Wobblyogi Wednesday: YTT Journal Week 2

This week we are learning to stand. It feels strange to “study” standing. We started with Tadasana (Mountain pose). Betsy, one of our guides, comically stood in the center of our circle, slightly hunched, head forward, arms on hips and said “now talk me into mountain pose.” After our initial giggles, we found ourselves a bit dumbstruck. How do we tell her how to stand? With her help, we eventually learned:

  1. Start with the feet. This is where you connect with the earth and ground yourself. Feet parallel. Either touching or as wide as feels comfortable (although no more than hip distance apart). Weight should be spread into all four corners of each foot.
  2. Moving up and aligning  the body from the ground… knees should be soft (not locked)
  3. Core pulled in. Pelvis neutral. Tail bone tucked in.
  4. Shoulders down and away from the ears. Long spine. Palms facing slightly forward or to the side.
  5. Gaze forward.

Even as I write this, I’m nervous that I got it wrong. For each of us this looks slightly different. The challenge was to notice and “feel” the alignment with the earth ascend through our bones and muscles. By the time we talked through urvdha hastasana (arms up), uttasana (forward fold), ardha uttasana (table pose), utkasana (chair pose), adho mukha svasana (downward dog) and Virbhadrasana (warrior 1), I forgot how to stand. Noticing all these connections within us that allow us to move to through the world is overwhelming. The next few sessions we continue with standing poses. More on that adventure next week.

Our homework for the week involved reading the first two chapters of The Heart of Yoga by T.K. V. Desikachar. The first chapter describes the concept and meanings of yoga, while the second chapter introduces the foundations of yoga practice. Both chapters are premised on the introduction interview of Desikachar where he stresses the importance for him (and his father Krishnamachayra who taught him yoga) of an individual approach to yoga.  As I read the chapters, I kept this emphasis in mind and asked, what can I learn from this?

The first quote that tickled my activist philosopher sensibilities to live an examined life:

The practice of yoga only requires us to act and to be attentive to our actions. Each of us is required to pay careful attention to the direction we are taking so that we know where we are going and how we are going to get there; this careful observation will enable us to discover something new. Whether this discovery leads to a better understanding of God, to greater contentment, or to a new goal is a completely personal matter.

Such focus on action and personal commitment makes yoga for me so therapeutic for mind and body.

The second quote that gave me pause considered the concept of avidya or clouded understanding by ego, attachment, rejection and fear and the role of yoga in clarifying our understanding by reducing the fog.

Altogether, these three ways of being — health, inquiry, and quality of action — cover the entire spectrum of human endeavor. If we are healthy, know more about ourselves, and improve the quality of our actions, it is likely that we will make fewer mistakes. It is recommended that we work in these three distinct areas to reduce avidya. Together they are known as kriya yoga, the yoga of action. Kriya comes from the kr, meaning “to do.” Yoga is not passive. We have to participate in life. To do this well we can work on ourselves.

How might learning to stand in mountain pose help me clarify my understanding? I don’t know yet, but I suspect by engaging in present, embodied, material thinking of how my bones, muscles and breath are behaving I am training myself to notice without ego (comparison to others), without attachment (to a particular pose), without rejection (of a particular pose), without fear (of standing wrong). I suppose yoga helps me find my own way to stand in the world.

Next week more standing poses.

Wishing you mindful moving,


elephant image from here

Wobblyogi Wednesday – YTT Journal Week 1

Sore but happy, I survived week one of yoga teacher training. I feel like bread dough that has been thoroughly kneaded and is waiting to rise in a warm spot. Stretched and pulled, pushed and rolled, I feel emotionally and physically energized and tired at the same time. The classes themselves swing between active working through poses and relaxed conversation circles. This week’s activities included a discussion about awkward scenarios encountered in yoga classes, a Sun Salutation workshop, a hot yoga and a prenatal yoga practice. This is what I learned:

  • Yoga teaching is like any teaching….students sometimes make inappropriate comments, wear inappropriate attire, fall asleep, don’t follow instructions, look at the time, disrupt the class, get sick and oh, yes…..fart. This in the crass side of yoga teaching that makes the zen side possible and so precious. Our duo of yoga teacher training teachers were keeping it real. Yoga is no place for cerebral idealization. The body in varied forms will and do demand attention.
  • Hot Yoga is very hot! All it missed was the humidity of India for a full experience. My hands were slipping, sweat was dripping onto my mat. It wasn’t pretty. It did make my throat and lungs, suffering from a bit of cough, feel much better. I also realized that I’m supposed to “salt” my yoga mat to break it in.
  • Doing Sun Salutations for three hours on a Sunday morning is demanding. The three versions can be easily confused. We were paired up and teaching each other. Breathing, talking and moving at the same time is MUCH more difficult than I ever imagined. It will take practice and homework. Here is a good website that explains the significance of doing 108 Sun Salutations.
  • I wish I did prenatal yoga when I had my babies. It was a nurturing and elegant way to learn about modified poses. We did a few poses against the wall.
  • There are a lot of yoga information (and misinformation) out there. We talked about a few websites and apps.

For my yoga buddies, here is the recipe for raisin and nut balls, as promised.

Adapted from the Yoga Cookbook, recipes from the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers


Raisin Nut Balls

  1. Blend or process 1/3 of cup unsalted nuts
  2. Blend or process 1/2 of cup of raisins
  3. Combine the sandy textured nuts and raisins
  4. Add 4 tbs melted butter. Form 12 small balls.
  5. Roll in unsweetened shredded coconut
  6. Eat warm or chilled

The book suggested swapping peanut butter or tahini for the butter, trying roasted coconut for coating and a few other variations. This would be an easy recipe to personalize. Make it yummy. I wonder if cranberries and pecans would work?

elephant image from here

Wobblyogi Wednesday- YTT200 Journal


As you know, I like to eat. A lot. Frequently. I am after all, hungryphil. I try to walk to burn off some calories and raise my heart rate. And, I practice yoga to calm my frenzy of eating. Admittedly, my practice of both has been sporadic. In an effort to live more mindfully and consistently, I just started a yoga teacher training program. For me, teaching seems to be the best way to learn. In order to share my experience with you, I offer:  Wobblyogi Wednesday.

I’m over forty, my knees creak and inversions make me dizzy. I am not aiming for perfection. There are eight of us in this session of yoga teacher training at the Community Yoga in West Lafayette Indiana. Most of my fellow yogis are shiny-smart and kind-eyed young women around my daughter’s age. As I munched on my mix of nuts and dates, I listened to their stories that brought them there. Each impressive and so amazingly diverse. After introducing ourselves we talked about our expectations, worries and mostly about what the role of a yoga teacher maybe. I imagine this question will be an ongoing thought throughout the coming months.

Here is how I responded to assignment number 1:

Please answer the following in a few paragraphs. We will be sharing our thoughts as a group as well.
From your perspective, what is the role of a yoga teacher? Take into consideration your own experience, your ideal, and your goals as it relates to teaching yoga.

It is rare for someone to engage in the practice of yoga because they are feeling fantastic body and mind. We all enter a yoga practice achy and unfocused. The first and most crucial role of a yoga teacher from my perspective is an empathetic acceptance of human imperfection and weakness. Honesty and humility allows us to accept the cranky knees, the tights shoulders, the sad heart or restless mind. As a teacher, by voicing these concerns I give my fellow yogis permission to accept their own limits without judgment. The most successful yoga teachers create a nourishing, safe and supportive atmosphere. They notice the telltale details of strained spirits, bodies and minds.

Rule #1: There is no room for judgment on the yoga mat. Only honesty sprinkled with humor.

Once the atmosphere is charged with trust and honesty, good yoga teachers, set the mood, tone and pace of the session. If new poses are attempted, they offer reassurance of what is about to happen. Break down difficult sequences. Build up to difficult poses. They do this while reminding each yogi that they are in control of their practice and can choose to follow a much or as little as they wish. The goal of good teachers, like good parents, is to make themselves unnecessary. The best yoga teachers train us not to need them for direction. They are constantly learning, growing and teaching, and show us how to do the same.

Rule #2: Each yogi is his/her own teacher. A good teacher shows us how to teach ourselves.

If we are all empowered by our own practice, then why come together as a community to practice? What is the difference between mountain pose and just standing? A mountain pose harnesses the shared intentionality of standing (through individual intentions) in respect, in prayer or in defiance. The best yoga teachers cultivate a supportive community of individuals. They remind us that we are not alone in our practice, even at 6am on a cold Indiana morning. They help us carry the mindfulness generated on the mat, off the mat and into our day. They help us commit to the search for intentions, even if each of us holds a different intent. A good teacher translates between traditions, movements and words that project the principle of peace: Salam, Namaste or Shalom.

Rule #3: My yoga demands a non-dogmatic search for mindfulness. There can be no inner peace without aspiring towards outer-peace.

No judgment, no authority, no dogma. This is where I want to start…..

Wishing you mindful moving,

The Wobblyogi


Yogi Elephant image from here