Monday, April 9, 2018

Reflections on My Yoga Learnings

One thing I learned from my 200-hour yoga teacher training course is that the way an instructor understands and internalizes yoga is the way the instructor should teach yoga. Aside from an exception here-and-there (Bikram yoga comes to mind), there is no formula for how yoga should be taught. As students learning to teach yoga, we should therefore embrace what makes sense and feels right to us and leave the rest behind. I was exposed to a broad array of yogic knowledge in my month-long class. A lot of that knowledge I will take with me; some I will leave behind.

Tara diagrams how the mounds of the feet keep
us grounded while the arches of the feet lift us up.
[Photo: Katerina Zavarygina]

There are a few reasons I decided to do my teacher training in India. For one, India is well-regarded as the birthplace of yoga. The history of yoga in the United States, as is true for most things in the country, is relatively young. Plus, the yoga of the western world has been heavily modified to conform with western mentalities. I wanted to study yoga closer to its source, to better understand the essence of yoga.

Friday, April 6, 2018

An Unexpected Take-Away from My Yoga Course

My 200-hour yoga teacher training with Siddi Yoga is complete!

I finished!

I knew I wanted to do an intensive yoga teacher training -- taking a month-long course rather than spreading the training over multiple months of weekend and evening classes. And I knew I wanted to do the training in India, near the Himalayas, where trees and mountain views are abundant. When I saw that Siddhi Yoga offered a course near Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan government, and when I saw that Siddi Yoga had a fantastic reputation, the decision of where to do my training had been made!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Kriya: Going Above & Beyond Downward Dog

I am two-thirds of the way through my month-long yoga course in India. I would like to finish the course before sharing my lessons learned. However, I am itching to write about our kriya class, in which we went above-and-beyond the downward dog.

In the western world, we often think of yoga merely as a means of fancy-dancy stretching. We think of these stretches as a form of physical exercise, improving flexibility, strength, and stamina. In the true essence of yoga, these stretches are called asanas. The asana postures serve to heighten awareness and prepare the body for concentration.

In reality, yoga is far more holistic than the mere mastery and performance of fancy-dancy asanas. Yoga is a science of well-being that influences all aspects of life: physical, mental, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. While yoga includes asanas, it also includes methods for meditation, breathing, self-purification, and a handful of other components.

Self-purification is an intriguing aspect of yoga. Called yogic kriya, self-purification consists of both internal and external cleansing. The idea is that in order to work towards spiritual enlightenment, one must first be squeaky clean, both inside and out.

External cleaning is accomplished by bathing -- something we all do on a daily basis. I assumed internal cleansing would be accomplished by purifying the mind and soul. The naive me didn't realize that internal cleansing also included purification of the internal gross body.

Me, doing a yogic kriya practice.

Just a heads-up: If you get easily grossed out, read no more. On the grossed-out scale, the photo above is pretty tame compared to what you're about to see.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

My Meeting with the Dalai Lama

Dharamsala, in the northern Indian Himalayas, is the home of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Word has it that if you stick around Dharamsala long enough, you're bound to see the Dalai Lama. Sure enough, within 48 hours of arriving in Dharamsala, I saw the Dalai Lama.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
(Photo: Screenshot from Interaction with Foreigners in Dharamsala video.)

I don't recall when I first learned of the Dalai Lama. Nor do I recall the origin of my fascination with the Tibetan people. I do know that the first thing I did when I moved to Washington in 2006 was attend the Tibetan Festival at the Seattle Center. And I do know that the first sketch I drew in My New Drawing Book in 2014 was of a Tibetan woman holding a photograph of the Dalai Lama.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Year of Self-Love

We spend the majority of our childhood years in school. We learn about math, science, english, and history. Rarely does the curriculum include the skills necessary to function successfully in society and live fulfilling lives -- how to handle finances, how to have healthy relationships, how to communicate effectively, how to manage emotions, how to cope with failure. Most of us spend the majority of our adulthood acquiring these skills. Often we attain these skills by trial-and-error. Rarely do we master them.

I enjoyed school. I was fortunate to develop behaviors that helped me do well, such as typing my papers on a word processor and saying "yes" to opportunities that came my way. While these behaviors helped me ace my classes, they paved the way for the development of unhealthy habits later in life -- perfectionism and people-pleasing, to name a few. Eventually these habits, coupled with relentless societal stresses, became toxic.

I think often about my life story. I wonder how it might be different had I learned about self-love alongside my calculus and physics classes. I would have learned about identifying my personal values and setting priorities aligned with those values. I would have learned about focusing on the things that are important to me and letting other things go. I would have learned about self-awareness and being true to myself in my interactions with others. I would have learned about listening to my body.


What I've learned about self-love has mostly been acquired in the last few years. As I've been working to shake my bad habits, I've been realizing just how much I beat myself up all those years. I want to heal what those years of stress have done to my body. I know I can't unravel the damage that has been done, but I can decide to live my life differently moving forward.