Monday, August 22, 2011

A Squiggle For Your Thoughts...

Never get tired of doing little things for others because sometimes those little things occupy the biggest part of their heart. - Baltao
*Tweeted by Freedom Yoga 8/18/11
Words that resonated with me when I read them 4 days ago, the quote made me think of two compassionate yogi tweeps and their short, but very uplifting tweets in the past weeks. Let me explain: recently, I received a bombshell of sad and painful news that clocked me with scud missile accuracy.  In turn, I had to communicate more sad and painful news to others and make some unpopular decisions.  During this raid of negative information, these two yogis seemed to have me in their crosshairs and delivered supportive tweets with precise timing to keep my head and heart above the smoke and shells. 
Additionally, my husband and extended family have supported me with their kind words and prayers to help me navigate through this difficult time. During one overwhelming moment, my husband suggested writing down everything I needed to do, research and call upon, to help me focus and lift some weight off of me at the same time.  Jokingly he said, “Can you write on the refrigerator with a dry erase marker?”  I whipped out a hot pink marker and drew a large squiggle on the ‘frige and stood there for a moment. “Uhh, I wouldn’t have tested that idea on the very front of the appliance, honey”, he said. I waited a few more moments and then wiped the squiggle off with my hand, “Voila!” I exclaimed. Since then, the side of the fridge has become my life-size dry erase board, an invaluable tool to get organized, categorized and time-lined. Even though I may be wiping off two items and adding three more to do’s, it has created a sense of calm and direction for myself. 
It may seem small or insignificant to some, but kind words, simple ideas, and keeping my energies and thoughts in supportive environments have kept me on a steady directed path, versus feeling like I am walking through a mine field. 
Like Baltao said- keep doing little things for others!

**** A ton of <3 goes out to @Freedomyoga @letigo8 @flyingyogini and @yoga_mydrishti

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summer’s Spectacular Light

To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie -
True Poems flee.
~Emily Dickinson
It’s mysterious, glorious, and enchanting. Its constantly changing depth, hue, contrast and intensity creates a dazzling display of illumination and texture; the summer sky never repeats itself. It doesn’t matter if it’s dawn, mid-day, the glowing hours, or the inky twilight, the light show never ceases to stop us mid-sentence. Even though it is August, we have plenty of summer left down here in the South to admire the evolving canvas of the heavens.
Personally, I like (or at least try) to capture ordinary vistas in extraordinary circumstances, taking a common and familiar Kodak moment and giving it a twist. I was fortunate enough to snap some photos in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina two months ago. There were a couple of variables, some might call them annoying circumstances, that heightened my anticipation of getting some awesome shots: (a) wild fires in North Florida were blowing smoke up the coast (b) the reliable summer afternoon coastal showers bringing in amazing cloud formations. I was vacationing, so I was praying that I would be able to shoot some pictures at an agreeable time slot, getting up at crack-thirty was not on my agenda.
I shot the first image (right) from our villa’s balcony with my iPhone in the morning hours; you can see the haze in the low sky blurring Daufuskie Island. It’s not morning fog burning off but the smoke from the wild fires. Overall the image is somewhat predictable; I suspect hundreds of vacationers have the same photo of the harbor in their family albums from vacationing in these villas. Predictable and ordinary, except for the monster yachts that are docked in the marina!
Advance forward to the next day, late afternoon to be exact, and a summer shower had just passed over Hilton Head Island. I can remember that it was so silent when I took these photos- I think my husband and cousin were napping and my cousin’s wife was in the shower. While setting up my camera, I realized that I had an opportunity to add a couple more interesting elements to the landscape, but I had to be patient. 
My first shot (at top) is just capturing some interesting filtered light and remnants of storm clouds. In case you were wondering, I currently shoot with a Sony A55 SLT and had a 18-200mm lens on the camera for these photos. I need a couple of ‘landscape lenses’ but currently, I have some budgetary constraints!

While crouching on a chair on the balcony, I wait for the timing of the lighthouse beacon to face me and the wind to catch the flags on the lighthouse... it took some time. I think it took about thirty five minutes to pop off the next two shots, but oh, was it worth it! I now have some illuminated memories of vacationing with my husband and cousins that will last a lifetime!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I have been a knittin'

I’ve been a Knittin’
Yes, it’s true. I have been a knittin’ and a stitchin’... a knittin’ a stitchin and a cinchin’. For two straight weeks this yogi has been fabricating and corset-ing my body in Stott Pilates Intensive Mat teacher training, using my rectus, obliques and TVA’s (and many more muscles). Pilates is better known for toning and beautifying the body, but the real benefit is the rehabilitating, strengthening, and mobilizing of the spine, pelvis, and shoulders.
It’s tough implementing the five basic principles of Stott Pilates! Most people do not understand what the true “neutral spine” is, so they often over-exaggerate the natural curve of the spine on the mat and place the lumbar spine in a precarious position. Additionally, most people do not understand the “imprint” position of the pelvic tilt- to keep the pubis slightly higher than the ASIS joints. Instead, a student may plant their entire back into the mat instead, which is a counter-productive position. Using core muscles to hold these two pelvic positions is a hardworking foundation; and you haven’t even added an exercise yet!
Although it sounds like this part of the teacher training took my breath away, it was instead the Anatomy requirements that caused the heavy labored sigh. During the six month training program, trainees have an Anatomy component that is 50% of the final exam. The other 50% of the certification is a practical where the trainee does a postural analysis on a ‘student,’ discussing health concerns and goals, then teaches this ‘student’ a class that will address their postural and joint deficiencies; all of this happens right on the spot! You have to pass both the written and the practical exam to become a Stott certified teacher. The depth of Anatomy proficiency in this program falls in line with an ACE personal trainer certification exam and somewhat near the ACSM personal trainer certification. It’s tough stuff! How do I know? I investigated the ACE program and still have the hundreds of study flashcards; I also reviewed one of the ACSM manuals… wow, I mean, wow. As you might guess, the inevitable question arose: how does this Pilates training compare to my 200-RYT program?
 This blog ties into a fabulous blog posted by @Teachasana on July 22, 2011 titled “What should I look for in a teacher training program?” In that article, Yoga Alliance Affiliated RYT programs and Non-Yoga RYT programs were discussed and the point was well made. Even YA certified programs do not provide an equal training experience. Each YTT may ‘present’ the required material, One YTT may give you a few cookies on the particular subject (Chakras, for example), while another YTT hands you an entire cookie jar’s worth of Chakra study- asking you to create a 30 minute guided mediation using the Chakras as your focus in order to complete that module of study. I have witnessed these inequalities when taking advanced teacher training workshops. While completing a Yin Yoga teacher training last winter, the learning curves from approximately 10 different YTT’s were reflected in the kinds of asana and anatomy questions that were asked...and the expressions on some of the participant’s faces. There is no judging whatsoever going on here because I have sat on that mat before and I remember the feeling, I’m just expressing my understanding that there are swings in the content of teacher training programs. It would be quite difficult for a YTT program to be able to give trainees all that they desire, given other variable such as  price, geographic location, and duration of class time. That being said, I’m old school and I feel that trainees should not come out of their programs feeling disadvantaged or unprepared, especially in the areas of asana or anatomy, you are working with people’s bodies!
You are correct if you conclude that I am of the opinion that my YTT did not meet the ‘inquiring minds want to know’ disposition of my own brain!  Disappointed? A little, but seriously, no hard feelings exist- remember this is my opinion. I have a sleuthing, CSI type of mind and have already received additional anatomy training through the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas, where I received a group fitness leadership certification. Every yoga teacher or potential yoga teacher is different and so is their intention and focus. You have to be honest with your intent so you can find a welcoming home in your teacher training program. Me? I want to bring students to equanimity and, in my mind, knowing the body and the brain on a more intimate level may help me on that path.
While tossing this thought around, a couple of my own teacher training questions came to mind. Will this teacher training:
Assist your students in functional fitness?
Yes, so many of us love Vinyasa, but it isn’t the end all of yoga-and many can’t keep up with the flow.  Who are you planning on teaching? Would an Iyengar or Hatha teacher training be a better fit to the audience you may be teaching, one that focuses more on alignment and deep holds of postures?
Assist your students in an emotional perspective?
If you already know that you may be working with a significant number of students who are in counseling, recovery, or chronically ill, the YTT that enlists therapist and counselors and allows significant focus on meditation, journaling, pranayama and mindfulness may be the YTT for you.
Another idea is to review the required and recommended reading list for your potential YTT. The book list may help you determine if it is a balanced training program.  A fellow teacher acquaintance confided in me that her required reading list was “Light on Yoga” and “The Power of Now”, that’s have to decide if that is enough for you. The education doesn’t stop when you receive that certificate. After you have graduated, you will have to complete continuing education courses to remain in good standing.  Several of my fellow teacher peers have been branching out in their CE studies to enhance their mind/body awareness through classes and workshops like Tai Chi, Qigong, belly dancing, Sanskrit study, Pilates, Ayurveda, and even college Anatomy. They all sound pretty fascinating to me, especially the belly dancing!  
Enjoy the anatomy image, this blog is starting to cut into my study time… back to knittin’ and the books!