Twenty hours of my 200 hour teacher training are to be spent as a student in classes separate from our training experience. The idea is to take classes with teachers from whom I can learn. To that end, I am taking classes with people I do not usually study with, as well as classes in areas I want to learn more about (such as Restorative Yoga), and at least one class with each of my three yoga training teachers so I can experience their studio teaching.
Now that I am half-way through those 20 hours, here is what I have distilled from the seven different classes and six different teachers.
Basic Yoga at Wainwright with Kelly
Small world! Kelly is related to one of my YTT teachers via marriage. The world of yoga teachers turns out to be as connected as the world of independent school teachers, of which I have been a part since 1982. I was interested in Kelly’s class because this is likely the type of yoga class I would teach as a new yoga teacher. I enjoy the sequence and flow of her sessions and have asked her how she creates them. Turns out Kelly has been teaching for a little over a year, prepares her sessions in advance and writes out the poses on a small index card that she then updates after actually teaching the class. I also appreciate the metaphors Kelly uses as she guides us with her suggestions. What I miss is the spiritual sense that comes from both the physical space (more on that in a moment) and the tone of the class, for instance as with the sharing of a reading or poetry. The upstairs room in the main house is carpeted with windows that overlook Long Island Sound. However, the rectangular room has tables and chairs piled at the far short end, there are limited props, and the space feels like a conference area rather than a yoga space.
Gentle Restorative Yoga at Wainwright with Sonya
I took this class on the Friday morning of one of my YTT weekends, intentionally choosing a restorative class so I would go into the training weekend feeling refreshed. I thoroughly loved this class! Sonya’s voice and cues were soothing and calming, and I knew at once that this is a type of yoga I would like to offer to others. I have already looked into restorative yoga teacher training and would like to encourage The Wainwright Yoga Training Academy to offer this type of training. I have taken restorative yoga classes just a few times over my 11 years of practice, and am looking forward to trying this in my Thursday afternoon practice teaches with my friends Ann and Ginny. I plan on taking more of these sessions with Sonya. (This class is also taught in the upstairs room at Wainwright, so you know what I thought of the space!)
Mixed Levels at The Yoga Garden with Patty
The yoga world just keeps getting smaller 😉 as it turns out I took a class here about 10 or so years ago with a colleague from school who discovered The Yoga Garden as a result of she and I talking about the benefits I found via practicing yoga, and she deciding to try some classes at a studio near to her home. This class is taught by one of my three YTT teachers so I had an idea of what to anticipate, and Patty was true to form. As it is during our training sessions, Patty guided me through new ways of moving my bones and muscles. As I typed that sentence it made me wonder at what point is it that we/I have stopped playing and exploring through our bodies. Given the myriad ways to experience movement, and the strength that breathing provides in being able to move, we humans (certainly those of us in the metropolitan area!) seem to have decided to relegate ourselves to more sitting and less utilization of the movement of which our bodies are capable. And the less we use “us”, the less “us” will remain flexible and able to be used. Patty’s class is a vivid reminder of the playfulness present in our bodies; we just have to be willing to let it out! Finally, Patty’s space is calming and inviting, with lovely wooden floors, soothingly colored walls, and one long wall of windows looking out on a grassy area.
Ayurvedic Yoga at Birth of Venus with Susan
As with Patty, Susan is another of my YTT teachers, and as with Patty, Susan’s studio classes are similar to those she leads in our training. When I do yoga with Susan it makes me feel graceful. I tend to feel that way in yoga classes that have a flow. While I don’t think of Susan’s class as a flow class, there is something in how she guides that conjures up flowing, soothing water, and I move accordingly. I am in awe of how Susan creates her plan: she asks her students what they need and then comes up with a sequence to address those needs. I realize this comes from years of study and practice and teaching. It also comes from someone confident in what they are doing. Susan’s space is an office studio that can accommodate about six of us. She sets up the space in advance so mats and props are all neatly arranged and easily accessible on the wooden floor. As the space is L-shaped, we do our practice in the long part of the L, and the short part has one wall that is all windows, thus bringing natural light into the space. I liked the intimacy and calm that the space creates.
Yoga for a Painfree Body at Wainwright with Athina Pride
The last in a series of six sessions, each designed to cover a different part of the body, this session was left open to student choice. As it turned out, I was one of just two students so we were able to have a session dedicated to the back and hips – yippee! Athina’s class very much reminded me of Susan’s class in that she designed it on the fly, based on our needs, and taught it with a similar pacing. I found it calming and relaxing, as well as therapeutic. I asked Athina about her approach to sequencing, and quickly realized that it comes from years of experience. There is no “easy” answer, though I do wish there was a well-recommended resource that deals with class sequencing so that I have a guide as to what poses “play well” with each other. I suppose the other answer to my question is for me to sit down and sift through all my resources and come up with some sequences and then I can always check the results with my teachers.
Yoga at the Nyack Yoga Center, and Mature Yoga at The Annex in Nayck, both with Paula
How appropriate to cap my half way point with three hours of yoga with my third YTT teacher, Paula. Paula has been teaching yoga for 50 of her 79 years, and has a deep well of body knowledge that guides her teaching. Her Yoga studio class is quite similar to those in our YTT; the Mature Yoga class has a very specific audience in mind (more on that later.) Paula’s Nyack Yoga classes alternate each week between sitting and standing, and this week of my attending was a seated week. (Thankfully this was the case, because it was only my second day out after having been home for a week and a half dealing with the flu! So much for vacation. ;-)) As with my other YTT teachers, Paula’s classes are informed by wisdom, experience, practice, study, plus a dance background and years of myriad teaching experience. As a student, my idea of body-heaven would include at least twice weekly classes with Paula. I leave her sessions agog at what my body is capable of, while understanding that her coaching is a large part of my process. I don’t want to “turn off” the spigot of possibilities, but still need to acknowledge that until I have taken more classes with Paula and my body incorporates the muscle memory, I’m not sure I can create the same movement range on my own at home as happens while in her classes. I understand why Paula has a dedicated group of students, helped by the large and welcoming studio. I was intrigued by two new types of props, both made from what felt like styrofoam. One was a large rectangle cut to fit on top of a yoga mat for extra support. The other, from the same material, was a small rectangle to accommodate a foot or ankle so that in seated poses where feet go beyond the mat, there is support for the bones. At the conclusion of class we pulled our mats into a circle. With our hands in anjali mudra (palms together at heart center) we listened, eyes closed, as Paula closed our session, and then we joined together in “Om”. Finally, with eyes closed, we thanked everyone with bowed anjali mudra.
Here is how Paula’s flyer explains the Mature Yoga class, the focus of which “will be geared to the special needs of the participants”:
To learn the ABC’s of turning pain into peace.
Align for greater mobility with strengthened muscles.
Balance with your bones and breath.
Concentrate to clear the mind and increase your energy.
Paula talked about the wisdom and wonder of our bodies, and those words resonated. While it seemed like we barely did much movement, in fact we worked our bodies, breath and muscles – upper torso front and back, head, legs and arms – while mostly seated in folding chairs that were placed on yoga mats to prevent any slipping or sliding of the chairs. What was probably the last 15 minutes or so of the hour were spent standing, using the chair for balance to focus on our backs and legs as we did standing supported table and tree (and I am not talking about your simple, typical tree!) Paula’s version of tree had us bending our knees and folding over our legs. Even in a class designed for people with special needs, Paula knows that to use our bodies means to make our bodies possible to use themselves. If that isn’t clear, then this will sum it up: use it or lose it!