There are a lot of ways to get to know the practice of Yoga. 12 women decided taking classes every week wasn’t satisfying their relentless desire to feel more and they joined Yoga Flow SF’s 200 Hour Spring Yoga Teacher Training. The awakening we’ve all gotten a taste of in our practices enticed us to spend our weekends curled up on the ground with mats, workbooks, blocks and blankets scattered about. Really, it’s like we’re young again, having play dates where our worlds are experienced floor level. While we haven’t started braiding each others hair just yet
(there is talk of it though), we’re teaching each other how to move our bodies in an ancient way. All of us have come to the floor, yoga mats as support, for many different reasons, but the energy of dedication in the room is palpable.
While yoga is often thought of as the physical practice of postures, Āsana, it’s common your instructor reminds you of ways to bringyour practice off the mat. Although we’vedone more Downward Facing Dog’s (Adho Mukha ´Svānāsana) in yoga teacher training than I can count, it’s balanced with different aspects of Yoga. Yoga Flow SF’s training format places a special emphasis on understanding the history of Yoga, the philosophy that’s shaped the practice we know today, posture anatomy and how to perform and teach them with proper alignment, the energetic systems, how to pronounce Sanskrit correctly and how to breathe, oh how to breathe. Going way beyond the mat, our instructor’s passion stand as evidence the practice works for all types of people with all kinds of backgrounds and beliefs. It truly is wonderfully universal.
The magical team we’ve worked with thus far is Alyssa Arroyo, Anna Hughes, Charrise Balance, Libby Murfey, Lindsay Foreman, and Kate Holcombe. They’re a package full or knowledge and expertise. Each of them arrive and surprise us by shining light on something new Yoga offers to all.
Alyssa fires up our days with her inspirational amount of energy and enthusiasm. On our first day, we’re a little nervous, jittering with curiosity and Alyssa is to the rescue. What better opportunity to share the power of resounding Om’s in a group of people who don’t know each other… yet. Alyssa shared the power of unifying a roomwith Om’s as it’s vibration carries the sound of the world. Gearing our breaths for this moment, she reminds us, “We can’t pour from an empty cup.” We fill our lungs with a deep inhale and commit to going around the room, each of us practice leading Om’s. 36 Om’s later, the room transpired to a calm space buzzing with supportive energy, allowing us all to feel ready to grow. Already, we’re learning and teaching. We left day one knowing if the rest of the course is similar, we’ll be well prepared to teach and know each other very well, including our own Selves.
Our introduction to Libby is our introduction to Kobi as well, her trusted assistant. He’s specialized in Anjali Mudra, hands, or rather paws, to heart center, and Adho Mukha ´Svānāsana. Libby’s laughter and excitement to be with us helps fade any nervousness we have in teaching what we aren’t yet comfortable with. Her support allows us to try something new with total comfort in the possibility of it not going according to plan–what a gift. Her intention as a teacher is to “make us dance” which reminds us that life can be fun; while it’s hard work, the ‘edge’ can still be enjoyable. As she taught us Āsana-s, she said with a smile on her face and Kobi in her lap, “We don’t grow when it’s easy.” Libby’s ability to bring us fully into the room was just a taste of what she has to offer.
Anna takes us through the spinning wheels of energy centers in our bodies (Chakras), conscious breath techniques that move the life force within us (Prānāyāma), and how to lock your breath in certain parts of your body (Bhanda-s). She secures special attention with teaching us how to pronounce Chakra correctly (it’s not shakra, it’s Chakra. I know, mind-blowing). While our muscles receive a break from practicing Āsana, a few hours with Anna leaves us gripping our sides in fits of laughter. Anna’s ability to weave humor into her teachings is a beautiful wonder we all enjoy thoroughly. As she shares her passion for the subtle body, we taste a new flavor of Yoga we all can’t get enough of. While we’re all ambitious to explore what she’s teaching, she encourages us to “Practice in a way where you can maintain the effort, slower and being intentional is better.” This advice resounds into our Yoga practice throughout life, ensuring we’re showing up in our lives in a way that’s sustainable.
We’re striving to become more experienced and knowledgeable and Lindsay reminds us to always remember where we started. As she takes us through the different poses, she’s sure to explain modifications and props to use to assist a deeper opening for all. She truly has a gift of explaining and guiding a student through a posture that starts at an organic root which she grows on, a technique filtered with humility and compassion. This type of guidance emphasizes inclusion, much like her overall essence. While our ego tells us otherwise, she reminds us all our bodies are different everyday. The pose we did yesterday won’t be the pose we do today. This kind of mentality guides us to being more wholesome practitioners.
We’re exposed to the physical and subtle body throughout our training. Going deeper, we scan our bodies to see how our spines are moving in our practices. Thanks to the lens of Charisse Balance, we’ve got the inside scoop, pelvic scoop that is. As a physical therapist, Charisse shows us how to create an environment that allows for a sustainable practice for all kinds of bodies. She sings the importance of proper alignment, not pushing too far in a pose to look a certain way, and as teachers, how to offer a deeper insight based on anatomy. She explains “As yoga teachers, we’re the nets and we can catch injuries.” Her sound advice on how to prevent pain is “Don’t confuse the familiar with the healthy.” Her expressed wisdom is an everlasting reminder to listen to our bodies.
The amazing team Yoga Flow curated doesn’t stop here. Have you ever met someone you knew had a special role on this planet and we’re all benefiting from it? Well, Kate Holcombe is one of those souls. Her background is vast in studying Yoga as a whole, especially the Yoga Sūtras, and we’re beyond fortunate to get a glimpse of her experiences. While she has an extremely reputable background, she humbly feeds us history and philosophy, bit by bit, always making sure our
bowls are full but never overspilling. She peels us all off our mats and shines a spotlight at the spaces in our lives, exposing Yoga all around us. She envelopes us, sharing, “You start where you a
re and where you are is fine because the practice of Yoga doesn’t require you to be anyone than who you are now.” Through a beautiful process, she weaves us through the historyof the goal of yoga: to feel better. With that, we all sigh together knowing we’re where we’re meant to be.
It’s apparent Yoga Flow’s Yoga Teacher Training team wholeheartedly care about Yoga and nurturing the future generation of teachers is their contribution. Within two weeks, we’re teaching each other methods of deep breathing, moving through a flow series, and lending a gentle hand for adjustments. As we move through our practices together, we learn of the different pains, accomplishments, and drivers for us to join the yoga movement–mental health, losses of loved ones, body image attachments, chronic headaches–the list goes on and Yoga serves us all in nurturing ways. While we all had many different reasons leading up to this moment, we are unified by the support of our loved ones, our Sangha. Every passing moment, we’re evolving with confidence and a knowingness that’s true to ourSelves. Namaste.
Written by BreAnn Whiat