Monday, August 22, 2011

Last Day of Yoga Teacher Training (Part 3 of 3): Closing Circle

It felt like there was so much that I went through on the last day of yoga teacher training, that I had to break it up into 3 sections.  As this is number 3, there are two before this one: the first about my teaching practicum, the second about the Mala that we did afterwards.

After the Mala, we breaked for about 30 minutes and then we came back to the room and formed a circle, much like we usually do after our morning practice to discuss the sequence that we did.  Except this time the inside of the circle was cleared of mats, props, water bottles and anything else that might have been in the area.  On Saturday, Natasha gave us 3 index cards and on each of them we were supposed to write these things:

1.  A sutra from the Yoga Sutras that either resonates with us or that we feel we need to work on
2.  Something that we are taking with us from the training
3.  Something that we are leaving behind (this is why the circle was empty.  There was a small basket for us to place those cards so that we would have the support of the whole group in "leaving it behind." The teacher threw them away afterwards, I would have preferred a ceremonial fire, but that works just as well, lol)

I was back and forth on which sutra I wanted to write on that card.  The first 3 sutras have been speaking to me a lot lately.  They're so simple, but, at the same time, they're what the entire Yoga Sutras is about.  In the first 3 sutras, you get everything in a nutshell: who, what, where, when, and why.  The entire rest of the Yoga Sutras (as I understand it right now) is trying to explain the "how," with recurring emphasis on what the first three are trying to tell you. 

The first sutra, "Atha Yoganusasanam," Now begins the study/practice of yoga, gives you the where and the when of the yoga.  When and where do you practice it?  Now.  Right now, wherever you are, whenever you are.  It's not just reserved for the 90 minutes in a yoga class.  I was telling myself that a lot during the last couple of weeks when my nerves started freaking out over the tests.  That this is the real yoga practice.  Obviously, this isn't my first time dealing with stress.  But, it is the first time that it really feels like I have to use a different method of dealing with it.  From running, I learned how to deal with stress by ignoring sensation and continuing to keep moving.  Useful in many ways, but not when you need your full attention and brain to be working, that kind of disassociation feels like it closes off access to a part of your brain that you need.  Could just be me, but that's my take on it.  From karate, I learned to tense up in anticipation of an attack and start anticipating possible counter moves and how I might handle things.  Again, very useful way of dealing with some things, but not when you need to stay calm and react to the things that are happening in the present.  And that is what the yoga asks us to do: to be open enough to feel through all of the sensation to find the calm "still point" and then act from that place as whatever the present situation asks for.  As you may have noticed from the first posting of the "last day of yoga teacher training," I have not figured out how to do that yet, lol.  How to take that part of my yoga "off the mat."  So, I didn't feel very comfortable with the idea of talking about an idea that I couldn't really access myself.  The second sutra, "Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodhah," Yoga is the calming/restraint of the fluctuations of the mind, tells you the "what" of yoga.  Literally, "Yoga is...."  It also tells you, in that one sutra, that Yoga isn't an end point, it's a process, an action: "the calming/restraint of..."  Pretty significant little detail ;-)

But it's the third one that tells you why you practice it, and for me, it's all about the why.  Without the why you do something, everything else has very little meaning.  "Tada drastuh svarupe 'vasthanam," Then the Seer [Self/pure consciousness] abides in its own nature."  This is the sutra that I wrote on the card.  I went into the yoga teacher training feeling a little unclear of exactly what I was looking for.  Did I want to teach?  No, not really.  Could I see myself doing it at some point in the future?  Possibly.  It's pretty clear right now that it is not something I am ready for.  More knowledge, deepen my practice, etc.  Yes, a lot of that.  But I think now it was to remind me of why I keep practicing.  With all the turmoil of the last year and the uncertainness of my future, it was hard to remember why I kept putting myself through the practice when sometimes, it wasn't even enjoyable.  This is why.  Because when the mind is calm and quiet, you can feel and hear your true, big S "Self."  This is the part of you that never changes and is always there, despite whatever jobs you work, crises you go through or body parts that are injured.  There is always a part of you that is pure and free of labels, fears, habits and prejudices and knows exactly "what to do."  The whole point to doing all this yoga is to find and realize which is the big S "Self" and then act from that place.  It has only been when I practice yoga that I really feel that connection.  For however long, either the entire 90 minutes of a class or just the 5 at the end, I could usually find a point when I--big S "Self"--feel totally present.  During those times, I never want the practice to end.  That is the "why" I practice, and it feels important to remember it.

The thing that I am leaving too personal to share on here.  But, I will just say that it is something that has caused great inner turmoil that I have been working very hard to free myself from for the last 2 years or so.  This year, it loosened its grip a lot.  Now, all it feels like I have to do is let it go and calmly walk away.  No big drama, no big battle.  Just done, served its purpose.  That is what I left behind.

The thing I am taking with my from this training: my home practice.  I've never really had one and the small amount that I did ceased to exist once I started practicing Mysore Ashtanga.  I had "my" practice that I did every morning, I didn't "need" to do anything else.  On the contrary, that is not my practice.  I practice the Ashtanga series, yes.  But I don't practice it my way.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.  If anything, after this training my appreciation and respect for Ashtanga has grown.  But I have also had to practice a lot on my own--at home--in order to write the sequences for the training.  And I discovered something: I practice differently when I am at home and no one is watching.  I'm usually completely present and always give my best effort when I'm in studio classes.  But there's a part of me that only shows up when I practice at home--the "inner teacher."  When I'm in a class, that part of me is usually silent, largely because I'm letting myself be told what to do, rather than explore things and figure that out for myself.  When I'm at home, I hold things longer and the poses actually somehow feel less strenuous.  I also play and experiment with things in my practice when I am at home (like using blocks for my jump-throughs and using my camera to get a better sense of what my body is doing).  None of that is present when I am in a class.  The classes are important, because that's when I learn from my teachers.  But I don't think that the real learning is setting in because I don't practice at home.  It's as though I don't really practice something until I do it at home--away from outside influences.

So.  We shared our sutras and then ran out of time to share anything else.  But we did take the time to quietly drop our things to "leave behind" in the basket.  We said "namaste" to each other and then we were done.  We took group photos, which I hope to see soon, and spent several minutes sharing hugs, appreciation, etc...all the usual things that you do when you're saying good-bye to a group of people that you've shared an intense experience with (though with far more headstands and tree poses).  It was very hard to say good-bye to Jennie.  I really liked her teaching style and I learned a lot from her, I am sad that she teaches in another state.  However, that other state is not that far away...a yoga road trip could definitely be in order ;-)

All in all, it was an amazing experience, though not quite in the way I expected it to be.  I didn't come out "enlightened" or suddenly realizing that "I want to be a yoga teacher."  Just with a stronger sense of what I was doing and what I was capable of, with a stronger sense of Self  ;-)

1 comment:

  1. Wow!

    Firstly, you ROCK! Congrats on completing your teacher training. You worked so hard on so many levels (mentally, physically, spiritually), and here you are now on the other side, totally victorious.

    Second, what a wonderful entry on your last day. Really, your whole journey has been a joy to read about, but your writing style is so strong, your heart really shines through it, and the way you tell stories, the way you relate to the world through your writing, paints a picture that is a really captivating and wonderful to witness alongside you.

    We have been friends now for a little more than a year, and each day my admiration for you grows. You are one of my closest friends, a real inspiration as a Yogini and a person and a woman, I feel closer to you each day (and I am not someone who lets people get close too easily). I have learned so much from you in your own journey, in our correspondences, and I am totally won over by you, a big supporter of you and your power and your vision and your heart.

    I look forward to continuing the journey with you, alongside you, through your writing, your friendship, your practice, your honesty and strength and wisdom and beauty and Yoga and teaching, as much as you can offer, I will continue enjoying every moment you share.

    Celebrate a little, savior the moment, you deserve it.