It’s hard to believe that yet another week has gone by in our Teacher Training. In some ways it seems as though we’ve learned so much information already that we must have been going for months now, and in other ways, it feels like we’re just babies beginning to learn how to breathe.
Friday night’s philosophy lecture with Darren was centered around the Eight Limbs and the Yoga Sutras. We also talked a lot about the history and origins of yoga and its first codification by Patanjali. Largely we focused on the first two limbs – the yamas, or “wise characteristics,” and the niyamas, or “rules” or “laws.” This was really hard to do without diverging into other conversations about history, politics, and religion, as yoga emerged within particular historical, political, and spiritual/religious contexts. I was immensely grateful for the conversation, as one of my largest struggles has been centered around finding ways to fully embrace the practice and lifestyle of yoga, while at the same time maintaining political commitments to the advocacy research I do around state violence committed against India’s ‘internal Others’ in the name of Hindu nationalism, or Hindutva. Obviously such violence is completely antithetical to yoga and its commitments of nonviolence, or ahimsa. (Of all things, ahimsa happens to be the first yama.) Nevertheless, because of a conflation of yoga with Hinduism in the Global North, and because of a conflation of Hinduism and nationalism in postcolonial India, I have stumbled with, albeit ridiculously, reifying yoga with nationalism. I think that the focus of Darren’s lecture, and my own subsequent reflections, really disentangled my own confusion and allowed me to deepen my commitment to yoga. Phew.
It was interesting to hear some of the different struggles that my fellow classmates were experiencing as well. Some people have found the time commitment and lifestyle change daunting. Others have found themselves struggling in yoga classes that they take as they are suddenly paying more attention to teachers’ methods of teaching than to their yoga practices. Many people described having trouble stilling their minds while meditating, and even sitting in meditation altogether. Despite all of these discomforts and moments of awareness of them, everyone seems fully committed to continuing down this path and learning from it. After all, as we learned, yoga is often also about agitation, about building some sort of fire to aid in transition into the future.
It was also our first week teaching. We were to teach Tadasana to two people, and to report back on the experience and their feedback. It was amazing to hear about how different my classmates’ experiences where, as such variation reflects how different everyone’s body is, including our future students. It seemed as if almost everyone had positive experiences teaching, and that the cues and alignment techniques that Chrisandra has been teaching us are facilitating our ability to help our students into their asanas. I am already excited for future teaching this week, and curious about how leading students into more complex standing poses will be. We also learned the intricacies of sun salutations, and will spend time this week scripting out cues to transition through them. It’s funny how even though I’ve probably gone through thousands of sun salutations during my yoga practice, how slowing down and thinking cues and alignment becomes a challenge. Most of us found that, for instance, that we had been transitioning through Chaturanga Dandasana so quickly that we hadn’t ever stopped to think its form. I’m sure that we do we do this with so many of the asanas. I think that this training will be so illuminative in helping us shift this. I look forward to taking more alignment-based yoga classes throughout this week too!