My first yoga teacher training was an accident. I’d just finished graduate school and wanted to celebrate by doing yoga somewhere tropical. I chose a week-long yoga retreat in Costa Rica.
I was excited. The yoga room at the resort overlooked the Pacific Ocean through huge, open sliding doors. I lay my mat down in front of one of the windows. What could be better than the ocean breeze sweeping over me during a yoga class in paradise?
My excitement turned to nervousness when a perky yoga teacher bounced in, and CLOSED the sliding doors. Nervousness turned to dread when she TURNED OFF ALL the ceiling fans. Then she announced: "Welcome to our Power Flow Hot Yoga Teacher Training." (Power flow is seriously intense yoga, often done in heated rooms. Or rooms in Costa Rica with the windows closed and fans off. I’d researched the accommodations of my retreat, but not so much the yoga part.)
“Run!” I thought to myself. “Stay.” I convinced myself.
I’d just finished the most intellectually and emotionally challenging two years of my life. Something in me wanted to also complete this physical challenge. Plus, I really liked the resort. (It never occurred to me I could’ve stayed at the resort and NOT done the yoga, but then I wouldn’t be where I am now. More on this next week.)
Day three they taught us frog pose (goggle it). It’s intense. They gave a few modifications. “If you don’t want to, you don’t have to bend your knees and grab your toes.” OBVIOUSLY. There was no way my knees where going to bend that way. I asked, “What is another way to teach this without hurting someone? Is there another pose that accesses the same muscles, but isn’t so intense, so people don’t get hurt?” I was told, "You can't hurt yourself in yoga. Especially not hot yoga. Your muscles get loose enough from the stretching—and the heat—that you just can't really hurt yourself."
Um. YES. Yes, you can hurt yourself in yoga. And I have since learned that many yoga injuries come from over stretching muscles. The tendency is to think a tight muscle needs to be stretched. More likely, the muscle is tight because it is weak. So, it should be strengthened not stretched.
By the end of the week I learned to like hot yoga. For a hot minute. I also learned I wanted to do a lot more training. I came back to DC and did 500 more hours of yoga teacher training. With a studio that focuses on safety and proper alignment. I learned a lot of anatomy and philosophy. I learned to find a yoga studio, and teachers, who use props in their classes. (Props can help us access poses that were created thousands of years ago by and for people who lived very different lives than we do now. Ancient yogis weren’t hunched over the computer for hours a day. They walked instead of sitting to drive, or squatted instead of sitting in chairs. Props can also help us find ease and comfort rather than strain and tension.)
Join me January 10-12th for Recharge and Renew: A Yoga Retreat for Non-Yogis, and learn how to protect and strengthen your body using yoga. We will start with small movements (like hip circles, shoulder circles, wrist push up, and spinal segmentation) to get the synovial fluid—think: WD 40 or lubrication for your joints—moving. Once our bodies are warmed up, and our joints are primed, we will do some yoga.
I’d love to hear from you. Have you been in a yoga class where you thought, “I could hurt myself if I do that?” What did you do?
Do you have any questions for me?