Saturday, 31 January 2015

Yoga Teacher Training Week Four

Four weeks, 200 hours of classes, a lot of laughs, a crazy amount of yoga, three assessments, too many chaturangas, a few tears, two Bountys, 1,000 Oms, a truck load of veggie curry, 100 litres of ginger tea, a couple of bindis, 30 Indian sunsets, a group of beautiful new best friends later, and I can finally say that I'm a qualified yoga teacher!!! I am a qualified yoga teacher. WHAT?! How crazy is that? I think it's going to take a while to sink in!

This week has been a challenging one and I wouldn't have changed a single second of it. I've pushed myself in my practice, in my meditation, and in letting go of expectations (finally!), and it really has paid off. I've tried not to be as hard on myself and to accept where I am in both my practice and in life off of the mat, and by trying to do that just for a week I'm already feeling stronger, happier, and more ready for the next steps in life.

One of my final assessments this week was teaching an hour long Ashtanga based flow class to a group of my fellow teacher trainees. It was a pretty daunting prospect as they all knew exactly what each pose should look like, how it should be instructed, and how to pronounce the Sanskrit names for each pose (well, supposedly! We all struggled with this! Try saying Savasana and Svanasana and let me know how you get on...). The theme of my class was heart opening, and again this was pretty daunting as I was really opening up my own heart to share what's going on in there with my class - I felt pretty vulnerable, but it was me and I was honest so it felt like the right thing to do. We all suffer pain and heartache, and it can be so easy to close our hearts to life and love, but really what good does that do? An open heart can be filled with love and happiness, and in my experience the more you receive the more you can share with others, and sharing love and happiness with your fellow human beings is one of the most amazing feelings in the world. The class focused on poses which physically open the chest area such as wheel and camel, and I encouraged my students to work with their breath to inhale positivity and to exhale everything that no longer served them. I was really quite nervous delivering the class, but my students were amazing and gave incredible energy throughout the sequence. I closed the class with a restorative Savasana and a quote about perfect love from the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 for anyone who wants to take a look).

The feedback I got from the class blew my mind. Everyone was so encouraging and supportive; it was a truly humbling few minutes hearing what they all had to say. I also got some really amazing feedback from the assessing teacher - Magda - who is the most inspirational yoga teacher out there. She really knows her stuff, and so when you get praise from her it's a really great feeling. She said that she felt happy to relax and to just let me lead the class, and that she'd be really happy to come to one of my classes! It was incredible to hear. She also gave some really constructive feedback on things to work on which was super helpful, and I now feel confident enough to come home and to share my newfound knowledge!

We also had two written assessments - one in philosophy and one on anatomy and alignment. They were both challenging but I surprised myself and knew more than I thought I did! Philosophy was totally fine - if you read my last post you'll know that everything is Om so that's all we really had to know ;) And then somehow I managed to get 100% in anatomy and alignment, so anyone who practices with me can rest assured that you'll be 100% correctly aligned and I can fill you in on the muscles that are working in the poses!

So I passed all the assessments and have my certificate to say that I am qualified to teach Ashtanga and Vinyasa based flows (still can't believe it!), but it isn't necessarily all the "yoga" knowledge that I'll remember most about this whole experience. One of the most invaluable things I've learnt is how to spend time with myself, and through spending time with myself I've learnt that I really am stronger than I thought I was. As our teacher Upendra has told us time-after-time "you are the bliss" - bliss is inside of you, you just have to take some time to be with yourself to discover it. I think it's about acknowledging that happiness is a choice and that happiness really is in the hands of each individual.

Happiness is also easier to achieve when you're with happy people, and that's who I've been with for the last four weeks - the most happy, amazing, beautiful, encouraging, loving, inspirational people you could ever imagine. My fellow yogis and yoginis here at the Yoga Village have really made this whole experience more than I could ever have hoped it would be. Some of them are most definitely friends for life and I am confident that we'll continue to support and inspire one another in our lives and yoga careers for years to come. Thank you Kranti family, you are all beautiful and I am so blessed to have met you! You've also introduced some amazing new words into my vocabulary ;)

The only sad thing about becoming a yoga teacher is that it's now over, and tonight I'll be flying the nest! For the next two and a half weeks I'll be travelling around Southern India, but as soon as I'm back I'll be more than ready to begin sharing everything I've learnt here and I really can't wait to spread the love! So until then remember:

1. Open your heart to love and happiness - you never know what's around the corner...
2. You really are stronger than you think
3. You are the bliss and happiness is in your hands
4. Surround yourself with people who will support you and love you exactly for who you are

So I'm off on a little adventure (bring on the 14 hour train journey to Kerala tonight!) and won't be online much for the next few weeks - it's time for a tech detox! - but if you want to check out any photos from my course then follow my Instagram: lucyvictoriajackson. If you'd like to book in any yoga lessons with me when I return, or if you've got any questions about yoga, the course, or just want to say hi then please do drop me a message and I'll reply when I have a little internet session on my travels.

I've really enjoyed sharing this experience with you all, and hope that you've enjoyed reading the updates (sorry if I crossed a line with the "contract the anus" story from week three!), and this certainly isn't the end of the journey... I've got so much more to write about and will be continuing to write posts about yoga, health, fitness, lifestyle, well being, beauty etc when I return home. Thank you so much for all of your support, it really means so much - special thanks to my family and friends who have supported me unconditionally and lovingly on this journey. You make me who I am today and I am so blessed to have you in my lives.

So until next time, live the life you love, love the life you live. Namaste y'all!

Love Lucy x

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Yoga Teacher Training Week Three

Once again this week has absolutely flown by. I guess that's what happens when you're doing something you love with people who make life so beautiful... It's also what happens when you have a lot to laugh about, and boy have we had a lot to laugh about this week!

The highlight has to have been in pranayama (breathing techniques) class when our teacher Upendra - possibly the most authentic and happy yogi I have ever met - described one of the techniques with an accompanying instruction to "contract the anus" illustrated by a hand action bringing all his fingertips together in a crab-like action...apparently it's meant to awaken your kundalini energy (yogi speak for an electric-like current running up your spine), but whatever it's meant to do I couldn't take it seriously as every time the phrase "contract the anus" was used in sync with the hand action we all giggled like a group of fourteen-year-old girls in a sex education class! We had also all assumed that the hand action was some sort of yoga mudra, as these are often used in pranayama, so we were all "contracting the anus" whilst copying the hand action. It wasn't until half way through the class that we realised the hand action wasn't actually at all necessary, and Upendra was only showing us his illustration of an anus contracting...(I apologise if you're reading this over a civilised cup of tea on a Sunday morning!). It was quite possibly the strangest lesson I've experienced thus far...

Or so I thought until we had Upendra for another class where he was to teach us his own version of yoga postures. This lesson began with a hardcore dance tune blasting through the speakers and thus the most surreal 15 minutes of a "yoga" warm-up began... The same tune was played three times in a row (one can only assume that it's his favourite, or he only has one on his iPod), and we literally just jumped around, kicked our feet in the air, and wriggled on the floor for a good 15 minutes. I haven't laughed that much in a really long time, I even cried I was laughing so hard! It was absolutely ridiculous and we all loved every moment. After all that jumping around we were well and truly warm, and we did settle down into some sort of relaxed slow hatha yoga flow and some yoga nidra (essentially lying on the floor for guided meditation). It was the strangest mix of insanity and relaxation. Once again we had experienced another special class by Upendra that left us all feeling totally bemused but in a state of pure joy...

And that's what I think he really wants to teach us: life can be silly, life should be fun, and that laughing is the best kind of medicine. He takes the yogic life seriously; he meditates constantly, he shares his knowledge, he promotes a peaceful way of living, he practices the physical postures, but most of all he walks round with a massive smile on his face spreading happiness and love. Really it's about experiencing the world like a child, but living in it like an adult. We could all do with an Upendra in our lives to see a wonderful example of just how this can be achieved.

Another phrase that he constantly reminds us of is that "everything is Om". When I first heard it I didn't think much of it, in fact I just thought it was a yoga cliche that was thrown around all too often. But actually it's quite a good way of looking at the world, no matter what your world view or religion may be. It basically just means that everything is oneness. We are all one. The world is one. And everything tiny thing that happens has a knock on affect on something else, and that affects the next thing, and so on. It's the ripple effect. It encourages you to think about each action and every word with consideration of how it might affect others, and if everyone was more aware of this oneness I really believe the world would be a better place.

Aside from all of Upendra's life lessons, this week the more physical side of the course - our morning Ashtanga yoga practice - has been interesting. You'd think that by week three I'd be feeling super strong and flexible, but actually this week I've found myself stiffening up quite a bit. Ashtanga is a strong yoga practice, it constantly requires you to actively stretch in the poses - meaning that you must contract certain muscle groups in order to stretch and strengthen at the same time. It can be a very frustrating practice - you will go through phases where you feel like you haven't made much progress, and annoyingly for me that's how I've been feeling this week. Apparently that's fairly normal, and apparently the hard work put in now will pay off in the future, you just need to keep working at it to receive the rewards. I think this is true for most things in life, and it's one of the reasons I love yoga so much: the lessons you learn on the mat will make you stronger and more resilient for life off of the mat. Our teacher used a lovely phrase in one of our morning practices this week, encouraging us to work on our roots and we will achieve our wings, both in yoga and in our real lives. So whether you practice yoga or not I want to encourage you to put the hard yards in now, it won't be easy and there will be times when you want to quit, but persist and breath (breathing is the most important!) and you will make it through, and you will grow your wings.

So to summarise the three lessons I've learnt this week that I wanted to share with you all:

1. Never forget your inner child
2. Everything is Om
3. Work on your roots and your wings will grow

Oh yeah, and don't forget to "contract the anus" if you want to get that kundalini energy flowing...!

The coming week is my last week of Yoga Teacher Training, I really can't quite believe how quickly it's gone, but I am so excited to be an official yoga teacher in just 5 days time! And as before, I can't seem to upload photos onto my blog as I'm using my iPad, so if you want to see photos please follow my Instgram: lucyvictoriajackson

If you have any questions about yoga, the course, or just life in general please do drop me a message :)


Love Lucy x

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Yoga Teacher Training Week Two

So I'm not quite sure where this week has gone, but apparently I'm now half way through my 200 hour yoga teacher training course! 100 hours down, 100 hours to go!

Week Two has been pretty full on - lots more yoga (of course!), many more breathing techniques, too much veggie curry, and trying to stick a rubber tube up my nose and out of my mouth as this is apparently a traditional yogic cleansing technique! Needless to say I failed miserably at that challenge. We do have two more sessions on cleansing coming up this week, so I'll let you know if I'm at all successful...

On a physical note, after two full weeks of yoga I'm already feeling stronger and more flexible - it really is amazing how quickly the body can adapt to intensive and persistent training. I wouldn't say I've lost any weight - there's too much curry available for that! - but my body has noticeably adapted to the physical challenges of the course. I'm pretty sure there's a few muscles that are looking slightly more toned!

Continuing along the food thread I've maintained a completely vegetarian diet for the whole two weeks. We get to eat out at the weekends but I've decided to see how my body reacts to having no meat for an entire month. So far my tummy has been really happy and I haven't missed it much at all, however I'm pretty sure that when faced with a fry up on my return to the UK I'm not sure I could turn it down. The food at Kranti Yoga Village is incredible - most mornings I have vegan porridge with loads of fruits and cinnamon, and then lunch and dinner is usually curry with veggies - it is all absolutely delicious and freshly prepared. However one thing that my fellow yogis and I have been craving is fresh salad, as that's not as readily available here, but luckily around Patnem and Palolem beaches there are some amazing salad places and so Sunday lunch has been replaced with salad! - we really are wild! We're also all off the alcohol (another thing that I shan't be keeping up when I get home!) so when we occasionally do make it out of the yoga village for a night of dancing in the sand we order in the fresh juices - I can highly recommend pineapple, ginger and mint. Seriously delicious.

On an emotional level this week has come with some challenges. One of the main lessons we've had to learn is to not be afraid, and to not turn away from difficulties. This is a tough one as every day we're faced with new asanas (postures), new information, and new philosophies. And then you naturally begin to think about challenges that you've faced before you came out here - many of us on the course have faced quite a few of them - and this was what made me crack during a slow flow class on Tuesday. The theme of the class was "be who you were born to be". I know that sounds a bit hippie and possibly a bit obvious, but actually if you think about it for a moment it's a really lovely message. So many of us spend time trying to be clones of other people - copying famous people, wanting to be like our friends, imitating our idols - and if we're really honest none of this fulfils us. And why is that? It's because we're not being our authentic selves. We spend so long seeing the beauty in others that we don't see it in ourselves. And if we don't see it in ourselves then how can we share that beauty with the world? The world needs you to be you. It's your responsibility to be you. The world needs YOUR beauty. And that's what got me in the slow flow class, I had my first cry of the course - not because I was sad but because I was proud. Not so long ago I was afraid and I did have some difficulties to face, but I took them on and I beat them. I did this so I could be true to myself, and I can tell you hand on heart that I have never been more certain that I'm now living how I'm supposed to. So really I had already taught myself the lessons that we learnt this week, but I wanted to share that with you as if I can do it, then you can do it too. Don't be afraid, don't turn away from difficulties, and you will overcome them to become who you were born to be.

So what's next for the course? Well, by Wednesday this week I have to have my first lesson fully planned ready to practice for my assessment in the final week where I'll teach it to 10 of my fellow students. My theme for the class is going to be on heart opening, but I'll share more of that nearer the time. I also have to get my anatomy knowledge up to scratch (thank goodness I took A level Physical Education!), learn the majority of the Ashtanga yoga primary sequence with Sanskirt names, as well as get my head around the various yoga philosophies... It's going to be a busy but amazing week.

As with last week I'm having trouble uploading photos via my iPad, but if you want to keep up-to-date with my trip then do follow my Instagram account: lucyvictoriajackson

So remember: be who you were born to be. You are you, and you are beautiful.


Love Lucy x

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Yoga Teacher Training Week One

Accept where you are.

Accept where you are in the pose. Accept where you are in your practice. Accept where you are. This is probably the most important lesson I've learnt during week one of Yoga Teacher Training - both for my practice and for life - accept where you are and go from there. You are where you are so make the most of it and be present in the moment.

I haven't posted on my blog in a while - I've been distracted by life, work and big life decisions - but under my new mantra that's okay: it is what it is and I accept where I am. However that doesn't mean that I'm not going to pick it up again and make some progress, as the next lesson I've learnt out here also echoes that sentiment - keep going, keep practicing, keep asking questions and you will improve. Again these lessons can most definitely also be applied to life more generally.

So why have I come half way round the world to Goa, India to train to teach yoga? It's a question that I could spend a whole day writing about, but the simplest answer is that yoga helped me to realise that I deserved to be happy, that I could be happy, and that I was in control of my own happiness. Once I realised this I made some huge and difficult life decisions and have been happier than I could only have dreamed of being not so long ago. It's because of this gift that I want to teach yoga. I want to share this knowledge and strength with others so that they too can be in control of their own happiness.

Enough of the soppy stuff (for now!). My reasons for doing the course in Goa are that a) it's the spiritual home of yoga b) it's a really good price and quality of teaching, and c) it's as good an excuse as any to come to India! The school I'm studying at is the Kranti Yoga School in Patnem beach, Goa, and the course I'm doing is a 200 hour Ashtanga yoga teacher training course (YTTC). It's pretty intensive - 200 hours of yoga and learning within 4 weeks - but it is the perfect location and opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the yogic way of life! My accommodation is literally right on the beach - at night I can hear the ocean from my bed and when I step outside my front door there is sand between my toes - it is total bliss. The food is also amazing - we're all on an Ayurvedic diet which is too complicated to even explain in a whole post, but it's basically purely vegetarian and really delicious (I'm not usually a veggie but I'm not missing meat at all out here!).

Despite the idyllic location the course itself is challenging. We do 3 hours of yoga and breathing techniques before breakfast! I think this week the idea was to push us to our limit to make us see how strong we are and how much we can learn in such a short space of time. It is physically tiring, but already I feel like I've adapted to the physical challenges and rhythm out here - but it's also emotionally tiring and that's what I think I'm going to struggle with most. Embarking on a YTTC is not for the faint hearted - you are forced to face your emotions and experiences, to accept them, and to let them go. You must spend a large amount of time in your own mind, constantly checking in with yourself and challenging yourself to be better.

And that's where your fellow students come in. They are the emotional support that you need to get through the course. I've been so blessed this week and have met some incredible fellow yogis - some of whom I can already tell will be friends for life. Everyone at YTTC is open and ready to let go of whatever might be holding them back - and trust me, we've all come with our baggage and emotional crap. And that's okay. You accept where you are and go from there.

So that's a whistle stop tour of my YTTC week one, but I just wanted to share it as I think it'll be a really interesting journey - one which I hope I can use when I get home to benefit my friends, family and anyone else who wants to try yoga.

Two final lessons I've learnt this week that I want to share with you all is that you are stronger than you think you are and that light can come out of darkness. There are a particular few friends have experienced a lot of pain this week and may need this message more than others right now - hopefully you can read this. Light will come come out of the darkness. Just keep smiling and sharing the love.

I'm writing this from my iPad and am struggling to upload pictures to accompany the post, but if you want to see what I've been up to then check out my Instagram: lucyvictoriajackson

If you have any questions about yoga, India, life please just ask :)

Namaste y'all!

Love Lucy x