Yoga teacher orientation!!!

So I’ve been prepping for this for months and it is finally here… Yoga teacher training!!!  I wasn’t nervous for the program until the orientation we had this past Friday night.  Now I’m terrified for all sorts of reasons.  It feels like the first day of school again; we’ve got homework, mentor meetings, bonus points for class participation, etc.  I don’t quite know what to expect yet, so I am just getting through it one step at a time.  I wanted to share with you all some useful information that came up through one of my first assignments.  After this, I will try to post twice a week, breaking down poses step by step so you can try them at home!

  1. Why do we chant Om? We chant Om as an invocation to our practice (at the beginning) and to seal the practice (at the end). Om is the sound of all things, and when we chant it we vibrate at the same frequency as all things and awaken their energy. It is the sound associated with the sixth chakra (third eye).
  2. Why do you think it is important to keep a beginner’s mind? We are all beginners until we reach Samadhi (enlightenment) – a state that many of us may never reach. Some people may be predisposed to learning asanas (poses) quickly, but even the most athletic among us can always learn something new. This could be from a guru, or a new teacher, or even our peers or our own students. Keeping an open mind is what allows us to abandon our old thought patterns, which opens us up to expansion. Be humble (cue Kendrick).
  3. What makes your practice Spiritual?  I don’t think I’ve ever truly learned to relax. My mind is constantly going at 100mph, and I’ve never been able to turn that off. Enter yoga. Like most people, my first serious venture into yoga consisted of practicing the asanas. While not spiritual in and of itself, I found that these sessions were the first time I could truly quiet my mind. For 60-90 minutes, I could focus on nothing else but the mat underneath me and the sound of my teacher’s voice.
  4. What does Surya Namaskar mean? Why do we practice it?  Surya Namaskar is what we know as the sun salutations. We are essentially paying our respects to the sun. We bow to the “giver of light”. We bow to the “creator of all things”. We should practice Surya Namaskar in the morning.

    Practice this 12-step sequence every day!
  5. Patanjali says that asana must be alert and relaxed. What do you understand this to mean?  I think the key here is balance. Yoga is about maintaining balance. The sun and the moon. The yin and the yang. Yoga (or yuj) means connection, and it is the literal marriage of the two halves (alertness and relaxation). While the ultimate goal is enlightment, we need to consciously strive to achieve this.
  6. What is Sanskrit? Why do we chant in Sanskrit?  Sanskrit is the ancient language in India in which most (if not all) of the sacred texts are written in.  The language is sacred and holds the purest meaning of the words within it. A piece is lost when you relate Eastern ideas to Western vernacular.
  7. Our injuries are often our greatest teachers. Please explain what yours have taught you.  This is quite true! In college, I developed severe tendonitis in my wrists due to cheerleading. When I first started yoga, in my pride I rushed to advance quickly before learning the proper alignment to protect my body. I started to feel the tendonitis coming back on and had to slow down and ask for help. This was my first lesson in humility and in being a student always.
  8. Is breath Prana? Please explain.  Well, this sounds like a trick question so I am going to go ahead and say no :).  Rather, Google tells me that prana is the universal life force, or the energy that animates the lungs. We practice pranayama so we can learn to harness this life force.
  9. What is the most unpleasant yoga pose for you?  I feel like there are probably a few that fall in the unpleasant category, but the one that keeps coming to mind as I ponder this is revolved triangle. I mean. Yes. I can get “into” the thing. Some teachers have jedi tricked my body into better form here than others, but I don’t think I’ve ever truly felt ease in this pose. I need to severely concentrate to maintain breath and proper alignment. Also, as a former dancer, I rely on a mirror to know when I am doing something right or wrong. It helps me self-correct and the lack of a mirror in classes makes me feel out of my depth in this particular pose.

    Please enjoy this stock photo of revolved triangle pose as I figure out where to take my own pictures and videos 🙂
  10. Do you think yoga teachers need to possess certain qualities?  Yes, though is no set formula to be a yoga teacher.  Patience is probably above all others, as is the case in any student-teacher relationship. Relatability is another big one. People of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds will be attending your classes, and while one can’t expect to reasonably appeal to all of them, being able to relate on some level is important. Good communication skills and confidence probably come with the territory too, and kindness to all!
  11. What is good sequencing? Design a sequence around a pose that you are interested in.  Good sequencing prepares the body for what is about to go down.

    Note: this is obvi not for beginners, but everyone can follow the below sequence up until their comfort level.  Will try to post a vid shortly.
  12. To get into flying pigeon:
    1. Start in regular pigeon
    2. Kick back into three-legged dog
    3. Walk hands back to feet while in 3LD into standing splits
    4. One hand on hip, rise slowly to balance on one foot while knee raised in other
    5. Cross raised ankle over standing knee for chair variation in a Figure 4 configuration
    6. Fold torso over legs into crow hands
    7. Secure shin across crow elbows, hooking toe for extra stability
    8. Lean into arm balance
    9. When comfortable, extend free leg into the air in line with torso
    10. Smile! You did it! … And now you’ve got another side to do 🙂
  13. The best teachers are the best students. How do you feel about being a student? I welcome being a student. In fact, after some of the early lessons in humility that I learned through yoga, I try to approach every single class as if I am learning the moves for the first time. A million and one downward dogs later, and I still find something new in the posture every time.
  14. BKS Iyengar says that backbends address fear. Why do you think that is? I can attest to this as a former cheerleader who still can’t do a back handspring after all these years. You are literally trusting in what you cannot see. You are placing immense faith in yourself and your ability to protect yourself. You are facing that fear of the unknown by meeting its challenge head-on.
  15. What is Savasana and why is it practiced at the end of class? Savasana is our final resting pose. As the eight limbs of yoga guide us through our lives to an eventual enlightenment and resting, so too does the savasana. It brings us from the physical asana to the mental meditative state.
  16. What does Selfless Service or Seva have to do with Yoga?  I believe that Seva and Karma Yoga are intrinsically linked. Yoga of action inspires us to do work for the good of others without any expectation of repayment. This is how we shed our karma from past lives.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Milton says:

    Congratulations on starting your journey to become a yoga instructor!!! That’s so exciting!! It also sounds complicated! I guess it’s more than just learning poses, lol! I’m looking forward to learning basics as you go along! Good luck!


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