What Advanced Studies Has Meant to Me
by Chika Okoye
Yoga is about not staying the same. We practice yoga in order to transform, change and challenge ourselves, to grow as we move toward what scares us and away from habitual patterns that keep us feeling small. One of the amazing things about yoga is that no matter what the level or length of your practice, you’ll always face new challenges and meet opportunities to go deeper. For me at this moment, going deeper means taking part in Laughing Lotus Advanced Studies. This is a series of weekend intensives being offered at Laughing Lotus SF this spring. Taken all together, it’s a 100 hour teacher training, meaning I’ll be able to move up to RYT-300 from my 200 hour training, but the real draw for me is the chance to grow – to not stay where I’ve been – as a yoga practitioner and teacher.
Each visiting teacher has seemed incredibly at home with themselves. It’s easy to trust, to feel at ease, to learn from people like that. Sarah Tomlinson has a great laugh and a sense of humor about yoga and Ayurveda and life. She taught us how to determine our spiritual nature, dharma (path in life), and area of imbalance, advocating that we try on different practices and feel into answers for ourselves. I came away with an understanding of planetary influences and how to remedy specific imbalances like too much coldness (governed by the moon) or too much heaviness (Jupiter out of balance), plus a lot of excitement and empowerment about finding balance for myself.
Sheri Celentano brought alive the spirit of tapas (yogic self-discipline and facing what’s difficult) through her arm balance and inversion weekend. She emphasized that it’s important to do your best (abhyasa), but equally important to then let it go and not fixate on outcomes (the sister concept of vairagya). As homework for that weekend, I sequenced an advanced class that I felt intimidated to teach, but found that I already had the skills and knowledge to do it. I was actually excited to figure it out and then practice it.
Arturo Peal brought decades of experience in Chinese medicine, acupuncture, cranio-sacral therapy, and yoga therapeutics to share with us during his weekend, plus a ton of personal stories and case histories. I loved his admonition that “deeper is not always better” – something to think about in asana practice. I gained insight into how connective tissue works in the body; turns out everything really is connected! He taught us to assist students in restorative poses by first asking, Do they need space or support? He showed us the healing power of gentle yoga.
Mary Dana Abbott described the term “assist,” where a teacher helps a student experience greater possibility within a pose, as opposed to “adjustment”, where a teacher may try to mold a student’s body to an idea of a shape. She gave wonderful and simple techniques for being a grounded presence in the room while teaching, for sharing touch with confidence, and for helping to create more space for breath in students’ bodies. I left that workshop so excited to connect with students in a new way, and I’m now offering more assists to more people, from a more confident place.
Advanced Studies has taken me deeper into my practice of teaching and thrown light on how I’d like to continue to develop. The 40 hours I’ve spent so far (and I’m not even halfway through!) have been hugely rewarding. I feel thrilled to practice everything I’ve learned, to try on things that scare me, to keep practicing and getting to know myself, to become ever more comfortable with myself as a teacher. These weekend intensives have been a huge assist to me, helping me to feel greater possibility, to stretch into new areas, to not stay the same.
To learn more about the Advanced Studies program, open to anyone interested in going deeper in their yoga practice, visit Advanced Studies & Continuing Ed. There are several more intensives being offered in 2013 – including Lotus Yin Yoga, Bhakti Yoga & Kirtan, Family Yoga (pre-natal and kids), Teaching to At Risk Youth, and Restorative Yoga & Healing Touch. Sign up online or by calling the center (415) 355-1600.
by Roche Janken
I find asana practice absolutely delightful! Physically, I feel amazing as my muscles work and stretch, my heart expands from the joy of engaging with the practice, and my mind is totally involved with finding my way into (and through) each challenging shape. To me, the physical practice is a puzzle that I get to solve with my whole self: brain, body and heart.
My goal is to practice asana for the rest of my life. To fulfill this goal, two things must stay true. I need to remain un-injured and I must continue to be curious and interested. Studying anatomy helps me with both!
Knowing anatomy helps me understand my physical limits. By learning more about how my body works, I can connect with all my senses and knowledge to put-together my body’s version of each pose. A lot of the language in a yoga class is around “going deeper” into poses, but sometimes sensation can be really intense–when is it a healthy stretch and when can it be potentially dangerous? Learning anatomy can answer that question.
For example, each part of the spine is capable of only a certain amount of rotation. The lower back has 5-10 degrees of rotation, while the middle back can have up to 70 degrees! No wonder rotated triangle pose can feel so challenging! With my hips turned to face the floor, it’s practically impossible to turn my heart to face the side-wall. Without understanding anatomy, I might continually struggle to crank my heart to face the ceiling and even strain my lower back (while wondering the entire time why the pose felt so challenging when everyone around me seemed to be just fine.) Understanding anatomy, I can feel when I’ve reached my physical limit, be at peace with it, and focus on enjoying the work of the shape.
Staying curious about the shapes can be more elusive. There are only so many yoga poses, but as I learn more about anatomy, the subtlety of my physical experience becomes richer. It’s literally possible to feel more–parts of my practice that once felt overwhelmingly complex are illuminated by knowledge of anatomy. With my eyes open, I can put together the puzzle with contentment and joy.
Roche teaches Alignment Lab every Sunday morning at Laughing Lotus.
Earth Day is Monday April 22nd, and while we can choose to be stewards of the environment every day, Earth Day is great opportunity to make small changes that can have a big impact. Here are some ways you can participate in Earth Day 2013:
1.) Upload a photo to: The Face of Climate Change, a world community project by the Earth Day Network.
2.) Plant a garden. Growing some of your food reduces the distance your food travels, and the fuel required to transport it. If you have limited space, try a window box. If you don’t have a green thumb or are new to gardening, get an Earth Box, which makes growing vegetables and herbs super easy.
3.) Make a pledge to quit plastic. Plastic is destroying our oceans, crowding landfills, and creating devastating impact on our health. Look around your home and take a plastics inventory. Are the ways you use plastic truly necessary? Read about the steps you can take in Beth Terry’s book Plastic Free.
4.) Donate your time. Earth Day is a good day to volunteer your time to clean up beaches or parks, support wildlife rescue, or help educate people in your community. Visit Volunteer Match for opportunities to give back.
5.) Connect to nature. John Muir said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” Take some time to go for a walk or hike. Sit quietly by the ocean or in a forest and allow nature to heal and restore you.
6.) Support your local farmer. Buy local, in-season produce at the farmer’s market or join a CSA program. This reduces carbon emissions, the distance your food travels, and supports the local economy. Find your nearest farmer’s market or CSA at: www.localharvest.org.
7.) Take up bee-keeping. As pollinators, bees are integral to the food supply and the health of our planet. And it’s a really fun hobby. You can find courses at: www.organicbeekeeping101.com.
8.) Start composting. One third of landfill waste is actually compostable. Divert up to 30% of your household waste (kitchen and yard waste) from landfills and have an excellent soil conditioner for your new garden. Gaiam has a great guide to composting for beginners.
9.) Make your home more energy efficient. Use the Nature Conservancy’s Carbon Calculator to see where you stand, and then take steps like installing efficient lighting, turning down your water heater, using energy efficient appliances, properly sealing windows and doors or installing solar panels.
10.) Host a documentary movie night for your friends. Watch: Vanishing of the Bees, The Island President, Plastic Planet, The Death of the Oceans, Food Inc, Forks Over Knives, or Surviving Progress. The more you know about these issues, the more you can personally do to create change and improve the health of the planet.
Come to Laughing Lotus Yoga Center SF for a FREE Earth Day Celebration Class at 4pm with Tonya Sisco. We will be giving away a seed packet to everyone who visits the center on April 22nd, in honor of Earth Day. Come see us!
Megan Hunt is the Marketing Manager at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center – SF. She kind of sucks at gardening, but she tries really hard.
by Brima Jah
So you think you’d like to be a yoga teacher? Well, congratulations! You’re in for the experience of a lifetime that can continue to give for the rest of your life!
Around the summer of 2004, a friend of mine shoved me into a Bikram yoga class. She gave me my very first experience with any yoga. For months thereafter, I practiced what I then knew as the only yoga in a room so hot it seemed even the walls sweat. The heat of this practice eventually led me away from Bikram yoga, yet ignited what, in retrospect, became the beginning of what will hopefully be a lifelong exploration of yoga.
I explored yoga with classes from different teachers, styles, studios — all within different communities. Along the way, I was introduced to hatha yoga, laughter yoga, yoga-ish workouts at the gym, blocks, straps and other props, and ashrams where people “lived their yoga.” In late 2007, I landed at SF Laughing Lotus Yoga Center, which has since become my “yoga home,” having housed me first as a student, and later, as a teacher. In Fall of 2010, I graduated from SF Laughing Lotus Yoga School with a spectacular family of fellow yogis/yoginis.
There were many factors that informed my decision of which teacher training would best suit my needs. Here are a few of key factors:
1. HOPES –
Consider your intention for doing a teacher training. What kind of teacher do you envision yourself becoming? Is it important that you teach, or are you more interested in deepening your own practice? There are teacher trainings that focus just on asana (the poses), some that integrate yoga philosophy or Sanskrit; others are just for kids’ yoga. Notice what part(s) of yoga you feel most drawn to when taking class (ie. chanting, asana, meditation).
2. TEACHERS –
Yoga is ALL about relationship. “Yoga” means “to unite,” whether it’s with yourself or with others. You will spend LOTS of time with your teacher(s) during teacher training, and in some cases, be able to cultivate a relationship with your teacher that will last beyond teacher training. Spend time with your teacher(s), take their classes/workshops, and be curious about what they offer that resonates with you.
3. STYLE –
Vinyasa, Hatha, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Restorative… the list of yoga styles is very long. Get to know your body, pay attention to how you feel after practicing a particular style, and “follow your heart” (in terms of what style you love or most connect with). Some of the most impactful experiences of yoga come from teachers who LOVE what they’re teaching.
4. CURRICULUM –
There are eight limbs of yoga, or in other words, many aspects of yoga that may/may not be integrated into a yoga teacher training. Do your research; find out what will be covered in your teacher training BEFORE signing up for it. If, for example, you’re interested in Ayurveda, then be sure it’s on the program or else consider another teacher training.
5. EAT PRAY LOVE vs. STAYING AT HOME –
Teacher trainings can happen away from home or in your hometown. Some people prefer to retreat for their yoga teacher training. Others may prefer a weekend program to meet work/family needs. There are advantages to either option including cost, time or access to your teacher(s) after yoga teacher training.
6. COST –
What you pay for teacher training and its quality doesn’t necessarily match up. Allow yourself to invest in a yoga teacher training that you believe will best serve you.
Good luck! Please put your questions in the comments below.