My Yoga Journey: Celebrating One Year As A Teacher

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Last month, marked one year since I completed my Yoga Teacher Training 200 Hour Program at Lourdes Institute of Wholistic Studies.

Since graduation, I’ve taught 70+ hours of yoga to mature adults and seniors as old (or should I say as young) as 100. I’ve taught newbies and experienced yogis. I’ve taught Chair Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Aqua Yoga in the water and even Power Yoga (if there is such a thing). I’ve led Meditation and Mindfulness sessions too. Wow-o-wow! 

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I remember my first few classes. I was very nervous. Would my voice project? Could I memorize a sequence of poses? What would happen if my sequence ran past the hour? What about the music, the mantras, the mudras, the Sanskrit names and directions for each pose? It was all so overwhelming. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to teach.

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Learning From My Students
Transitioning from a teacher in training to an instructor in the studio has been an incredible learning experience. Now my students are my best educators.

When I speak softly, my students tell me to talk louder or turn down the music.

When I mention “inhale your left arm up” instead of “inhale your right arm up,” my students remind me and I quickly correct.

“We don’t say pain,” said my Chair Yoga student. “We say discomfort.”  “Discomfort it is,” I replied. The word “pain” has left my vocabulary.

“Can we look in the mirror?” asked my Yoga 101 student. “Yoga is a practice, there’s no perfect pose, no judgement,” I said. “The mirror won’t tell you anything and may even bring you off balance.” The student found his focal point (or drishti as we say in Sanskrit) away from the mirror and attempted to balance in Tree Pose, first on his left foot and then his right. Continue reading

My Post 50 Yoga Journey: Time To Celebrate Accomplishments

life after 50, baby boomer women, boomer wellness“How do you feel?” asked my teacher B after I concluded my final one hour practice teach to become a yoga instructor. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for all that I had accomplished during the past 16 months of YTT200 training at Lourdes Institute of Wholistic Studies in Camden, NJ.

There was a bond among the five of us who went through the journey together. We were forever changed in mind, body, and spirit. During our closing ceremonies we surrounded each other in a circle with a special blessing and chant of “om”. We were encouraged to observe and give positive feedback after each practice teach. “Leave the teacher open to new possibilities, alternatives, and choices rather than the idea that there is a right or wrong way,” B said.

As new teachers, we each created an affirmation about ourselves and our teaching. “I, Judi, am grateful for having completed my YTT 200 teacher training and look forward to sharing the benefits of yoga with others,” I chanted the sentence three times and then my classmates and teachers repeated it in unison to reconfirm.

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As new yoga teachers, we each created an affirmation.

Becoming A Teacher, But Always A Student
Gerald Marzorati, a former editor of The New York Times Magazine, wrote an essay last month called “Practicing for a Better Old Age.” In his writing Gerald recommends that during your life after 50 that you “Find something — something new, something difficult — to immerse yourself in and improve at.” He says that “What brings us to the the beauty of a disciplined effort at improvement and, I think, the only guaranteed benefit of finding something, as I found in tennis, to learn and commit to: You see time and make it yours. You counter the narrative of diminishment and loss with one of progress and bettering.” Continue reading

My Post 50 Yoga Journey: A New Perspective on the Body and Mind

life after 50, baby boomer women, boomer wellnessIt’s been a while since I shared progress on my post 50 journey to become a yoga instructor. Through my education at Lourdes Institute of Wholistic Studies, I’m gaining a new perspective on the union between the body and the mind.

Our Amazing Bodies
In prior posts, I told you about my deepening knowledge of anatomy and physiology. This spring, I decided to re-audit A+P. Our bodies are very complex with so many muscles, bones, limbs, joints, and organs – it’s truly amazing how everything works together, or sometimes doesn’t work together when you don’t take care of yourself. It’s been said that a consistent yoga practice can help resolve “the issues in the tissues.”

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I learned a lot from yoga instructor N and her companion Raja.

The Power of Prana
I introduced you to prana, the Sanskrit word for “life force” and demonstrated different breathing techniques – Dirgha and Nadi Shodhana – to move prana through the body. Over the past several months, I’ve learned additional ways to use breath to calm and focus the mind, build lung capacity, and activate energy in the body.  From Ujjayi, great sound breath, to  Kapalabhati, skull shining breath, Sama Vritti to Vishama Vritti, both with a counting rhythm (Sama is equal counts with inhale and exhale and Vishama has a longer exhale) – I’ve witnessed how marrying breath with movement can bring greater benefits to the body and mind.

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I practice meditation with Nadi Shodhana breathing, alternate nostril breath, to help lower my blood pressure and relax.

The Artistry of A Yoga Sequence
My artistry of asanas has multiplied with a broad portfolio of poses to choose from as I enhance my own practice and craft sequences to teach others. There are joint-freeing series, reclining poses, seated poses, standing poses, backbends, forward bends, twists, and inversions. There are the three-dimensional aspects of poses, their Sanskrit names, and proper alignments. There are key benefits, precautions, and contraindications for poses, plus modifications and assists for those who may need help.

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Our instructors L and M show us the correct alignment and assists for poses.

We begin each sequence with centering. “Let your thoughts go. Bring your mind to the mat as well as your body,” said my instructor L. We end with savasana, known as corpse pose, the most important asana of them all. It’s when the body and the mind totally relax lying flat on the mat and the goodness of all the other poses melts into every cell. Continue reading

My Post 50 Yoga Journey: It’s About Mind, Body, and Spirit

life after 50, baby boomer women, boomer wellness“Welcome to yoga training Methods & Techniques I,” said my instructor B as she addressed our first weekend class at Lourdes Institute of Wholistic Studies in Camden, NJ. “We come together as strangers, but we leave as a tight-knit community. These are your sisters.”

There are five women, or should I say five yoginis (female yoga practitioners are called yogini, male are yogi), in the YTT200 program this year and by May 2016, after 200 hours of training, we will be eligible for our first yoga teacher certificate from Yoga Alliance.

Discovering My True Self
I was excited and anxious to begin training. I started practicing yoga about seven years ago, after my husband passed away. It helped me heal my “mind, body, and spirit” and work through my grief. It continues to provide an outlet for “letting go” and “slowing down” – which is an on-going challenge for me since retiring from my fast-paced full-time job.

“Explore your own creative expression as a yoga teacher, ” said B. “Don’t worry about anything. I’m looking at your growth during this training.”

Om, om, om, I breathed in and began to relax on my mat. This journey I am embarking on for the next nine months is sacred. Am I ready to discover more about my own true self? Am I prepared for what lies deep within?

Yes, yes, yes, it’s a bit scary delving deep, yet at the same time freeing. Plus, I’m eager to improve my own strength, flexibility, and balance during my life after 50 and share all the benefits that yoga has to offer with others,

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I was ready for my yoga training with my mat, cushion, blanket, strap, and blocks.

The Eight-Fold Path
B explained the “Eight-Fold Path” Of Ashtanga Yoga according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, who lived and wrote a long, long time ago between what is thought to be 200 BC – 200 AD. The guidelines start at the base with Yamas (restraints such as non-violence and truthfulness) and Niyamas (behaviors and observances such as contentment and cleanliness). The path moves up the hierarchy to Asanas (postures), Pranayama (controlling your breath), Pratyahara (where you close your eyes and be with yourself), to Dharana (concentration), to Dhyana (meditation), and finally, to Samadhi (a blissful state of spiritual freedom). Continue reading