Thursday, January 28, 2016

Yoga Teacher Training: The Journey to Day 1

Last weekend, I started my Yoga Teacher Training at Yogacampus hosted at The Life Centre in London. The process of arriving at the decision to apply to this training feels like a process that has been in the works for a long time, forever even! I have been thinking about becoming a teacher for years and waiting for the right alignment of factors. Last summer, something clicked. I knew I had experience to share, I knew I wanted to teach.

And it has been forever. If I search through my emails, I find that back in October 2008, after four years of yoga and after finishing my undergraduate degree, considering my next steps, I had written to one of my dear teachers, Amelia, for advice. Even then, I claim I'd been considering the idea for a while. She responded with great enthusiasm and, reading the letter again now, I see indeed that she was and is right -- I will never be in a class the same way again. Fast forward eight years later (at least!) and, finally, here I am.

Well, perhaps not so fast. In the correspondence (gotta love the personal archive of Gmail), I express my hesitance in finding the way forward. Finding my style, finding my teacher. I know I asked a few people for advice on Teacher Training and got all sorts of different answers. Stay local. Go international. Do a quick immersion. Do a long intensive. Etcetera. I wanted someone to give me THE answer, but as life progresses and continues to testify, there are no 'yes/no' answers to the questions these days. And while I know I was foggy with what I wanted, I was also pretty clear with wanting to find a creative, personality-accepting style/training because the best yoga classes I experienced were always a journey for the subtle body, coaxed along by the warmth of humour and smiles. I couldn't bring myself to do a rigid Astanga or Sivananda style training.

And while style was a big consideration for taking the plunge into a training, I was also convinced that I needed to be advanced to undertake the big step. That has been a HUGE stepping stone in my mind. And the more I chased the advanced positions and the need to have a very regular physical practice and whatnot, the more I found I needed to relax into my body and listen to how it wanted to move and how far it wanted to go. Which, in retrospect, was quite an important part of the path.

So last summer, after the upheaval of new degrees and new jobs and new homes had finally settled to stability, I felt I was in a place to decide on a training. Something just clicked after all that time.

And it's funny, for all my thoughts of needing to be advanced, the training initially threw me for a loop. Starting my teacher training last weekend, I found that the approach was different than I expected. Or different than how I thought it would be, or how it would match up with my experience. We didn't jumping right into sequencing because everyone was so advanced and experienced. Instead, we were breaking down poses to their foundations. Teaching for beginners by building poses from their most basic, most pure dynamics. It's funny because my previous post had been about not being able to remember being a beginner and now, it is all about getting into the mind of the beginner and building the pose up for those more experienced.

And so it begins. Lots of anatomy, lots of sanskrit, a new approach to my home practice (not just doing my thing but exploring poses and exploring sequences), but it is all very welcome. At long last.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

My First Yoga Class?

Along with the refrain "I know nothing about art" when I tell people I work in a contemporary art gallery, I am also told "I could never do yoga, I'm not flexible" when I tell people I do yoga (....and this also applies to cooking). While many people are wowed by yoga positions (as it's the only "showable" thing often associated with the practice), yoga itself taps into so much more and is such a rich and complex experience which isn't about flexibility at all but about accepting your body and where it is as well as what it can do.

Flexibility should never be a deterrent to try yoga, because the practice, beyond the poses themselves is about the breathing, about the mind observation, about the meditation, and about all that comes together with the body. And those frustrations over flexibility can be the most instructive struggles as questions bubble up: where does that frustration come from? what is your relationship with that frustration? what does that reveal about your relationship to your body? What does it reveal about your expectations of the body? This rich dialogue can come through in every yoga class, even within one pose. At the end of the day, we all have a body, we are all breathing, we are all thinking, we are all living and feeling and struggling and thriving. We can all do yoga.

And when I try to think back to when I was a beginner, try as I might, I can't remember. I know that I did a Hinduism course in high school which involve a yoga practice which definitely predates my very regular yoga classes with important mentors Caroline and Amelia when I was at Harvard. But those first classes? I don't really remember them. While now I do know the basic positions and many advanced ones too, every class is new when I am being taken on a new journey, introduced to new poses and maybe reintroduced to the nuances of old poses. So, in a sense, every class is my first class.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

At least it's not raining

Mid way through June, one would think that the sun would be out in full force and every weekend would be beach-worthy. In London, however, this is not the case.

While the days are fantastically long where daylight is concerned (the sun finally wanes around 9pm these days), the quotidian weather leaves a lot to be desired. A chilly wind has persisted as we head towards the summer solstice.

The response to not inclement although not quite pleasant weather usually is: 'Well, at least it's not raining'. Such a phrase seems initially optimistic, however, the way it is constructed reveals more of a positive negativism. It really is just a milder version of: 'It could be worst'.

'Summers' here tend to be mild and long, or rather the waiting for summer tends to be mild and long. The running joke here too is that a few days of hot, sunny weather are the entirety of the summer season, whether they come in April or May or in September. I remember the line from a French movie, whose name I don't recall, in which the main characters passing a park in their black cab in London remark of the zeal with which the English sunbathe at the first suggestion of warmth and sunlight. It was funny because it is true. Whatever the tinge to the optimism of the English there is a seize-the-moment mentality when it comes to the sun's rays, a welcome yet inconsistent guest.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Poems of Spring

Surging into summer, the first bright harbingers
of spring begin to fade, their optimistic colours awash
in the brightening sun. Purple streaking into white radiating
 from the tulip's sex, anthers cluster close to the central pistil, dust,
like ashes, shedding to the fading petals. Black pigment the remnants of words
penned in blossom, words written in the wind, now evaporated like the mist of dawn.

Monday, September 15, 2014

At day's end

Setting Sun,

I know exactly what you mean.
Save your explanations and excuses.

Wherever it is you are gracing with that light,
that heat I know within, it is enough

to know the sun is shining somewhere.
Fare well.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Before the Darkness

I love how a candle glows in the darkness just after
it is blown out, it continues to glow,like the blood-
red memory of the sun through shut eyelids, a spot 
like an ember, in that liminal state between, teetering
until the wick takes its final gasp, brightening 
for a moment, soft firework, 
before exhaling, into black.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Time, Suspended

As I entered the room, bathed in silence, a man dressed in black came and took my hand and guided me to the central pedestal. And there we stood, quietly, breathing, eyes closed, surrounded by others, stoic and immobile. People descended, new people were guided, hand-in-hand joined to their guides or solo, standing, waiting, stilling the mind. A breathing human monument, a moveable Stonehenge.

Experiencing Marina Abramovic’s '512 Hours' at the Serpentine is transcendent. With an open spirit and respectful demeanour, the entire experience becomes a meditation. In an adjoining room, cots, scattered in no particular order welcomed participants to lie and ponder and dream and rest. They were covered in colourful sheets by members of Abramovic’s black-clad team of assistants. A quiet room of contemplation, a peaceful ward brightened with pops of colour, all bathed in the to and fro of sunlight streaming in through the windows above. I stood and watched, and breathed as, in silence, a room full of people lay in their own meditations. On individual journeys but on parallel paths. As a woman arose from a cot near me, she caught my eye and invited me, silently, to take her place. The simple connection, the simple act of guidance – like the man dressed in black taking my hand – was contagious, somehow that parallel path we were traversing together in this exhibition space came to an intersection in a simple yet powerful way.

The final room features the most amount of motion (which isn't really saying much). It also had an incredible cinematic quality. From the doorway you see people walking along the length of the room with very slow and painstaking care, their measured movements slowed down, conscious of every move of every muscle that makes up the experience of walking. The scene reminded me of those from theatrical plays where all but one actor freezes – a tableau of a moment in time. But here, the movement, in extreme and personal slow motion, was stunning.

A truly powerful experience, especially for me who values introspection and meditation so much. I can only imagine this is a preview of the Marina Abramovic Institute planned to open in upstate New York in the coming years (designed by OMA). There is incredible potency in locking up all your time- and communication-devices and just bathing in pure quiet, experience and connection. Slowing down, reflecting in, connecting back ... after a few moments, you can hear your breath, and hear your own heartbeat pulsing subtly through your body.