Tag: yoga teacher training

What is advanced Yoga?

In my past two decades of teaching yoga, I’ve seen a lot of evolution in the yoga world. I’ve loved watching new poses come into the mix, some borrowed from creative minds and some from other disciplines such as circus school. I never thought I would be interested in a one arm hand stand for example. I thought, “this is just flashy,” but then I realized the challenge kept me fresh and gave me something to progress towards. I am no longer a naysayer and practice this and other “new school” yoga moves almost every day.

That said, having just taught one month of intensive Blissology Yoga Teacher Training course focusing on the ins an outs of yoga alignment, I am recommitted to making people realize my stance on yoga progression. I strongly believe that advanced yoga needs to be viewed not just as flashy, challenging poses, preferably done on the edges of cliffs or waterfalls; nay, advanced yoga lies also in being able to do so called “basic” poses with precision, breath and presence. This needs to remain the foundation of yoga.

One afternoon during the YTT, I wanted to run our Yoga Foundations course so the students could see how to explain so called “simple poses” like upward dog or chaturanga to beginners.  It become clear that this work was not just for beginners. Even people who had been practicing yoga for decades loved going back to basics and learning how to do them well.   It was a joy to spend whole afternoons looking at what muscles need to turn on to make these poses feel light yet stable to explore what the feet, pelvis and hands do in the pose with a fine brush instead of in broad brush strokes.  There is a whole world of detail that isn’t boring but outright exciting in this work.  There needs to be a resurgence of this type of study in modern yoga.

Over the years, as thousands of more yoga teachers pour into the incredibly competitive global yoga market, there is more and more emphasis to find something fresh and exciting in the practice. This means that teachers will step up their sequencing game, make killer playlists, and throw lots of challenging poses into the mix.

To really do yoga with precision, you need to make people aware of what they are doing by plugging into their bodily feedback loops and slowing the tempo down. In way too many yoga classes I’ve observed, the tempo seems to be speeding up as this is what creates sweat which is an easy sell in our body conscious culture.

Imagine trying to play jazz before mastering the scales. This is an analogy for what I see in the modern yoga culture.

I believe that we need to spend more time ingraining a solid alignment foundation in yogis; and as experienced yoga teachers it is our responsibility to the next generation (of yogis) that we do so.

I always remind our graduating teachers that every yoga instructor is trying to strike a balance between detail and flow—and it’s a tricky balance. If you concentrate on the details of the poses, often the classes loses flow and become a clinic or workshop.

Yet, there is a third option. When we slow the pace down just a little and create an experience of harmony between mind, body and breath, concentrating on precise yoga can lead to the state of mind we all love called “flow.”

This means we need to let people know why they are doing the poses, what the benefits are, how they should feel in the pose and let their internal experience guide the poses.

It’s the opposite to being guided from the “outside in” and feeling like every pose needs to fit a perfect photo. This is where we progress to in our month long YTT.

There is a lot of room still for inspiring playlists, creative sequencing, philosophical themes and even options for advanced poses for those who want to go there in the class. Let’s walk before we run though. Alignment is and should be the foundation for all yoga, beginner or advanced. After all, cultivating a strong practice of alignment will help our bodies to continue to practice our yoga as we age, with more freedom and no injuries.

YTT Day 3: Relaxation is the Final Preparation

Day three, the Saturday before the YTT begins is all about the final preparations. Teacher’s Training courses are like sailing: You’ve got to have all your knots tied, supplies and courses charted before you leave port.  I’ll be runnings sessions all day, everyday for the 13 days straight until our break. There is no chance to create new course materials now, especially in my case where 100 percent of the contact hours are with me.

I remember a decade ago when I was up at night creating manuals after long days of teaching and I reached new levels of exhaustion. Now, we’ve got a 300 page manual and it keeps growing.  I am also supported hugely. In fact, my last big preparation was meeting our epic assistants this year, Leanne, Gina and Gillian. Of course Ellie is always around and Christine Edwards, our Anatomy Geek, is arriving in a few days.

We met in yet another stellar Bali veggie eating establishment taking in some serious bowls of prana and kale-coconut smoothies.  We spent hours setting intentions and making game plans for transformational experiences.

After that meeting, my whole attitude shifted into relaxation mode.  It wasn’t that there wasn’t still plenty to do. The preparation could never end for this course, but instead of feeling like a student pulling an all-nighter cramming for an exam, I went the other way and chilled out as much as possible.

It’s been a hard lesson for me to learn. When I was younger I tended to rely on passion to carry me through. Because I had a mountain of passion inside me, I could do this. The tagline for Blissology is “Love is the Ultimate Renewable Resource.” This partly means that love doesn’t exhaust itself. Like the wisdom parables suggest, you can light a thousand candles from your candle and it doesn’t diminish your flame.

This is very true to a point. But, I’ve learned that sometimes the biggest gift you can give to others comes from self-care. This is really what a yoga practice is all about. It’s really me-time, not time to take care of others. But because we take this time to restore our energy, our candles burn brighter. The me-time serves the we-time.

I watched the sunset, more kites with their invisible lines. Then I took advantage of the plethora of $20 massages in Bali. It launched my own little silent retreat that still continues to this moment.

George Washington once said if “I had ten hours to cut down a tree, I’d take the first six and sharpen my axe.” I love this. But I wish he was a yogi and then we would have added that he would have taken 10 minutes to relax, meditate and practice pranayama!

Preparation is key and it has been done. Relaxation is Power. These are today’s lessons.

YTT Day 2: Life Mission Super Powers

My Friday started early here as I plan ever day to do. I’ve committed to these 4am wake-ups during the next month to get my lesson plans sorted, to keep one eye on my business projects, to write these blogs and even work on a book. It’s my favorite time of day in Bali. The peace and clarity is extreme as I type under the stars.

I’ve been amazed this trip at how easy the jetlag is to deal with. My friend once told me, “when you travel on an airplane your body moves at the speed of a plane but your soul moves at the speed of a donkey. It takes that long to catch up.”

My soul must be Pegasus because this has been a breeze.

Part of it, I realize is that I’ve cut out wine and beer from my diet recently. I am not a big drinker but I did start drinking one of those incredible craft beer IPA’s in California a day.

My friend asked me “what’s it like living in the U.S.?” thinking it must be radically different than Canada.  I told him, “Oh, it’s just like Canada except the Whole Foods has incredible craft beers!” (grocery stores in Canada can’t sell booze, for those who have never been)

The point is, I’ve consciously cut out this habit. Partly because I want to get rid of my love handles and mostly because even though I love the taste of beer and wine, I always regret it later when I sleep. After even one drink, I sleep better for the first two hours and shitty in the middle of the night.

I know people use alcohol as a traveller’s crutch and I watch people downing free drinks on the airlines pretty much from the moment they get on the plane but I really advise against it.  I’ve learned this trip.

My Bliss
It’s not just the clean, booze-free system that has given me my super jet lag avoiding powers.  I’ll be the first to admit that getting in the ocean surfing and doing yoga in the tropical heat help. But there is more; it is pure passion and stoke.

This is really the theme of yesterday. What life is like following your bliss.

I’m a professional “bliss-follower.”  I make my living from my bliss which is not just yoga; my ultimate interest is in creating deep, authentic human connection to Nature and Community (my working definition of Blissology.)

I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t work my ass off yesterday. I am sure I spent 8-9 hours in front of a laptop. Sure a lot of what I work on I am passionate about like lesson plans and creating new course materials but mostly I do a lot of menial tasks. I am continuously buried under emails and a trillion small details that keep the filing cabinet of my brain over stuffed.

I know people think I am just doing yoga on the beach like my instagram feed suggests but the reality is “Bliss” and “Bills” are almost the same letters just rearranged to form some kind of cosmic joke.

I work a ton. But I am so inspired!

A large part of the upcoming Blissology YTT course is finding what we call our “Life Mission.” Mine is to be a Conduit for Love.

It’s just such an amazing feeling even when you are going cross-eyed behind a computer like Ellie and I did yesterday (Ellie is our awesome program manager for Blissology trainings who lives in Bali) to know that all of those spreadsheets and schedules will light a fire in the hearts of many; to know that what you do is a contribution to the flow of positivity.

It is incredible medicine for the combination of jetlag and computer drudgery.

Luckily Bali, especially Canggu (pronounced Chah-n-goo) has an incredible amount of tasty cafes and hip, organic restaurants. I can’t even begin to describe how it blows anywhere else in the world away for the number of hipster eating establishments per square meter. The closest I’ve seen is Abbot-Kinney in Venice Beach, L.A. but this is a whole other scale over here.

If you are an entrepreneur working behind an Apple laptop on a creative business, the café culture of Bali (and the more commonly known Ubud) is your Shangri-La.

Laptop Culture in Bali
There is a shadow side to this cushy, hipster ex-pat Bali life and that is the rampant disappearance of the rice patties. Like a mushroom out of control, L.A. hipness is transplanted where rice used to grow.

Ellie and I made the circuit of a few of those cafes.  I’m definitely going into this training feeling insanely prepared.  Stoke is one thing but preparation is the key for the A-Game.

As I scootered home during sunset, as often happens here, I stopped checked out the Bali sky.  I am saying that wrong: I didn’t stop.  I was stopped in my tracks and could not avoid taking in the stunning light.

They fly kites here in Bali in the April breezes.  I sat for a few minutes and stared up at a kite in the Bali sky. It was one of those moments where you are lost in time and don’t even realize you are doing what you are doing.

When I left Ananda and Insiya at home, we always tell each other about the “invisible line” that connects our hearts to each other.  I look at the kite at the end of the string and think how lovely that we have people in our lives that make our heart fly like this.

In this spontaneous moment of gratitude overwhelm, I sent them a silent prayer and toasted the strings that bind us all.

Bali YTT Day 1: The Journey

I’m blogging my journey through Bali during our Blissology YTT! This is always such a transformational journey for everyone including me so I thoughtI would keep a little blog/diary and share it every day. Check in and share in the adventures. Here is the first post.

It took a whopping 35 hours door to door from Santa Cruz, SFO to Denpasar Bali. The plane ride wasn’t so bad largely because of an extra large dose of gratitude I gave myself just to be on the flight! It left at 1:15 A.M. – I decided to take advantage of couch I spotted upstairs by the boarding gate. I set my alarm on my iPhone but didn’t hear it. I woke up with a start and made it to my gate with about a minute or less to spare.

Besides this elation for just making my flight it wasn’t as brutal as I thought it could be for these reasons.  I scored good karma seating with three seats to myself on my first leg from SFO to Hong Kong. I woke up in the morning and did airplane yoga in the 1st row while in front of zombified travellers attempting the inhumane art of sleeping vertically. I also worked on my manual for the trainings especially the  “Commit to Bliss” lifestyle program (I’ll explain more about this in future blogs). I never watch TV but somehow I got addicted to Game of Thrones and loved watching Nicole Kidman’s Queen of the Desert. Normally I am the king at picking movies which are popular but turn out to be brain numbingly stupid but this movie was amazing.

I also did some rocking yoga in Hong Kong and Singapore. It felt amazing to stretch out. My jet lag was kicking in but you have got to keep your chi moving while travelling. Some superflow and handstands did the trick.

I also help long, deep stretches and that felt so felt amazing. I feel like we are over emphasizing standing poses and not floor stretches in the new school yoga I see.  Headphones on, ugly carpet, I dropped into the zone of bliss right overlooking the boarding gates.

After reaching hot, humid Bali not surprisingly the 9pm the traffic was horrible. People who haven’t been here are surprised to hear this. “What traffic on Bali?” Oh yeah, it took about 2 hours to drive 20 miles to our villa.

I passed out around 10:30 after a quick Facetime convo with the fam. I was trying to not think about what time it was on the West Coast but Ananda was leaving for school which meant my biological clock should be saying, “time to wake up.”

Well, I had probably the best jetlagged sleep of all time—I woke up at 4:15 AM and all the sounds of Bali brought me right back. We have been spending about 3 months a year here over the last 9 years or so and I usually wake up at 4:15 – it’s cool for one but there is so much magic then. Once you step outside your villa in Bali, you are treated to open sky. Even the kitchen has no walls. I paused and took in the moon, Jupiter and the Muslim call to Prayer from a local mosque.  I made coffee, unpacked all my clothing, surfboard and props for the YTT making my little bliss army pad ready.  It’s a “Joglo” imported from Java I rented on Airbnb. I love these old houses.

I watched the sky turn bright orange with the first rays of the sun on the huge, nuclear explosion style clouds of Bali, took in the Hindu temple music about 100 meters away. After all these years sounds like cacophony with droning chanting and bell which seem to have no rhyme of reason how the rhythm is created.

Yoga in Bali felt amazing because of the humidity. Hot Yoga? Not required here. Yoga was born in the tropics and I see why.

I followed it up with a surf back in the warm Indian Ocean and lunch with Ellie who lives here and has really helped me organize the upcoming training.  We have 35 people in the course and 5 assistants including Ellie.  I’ve never felt more prepared for a YTT and I am so stoked to share what is about to go down in the next month over here.

Over lunch one of the highlights was when Ellie told me about her trip to East Bali to LINI where we are running our Blissology EcoKarma Coral Restoration project.  They are so appreciative.  The dates are April 14 so watch that day on the Blog for sure.

What was cool is that as a global yoga ambassador for lululemon we can allocate funds to charity of our choices. I allocated some of that funding to LINI and they are training five local girls in the small village of Les where LINI is based. For 3 months, they will train these girls at LINI’s Aquaculture and Training Centre to learn skills that could either help them to earn a living elsewhere or continue to work with LINI. These girls are young mothers in the community who would not otherwise have any way to earn money or learn new skills

More updates tomorrow!