Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Forty Hours Down, 160 to Go

Last week I started my yoga teacher training. At the end of this course (which will take six months), I can apply to the Yoga Alliance (http://www.yogaalliance.org/index.html) to be a yoga instructor certified at the 200 hour level.

That means, that I have to complete at least 200 hours of coursework in Sanskrit, Asana, pranayama, meditation, Philosophy and Anatomy from now until the beginning of next year.

Last week was our week-long intensive--eight days of at least 5 hours a day of training. On top of that, we were required to practice yoga every day, adding another 30to 90 minutes to my yogic day. Over the coming months I have to devote at least one full weekend to coursework, and engage in many hours of observation, practice and student teaching.

It is indeed a wonderful experience to immerse one-self so deeply in an area one feels passionately about, and I feel fortunate that I was able to do so. I've taken week-end long workshops in the past, but this was the first time I essentially devoted an entire week to nothing but studying yoga.

After six years of studying yoga, I've barely scratched the surface of what one can learn. After devoting a solid 40 hours of studying last week to yoga, I realized that I can spend an entire lifetime doing nothing but studying yoga, and still have more to learn. But that's OK. I don't need to learn everything.

Much of the week was devoted to studying Asanas--the physical aspect of yoga. We went over in detail what each Asana (posture) was supposed to look like, what muscles and organs each Asana worked on, and how to teach them. We primarily focused on the Asanas which make up the sun saluations, but we went through the entire Ashtanga closing sequence Asanas as well.

Another large piece of our time was spent studying anatomy, particularly the brain and the endocrine system.

A Sanskrit expert then instructed us on some of the basics of this ancient, sacred language. Did you know that Sanskrit actually has 46 letters? It has many vocalizations not found in English, and many of the vocalizations we have in English (such as our T), are not used in Sanskrit. We spent hours just learning how to vocalize many of these new letters, including where to place our tongues in order to do so.

Pranayama, or breathing, has always played a minor role in my practice, as has meditation, because I just never had the time to delve into either all that deeply (or any real desire to do so either). This week I learned and practiced more about both of these yogic disciplines, and now intend to practice both faithfully.

I have to say, that after a long day of practicing yoga, and then learning to teach it, when our instructor announced it was time to practice meditation towards the end of each day, I was extremely happy. I particularly liked the guided meditations lying down.

This was also a week in which I learned a few things about myself. First, sitting on the floor for long periods of time is extremely difficult for me. I still don't have the core strength, and flexibility in my hamstrings to sit on the floor in any position for longer than a couple of hours. I found myself having to sit back against the wall in order to get through the day.

Second, I don't hate meditation. I've pretty much avoided meditation in the past because I found it hard to sit still and clear my mind. After spending several hours both learning how to meditate, and meditation, I've found that it actually doesn't suck.

Third, it may actually be possible for me to learn the names of all the asanas in Sanskrit. Up until last week, I recall the names approximately 99% of the asanas. Over the course of the week, I finally could identify an addition 10-15% of Sanskrit names.

Fourth, teaching yoga is a lot harder then it first appears, and it will take me years, even after a 200 hour course of study, to really do it justice.


  1. Wow..sounds intense for sure. How many others are in the course with you? I've taken Ashtanga and it is a bit too physically challenging for me but I really liked it. Can't imagine what training to become a teacher of the style is like!

  2. That sounds awesome!! I just started taking yoga a few months ago and I LOVE it!! Good for you!

  3. There's about ten of us in the training. Yes, it's physically challenging, but if you have a good teacher, they should be adapting it so that you can always come back the next day to practice again. The strength and the endurance is built up over time.

  4. Nice posting. Do you know about these yoga books?