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Exams to Evaluate Your Yoga Level: A Paradox?

I’m approaching the end of my 3 year Iyengar Yoga Teacher Training, and lately I’m struggling with this paradox of having an exam in yoga. To strive and train for an exam, is to me, so in contradiction with the ‘yoga philosophy’.

Six years ago I started practicing yoga to heal myself from an serious back-injury after doing so many back-bends as a contortionist in a circus. Today, practicing yoga asanas makes me feel good, it makes me feel alive and I feel much more aware and clear-minded.

Every morning, when I step on my yoga mat, I like to do some wake-up stretches and unwinding of my body. I’m feeling the state of my body this morning, and I’m just flowing and slow dancing to wake my body up and get the sleepy stiffness away. This kind off moving wouldn’t look like yoga, but it feels good. I move in an intuitive way.

Next, I’ll start with one of the 6 sequences I’m repeating every week, always in the same order. Because it’s Iyengar and this is supposed to be the most logic and best order for the body’s balance. Those have been elaborated by one of the most senior students of B.K.S. Iyengar.

Usually at this point my mind starts working, instead of “citta vrtti nirodaha” (YS 1.2) which is often translated simply as, ‘Yoga is the ability to calm/direct/restrain the fluctuations of the consciousness/mind’. Mostly I’m criticizing myself, because through the Iyengar Yoga method I’ve gained so much knowledge about how each pose is supposed to be, all the details I should be aware of. So instead of being right here on my mat, at ease with myself, offering myself the best I’ve have to give for today, I’m doing all the opposite.

Because of that exam. Because of the pressure. Because of the expectations.

 

Here is the paradox: Yoga is about the path, not about any goal. A perfectly executed advanced pose is not going to bring me enlightenment. NEVER! But, that exam is waiting for me. Therefore, I have to raise my practice to a certain yoga level, because I really want to pass that exam. But the yoga I loved so much, is gone, because of this exam.

 

Yoga is about the path, not about a goal.

This exam is a part of my path. So what can I get out of this struggle. Instead of going in a downward negative spiral, every struggle can be an opportunity to grow.

 

What causes trouble in this situation, is the mind, the mind and it’s thoughts. So the question then becomes – HOW do we calm or restrain the mind to achieve this desired state of yoga? Well the simple answer is: do your yoga practice. Simple. Just keep doing a regular and sustained yoga practice and all will come – as the late Sri. K. Patthabhi Jois would say. But we are creatures of wanting to know everything and sometimes the simple answer just doesn’t cut it!

 

Patanjali actually describes the five fluctuations (functions or states) of the mind (or five vrittis) to help us better understand the workings of the mind. He says these five vrittis can be painful or non-painful. They are:

1. Valid Cognition (Pramana) 

(Knowledge should be acquired through direct experience for accepting any knowledge as correct.)

2. Misconception (Viparyaya) 

(Learning to dissolve our personal subjective frame of the way we see things, so we can start seeing things for what they truly are.)

3. Imagination (Vikalpa)

(Imagination, doubts, indecsion, daydreaming…. these are all our own creations, but our mind might start believing them for being true. We create an imagined world for ourselves based on our way of thinking. This ‘power of positive thinking’ may appear new age, however the yoga sutras has been teaching for thousands of years the importance of controlling the mind! Through this control, we can liberate ourselves from suffering.)

4. Sleep (Nidra)
(When the mind is not in one of the first three vrittis, it might be in the nidra state: the mind is directed inward, operating at a very subtle level. B.K.S Iyengar says that “sleep is the non-deliberate absence of thought-waves or knowledge”. )

5. Memory (Smriti)
(The Yoga Sutra 1.11 is translated as “Memory is the mental retention of a conscious experience” or “memory is a recollection of experienced objects”. All conscious experiences leave an impression on the individual and are stored as memory. It is not possible to tell if a memory is true, false, incomplete or imaginary. Think about a different people who will recall the same event, they all might remember it differently. Memory can influence your present situation more than you might realize, by holding onto certain impressions (conditionings), it’s very likely we can’t experience the now AS IT IS…without bias, judgement or criticism.)

So, how can this knowledge serve us in calming the fluctuations of the mind?

 

By being able to become an observer, stepping out of yourself and observing and recognizing these different functions of the mind, without being attached, upset or frustrated, slowly you will learn how the mind works. Once you are able to observe without reaction, you will be able to differentiate the mind and all of its fluctuations from your true nature. You aren’t the mind and it’s thoughts, emotions, imaginations, memories and fluctuations. No, behind the fluctuations of the mind, you might catch a glimpse of your true self. The true self which is only emptiness, and at the same time contains everything. You might discover there is no separation between ‘Me’ & ‘You’.

 

So the most simple answer to calming the mind and finding peace with life’s paradoxes is to do your practice. Do your practice, and stay the observer – On your yoga-mat, off the yoga-mat, all day, all night. Yoga is all the time, meditation is all the time. Through a regular and sustained practice, life will unfold the way it is meant to.

 

 

 

 

 

Yara will be a certified Iyengar Yoga instructor from October 2017 on. She is a certified Myofascial Energetic Release (M.E.R.) Therapist. She is Dutch, currently living in France. As a former circus-artist she loves to play, move and travel around the world.

First Time Yoga Instructor in Nicaragua

Last spring, I signed up for Yoga Trade.

On my first day, I looked at the posts for volunteer and intern positions and I applied to three posts. I had an interview by the following weekend with a hostel in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. I Skyped with the volunteer coordinator there and we really clicked. We talked about yoga, volunteer positions, beaches and monsoon seasons. The next night, I was signed up for the job. It felt like fate!

In the summer, I completed my yoga instructor training in Bali. I was nervous about starting to teach, but I knew leaping into it was probably the best way to make it happen.

In August, I boarded the plane and headed off for Nicaragua, where I had never been before. I caught a bus from Managua, where the airport is, down to Rivas, and from there caught another bus to San Juan del Sur. The town was very cute—a few blocks of stone streets lined on both sides with colorful buildings. The hostel was a one-minute walk from the beach!
I met the manager and he showed me the yoga studio on the top floor, which moonlighted as a bar at night. The hostel had really cool artistic touches, like a murals on the floors and walls, recycled bottles as chandeliers and barrels turned into tables.

I made my own schedule and posters for the five morning classes I’d teach each week. In exchange for the yoga classes, I got a room in the volunteer apartment up the road, daily breakfast (burritos or gallo pinto) and free shuttles to the surrounding beaches.

My first class was the hardest, of course. I went early to set out mats, blocks and straps. Then 10 minutes before class, a cleaner came to mop the floor! I had to pick it all up and then set it all out again. The manager’s girlfriend came for the class, which made me nervous. I realized later she just liked yoga, and wasn’t there to check on me. She told me later she never would have guessed that it was my first class ever.

Each morning, anywhere from 2 to 15 people came. The room was small so 15 was a stretch, but we made it work. It was always interesting to see the levels of the yogis who came too. A few times, I had someone for their first class ever and sometimes other yoga instructors who were traveling through came for the classes. Some yogis didn’t speak English so I had to be good at modeling the poses and alignment adjustments. It was difficult at first to try to make a plan for such a mixed group, but it’s a good skill to learn.

After a couple of weeks, another volunteer yoga instructor joined me at the hostel. We made a new schedule that included afternoon classes as well, which meant we could implement my idea for sunset yoga on the beach! Looking back, that was probably my favorite part! It was also really nice to have another instructor teaching classes that I could go to and learn from as a new instructor myself.

On the new schedule I taught two classes on Fridays and one class Tuesday through Thursday. That meant I had 3-day weekends so I made time to travel and see some other islands, beaches and cities around Nicaragua. I really enjoyed the local beach shuttles as well because there are so many gorgeous beaches near San Juan del Sur. I also had the opportunity to take Spanish lessons from another volunteer at the hostel. One night, I saw one of the hostel’s volunteer projects in action: helping the endangered sea turtles. I got to go to a far-away beach to see the babies hatching and making their way to the sea. We also saw some mother turtles laying eggs in new nests they were digging.

I’m really grateful to have had this opportunity to start teaching yoga in such a relaxed, fun way, and in a new, interesting part of the world!

 

 

 

Katia loves to travel and do yoga. She currently lives and teaches yoga in Mandalay, Myanmar. She also enjoys blogging about her experiences on katiayoga.com

Before and After Rishikesh, India

One year ago I decided to leave my country to explore the world doing Yoga. Ive been practicing asana since I was 15, but had never thought I’d ever study to become a yoga teacher. When I started the trip I didn’t know exactly what countries I wanted to visit or how this was going to play out, I just had some clues, ideas, a mental map of what I wanted to do. A MUST was going to India to do a Yoga TTC.

In my mind, I had planned to do this in December 2016, but in the middle of the trip I was in Hawaii and I decided I wanted to leave to India right at that moment (September 2016). It was something I can’t explain as a mental process, it was just a call from destiny that I had to take. One month later I was arriving in New Delhi, the capital of India. I cannot lie, at the beginning it was a real shock for me…everything. The noise, the heat, so many people, everything so crowded, the food, I was not the kind of girl that immediately falls in love with India, it was something that came with the process; in the end, I liked it that way because slowly but surely, you fall in love with things much deeper than when it’s just a crush.

Finally I was there, living one of the most intense experiences of my life. Everyday we woke up at 5:30 am and started practicing Hatha Yoga, then Pranayama; after 3 hours being up, we finally had breakfast, and then the day went on, class after class. At 8:30 pm more less, we were done, but it was really intense each day, not only because of the obvious things, but also because you are living your own process, and at the same time 15 more people like you are living their own process too; that deep journey inside yourself, a lot of intense, hard stuff comes out. In the third week, the magic happened and I was feeling much better; my ashtanga practice was improving a lot and I felt I was unstoppable; I felt I never wanted to stop practicing. Every time I went to a cafe with my friend, I could hear everybody talking about the same, even though they studied in different schools; everyone had the same issues and concerns, and I, who felt my feelings were so special, was actually feeling much the same as everybody else! ( hehe)

 

Anyway, I don´t want to talk so deeply about the TTC exactly but about what happened inside after living that experience in that part of the world with those teachers. Rishikes, India is a small city 230 kms away from New Delhi; it is a sacred city, the world capital of Yoga and it is one of the most special places I’ve been to; surrounded by the Himalayas, separated by Maa Ganga, and full of Yoga schools, Babas, Gurujis and all of us; westerners trying to learn from the source and the root. This place is pure magic, they don´t sell alcohol, or meat, and everything closes at around 9-10 pm.

Those days in that place, after that experience I wrote: How can you be the same after your eyes have seen the most beautiful and the ugliest both outside and inside yourself… I still don’t know if I’ve found my destiny but it feels like something very profound. I’m not the same person that arrived back a month ago; something has changed; priorities are not the same. I truly feel lighter inside, and I’ve finally understood what really matters in life for me. I don’t want to argue anymore with people just to be right. I want to be more patient everyday. Sitting at the banks of Mother Ganga taught me so much about letting things and people go, about having complete certainty in the process and timing of things. This doesn’t mean I never feel things anymore or that I’m a Hipster-Hippie, it means I feel things deeply in my heart but everyday the distance between my feelings, the reaction and the letting go of the control is shorter, and that is priceless. It is not all about India, but Rishikesh helped a lot. ( I think Alanis Morrissette also felt that way when singing “Thank you India”)

In my opinion, it is really important to find a School – an Ashram to study and stay where you feel like you’re at home for that month or 2 months that you´ll be living there. To this end, I can totally recommend the place where I studied: Anadi Yoga Centre, not only because of the incredible Indian Teachers with a lot of teaching experience, but they are also very concerned about sharing the Yoga knowledge in a very professional and passionate way, instilling in you the wish to do and give your best everyday, and always very open to addressing all your doubts and concerns. ( Trust me, there are many, many schools that are just businesses )

My connection with this place is so deep that I decided to go back to study more, and to live there so I could experience it in a different way this time. Totally worth it. Rishikesh, India is a place that I can also call Home, because there I feel nearer to myself, to the true being that I am.

Namaste

 

 

 

Fiorella is a Chilean Wanderlust Yogini & Travel Blogger. Her personal seal is to share about everything that has made her a happier and healthier person. Her beliefs: Kabbalah, Her Life Philosophy: Yoga. // www.fioreyogini.com @fioreyogini

Let’s Start A Yoga Revolution

ALL REVOLUTIONS BEGIN AS EVOLUTIONS.

I have worked for years trying to meet the mainstream examples of an adept yogi. I stretched my body beyond it’s limits, I filled my mind with teachings and directions. I approached my mat like a surgeon, ready to cut and repair my practice into perfection. yoga-revolution-2Until one day I stopped practicing and started listening, and it was revolutionary. Though not quite in my 40th year, I feel my body resisting the rigid structure of effort and achievement that I’d been striving to obtain for two decades. I witness that when I threw caution to the wind and ALLOW my body to explore sensation, movement, and breath, the experience of Yoga, rather than the practice of it, is the result. I am mystified and terrified, but also excited. Even though I’ve been teaching for years, it feels daunting to offer this new approach to my students. For now, my teaching is evolving into a dialogue of trust and discovery rather than a demand to perpetuate the status quo.

Maybe this makes me a renegade or some sort of nuisance. It definitely makes my classes an acquired taste. The mainstream idea that yoga is about bikini clad arm balances is not the Yoga I want to be teaching. Though the asana I teach is full of opportunities to be stronger, it is not a fast-paced, fitness driven kind of strength. Instead, we explore an innate strength that arises from within; an unshakeable trust in yourself. That’s what I want to be teaching: THE FULL POSSIBILITY OF WHAT YOGA CAN BE. I continue to stand on a strong foundation of Millennia old teachings, and trust that the forms of asanas shape and move our energy in ways that enhance our vitality. And I will continue to study with amazing teachers. Am I infalible? Hell NO! I have blind spots. I have places within me that I have hidden or locked away that need a teacher or a teaching to crack open. But I no longer want to be solely dependent on the authority of others to guide my experience.

In this revolution, we will know that we don’t have to master a picture-perfect handstand in order to be a yogi. We don’t have to twist ourselves into complex shapes or harden our core to be successful. We don’t have to disregard the messages of safety that come from FIRST-AIDour brains and our cells. When our Yoga becomes our revolution it evolves to embody the unique essence of beauty and perfection that exists inside of each of us.

The most challenging part of evolution is trust. We can’t get behind a revolution without it. How do we quiet the voices of doubt and fear and criticism (both inside and out) that say that this approach isn’t yoga? How do we allow the experience of yoga to rise up from within, rather than feeling like it is perpetually something we have create on the outside? WHAT WOULD OUR YOGA LOOK LIKE IF WE REALLY TRUSTED OURSELVES? What if we were the ultimate authority of what was best for us? Here’s where the real revolution begins.

We are returning to our innate guidance. Regardless of opinion, we are pursuing the possibility that Yoga is something that is sourced from inside of us and not something to achieve or attain. As we mature our understanding, our practice transforms, and if we are lucky, we get to share that with others.

THIS IS THE NEW REVOLUTION OF YOGA, AND WE ARE ON THE FRONT LINES. ARE YOU READY TO JOIN US?


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Kelly Golden has studied and practiced for over 20 years in the lineage of Sri Vidya Tantra. She is the Director of Vira Bhava Yoga School, leading 200/300 hour teacher trainings in Northern California. Connect and find out more info about the trainings HERE

Yoga Teachers: The Importance of Continuing Education

The yoga industry is expanding faster than ever these days. If you aren’t a yoga teacher, there is a good chance you probably know one…or many. It is a beautiful thing to see wellness programs popping up all over the place in everyday “conventional” life situations; schools, hotels, community centers, parks, etc. Yoga teachers are now able to make a living as many people are interested in the wellness industry and yoga teachers make positive contributions into the lives of other people. One thing is certain: yoga has made a worldwide presence. How do we as yoga teachers, wellness educators, and holistic practitioners, ensure that we are still growing, learning, and being responsible teachers?…By continuing our yoga education! While there are many places out there to study yoga, it is wise to take time to choose teachers and schools that resonate with YOU. We highly recommend Yandara Yoga Institute in Baja, Mexico and the Living Yoga Alchemy continuing education programs. Yandara is one of the most established and successful educational yoga centers in the world, and a great place to dive into advanced trainings in an off-the-grid sustainable environment.

 

“The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing.” –Albert Einstein

 

BENEFITS OF CONTINUING YOGA EDUCATION:

 

GROWTH

To live life to the fullest, we must always look for ways to grow. Continuing education allows yoga teachers to acquire new skills, enhance personal practice, and master newyandara4 techniques that will make working with diverse populations possible and effective. We must invest in ourselves and the future. Practice makes practice, it takes continuing work to evolve. Get excited to learn more about yourself and create positive personal impact.

 

INSPIRATION

When we embark on pilgrimages and delve into new areas of learning we will most likely become inspired. This helps with our creativity, and gives us brighter energy. This magnetic energy ends up having a spiral effect on everything around us. Inspired learning keeps us from becoming bored and getting out of our comfort zones keeps us interested and motivated. Becoming part of yoga trainings also allows us to meet new people and make connections from around the globe. Life is grand adventure, let’s enjoy the ride.

 

CURIOSITY

Furthering our education allows us to keep the “beginner’s mind” active and to stay curious. Many teachers need time off so they can revisit what it is like to be a student. This can help us to relate to students in a more effective way, and also gives us time to be a “receiver” instead of a giver. New information can be stimulating and allows us to live life as a journey in which to continuously learn. Add depth to your life, broaden your horizons, and open your mind to new ideas and methods.

 

CONFIDENCE

Continuing education helps to build your following and allows you to feel more confident. Many teachers worry if they leave for chunks for time, they will lose their students. Actually, people are attracted to the fresh energy that teachers gain from new experiences. Becoming more adaptable can make you more valuable as a yoga teacher. The world of yoga instruction can be competitive so putting effort and time into trainings helps you stand out in the crowd. Become more confident in teaching private yoga sessions, bodywork, and encompass more wellness skills.

 

HUMILITY

Stay humble! Change is inevitable and there is always more to learn, not only in yoga but in everything in life. The best yoga teachers in the world don’t act like they know everything. They all understand the fact that they have to continuously learn to be successful. Learning creates ambiguity. Be willing to let go of past ways of doing things in order to come up with new ways of doing things.

 

HAPPINESS

Become happier: The more we continue to challenge our growth, the happier we are. Personal development is a way to guarantee us serenity from within. Self growth is key yandara11for us to live fulfilling lives and to have a successful career. One of the best feelings in the world is teaching others what you’ve learned. Not only will it affect the person you’re teaching, but also they in turn will teach others! Learning into the golden years also keeps you healthy. Stay forever young and become a living yoga activist.

 

Continued study is necessary and important. There is always something new to discover in the world of yoga. Create balance by cultivating harmony between the inner and outer environments and become more skilled in guiding people to personal transformation. Gain a deeper understanding of the incredible benefits of a holistic health and yoga methodology. These life-changing advanced teacher trainings at Yandara are a great place to start:

 

∞ 300 Hour Advanced Training: Living Yoga Alchemy – March 14-29, 2016 and November 14-29, 2016.

 

∞ Yoga and Ayurveda: Living in Tune with Nature – April 1-10, 2016.

 

∞ Yoga Life Coach Certification – April 1-10, 2016.

 

∞ Yin, Bhakti, and Restorative Training –November 3-12, 2016.

 

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“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

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Erica Hartnick grew up in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, and enjoys all things wild and free. She teaches nature inspired yoga and leads mindful adventures in California and Costa Rica. She gets excited about; LEARNING, intense weather, glassy ocean peaks, pillows of fresh powder snow, crystal clear water, positive people, cultural travel, thriving vegetable gardens, fresh mint chip ice cream, nature’s glory, LIVING YOGA, and connecting with others. She is passionate about the collaboration with friends that led to the creation of Yoga Trade, and is devoted to connecting the yoga community with infinite opportunities!

 

Photo Credit: Yandara Photography