Intro To Somatic Yoga with John Sander

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As yoga teachers, we understand the mind/body connection. 

We all probably have personal experience with stress affecting our autonomic nervous system and physical health. 

According to somatic therapy theory, sensations or memories associated with past trauma or other stressful events may become trapped within the body.

Today, we are chatting with John Sander about Somatic Yoga.

👉 What is somatic yoga?

👉 How somatic yoga works.

👉 How is it different than yoga therapy and regular therapy?

👉 Certifications and requirements for somatic yoga?

About John Sander

John became a therapist and a coach to help people navigate the struggles inherent in being human. Given his training and personal experience, he is uniquely qualified to guide and empower you to lead the life that you desire and deserve.

He has been in the business of helping people for 10 years. His training and experience is diverse, with an emphasis on neurobiology, neuroscience, attachment, mindfulness and somatic psychotherapy. He believes in the importance of an integrative approach and supporting you as a whole person. 

In addition to his training as a psychotherapist, he holds two certifications in yoga and one as a personal trainer. He has extensive knowledge of nutrition and understands its importance in emotional and physical wellbeing.

Work with John and invite him to a present as a guest workshop or teacher training presenter:  https://www.arraycounseling.com

Key Takeaways

[00:01] Intro to John Sander

[01:21] What is Somatic Yoga?

[03:52] The job of somatic psychotherapy

[06:50] Somatic movements vs. somatic psychotherapy

[07:56] The difference between Yoga Therapy and Somatic Yoga

[09:11] How somatic yoga made John a better yoga teacher

[09:29] Teaching yoga using the guns, the koshas, and becoming more sattvic

[14:25] The subtle body and somatic yoga

[16:28] Music in our yoga classes- distracting or helpful?

[22:58] How to get started working with somatic yoga

[24:10] John’s book recommendations

John’s Book Recommendations:

Yoga & Psyche: Integrating the Paths of Yoga and Psychology for Healing, Transformation, and Joy by Mariana Caplan

Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom by Rick Hanson

The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation by Stephen Porges

Getting Our Bodies Back by Christine Caldwell

Quotes from this episode

Somatic yoga basically emphasizes the practice of internal physical perception or the body as perceived from within. 

The way that we understand ourselves, honestly on a spiritual level, on a personal level, and mostly subconscious level comes out through our bodies.

So the job of somatic psychotherapy is to seek out through the body those pathways that have become either blocked or disconnected, to bring them up, to work with them and to put them back in a more optimal way. 

We’re trying to work to let the body inform the mind instead of the mind inform the body.

We believe that the memories, or the mental state, actually exists in the body first and then it imprints on the mind. 

When we become more embodied, or when we understand how we are from the inside out, we become better teachers. We are more connected to ourselves, more connected to the process, and more compassionate in the way that we put together classes.

The idea in yoga is to become united or free from those things that impede your freedom and walk more freely through the world. 

As a yoga teacher, you have students that encounter the same physical challenges again and again and again. It’s like butting your head up against a wall. And often times it’s not the physical body. There’s so many different layers of emotions and mental states.

As yoga teachers, the words we use, the tones we use, the tone of their voice affects the physical experience of our students and it’s literally processed in the lens of safe or not safe. Right? So we’re actually creating an experience for people that we don’t have a ton of control over, but we can be more conscious of what our impact can be on people simply by opening our mouth. 

I have a vision for what the human race can be and what I would love people to feel in their lives. And I think that in order to get there, it has to start moving beyond the distraction and beyond the outer layers and into the inner stuff. And that takes slowing down and less intensity. 

Yoga Nidra’s Transformational Power with Jenn Brennan

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iRest & Yoga Nidra can help people lean into their life regardless of the situation or circumstance and support them to discover that there is nothing to fix, heal or change.

Today, with Jenn Brennan, we are talking about Yoga Nidra’s healing effects:

👉 What is Yoga Nidra?

👉 The difference between Yoga Nidra and meditation

👉 The purpose of Yoga Nidra

👉 What yoga teachers should know about Yoga Nidra, iRest and the different Yoga Nidra practices/”styles”

👉 How Yoga Nidra can change your life and achieve transformation

About Jenn:

Jenn Brennan is a Holistic Health Practitioner who empowers women to discover a deep connection within themselves that unlocks more joy in their daily life. She is passionate about helping others in times of stress, transition & loss.

Check out Jenn’s online program: https://www.facebook.com/DeepRestore/

Visit Jenn online: http://www.yogabathandbody.com

Key Takeaways

[00:04] Introduction to Jen Brennan and Yoga Nidra

[00:43] What is Yoga Nidra?

[03:12] Is it normal to fall asleep in Yoga Nidra?

[04:47] What is the difference between Yoga Nidra and Meditation?

[05:45] Is your meditation practice benefiting those around you and yourself?

[09:04] Do certain types of meditation separate us?

[09:45] Yoga Nidra gives us a sense of connection.

[10:37] How Yoga Nidra translates from the supine state into the rest of our lives.

[14:08] The different “brands” of Yoga Nidra and how yoga teachers can get started.

[18:14] When is a good time to do Yoga Nidra?

[19:17] Why you sleep so well after Yoga Nidra.

[22:22] Resources Jenn recommends for Yoga Nidra.

[25:27] How Jenn uses Yoga Nidra in her classes and yoga business.

Quotes from this episode

Yoga Nidra takes you from the waking state, the thinking state, all the way through the different levels of the brain waves that release you into deep relaxation.

With Yoga Nidra, we want to be able to navigate through these different layers of brain wave states and still be aware.

It can be super challenging for people to enter into a Yoga Nidra if they’re used to being on the go all the time because we actually invite in deep relaxation by laying down and resting and stillness so that they can enter into the deeper states where healing can happen and more awareness can shine through. 

Another difference between Yoga Nidra and regular meditation is that it’s a deep practice of welcoming and also befriending life in the body. 

I’ll never forget the moment when I was drinking a cup of tea and for some reason Oprah was on Super Soul Sunday and somebody said, “if your meditation practice is not benefiting those around you, it’s not very powerful.”

When I heard that, I realized my form of meditation was causing more separation. I could only find meditation in specific states. I had to have stillness in order for it to feel like it was working. 

And yet Yoga Nidra is you walking in life, walking through life, feeling everything as it is.

Is your meditation feeding you in a way that you’re a more kinder, more compassionate person, not just towards others, but towards yourself? 

Because if we’re not careful, we can use our meditation as a medication from feeling real life. 

And we all know that the more we put up the resistance patterns of just not meeting ourselves in our meditation practice, then we put that out into the world of not being able to meet the world is it comes to us on an ongoing basis. 

The principle behind the Yoga Nidra and particularly iRest, is that everybody is wanting to feel a sense of connection, a sense of belonging, a sense of being seen and a sense of being heard. 

And so if we are integrating that into the Yoga Nidra or into our meditation practice, there’s a very good chance that it’s going to create a more expansive state. 

iRest protocol is a step by step process to feel into each of these layers of our being so that we can integrate back to the true remembrance of wholeness that we are. 

It’s trying to lead you into a place where you remember that your true nature is really this wellbeing of vitality, of joy and of love. 

The more you practice Yoga Nidra, the more the practice remembers you. It becomes part of your life. It lives through you.

Jenn’s Book Recommendations

The iRest Program for Healing PTSD by Richard Miller

Daring to Rest by Karen Brody

Yoga Nidra: The Art of Transformational Sleep by Kamini Desai

“It Is What Is” – Maintaining Your Body-Mind Connection in the Present Moment

About Elaine:

Elaine has been interested in yoga since she was a teenager, practicing since 1981 and teaching yoga since 1999. Elaine Schuhrke holds an MAT from Colorado College and is certified through the International Association of Yoga Therapists. She is also a certified Life Coach. She revels in introducing the practical, healing applications of yoga to people in every walk of life. Most of her yoga training has been in the Kripalu Lineage.

When you attend one of Elaine’s classes, schedule a private session or contract her for services with your business, you are sure to receive a personal and professionally competent experience that best fits the areas of your needs and concerns and aspects of your life where you feel you need the most assistance.

You can learn more about Elaine at ColoradoYogaDipika.com.

Let’s start the interview!

Allison: Let’s get started! One of the things that I know you’re really passionate about is helping people with the, um, with your upcoming program, which is going to be focused on reestablishing that brain body emotion connection. Is that correct?

Elaine: Oftentimes in our regular, everyday ordinary life, something happens that’s an upset, whatever it might be. It might be something that really makes you angry or irritates you and you find yourself completely distracted. And you find yourself four blocks away from your house and you get to the second stop sign and you think, “How’d I get here?”

Your mind is taking your attention and running off with it. This happens in bigger ways where months go by and you’re like, “how did I get here?”

What I love about yoga is that it teaches us to stay present and focused with what’s going on in front of you without resistance and without attraction. And we can do this with a tool we have every single day – your body.

Allison: There’s a stigma around yoga teachers. Our students, friends and family may look at us and think we have our lives together. We “figured it all out” and we don’t have any problems. But that’s really not true. We get just as distracted as everyone else, we sometimes end up at a stop sign 4 blocks away too. But the difference is we have the tools of yoga to bring us back on track. Yoga helps brings us into this awareness that we are 4 blocks away. Some people may “drive” for miles without noticing but yoga brings us back quicker.

Allison: So I know that you have a retreat coming up where you’re going to help people reestablish this balance and learn to stay in the present moment. What are you going to be doing at the retreat and is it open for everyone?

Elaine: This retreat is open to all levels but we aren’t going to do Hatha Yoga 24/7. It’s a Friday evening, all day Saturday and a half day on Sunday. I adjust the yoga class to the people who come. I have taught yoga to a wide variety of people over the space of 20 years. I’ve come out of public education. And before that I was the lift operator and a construction labor. I’ve gotten really good at making yoga accessible to just about anyone.

Allison: Can you attend if you can’t touch your toes?

Elaine: Of course!!!! The only way people will benefit from yoga is if they do it. You can sit in a chair or in the front seat of your car (with it in park) and, and practice yoga.

Yoga is more than just asana and the postures. I’ve been doing a lot of mudras with my class recently because I work with students who are not very ambulatory. I can’t put them in a dangerous situation because of their balance issues.

But I can teach them mudras that energetically help them align and energetically balance their physical, mental, and emotional states. It is such a rich understanding of how human bodies work in relation to the universe. It is continually fascinating to me.

So many people who come to me for yoga do it for free stress reduction of some sort. They, they realize they have disconnected from something and they want that connection back. They, they know that it’s there and they want that.

We can help them find that through the power of yoga.

Allison: This retreat sounds like it can help people re-balance their body, mind and soul and learn to come back into connection. Tell me more about the retreat- What’s included in the retreat?

Elaine: On Saturday morning, we will start with a Hatha class and a wonderful vegetarian breakfast which is included in the price. The Abbey staff makes wonderful vegetarian fare!

Then, we’re going to use a technique out of yoga therapy that integrative Amrit method calls energy diffusion technique. We use the felt sense of your body to become more present and put your attention on some outstanding sensation and work at that edge consciously and deliberately using your breath and practicing what I like to call nonresistance, just being present with it as it is and allowing it to be in your presence and you to be in its presence.

Our body typically avoids these sensations that we feel in our body and judges them as bad. But when we bring awareness to this area, your mind becomes familiar with that quality of sensation and your conscious attention activates the intelligence of Prana.

Prana is energetic intelligence. It’s not just fuel, it’s intelligence.

It’s running your body all the time. So we want to use Prana to our advantage, to dissolve and resolve mental and emotional blocks that you may carry in your body. We use Prana to dissolve and resolve the blocks that your mind keeps on saying, no, I don’t want to deal with that.

That will be the majority of the work on Saturday. We’ll do some yoga nidra on Saturday night to wrap up, then go out for dinner on your own.

On Sunday morning, we will have morning yoga, breakfast and another session to tie things together and expand upon some of the things that people have experienced.

One of the things about yoga is that if you haven’t experienced it then you’re only talking about it.

That’s intellectual understanding. That’s nice. But it’s not application and it’s the application of yoga that has effect . When you can feel that you can know through experience – that stays with you. It’s not that you memorized all the Sanskrit terms for 108 Sun Salutations. Yoga happens when you have it in your body.

To really experience it in your body, find a pose that you really need and hold it for at least three breaths. Come out of the pose. Feel the release of that Prana that was dammed up in the pose and relax with it and use your breath to keep your mind’s attention on experiencing that expansion of energy because the energy of your body follows the attention of your mind. And by putting your mind’s attention where your body is, not only do you conserve your energy more and more, but the level of energy in your body goes up and washes out some of these mental, emotional, habitual holdings in our body.

And that’s the other reason you’ll usually feel better after a yoga session.

Allison: You’re so amazing! Where is the retreat held?

Elaine: It’s at the Abbey in Canon City off of Highway 50. It’s a former Benedictine monastery. Monks aren’t there anymore. It’s now privately held. My yoga studio is onsite at that campus. This retreat will be held in the Abbey’s room in the community events center You go around the church part of the monastery and in the back there’s a rather modern looking building that’s the event center and there’ll be signs on the stop signs and stuff directing people where to go.

Allison: When and how can people register?

Elaine: The deadline for registering is this Sunday, April 21. If you’re interested, make sure that you visit my website and either call me or email me.
The amount is $195. There is lodging at the Abbey that’s very inexpensive and you can reserve with the lodging and events coordinator, Leslie Durham. That information is on the event flyer on my website.

Hope you enjoyed Elaine, I sure did! Until next time,

Allison
Yoga Teachers of Colorado – President

A Call for Change

Repost from Yoga International

Currently, instructors who lead Yoga Alliance 200-hour teacher trainings are not required to have any background in accessible yoga or adaptation. The only requirement is that the lead teacher trainer be a registered teacher with Yoga Alliance at the 200-hour experienced level (an E-RYT). This means that there are probably many yoga teacher trainers who lack knowledge in how to make yoga accessible.

At the present time, Yoga Alliance is undertaking a teacher training Standards Review Project. Many people within the accessible yoga community sincerely hope that Yoga Alliance will add the teaching of accessible yoga practice adaptations as a curriculum requirement for completing teacher training. The long overdue inclusion of this requirement is essential—not only to keep students safe, but to make practitioners of all abilities feel welcome in classes, both as students and as potential teachers of yoga.

Read the entire article here: https://yogainternational.com/article/view/the-need-for-accessible-yoga-in-yoga-teacher-trainings

Mandala Flow Yoga Sequence

As yoga teachers, we can get pretty burned out teaching the same flow over and over again. I mean, seriously, how many sun salutations can we teach in a day???? 

Our students can feel pretty burned out as well. Often, I see my students “going through the motions” rather than actually taking the time to mindfully move.

This Mandala Flow is super fun and breaks the rut for teachers and students!

HOW TO TEACH

This is a powerful sequence that you can teach as quickly or as slowly as you’d like.

I typically work through the full mandala (both sides) slowly the first round. This allows the students to learn what we’re doing, deepen into the poses and I can cue the kośa allowing them to experience more mental and emotional benefits (see below).

On the second round, we move faster, with our breath (see cues below). We may go through it 1-3 times depending on how everyone is feeling.

This sequence is challenging and powerful, not only for your students but for you as a teacher.

I usually demo while I teach this sequence to keep my Right and Left sides straight. On the first round, as you demo, move around the room so the class can see you. For example, if you ask your students to face the side wall, then you move to the side wall so they can see the next few moves. When they face the back wall, move to the back wall so they can see the form for a Warrior III.

On the faster rounds, you won’t have time to move around the room so keep it easy and demo and cue from the front of your mat. Make sure to keep your Right and Left sides straight!

MAKE IT YOUR OWN

Change up this mandala flow to make it your own. Sometimes, I add a Goddess pose instead of Wide Leg Forward Fold. Sometimes, I add a Balancing Half Moon or Warrior III squats to increase the intensity. The options are endless! Just make sure your sequence creates a circle around the mat.
When you teach this sequence in your next class, tell me how much your students love it by tagging me on Instagram! Have fun ya’ll!

As yoga teachers, we can get burned out teaching the same flow over and over again. This super fun Mandala Flow breaks the rut for teachers and students!

CUES WITH BREATH

*note: This is just an example. Feel free to move and cue with your own breath.

Mountain Pose

Inhale arms above head

Exhale Forward Fold

Inhale Half Lift

Exhale Forward Fold

Inhale step left leg back, pause for an exhale

Inhale rise up to High Lunge, pause for an exhale

Inhale straighten front leg

Exhale turn to the side into 5-pointed star

Inhale deeply and exhale into Wide Leg Forward Fold

Inhale twist to the right, exhale fold

Inhale twist to the left, exhale fold

Inhale rise up

Exhale twist to the back of your mat

Inhale arms up

Exhale Left High Lunge

Inhale fully

Exhale hands to heart

Inhale lift the back leg off the ground

Exhale Warrior III

Inhale fully

Exhale Forward Fold

Inhale step left leg straight back, pause for an exhale

Inhale rise up to High Lunge, pause for an exhale

Inhale straighten front leg

Exhale turn to the side into 5-pointed star

Inhale deeply and exhale into Wide Leg Forward Fold

Inhale rise up

Exhale twist to the front of your mat

Inhale Left Warrior II, exhale pause

Inhale Reverse Warrior II

Exhale flow through a vinyasa

Repeat on the other side

CUING THROUGH THE KOŚA’S

Allow your students to move beyond the poses and into the mental and emotional aspects of the practice by cuing through the kośa’s. Click here to learn about the kośa’s.

  • I love teaching this sequence because it allows the students to experience a change in perception. Have they ever noticed the back wall? What else are they missing in life that is “right behind them?”
  • People in the back row suddenly get to experience life in the front row (and your front row people learn about life in the back). Encourage your students to think about other areas of their life where they may need a change in perspective.
  • When your students turn to face the back wall, challenge them to listen to your cues rather than watch your demo. Ask them questions about how well they listen in life. Can they hear the cues or are they easily distracted?

Ayurvedic Flu Remedy

Natural Remedies to Help Fight the Flu

Sarasvati Buhrman, Ph.D., Ayurvedic Medicine and Classical Yoga Therapy, 5757 Central Ave, Ste 210   Boulder, CO 80301 303 443 6923

As almost everyone is aware by now, this year’s flu shots have been less effective than they usually are in preventing the flu. This also means that for those who don’t usually take them, the “herd immunity” provided by those who do will not be in effect.

While the efficacy of herbs in treating various ailments continues to be favorably studied, and sometimes even results in the discovery of new properties that we traditional medicine practitioners were unaware of, these results rarely attract media coverage. (as an example, I have pasted below from PubMed the abstract from the 2000 clinical elderberry trial in Norway, one of the earliest elderberry-for-the-flu studies.) Thus communities without an active holistic health network are sometimes deprived of knowing about simple and safe remedies that could be of great benefit.

I have listed below remedies drawn from several natural health care traditions. While these should not be considered “cures,” they have been used effectively either to enhance prevention, or to reduce to the severity of the illness.  The following recommendations are not intended to be an exhaustive list, they are simply the ones with which I am most familiar.

Prevention:  The Chinese herb astragalus (contraindicated with blood thinners, immuno-supressant drugs, and serious autoimmune conditions) is popularly used to enhance the immune system. Lysine (an amino acid) appears to increase resistance to viral illnesses by strengthening the connective tissue, especially in the sinuses.  Both of these are intended to be taken during times when exposure risks are high. Both are available in veggie caps in health food stores.  In addition, coconut oil, which also has anti-viral properties, can be used Ayurvedically to rub inside the nose as an antidote to winter dryness.

Treatments:

  • • My favorite is black elderberry, long a European remedy. It is available in health food stores in liquid form as “elderberry extract” or “elderberry syrup.”  Dosage varies according to the strength of the preparation, usually 2 T. or less every 3-4 hours. (Do not eat the wild berries raw–they are not considered safe for consumption until properly prepared—in extract/syrup form the herb is considered very safe).  A clinical study done later than the one below reported that recovery time from the flu was reduced by approximately 50%.
  • • The Ayurvedic herb tulsi (“holy basil”) is traditionally used to treat respiratory infections, and is taken as a tea or a decoction. Teabags are available in health food stores (Om organics makes several tulsi  tea combinations in tea bags—my preferred combo for infectious illnesses is tulsi jasmine, (however jasmine is not recommended during pregnancy, and lots of tulsi may not be safe with blood thinners). Add a bit of honey, and drink frequently.
  • • Small amounts of the Ayurvedic herbs turmeric, licorice root, and garlic are also considered helpful adjuvants (caution for pregnancy)
  • • For students of Ayurveda,  influenza is described in one of our ancient texts as “vata-kapha jwar.”  Fasting using boiled water or boiled light herbal teas (eg. tulsi) is recommended, until the appetite returns.
  • • Although I have never personally used it, a colleague in California recommends the homeopathic remedy, Oscillococcinum.  She reports having used it during several late winter residential Yoga teacher trainings in which one or more participants had the flu.  Her experience is that it is quite effective in reducing symptoms and duration, but only if taken in the first day of illness.
  • Finally, and most importantly, if your symptoms are severe, please seek medical attention.

________________________________________________

Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections.

Zakay-Rones Z1, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J.

Author information

Abstract

Elderberry has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat influenza, colds and sinusitis, and has been reported to have antiviral activity against influenza and herpes simplex. We investigated the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry syrup for treating influenza A and B infections. Sixty patients (aged 18-54 years) suffering from influenza-like symptoms for 48 h or less were enrolled in this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study during the influenza season of 1999-2000 in Norway. Patients received 15 ml of elderberry or placebo syrup four times a day for 5 days, and recorded their symptoms using a visual analogue scale. Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo. Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza. These findings need to be confirmed in a larger study.

PMID: 15080016 DOI: 10.1177/147323000403200205

Thinking Twice: Our “Second” Brain

Most people are unaware that we have a “second” brain, located in our gut. Yet how many times have we heard the admonition, “Trust your gut?”

 

There is good reason for this. Known as the enteric nervous system (ENS), this second brain is part of the autonomic nervous system. ENS reacts to emotions, receives and sends impulses, and records experiences. It doesn’t have thoughts like our brains, yet the ENS can affect our moods and our thoughts.

 

Sheaths of neurons are embedded in the alimentary canal. They run some nine meters end-to-end from the esophagus to the anus. There are more neurons in the alimentary canal as part of the ENS than in the brain or the spinal cord. Wow! Who would have ever guessed?

 

Most of the ENS work is done in the digestive process, yet it has also been tied to abdominal epilepsy and abdominal migraines, and most recently, research as being one of the causes of autism.

 

Our center of gravity, the hara, lies just below the navel. We talk about “listening to our gut” and living our authenticity” from our core.

 

The good news is that the belly is an important center of energy and of consciousness. In yoga and in Buddhism, many of thedevas and icons have large bellies, thought to be full of prāna.

 

Since abdomen is a sacred space in our bodies, we would do well to stop being judgmental about how it appears and shift to respecting how it feels. Now that sounds good to me.

 

 

 

What’s It All About?

Please note the ideas in the following article may not reflect the opinion of YTOC. These are my personal insights, shared by my dear friend Pat Hansen and other yoga teachers.

Yoga Teacher
Registered Teacher
Certified Teacher
Yoga Stretching

What is in the Name, the Words, the Essence of Yoga? ? ?

So much is currently happening in the yoga world. Studios are popping up all over the Denver Metro area. More and more people are becoming teachers. With all of the rapid growth, what is happening to Yoga?

Last year someone told me their girlfriend went to work at Recreational Center in Denver. Her first assignment was to teach a yoga class. When she responded that she had not studied yoga, the Director of the Center responded, “Go in and do some stretching, no one will know the difference.” I personally gasped at hearing this story.

A couple days ago, I received information on a program program offered in Denver that allows people to do a sixteen hour training, teach eight hours and receive a Yoga Teacher’s Certificate. I am very concerned.

The Yoga Alliance worked diligently for several years deciding on how to define “minimum standards” to be considered a Registered Yoga Teacher. Representatives from thirteen different schools and yoga organizations (including YTOC) gave input. The standards include study in the following areas: 30 hours in Yoga Philosophy and Lifestyle, 20 hours in Anatomy and Physiology , 20 hours of Teaching Methodology, 10 hours of Practice Teach, 30 Elective hours and most important 100 hours of Techniques which include asana, pranayama and meditation.

Can someone without this much training teach yoga? Yes. Should they be able to call themselves a “registered” teacher? No. Should they be able to call themselves “certified?” I don’t know. Certified has two meanings. The first is to “prove by certificate.” This the person has done — they have completed what the organizer presented. The second meaning of certified is “guaranteed, reliably endorsed.” Would I consider someone with a minimal amount of training “reliably endorsed?” No, I cannot say I would “reliably endorse” a teacher with only a sixteen hour training.

Why all the training hours? I feel there is a dramatic difference between yoga and just moving into the position of a pose (which I am going to language as stretching for this article). I feel in a short training, stretching is emphasized more than yoga. It is the position they are teaching. The difference in a yoga pose and merely stretching is more than the Spiritual component. It includes — well, let me be specific:

oYogasana focuses on a single, comparatively slow contraction of isolated muscles followed by relaxation. Stretching is often a repeated, sometimes vigorous succession of contractions and expansions.

oToning and strengthening in yogasana comes from the consciousness of working specific intrinsic muscle groups in a sustained manner. The purpose of stretching is more frequently used to balance an aerobic or weight workout or lengthen muscles after they have been challenged.

oYoga isolates muscle groups and draws the practitioners attention to relax muscles which do not pertain to the asana. Stretching is often more focused on the goal, rather than the details. How often in life do we flex into something we don’t need to be concerned about? Asana becomes a practice of identifying the priority muscles (life experience) and letting the other muscles(and life experience) go.

oStretching is not normally organized in a sequential format to balance the external and internal bodies. Yoga is taught in a format to work the body thoroughly, both externally and internally.

oThe slow gradual movements of yoga places no strain on the heart. Strenuous stretching can strain the heart.

oStretching focuses on attaining an external goal. Yoga is an experience of the journey. Often, when we attain the “goal,” we discover an internal fine tuning which invites us to explore the asana with a different perspective and alignment.

oYoga is as much about mobility as flexibility. Tuning into the interconnectedness of all parts of the body enhances both mobility and flexibility. Stretching, with the goal of only flexibility in a specific position, can compromise mobility in other movements. An example of this is working a forward bend to touch the toes, often straining the hamstrings and psoas, limiting motion in other movements. Yoga would explore the forward bend from the lengthening of the low back and gluteal muscles supporting the elongation of the psoas, creating a stable core and more mobility.

oYou can’t stretch and already tight muscle. In stretching, reaching for a goal creates a tightness of the muscle. Yoga uses the integration of breath to massage the muscles, softening the tissues of the body and inviting the continued elongation through gentleness. Our bodies like gentleness.

oStretching works the skeletal muscles. Yoga works the intrinsic muscles, organs and glands.

oStretching and exercise is often presented in a competitive format. Yoga emphasizes tranquility, harmony and no competition.

oStretching is designed to balance the physical. Yoga is designed to effect the mental and Spiritual.

oThe whole theory of yogic anatomy, balancing the nadis, chakras and the inner body is a concept foreign to the fitness world. The integration of inner flow of yoga empowers the asana practice.

oAsana is defined as “sthira sukham asanam,” a steady comfortable position. The definition includes a steadiness of body, breath and mind. Stretching does not include this perspective.

oBreathing practices, or for more advanced practitioners, pranayama, are integral to yogasana practice. I personally teach “breath proceeds movement.” The breath opens, massages and aligns the body, preparing it to move into expressing the asana. Stretching does not emphasize an integrated breath.

oYogasana is about accumulating energy rather than spending energy. A practice properly done allows a practitioner to walk away feeling like they have added energy. Stretching can leave a person feeling they have expended energy.

oRelaxed efficiency is another way to define the body process of a yogasana practice. Yoga is not about cooling down after a workout. It is more than an alternative to a workout. It is a practice for living life, relaxed and efficient.

oYoga is an analogy for living. If we are competitive on the mat, we are probably competitive in other areas of our life. If we are judging ourself, we probably do this in life. If we nitpicking our poses, we probably nitpick our life. Stretching misses the vital opportunity to enhance self awareness.

oRama Jyoti Vernon said, “When you put away your practice mat, your true yoga begins.” Yoga goes beyond the mat. It is more than stretching, it is an opportunity to gain tools to live your life fully. The other day a student came up to me to share how yoga made a difference. She realized she had a rock in her shoe. She was excited because she actually felt her feet. More important, rather than ignoring the rock (which she would have done at one time) she stopped and took the rock out! Silly? No. She was willing to honor her body! Do you? Do you even feel it? The awareness of yoga invites you to listen and take care of yourself so other things you do become an overflow.

Understanding how the body is impacted anatomically and in the subtle body are essential. Yogasana are powerful. I have made myself sick from improper choices of asana and pranayama. A teacher needs to be able to evaluate the students and adapt the class to create safety for the students. Stretching classes do not emphasize the power to honor the moment.

In the Puranas, it is said, “Shiva manipulated his body into 840,000 ways, each represented a different bird or beast. These asanas, energized the body, revealing the pulsating animal instincts within, the ones that have to be brought under control.” Merely moving into a position does not necessarily open the door for someone to bring their instincts under control.

The many points listed above are elements you can’t pick up in a short training. They come from learning to be present for yourself, practicing and fine tuning each asana until they become second nature. The many “hours” of training, whether done through a professional program, or through your own life experience are a key to Yoga.

Have you been inclusive of the “whole” of Yoga in your training and teaching experience? Are your students learning to stretch or are they learning the depth and breadth of yoga? How do you define yourself — a Teacher, Registered or Certified? How do you feel having people listed as Certified teachers with only a sixteen hour training plus eight hours of teaching?

How can we keep the integrity in Yoga?

 

This article was first published in 2010.

Arthritis Diet from Indra Devi

Indra Devi gave this diet to me during the Unity in Yoga’s Peace Conference in Jerusalem January, 1995. Mataji Indra Devi is called the “mother of Yoga” as she was the first woman teacher in the western hemisphere. Currently 102 years young and quite healthy, she is living in Buenos Aires, Argentina where she has over 2000 weekly students at her 6 major centers. Mataji claimed that 90% of those people who followed this diet get relief from their symptoms within ten days.

For ten days eat a diet consisting only of 90% whole grain (brown or basmati) rice and 10% of any type of cooked squash. Cook one cup of rice for two cups of water. Every spoonful of rice is to be chewed at least 50 times until only a watery gruel remains in the mouth. Every two hours between meals have a relaxing non-caffeine tea. During the diet consume no other foods – no coffee, sugar or condiments. Drink as much water as you can.

Be prepared for your body’s release of toxins that are the cause of the arthritis. This may take the form of headaches, body pains, constipation, moodiness, irritability, etc. Practice being present to yourself and do not medicate yourself to avoid your feelings with addictive substances – sugar, caffeine, food cravings – nor avoid your true feelings by watching excessive TV or seeking other sensory stimulation. Take plenty of water and herbal teas. You might consult an herbalist or take a Bach flower remedy (see me for a personal formula) to assist with the emotional or mental difficulties that may arise.

If there is pain from the arthritis symptoms, take a raw potato and slice it to the size of the painful area. Lay the flesh of the potato against the painful site and tie it there with gauze. Let it stay until the potato becomes hard then replace it with another. This can be done during the day though it is especially good for overnight use.

If there is inflammation, apply a milk compress (a small towel soaked in milk) at room temperature. For fever apply a vinegar and water compress on the shin and calf area down to the foot. Wrap your lower legs fully to retain the moisture then lay in a warm bed and within four hours the fever will be gone.

If you become constipated take an enema or one tablespoon of castor oil just prior to bed.

Following this an anti-pitta regimen (to lessen heat and inflammation) is recommended for your regular routine – eliminate all night shades (potato, tomato, eggplant, bell pepper, and tobacco) and spicy foods. This will help you to identify the most likely aggravating foods and activities. More details can be found in Ayurvedic Healing by David Frawley or other Ayurvedic books.

Asanas, Koshas & Elements: An Essential Relationship: by Mark Giubarelli

“The five elements and Koshas are essential to your proper understanding of this art. You cannot understand balance of harmony if you do not perceive all these layers and elements.” That is what my teachers told me in my earlier years. Many thousands of classes down the road and the clarification has come. Not only has the clarity come, but with it is the ability to give a clear presentation of these theories and concepts to people, even those with no understanding of yoga.
It is complicated to write about these matters and how they are viewed in the yoga postures. So I will just touch upon them. The elements start with the heaviest: earth–skin, bone, and flesh;water—fluids in the body; fire–mental charge that is applied to the body; Air–the air in the body; Space–viewed by my teachers as mental presence. The Five Bodies (Koshas) starting with the heaviest: Anatomical Body; Physiological Body; Psychological Body; Intellectual Body; Blissful Body.

It is necessary to consider each body; otherwise it is almost impossible to reach a blissful state in not only the Yoga posture being performed but also on the sequence and transitioning from posture to posture. We can think of the five bodies like this while in a posture. How is the bone structure? Can I push any further? What effect does this have on my nervous system and mind? How does this posture affect my breathing? Is there that state of lightness in the pose where I am engulfed in light and that light is engulfed in me…where I am no longer inside or out…where I am one with the light that is all around me?
I hope you can attend this presentation talking first about the theories above and then applying those theories to a Yoga Sequence. (Note: Sanskrit left out.)

Mark has taught thousands of classes in the Denver Area, specializing in Vinyasa style, the art of sequencing. He is originally from Scotland, where he began the study of Yoga that eventually carried him to further studies in California and a teaching life in Colorado.