The yoga and Pilates teacher trainees are still all together for these last two weekends of yoga teacher training at Essence of Living, which means a yoga asana class directly followed by a Pilates class with Michelle for those of us doing both. Yep, butt still very sore. And we’re running out of body parts not to work on in Pilates class – ‘can we not do glutes today because we did glutes yesterday and I can’t move?…’
Week 9 of yoga teacher training at Essence of Living was a weekend full of anatomy and physiology with the beautiful Erin from Yoga Masterclass. Although I’ve extensively studied anatomy, and taught it at university for five years, I was excited to learn more about it from a yogic perspective, focusing on the parts relevant to yoga teachers and practitioners. Erin certainly delivered that with two days of hands-on practical learning, where we’d have to jump up and get into poses continually throughout the weekend. What I found most interesting was seeing the differences between people’s bodies. The differences were even super obvious in our group, where you might think we all have similar bodies as ‘yoga teachers’ and practitioners. It really drilled the point into me that trying to get your students into what you think to be the ‘perfect correct alignment’ in a pose could actually be causing someone harm due to the way their body is made. One of Erin’s favourite answers to our questions about alignment and poses was ‘just do what feels right and natural’, which is basically what Jema would always say when she gave us the nutrition session – ‘listen to your body!’ Erin would also often say ‘it depends what you’re trying to achieve out of the pose’, as tweaking alignment in poses in different ways will access different parts of the body. As we know one yoga pose often accesses many parts of the body, and so it depends what your aim in that pose is, as to which alignment cue will work best for you and your students.
Saturday of week 10 at yoga teacher training at Essence of Living was spent with the hilarious Dr Rama, sharing with us his knowledge of Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine) and his approach to life through the lens of the five elements. I’ll get into them more later but basically there are five main elements in Ayurveda – earth, water, fire, air and ether/space. These five elements exist in everything throughout the universe and have different qualities associated with them.
Dr Rama says you need five things to be happy and healthy in life – good sleep, good exercise, good breakfast, good lunch and lots of sex! I won’t disagree 😉
The three signs of good sleep are falling asleep straight away, sleeping through the whole night and waking up refreshed and well-rested. Dr Rama says to eat LOCAL, SEASONAL and NATURAL, which aligns with what Jema was saying in week 8. Dr Rama says the more you know about your food – for example growing your fresh produce or buying it from a local farmer as opposed to buying imported produce from the supermarket – the more it nourishes your body. The more mindful you are when you eat, the better your digestion will be. The more you pay attention, the better you’ll feel, and you’ll be happier with less and less. I’m sure we can all relate on some level. For example when you buy fresh produce from the markets and have a chat to the people who grew it, or when you pick something fresh out of the garden, it automatically makes you feel happy and healthy eating it.
The same goes for eating fresh fruit and vegetables as opposed to tinned or frozen items. We just don’t get the same vitality out of the food. It’s hard to describe in words but I’m sure you all know what I mean! I also notice in myself, when I’m mindful and present when eating, I digest my food better and feel fuller faster. If I’m doing work on the computer while eating my lunch, my bowl disappears so quickly, I easily go and have another serving and then the same thing happens again! I also don’t feel satisfied by my meal. However, if I take the time to eat my lunch with no other distractions, it takes so much longer to finish, I feel it nourishing and fuelling my body, and I feel full and satisfied afterwards. I also love taking a few moments before eating to thank Mama Earth for creating the food on my plate, thanking the people who grew the food on my plate, and thanking the cook for sharing their love in my meal! Taking these few moments with the smells of your meal wafting into your nose actually helps stimulate digestion by making your mouth water, filling it with enzyme-containing saliva and stimulating the small intestine to start producing its digestive enzymes and the stomach to produce stomach acid! The same thing happens when we take the time to prepare our meal ourselves, as opposed to buying premade food or eating food out at a restaurant! Seeing the food with our eyes and smelling it with our noses while we are preparing our meal stimulates digestion before we’ve started eating and so leaves our bellies much happier at the end! Learnt that from Jema in the nutrition talk.
Speaking of food, on the Saturday we decided to have a beautiful yoga and Pilates family picnic on Michelle’s lawn and all brought food to share!
Back to Ayurveda… It is a systematic approach that takes you from illness to wellness (whereas yoga takes you from wellness to stillness). Ayurveda sees every physical condition as a message from the body, alerting you to an imbalance that exists in your physical, emotional or spiritual body, or in your mind. Every part of the body is related to something, for example the skin is related to body image, the neck to a sense of feeling trapped, and the elbow to productivity. So if you have ongoing neck pain, maybe it’s a sign that you’re feeling trapped in some area of your life, whether that be at work, in your relationship or in some other area.
Remember those five elements I mentioned earlier? Ayurveda says every person is made up of one or a mixture of these elements, generally with one or two of them being the more dominant one. What I love about this approach is that it explains people’s idiosyncrasies and doesn’t judge or categorise any of them as good or bad, just as different. According to this approach the reason why we don’t necessarily get on with or understand some people, is that they’re predominantly a different element to us and so they see life completely differently to us!! It honestly made so much sense to me and helped me understand people in my life currently and in the past so much better! Here’s a brief overview:
- Earth. Body type: stocky, rectangular. Love: structure, stability, security, organisation, responsibility. Happy if they’re in the same job for the rest of their life. Work well in management roles, also handy; builders, architects, manual labour. Their ideal space is super organised, clutter-free, sturdy, lots of wood. Show their love by making sure you’re safe and secure (someone that constantly checks in with you to make sure you’re safe isn’t possessive/controlling, they’re just predominantly earth element!)
- Water. Body type: soft, curvaceous. Love: giving, nourishing, supporting. Work well as nurses, carers, cooks. Their idea space is cosy and comfy, full of cushions, blankets and love. Show their love by doing nice things for you, making you food, caring for you.
- Fire. Body type: angular face, triangular body. Love: transformation, innovation, improving, challenging. Work well as armed forces including police, entrepreneurs, marketers, stock market exchange. Their ideal space has the latest innovative technology. Show their love by wanting to improve you, challenge you, make you better, transform you (someone constantly wanting you to do better isn’t attacking you they’re just a fire element showing love the way they show love!!!! Mindblown…)
- Air. Body type: small, shorter fingers, petite, shorter than same sex parents and siblings. Love: freedom, spontaneity, travel, performing, dancing. The free spirit! Work well as dancers, performers, musicians, or having multiple jobs at once! Their ideal space is always changing, rearranging, moving to different places all the time. Show their love by doing spontaneous things with you, surprising you.
- Ether. Body type: tall, slender, long fingers, long face, taller than same sex parent and siblings. The philosopher, thinker, meditator, scientist. Think outside the box, in fact there is not box! Quiet. Their ideal space is minimalistic. Show their love by giving you space (someone who doesn’t message you all the time may not be because they don’t like you maybe they’re just predominantly ether element!)
I’m predominantly air with water, ether and earth quite high too. I’m always doing a million different things and have lots of different jobs at once – air. I love cooking people food, nourishing and nurturing them and I love cuddles and being cosy – water. I love being super organised and having things neat and in the right place – earth. And I think and ponder about things and need space to a certain degree – ether.
And then it was the last day…
Sunday of week 10 at yoga teacher training at Essence of Living was a beautiful day of giving and receiving Thai massage with Michelle as our instructor. I was so relaxed I fell asleep…
After Thai massage the Pilates people went home and we had a closing circle of love that lasted hours! We all sat in a circle, and one of us sat in the middle, we went around the circle with each person telling that person in the centre what the loved and appreciated about them. It took as FOR-EVER because we’re all amazing and love each other so much! There were many, may tears and my cheeks felt like they’d had more of a workout than my butt I was smiling so much! We also all wrote little love letters to each other and bought a special box to put our love letters in. So now each of us have a box full of love from everyone on yoga teacher training at Essence of Living!
We finally caught the yoga bus back to Burleigh (yep, there’s a yoga bus now that takes us to and from Michelle’s Tallebudgera studio each day, giving us more time to connect and relax!), and most of us went out for a celebratory dinner and drink at BKA Vegan in Burleigh, because we couldn’t bear to say goodbye!
Everyone on the training has heard me say this a million times, but I honestly can’t wait to continue growing, learning and evolving alongside my yogi teacher family. I have so much love for this amazing group of people and I’m so excited for what the future holds for all of us!
As I said to Michelle, having been a student of Essence of Living for so many years, and therefore knowing the quality of teachers that come through this academy, I knew this training would give me all the skills to be a great yoga teacher. What I didn’t expect though was to be so inspired by Michelle, and my yogi family on the course, in all other areas of my life. The way Michelle runs her business not only incredibly successfully but also so ethically and lovingly is a massive inspiration. The way she constantly analyses herself and is 100% dedicated to her own personal growth, evolution and education. The way she treats her family, her staff, her business, her students and her teacher trainees with so much love, support and passion. The way she instils in us so much confidence. I honestly cannot recommend this training enough, not only for people who are wanting to become yoga teachers, but also just anyone interested in personal growth and development, this course will inspire you beyond measure!
I am so infinitely grateful to you Michelle…
AND I LOVE YOU ALL SO RIDICULOUSLY MUCH!!!