I went to a weekend training led by my first teacher, Baron Baptiste last weekend. I’ve been wanting to write about what I learned for a few days now and I just had a chance to sit down and write down my thoughts.
All of my initial training was with Baron Baptiste and I am forever grateful to him for all that I have learned. For many many years I primarily taught the Baptiste Power Vinyasa Sequence in my classes and I continue to find it to be one of the most powerful, accessible sequences out there. One of the interesting things about teaching yoga is that you can emphasize different things about the same sequence and give it more depth and power. While the sequence and the poses we did over the weekend were similar to things I had done before, the principles emphasized and the way we discussed them in between practices really hit home for me. They say that sometimes you can hear the same thing over and over again and over time, it really starts to sink in. I can say that this was my experience with many things at this event. I also found there were some core principles we discussed where I found a new way to understand them.
Here are the highlights from some of what we discussed, experienced and practiced:
Work from the Core: You’ve probably been in a class where the concept of Uddiyana Bandha was presented; the idea of pulling the belly into the spine as a way to create core awareness and lightness when you do things like jump forward. We not only focused on this but squeezed a block between the thighs as we jumped forward. We did this many, many MANY times (boy, did I feel it!) but it was a great way to help you connect your core to your legs for greater power.
The idea of effort and ease: In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali talks about “sthira sukham asanam;” the idea that each pose has a balance of steadiness and ease. I like to talk about this in the context of “working what needs to be worked and relaxing the rest.” I use this concept when I go running as I (try) to put the power into my gait but keep my upper body relaxed. We talked about this idea and then applied it to practice in our own way.
Find your Feet: Of course, poses on the feet depend on good awareness and anchoring of the feet. But it’s amazing how we can get lazy and disconnected from the feet throughout our practice! We worked to look at how the feet are positioned and feel while standing and then worked to translate that to other positions. We paid particular attention to the position of the heel over the crease of the toes in poses like high push up, low push up and Crescent Lunge. It was amazing how much more power you could experience in the whole body once you started from the ground first.
Look outside yourself to find your center: We had lots of discussion and practice with “drishti,” the concept in yoga of “setting the eyes at one point.” We worked to hold a block in our hands and between thighs when working Sun Salutations as a way to train ourselves to always set our gaze. In discussions with the group, the concept was discussed around looking outside ourselves to a fixed point as way to not only calm the mind and set the gaze but to connect with our bodies. I always believed that to connect “out” I needed to first connect “in,” but in our discussions, I could very much relate to the idea that in order for me to feel more connected to myself, I have to get out of my own way, out of my own head and connect with what is in front of me, be it a student, a child, a partner. Only through getting out of my own way, would I find myself.
In the past week since I’ve returned from this training, I have been applying this concepts while teaching. It’s been a true exploration in basic, fundamental principles and one that I’ve found to be very powerful to my teaching. I encourage you to try even just one of these in your practice this week.