Monday, October 3, 2016

EON project - 10 yoga classes with 10 different teachers

E: Experience
O: Observe
N: Note

As a component of the 200 hour YTT (yoga teacher training) I`m doing. I have to attend 10 different yoga classes taught by 10 different teachers. While very exciting, I find it somewhat daunting. As humans we are creatures of habit, we stick to what we like, and avoid situations that make us uncomfortable. I personally have my favourite classes and teachers, so the notion of having to do something that I`m not entirely comfortable with is aggravating. I can admit to the fact that I`m a bit of a control freak - I think I always have been. I am very independent and assertive, and sometimes don`t take too kindly to other people telling me what to do. I`m anticipating that feelings of frustration and anger are going to come about during this process.

Class 1:Wake Up
Studio: Samatva
Teacher: Mahaya
Date and Time: October 1st 2016 at 11:00am

I have been to several `Wake Up` classes taught by other teachers. I`m not entirely sure why, but doing any core-work, stokes an internal fire and makes me very angry (digesting emotions perhaps?) Coupled with the fact that I was anticipating a different style of class and the positions we would be doing, changing the routine totally through me off. I dislike feeling unprepared. Again, that's my own issue to sort out, not the style of class or the teacher. There was quite a bit of abdominal poses and being the type-A that I am, likely pushed myself too far (even a couple of days later my tummy is tender). It was a more vigorous class than I initially thought with planks and core work, and mentally I wasn`t really able to shake that. I went in with a certain expectation, and once things started progressing and my expectations were totally off, I mentally tapped out. I`m also not entirely sure why, but for a `wake up' class, I found it made me tired. Yoga in my experience doesn't energize me. It grounds me (maybe a little too much) and I often find myself sleepy afterwards.

My Takeaway: I'm much more of a morning person when it comes to going to class. I would rather get up and start my day off with yoga, than have to try and drag myself to a studio after work. Though I prefer the 7am classes to the mid-morning ones.

Class 2: Yin
Studio : Samatva
Teacher: Justine
Date and Time: October 3rd at 5:00pm

I have been a regular attendee of Yin classes for the last couple years, once I discovered what it was. For a go-go-go person like myself. I need Yin classes to bring balance back to my mind and body. As an elementary school teacher I am on my feet all day and am constantly putting my energy into others. Yin classes let me slow the hell down and re-center. While I dabble in running, these classes are great for stretching out the tendons in your legs, particularly your thighs and calves. Admittedly though I'm more bendy, sitting in a posture for 5+minutes provides ample opportunity for meditation and to just "be". With poses held for longer periods, the emphasis on watching the breath helps in learning to let go. Yin is the yin to my yang and brings balance back to my sometimes chaotic life. Complete with shoulder presses (these minor enhancements I live for) and lavender oil aromatherapy, there are a multitude of reasons that this is my go-to class. I know what to expect with Justine, having attended numerous classes of hers before, so there is no anxiety and no curve-balls to anticipate.

My Takeaway: Yin yoga is the yin to my yang. It is my medicine and antidote that lets me find equilibrium again. It's difficult to venture out into different venues once you find something that works.

Class 3: Kirpalu
Studio: Janati Yoga School
Teacher: Aileen
Date and Time: October 12th at 4:00pm

I wasn't even aware of what type of class this was going to be when I showed up, so I had absolutely no expectations. Mona sent all students an email, making us aware of a free class if we were interested. So I bit. I'm quickly realizing that I need to start letting go of expectations. I always set them too high, and then when things don't work out the way I want them to - I get disappointed. These cycle has repeated itself many times. Particularly with romantic interests/ relationships. Logically I know that not expecting anything specific is the better way to be. It allows you to go with the flow and just accept it for what it is. But realistically this idea of getting rid of expectations is a relatively new concept and a challenging one for me to overcome. I've always been so goal-oriented, the idea of putting time and energy into something (and perhaps not getting the result I want) and just "letting it go" is both baffling and frustrating.
This was my first ever Kirpalu class, which comprised of an hour of quite a bit of core work (planking and leg lifts), and isometric static stretches. Kirpalu is a branch of Hatha yoga, so it wasn't too intense. I rather enjoyed it, but I also think that is partially because I went in not knowing what to anticipate. Normally core work fills me with rage, but today I was able to just do it, without any attachment.

My Takeaway: Start saying "yes" to new experiences more often, you just might like them. New opportunities give chances for growth. Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Class 4: Hot Ashtanga
Studio: Samatva
Teacher: Frederique
Date and Time: Thursday October 18th @5:30pm

I was really dreading this class because I have always associated Ashtanga with difficult. Throw in the heat of a hot studio, and it was the perfect combination of everything I avoid. I give a lot of energy in my day-to-day activities, so I look forward to gentle classes to help me unwind. This was my first ever Ashtanga class. Ashtanga is very regimented with specific breathing counts (to 4) and structured poses in sequence and intense strength needed with all the repetition. There were plenty of verbal reminders to stay within the limits of your own body, as some participants were pushing themselves to possibly the point of injury or hurting others (i.e. headstand). It struck me as a more "competitive" form of yoga. I recently found out that the style was originally created for 14 year old boys as a way to manage their prana. As a curvy woman, there were many poses my body simply couldn't do, so I had to sit on my mat and wait for that series of poses to be over before I could rejoin. I left the class feeling somewhat defeated.

My Takeaway: My life off the mat already resembles the practice of Ashtanga with its rules and regimens. While I can totally see the appeal it would have for some people, I think I'll stick to my gentle classes.

Class 5: Lunar Flow and Restore
Studio: Samatva
Teacher: Tracy
Date and Time: October 22 @7:30pm

I rarely take classes this late, I tend to take classes first thing in the morning, so it took concerted effort to go to this class, but I'm glad I did. It was calming and gentle and cooling. As someone with a Pitta-dominant dosha, I am a very intense person. Not surprisingly, I tend to choose yoga classes that are cooling and slow, as a antidote to counteract my type-A personality and my hectic life. The inner perfectionist in me responded very well to verbal assists to check alignment and remembering to breathe. The power of the moon was really highlighted as a cooling, calm, but powerful force. As a Cancer zodiac sign, with the moon a governing planet, this notion really resonated with me. I really enjoyed the cooling, gentle flows and the quieting effect it had. I definitely slept well that night.

My Takeaway: A wonderful cooling flow for fiery times or if you're looking to wind-down before bedtime. I learned a whole new pyramid sequence too.

Class 6: Hatha Yoga
Studio: Kingston YMCA
Teacher: Royah
Date and Time: February, 17th @9am

This was the first time I took a yoga class at the YMCA in several years, I wasn't sure of what to expect. It was a pretty typical hatha yoga class, starting with pratapana (lots of gentle warm up poses) including head rolls, shoulder shrugs, side bends and forward folds. There were some standing poses including mountain pose, warrior, reversed triangle and plank. It was a great gentle class to start the day. I particularly like when teachers read quotes or passages during integration, which was the case in this class.
It was during this class that I realized how much I am uncomfortable with silence. I am always surrounded by sound. In the car I listen to music, at work there are usually kids talking, and at home I had episodes of varies shows on in the background. I'll have to ponder why silence makes me so uncomfortable.

My Takeaway: Seamless transitions from pose to pose make the class flow smoothly and time passes quicker. You're able to stay in the moving meditation easier and more sustained periods.

Class 7: Hatha Flow
Studio: Kingston YMCA
Teacher: Brian
Date and Time: Wednesday March 1st @9am

After my second yoga class experience in a fitness facility like the YMCA, I definitely have a preference for a strictly yoga studio space. The etiquette is completely different and some students attitude towards the space is very lackadaisical, coming and going when they want. I personally find this very distracting. I go to yoga to block out distractions, not to be surrounded by more.
I also noticed that I was somewhat uncomfortable with there being a male teacher instead of a female one. I'm not entirely sure why this was, other than perhaps my preference and "normal" routine of having a female teacher. He, unlike every other teacher, didn't even have a mat because the room was so full. He wandered around the room and demonstrated poses in many different places. I wish I had that confidence. I hadn't really considered the impact of teacher voice until this class. No issue really with the sequences, but I realize my mind was not really present during the class because it kept wandering to the way he was talking.

My Takeaway: The importance of teacher voice, intonation and tone can totally impact a class.

Class 8: Inversions: Lift off
Studio: Janati Yoga School
Teacher: Kathy
Date and Time: March 27th @5:30pm

I have wanted to be able to do a headstand for the last couple of years but recognize there are many pre-curser poses to perfect before being completely inverted and putting your entire body weight on your neck and head. I have always loved inverted poses, I find them very grounding (when your feet/hands are on the ground) such as forward fold and downward dog. I have struggled to find the confidence in my own strength regarding what my body is capable of doing. Not having the confidence has often prevented me from attempting certain poses for fear of looking awkward and uncoordinated. This class was the smallest class I've ever attended - with only 3 participants including myself. This allowed for a lot of one-on-one attention which I think is crucial when working on inversion poses that involve changing blood flow to the brain and a higher risk of injury. The class started with gentle pratapana and the "So Hum" mantra which I found very empowering. The second half of class was working on shoulder strengtheners and practicing putting some weight on the head with the use of props. I came out feeling much more confident and it strengthened my resolve about working my way up to headstand.

My Takeway: Be more confident in what your body can do. Fear really is the only thing limits us.

Class 9: Power
Studio: Janati Yoga School
Teacher: Adrienne
Date: April 1st @10am
I am now reminded why I never do Power classes. They make me angry, which is an emotion I don't like feeling. As someone has a Pitta dominant dosha, which is based in the fire element - I hate heat. I dislike the summer (ironic because I was born in the middle of July) and sweat like crazy. Power classes which work the core and generate a lot of warmth in the body, just add more fire to my fire element, resulting in an even bigger fire.  I already sort of knew that I disliked power/fitness classes, but now because of my yoga teacher training I am more clearly able to define why. I choose classes that balance out my fiery dosha and personality - I do not go to power classes if I have the option. I know we aren't supposed to have preferences - but I do when it comes to the types of yoga classes that will be more beneficial for me. I found it incredibly difficult to concentrate and stay present because I was trying to just sit with my feelings of rage and being uncomfortable. Adrienne gave us lots of positive feedback and that helped my temper a little. That being said, I love how I feel after a power class - it does make me feel empowered and strong, but the feelings that are evoked during the class somewhat negate that.

My Takeaway: if you want to build core and upper body strength. or are looking for a more fitness style class, power is the route to go.

Class 10: Kundalini
Studio: Janati Yoga School
Teacher: Sarah
Date: April 4th @5:30pm
So I got a sampling of what it's like to be a beginner in a yoga class again. First ever Kundalini class. Similarly how I associate Ashtanga with strength. I knew that Kundalini was very breath oriented. There was a sequence of 10 different postures, most of them seated, and done using the Breath of Fire (very intense and quick inhales and exhales). Who would have thought that breathing would have been such a workout. Sarah was really supportive of us sticking with the forceful breathing, encouraging us and counting down how much time we had left in each pose. Typically my yoga classes ground me and mellow me out, but all the intense breath work moves all the energy up towards the head. I left the class feeling high and tingly all over.
Kundalini is so very different from any other yoga class I've ever taken. The vast majority of my classes involve linking gentle breath with asana. Kundalini is very forceful breath work (pranayama) and the asana really takes a backseat. Integration was also done in virtually the pitch-black (curtains drawn and everything) and after a very intense lung workout was amazing.

My Takeaway: If you want to get your prana moving in a very forceful way - this is the class for you!*Probably not the best option for Vata types