Now having completed four weekends at yoga teacher training at Essence of Living I can see everyone getting a little more comfortable and confident in their own voice. Over the last two weekends we each had to give three 2-minute philosophy talks while massaging someone resting in savasana – just how a yoga teacher would. Our three talks were on: one of the six cleansing practises of hatha yoga; one of the five paths of yoga (bhakti, karma, jnana, raja & hatha); and one of the seven main chakras. Having to do these talks is SO great for getting that deeper understanding of the topic as we have to first research it and then relate it in our own words. I also love learning from my friends and noticing everyone’s unique take on the concepts. It’s also just so beautiful seeing everyone blossom in their confidence and ability to express themselves!! I’m so proud 💖
It always makes me smile when, in discussing a spiritual topic or learning about a yogic philosophy principle, someone asks a vague or ‘hypothetical’ question about a certain type of person, experience or situation, and then a few breaths later says ‘so… it’s my dad/partner/brother…’ or something similar. I think every single one of us has done this by now!! A lot of us have just naturally shared some really personal hurts and it’s so beautiful seeing the support we give each other when someone is sharing and watching how the teachings can help us work through them. I just love how relatable this course is to everyday life! How we can apply the principles we are learning to our everyday lives to improve our lives, our relationships with others, and our relationships with ourselves.
Yoga adjustments at yoga teacher training Essence of Living
Over these four weekends of yoga teacher training at Essence of Living we have learnt how to adjust all the main asanas (yoga poses) in vinyasa yoga and have practised these adjustments on each other. Last Sunday was the first time we practised adjusting a whole class as opposed to poses here and there. We paired up and one of us practised the class while the other adjusted. After, we took a break for breakfast and then swapped. Dayuuum…! Adjusting someone for the whole class is actually physically harder than doing the class yourself!! (No wonder Michelle is so fit…)
Most of us also attended Michelle’s Ashtanga Yoga Intensive course last week which is a 5-day course running Monday to Friday 5.30-7am! Yep, we got up before the sun did every day that week! And shiiiiiiit that practise is intense! I think most of us found, while it’s definitely useful for us to know ‘our roots’ (vinyasa comes from ashtanga), ashtanga yoga is definitely not for every-body! In vinyasa we change the poses to suit the body – modifying poses using props, developing beginners variations and even tweaking the poses slightly. Whereas in ashtanga you change the body to fit the poses! So basically… there’s a whooole lot of poses the majority of us just couldn’t get anywhere near doing!
Favourite dharana techniques & asana classes
Over these four weekends of yoga teacher training at Essence of Living, we have been beautifully guided by Michelle through eight completely different concentration techniques* and eight different asana (‘yoga’) classes.
*As I mentioned in my last blog post, what most people consider to be meditation is actually the step that comes before meditation, called dharana, which means concentration. If you are concentrating or controlling the breath; chanting a mantra externally or internally; visualising energy moving within etc., you are in a state of dharana, concentration. Meditation (dhyana) comes when the object of concentration dissolves and the awareness is on everything yet nothing at the same time…
My favourite concentration techniques have been kriya pranayama and chanting the bija mantras of the chakras.
I’m sorry whaaaaaaat?!
Kriya pranayama is a purifying breathing technique that purifies the central energy channel running through the spinal cord known as sushumna nadi. Kriya means action, and more specifically an action associated with cleansing. You begin in a seated meditative position with your palms in your lap. In the beginner’s version, you move the palms up and down to help quieten the mind and assist in the visualisation of the movement of energy. As you inhale you breathe the palms through the midline until they come above your head, let your wrists flare at the top and hold the breath. On the exhale you breathe the palms back down through the midline. As the palms move through the midline of the body, so too does the energy, or prana, move from the root chakra all the way up to the crown chakra. It’s so beautiful being able to feel the energy move through the body in this way.
Chakras are energy centres within the body. There are seven main chakras in the body sitting at different locations up the spine. They each correspond to a particular colour, are activated by certain types of yoga postures (asanas), correspond to different glands in the body, and are associated with different emotions. Each chakra also has its own ‘bija’ or seed mantra – a mantra being a sacred utterance or sound. Chanting these mantras either internally or externally is said to activate and cleanse that corresponding chakra.
The more you give the mind and body to do during a concentration technique, the easier it is to concentrate. Especially as a beginner. That’s why chanting the bija mantras of the chakras is so accessible for us. We physically chant the mantras aloud and in so doing are more absorbed in this action than in our thoughts. During this meditation we sat for a whole hour as opposed to the usual half an hour and most of us didn’t even notice!
Out of the asana classes, my favourites have been an intense back bending flow leading up to full natarajasana, and a class where we did partner stretching using concepts from Thai massage – bliss!
…my favourite part?
While everything at yoga teacher training at Essence of Living is so helpful and amazing, one of the things I love the most is being able to share this experience with all the beautiful souls on the course with me. As Michelle says, for us to even be on this course, being taught this ancient wisdom, is a blessing and a sign that we have incredibly good karma! I definitely believe we were all called to do this teacher training at this time so our souls could experience it together. I love you all! 😍🙏🌸