras and other texts.
It's courses for horses so to speak and also how you work. Some people just like taking courses all their life. I have heard of someone who has taken no less than 6 yoga teacher training courses and this was while they reamined an assistant teacher! In the end you have to dip your toe in the water and find every opportunity to teach as this is what will make you strong. The course is really to propel you forward to that place.
WHAT HAPPENS ON OUR SPIRITUAL ADVENTURE WEEKENDS One of the very best things for us about the retreats is that we have people who we see fleetingly each week for a yoga class and some who come to other activities too or even people that we have never met or who we only see on the retreats each year. We find that it is a time to get to know these people in more depth and when people begin to relax over the weekend their different side begins to come out and we really get to know them well.
We have people who have been coming to yoga classes for years but on retreat we find a different more relaxed side to them and it really is very fulfilling to experience this and I am sure they would probably say the same about us.
Each years we have a slightly different set of experiences so here's the story of our recent retreat just to give you an idea.
We were very fortunate that the weather was fantastic most of the time and we were able to have a yoga session on the beach and an optional swim in the sea which for me I think was the hghlight of the weekend. Some followed by taking a coffee/ice cream in the beach cafe
A close runner up for me were the sessions of yoga on the lawns under the shade of the old trees.
Whenever possible we were outdoors and the only indoor activities were the evening yoga sessions that took place in the atmospheric stone walled chapel and the individual hypnotherapy sessions. It was great to relax to the yoga and then be able to go straight to bed.
The labyrinth mediation walk was wonderful on the grass labyrinth with bare feet and the pebbly one was a good additional one to try andto smell the bountiful herbs on the way around.. I kept seeing people returning to the labyrinth alone to work some of their aims over the weekend which was great.
We made use of the marque in the garrden on two evenings. One when we had a professional magic performance and the other was a sing along around a virtual camp-fire (and dance it turns out).
Each morning before breakfast there was the option to meditate around the fountain in the grounds, others chose to wander the grounds and explore, others had a lie in.
We also had a Qi gong session on one of the lawns which was interesting and a contrast to the yoga
We had a sponataneous yoga laughter workshop by popular demand and unplanned, on the lawns. It seems that absence made the heart grow stronger as it was with reluctance that people joined in last year.
We had a spontaneous peeble art session and left stones to remember our visit.
The mandala workshop was also very interesting followed by a yin yang yoga session.
Even the stroll into the nearby village about 15 minutes away was a pleasure as we picked up forgotten essentials and special treats from the local shops.
It was good to catch up with successful progress of some of the aims and projections made last year on things like the labyrinth meditation workshops and also good to see some people were able to bring problems to the sessions and find solutions. Can't wait for next year to see how they all work out.
Linz who was offering really reasonably priced therapies sold out and was working untill 10pm some evenings. People were gong back for seconds! we saw so little of her we began to suspect she had sneaked home.
Last year we had a didgeridoo demonstration as evening entertainment.
Not sure what it will be next year. We will definately be holding an extended version of our regular candlelight meditation evenings which incuded mediation, guided visualisation chanting and mantra for one of the evenings though.
As we are now offering more days/nights there will be more time to introduce lots of exciting things. So watch this space.
We already have bookings coming in for next year.....
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