My Last YTT Weekend

Last weekend, June 3-5, was my final 200-hour yoga teacher training weekend! On the Friday night I wrote a post about that session, and then was so in the moment for the rest of the weekend that writing any posts was not to be! So many emotions continue to swirl around my experience, all of them positive. Ultimately, I discovered untapped capacities within me – cognitive, physical, and emotional. I made friends with whom this shared experience will remain a powerful bond. And I developed confidence in my yoga practice and confidence in my yoga teaching. With a happy sigh, and the knowledge that the learning continues (this weekend I took a 5-hour restorative workshop), below are three of the close to 100 photos that my daughter-in-law took of our graduation on Sunday afternoon, plus one taken by a friend, plus my certificate.

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8 Limbs of Yoga

Tonight was our final Friday night. I have mixed feelings swirling about – that stew pot of missing my friends and the yoga and the teachings, combined with moving forward, putting my learning into practice, and having weekends to spend with my husband and family.

Susan focused our evening on bringing together much of what we learned about yogic philosophy. And the easiest way for me to share that is by simply having a visual. She was not pleased with the image she provided for us, so rather than scan it, a quick search yielded a graphic for the 8 Limbs of Yoga from The Yoga House that says it all.


I first came across these when practicing at The Yoga Sanctuary with Ellen Patrick, and wrote here about the chant she taught us for these 8 Limbs. And since it is almost 10:30 pm, I will leave it here and say goodnight!

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My 30 minute Practice Teach

Wow. I was second of eight of us, with one of us (the ninth) having taught in our prior weekend as she was not going to be present this weekend. The first teaching was deliciously calming and helped me to stay focused both during that practice and in my own calmness. Yes, I was actually calm. As my husband, Aunt, and friends who have been my students all reminded me, I knew what I wanted to do, knew how to do it, and all that remained was to do it!

And I did it! The thirty minutes seemed long, yet towards the end I wound up intentionally leaving out one of the relaxation poses because I didn’t want the end to feel rushed or stuffed with too much. I completely forgot one part of the warmup in table, and left out some words I had planned on sharing. And I was pleased, indeed quite pleased (!) with the class I led.

As was the format for the day, all three of our teachers were present and each provided feedback.

Paula went first because I did my teaching during the time when she would otherwise have been teaching us.

  • An extension of Circle Pose (Mandalasana) – which was one of the warm-ups I cued as part of Table – is Gate Pose (Paragasana), which she called “Wild Thing”
  • The forward wide-angle fold with arms sweeping back and forth, and leg/knee bends first on one side, then the other turns out to be a simplified version of Spider Pose/Stretch, and the hands walking side-to-side are spider legs walking
  • During the transition from Chair to Goddess, cue that there is a change in the direction of the pelvis; this will protect the lower back

Susan’s feedback, which she gave to seven of the eight of us, focused on back care, particularly as she had back issues when she was younger. Indeed, she apologized to all of us if it seemed she was being repetitive, but I think we all appreciated reminders for how to help cue our students safely.

  • In cueing Supported “Dead Bug Pose”, leave out the cueing of leg movement, as someone could injure their back if they moved so much that they came off the block
  • In cueing Supported Bridge, provide more direction for the back body so there is ample support from the feet and upper back for the lumbar and thoracic spinal areas
  • Provide more information about Sukha and Sthira when cueing to move with them during the Warrior flow

Patty’s delight in my class was evident in her smile as she “wowed” at how I modulated my energy and voice, and used less verbiage in cueing. She talked about how I had grown in my teaching, and I completely agreed with her. She also replied to Susan’s comment about Sukha and Sthira, noting that we had covered it the day prior in an activity where each of us had come up with one word for Sukha and one for Sthira to describe what the words meant to us. I chimed in that I had intended (but forgot) to cue everyone to recall the words they invoked the day before. Instead, I wound up just suggesting they move through the first Warrior flow in Sthira and the second flow in Sukha.

Here is my classled entirely from memory and without referring to any notes!!!!

I read the following poem during Savasana and concluded with some closing words of nourishment and thanks.

I DON’T WANNA by Zaccai Free

I don’t wanna do yoga everyday

Sometimes I run out to play
climb a tree
watch a bee
fly from flower to flower
tree to tree
imagine what could be

Then I breathe

this yoga cannot be escaped
it’s in every move I make
literally every breath I take

harmony reached in perfection
relaxing deep into the right direction

Then I realize

yoga is everything around me
the flow attainable by simply being simple
taking a moment to tune the temple
realize that the world is an extension of my being


I am a yoga teacher! That’s me in the parking lot after the morning session during which the first four of us taught. Those snazzy new leggings are a gift from my Aunt in celebration of my upcoming YTT graduation! There is also a snazzy black top under the sweater, but it was a bit chilly out so it will have to wait for it’s blog debut at a later date!

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Penultimate Weekend!

So much happened this past weekend!

Friday evening we had a guest presenter spend two and a half hours with us sharing anatomy and physiology. Laurice Nemetz, who is content to go by Lauri, is a past president of the Yoga Teacher’s Association. It is at the De-Slouchology workshop that we met, and to my amazement she remembered me by name.(Until she told me the reference, I had not placed meeting her before.) Lauri (probably she recalled me because I am a Laurie ;-)) has deep knowledge of the human body, having participated in multiple dissections as an Anatomy Trains teacher.

Our evening began by Lauri giving us a three-page double-sided quiz to test ourselves on what we already knew about the human body. The first question was “Draw your skeleton – Label what you can” and I found that to be the easy part! When Lauri reviewed the body parts, I had included 99 percent of what she discussed. Yippee! Coupled with what my YTT teachers have taught and reviewed, my knowledge is due in no small part to the months of viewing Marion Diamond’s anatomy lectures, the FAMI workshop, lots of readings, and my blogging about all of it here. I am intrigued by human anatomy, and would appreciate observing or participating in a dissection to further hone my understanding.

IMG_5552Lauri brought a life-size skeleton plus several manipulatives for us to play with as we explored in-depth the shoulder bones and muscles. To demonstrate how fascia works in the body she used a tensigrity toy (just like the one we have at home thanks to my next older-brother-in-law finding one on eBay and purchasing it for my husband – see image at the right). I enjoyed what she had to offer us and will suggest that for the next YTT group she be invited to come at least three times spread out over the duration of the training.

Lauri’s session was followed by our regular Friday evening with Susan, who recommended that we learn the major muscle groups and what poses to use to strengthen and stretch them. Since many yoga classes go to one hour or ninety minutes, she suggests we aim to strengthen every muscle during our classes (which is the approach she takes in her ninety minute classes). When asked to elaborate, she listed: back of spine, belly, chest (front of spine), triceps and biceps, quads and hamstrings, adductors and abductors. I have always focused mainly on the bones, so now it’s time to turn my attention to their muscles!

Saturday Paula focused on standing poses, followed by Patty who provided, as always, a wonderful wind down to the day, especially as it was the day prior to each of us doing our final practice teach. Patty’s cue for cat and dog tilts was especially nice and one I would use with my students:

Think of the middle of the spine. There is  a thread pulling up from there. What does that cause to happen? (head and tail down) The thread is now relaxing. What happens? (head and tail up, belly down)

Patty’s final reminders for our Sunday teaching are statements I have noted probably more than once during my YTT blogging:

Clear pathways of weight traveling through balanced joint space.

The simpler the action, the more sophisticated the relationship we can have with it.

I made use of the first concept in my practice teach, and will incorporate both in the yoga classes I lead.


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20 Hours – Completed

At the end of March I wrote about the first 20 hours of yoga classes taken to fulfill a training requirement. The idea is to take 20 hours of classes outside of our training so that we not only experience other teachers but also are sure to continue our own personal practice.

I continued to learn through my second half of the 20 hours, repeating only one class – Gentle Restorative Yoga – from the first portion.

Gentle Restorative Yoga at Wainwright with Sonya
I want to incorporate restorative yoga into the classes I teach and have signed up for a six hour workshop in mid-June that is the beginning of several which, when taken together, will comprise 45 hours of restorative training. Meanwhile, I wanted to take another restorative class, partially to learn and partially because it feels so good. Sonya exposed me to supported legs up the wall stemming from supported bridge, and I now use both poses in the practice classes I lead for my friends.

Yoga for Back Care at Tovami Yoga with Stephanie
I have known Stephanie for many years, and her encouragement is a large part of why I wound up taking the 200 hour teacher training at Wainwright. I took two Yoga for Back Care classes with Stephanie and had hoped to also take her restorative class, but she has just begun easing back into her teaching after having hip replacement surgery, so the restorative with her as my teacher will have to wait till later in the spring. I smiled during the first class when she mentioned Sukha and Sthira because Patty, one of my YTT teachers, refers to these ideas throughout our training. I thoroughly enjoyed the sequencing and appreciate the benefits of having a 75 minute class; it never feels rushed, and always feels like the timing is just right. In addition to breathing explorations (again, like Patty guides us in), I also liked the use of straps for stretching (Susan, another YTT teacher, makes use of these, as well) and what I call the “Mimi” pose, because a YTT colleague, Mimi, taught us this pose in one of the 15 minute practice teaches early on. Stephanie’s approach to teaching – the poses, sequencing, and restorative components – are very much along the lines of the type of yoga that I hope to offer students, mixed in with the playful explorations that I have come to appreciate as led by Patty.

De-Slouchology Workshop at Club Fit/Yoga Teacher’s Association with Sandra
That’s me on the mat in table, and that’s Sandra using me to demonstrate a point.
Deslouchology wrkshpThis was my first YTA workshop and likely there will be more in my future. What drew me to this one was the title: De-Slouchology. The prospect of spending three hours focused on learning how to “get the slouch out of your life” was too good to ignore! What I wish is that there was an audio recording that I could listen to as a refresher and to clarify questions that weeks later came to mind. So many aspects of yoga are experiential, and in this workshop I spent more time doing and little time taking notes. As sparse as my notes are, I do have some that are gems, including a pose – the heart opener similar to the “Mimi” pose – that is the start of my 30 minute practice teach for this coming Sunday. Sandra explained that the “classic slouch” has the upper body rotating internally and the lower body rotating externally. The heart opener on blocks does the opposite and is a counter stretch to the slouch. Additional take aways include:

an alignment that works for the individual
find an entry point into the body, work with it, and it reverberates into the rest of the body
yoga makes us more ourselves, with choice as to how we do that
• cue “lift the collar bones” which will cause the shoulder blades to drop (cueing to “drop your shoulder blades” is a miscue because they are not attached to any bone; they float along the ribcage
• when doing cat/dog, play with changing dog using the cues to “lengthen shoulder blades away from each other” 
[I took additional notes about this but they are unclear and this is an exploration around which I now have further questions.]

Kripalu Yoga at Tovami Yoga with Franklin
Franklin was one of my early teachers when I began practicing yoga in 2005, and for the next ten years he was one of my regular teachers at The Yoga Sanctuary in Mamaroneck (till it was closed last year.) I could not resist taking one of his classes as I have always enjoyed the flow he guides and his cue of encouragement to “make it your own”. I have mentioned him, as well as my first teacher Deb, multiple times on this blog.

Calm & Gentle at The Yoga Garden with Patty
It seems fitting that my final 90 minutes were with Patty. I was curious to see how she led a clam and gentle class, because this is probably more akin to the type of yoga I see myself teaching. She led us through a luscious breath exploration, and I was amazed how the time could be filled without my consciously realizing its passage. I have come to so enjoy Patty’s approach to teaching and what I learn while in her classes. It is so different from my first 11 years of practicing, and I am grateful to have discovered a way to change my yogic mind. I shall forever associate Patty with the understanding that yoga is an exploration!


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Physically Tired

Yes, physically tired I am. This morning Paula took us through seated poses and standing poses, and my thighs and glutes worked. They worked and they worked. And this evening they are ready for a sound night’s rejuvenating sleep!

Words of wisdom from Patty during her afternoon session.

Invite students into an inquiry rather than a correction. Suggest “Try this. Try that. What works better for you?”

I like this approach because it gives permission to students to find a place in a pose that works for them, with the suggestions meant to guide them through their exploration in a safe manner.

I also liked Patty’s use of imagery for doing cobra. She noted that imagery often takes us further than physical cues. In cobra she suggested we imagine a scent that we love smelling being placed atop a high stool in front of us. Gently follow the scent with your nose. This will cause a lift of the head, shoulders and upper back, likely with greater movement than if there had simply been a cue to lift your head.

NEXT WEEKEND IS OUR PENULTIMATE WEEKEND AND OUR FINAL PRACTICE TEACH. Whew. Patty’s reminders to all of us: think about the clarity of our phrases, eliminate unnecessary verbiage (especially “I invite” and terms of that nature) and think about how to guide transitions. She suggested we all find a way to record our voices cueing ourselves through our practice for the final teach, and then listen to our session. This way we will actually “hear” what we say during our preparation for our practice teach, making it possible to revise and improve before the actual teaching.

Breathe. Practice. And practice some more.


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What is possible to change

Tapas is this weekend’s Niyama. There are multiple inroads to explaining the meaning of tapas, and the one I am sharing here is “what is possible to change”. Understanding and acknowledging what we can change can be a powerful force for actually making that change. This is apt for me as I contemplate my final practice teach for next weekend.

This afternoon during Patty’s session half of us each had up to 7 minutes to teach the rest of us a flow based upon the eight poses that each of us taught several weeks ago. I volunteered to go first. The flow consisted of:

  • Cobra
  • Half Circle to one side and then the other
  • Child
  • Boat (Navasana)
  • Standing Balance on one side (drum majorette)
  • Standing Squat (Utkatasana aka Awkward Chair)
  • Lunge to one side
  • Goddess
  • Lunge to the other side
  • Standing Balance on the other side

My classmates provided Glows & Grows (as per Cristina’s naming of how she provides feedback to the children she teaches).

  • The Glows:
    • the delightfulness of the flow
    • my voice tone
  • The Grows:
    • name the pose, which will allow me to use less verbiage because students will have a sense of what to do
    • switch from the cue “pour the weight into your right foot” (or any similar cue) to any of the following: Query yourself: Am I in a state of balance?; Evenly distribute your weight between the points making contact with the ground

With practice, I can incorporate all of these “Grows” and change my cueing to be safer and more useful for my students.

During Paula’s morning session I did something unanticipated and amazing. With Paula’s spotting I did a headstand. Simply astonishing. And guess what, it isn’t actually standing on the top of my head. In fact, it is somewhere between my forehead, hairline, and ever so slightly past the hairline where the “standing” takes place, and the forearms and arms provide a great deal of support.

Paula also spoke a bit about tapas, explaining her approach to it as being sure to “set aside time for what you need so the time is not wasted.” In particular, she felt allocating time for seva (service), sadhana (yoga practice), and personal needs covers everything for which there should be time.

Paula’s summations, of which she often has many, was a good reminder for why there is a need to teach the technical aspects of a pose: call on the technical things so you can build technique. 

I will close with one of Patty’s summations. We had been discussing the impact of our yoga teacher training on our lives, having as a group just presented for 10 minutes to the participants at The Wainwright House in a day long “inter-community event” entitled “Changing Change Changed – an artistic transformational illuminating journey.” I shared with her words of wisdom first shared with me by Deb Gorman, my first yoga teacher 11 years ago. Deb said that who you are today, this very moment on your mat, is a result of everything you have done beforehand. Patty put it: It is what it is, AND it becomes what you make it.

PS This photo was taken Thursday, May 12 during the second-to-last practice teach with my two friends, Ann and Ginny. As you can see, the weather was perfect! I timed myself and relied on my notes to insure that my cues and sequence were what I intended. At the end of the half hour, Ann challenged me to not use the notes for our final session the following week. And I took her up (successfully :-)) on that challenge!

from Ann-guru

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