In the past two weeks I’ve come to understand that: teaching is WAY HARDER than it looks, prenatal yoga is fascinating, and pranayama is one of the most intense experiences I’ve come across in yoga thus far.
Practice teaching has been an amazing way to put the new knowledge into action and also to realize how much we have left to learn. Focusing on the sequence of poses, the breath, appropriate cues, creating a safe environment, using natural and appropriate voice inflection…the list goes on and on, and is often completely invisible to the student when a teacher seamlessly integrates all moving parts. When I realize how many things are going on at the same time, I am really impressed even by an instructor’s knowledge of right from left (surprisingly difficult!). Practice teaching round-robin style, one-on-one, and leading small group flows has helped to build confidence and give me the opportunity to try putting all of the various pieces together at once.
Part of our work this month as students is to observe existing classes through newly trained eyes. Whereas normally we would be flowing through the class at the teacher’s instruction, we now have the opportunity to remove ourselves from the asana experience in order to really notice the language choice, sequencing, and how the teacher mindfully creates the environment he or she is wishing to hold for the students. It has been really interesting to observe different physical assists and word choice, especially cueing for each pose. So far I have had the pleasure of observing Darren Main’s powerful Grace Cathedral donation-based flow, and Robyn Engel’s prenatal class in Potrero.
This week we were introduced to the warm and engaging Jane Austin, who also works to create a safe and healthy space for pregnant and post-partum yogis. She has an impressive depth of experience and also passion for guiding women through this unique time in their lives. Jane taught us multiple modifications, what-not-to-say-to-a-pregnant-woman caveats, how to create a warm and welcoming space, and more about the pregnancy and birthing process in four hours than I’ve learned in the past combined. Such an incredible class, and I’m considering pursuing further specialized training in prenatal yoga after graduation. I feel it’s so important that the subject matter be required, which I think is fairly unique to Yoga Tree’s training. Whether or not one decides to specifically teach Prenatal Yoga, it’s important to understand safe modifications, should a pregnant woman attend any yoga class.
We ended the second week on Saturday evening (hard to believe we are half-way through!) with Darren Main leading us through highly-anticipated pranayama. Darren is both skilled and extremely passionate about this breathing technique, and took the time to lead us through an explanation of how there are many, many variations of pranayama, and also various possibilities for physical and emotional reactions to the practice. The process was unlike anything I’d experienced thus far, and it was fascinating that simply altering my breathing and meditating with Darren’s cues could cause such intense physical sensations, and also trigger emotional reactions for me including both gratitude and fear in the same exercise. Saturday’s pranayama was different for each one of us; it was so powerful to practice in a safe space where each experience was validated and respected. When they say that yoga teacher training “opens you up,” this was the height of it for me.