Ashtanga Modified Primary Series YTT Complete

I have been fortunate to be part of this group of ten incredibly strong women who spent 2020 studying with Jamie Yoga Trainings on his 200hr Ashtanga Modified Primary Series (MPS) Yoga Teacher Training (YTT).

Jamie was taught by Larry Schultz, the founder of the Ashtanga Modified Primary Series & a former student of K. Pattabhi Jois who established The Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India. This face-to-face course provided a clear understanding of the anatomy of the body, the importance of alignment in different asanas (poses) & the connection of the inhale & exhale breath with each movement throughout the sequence.

Every pose in the ashtanga MPS sequence was broken down in a workshop to consider the adjustments, benefits, contraindications, drishti, modifications & observations & a practice script developed. This included Surya Namaskara A & B, all standing & seated asanas & a pranayama practice.

Under Jamie’s guidance we worked together to grow through the year in our teaching skills, confidence & strength in practice. Working slowly & steadily to improve & hone the asanas in our own bodies to be able to effectively demonstrate & simultaneously recognise in future students how to assist them in their practice with clear cues & use of language & physical assists to share the benefits of ashtanga vinyasa with others.

On completion of our final exams on 13th Dec 2020, Jamie summed up the whole experience perfectly

‘It’s been a rollercoaster training but we made it. Perseverance, resilience, adaptation, determination & friendship’.

Jamie Blowers

Gratitude to Jamie for sharing his knowledge no matter what the Universe placed in our path & to Diana Brook who supported & hosted the experience.

Today has been the first day of the year that I have not been enrolled on a yoga teacher training course & feels amazing to have graduated from three YTT courses, with 700hrs of training & nearly 50hrs of teaching experience. Excited to be now teaching a full timetable of yin & yang yoga classes online whilst we continue to navigate through COVID-19.

If you’d like to join an ashtanga modified primary sequence class for beginners-intermediate, classes are running each week with a range of class passes available. Try your first class for free on any one hour class with the code FIRSTFREE.

If you have any questions, please get in touch & maybe see you on the mat!

With love & light, Namaste

My Vinyasa Practice (MVP): 300hrs Final Practicum YTT

Background

Since qualifying with the 200hr Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) through My Vinyasa Practice in July 2020, with the impact of Covid-19 here in the UK, I have adopted virtual live stream yoga classes in support of the karma hours for the 300hr YTT. I started by building this website with a linked YouTube channel (Crystal Core Yoga) & social media platforms (@crystalcoreyoga) to help promote engagement. 


During the last 3 months I have guided karma yoga practice in a few different ways, including: 

  • Cover teacher in Diana Brook’s (my yoga teacher & inspiration) community yoga studio;
  • Monday evening yin yoga through August/Sept; 
  • Friday lunchtime relax & unwind yoga to my work community & chair yoga to the disability staff network through Sept/Oct;
  • Two practices per week (& cover classes) since September on a Wednesday & Sunday as part of the Healthy Home Yoga Team, led by Jennifer Osbourne.

Cover Classes

I found teaching the cover classes to be very rewarding with Diana’s studio reaching a wide student base. It was great to connect & flow with so many different individuals early in my teaching experience & provided a platform to establish the technical side of teaching virtually. I designed sequences around the themes for the scheduled classes that included strength & balance focus. For two of the classes I had more than a day’s notice & had time to research, prepare & practice. In these early experiences, I noticed my own high expectations of self in delivery & how frustrated I would get if I didn’t include all I had planned. I have spent some time reflecting on my limiting beliefs around this, which has brought up feelings of ‘not being good enough’ & ‘imposter syndrome’ as a new yoga teacher. I practice self-compassionate forgiveness & continue to do so, if & when it arises, recognizing truth that a ‘divine being in a human experience’.

For one cover class, I had less time ahead of the session & found it more challenging to guide, feeling under prepared. I felt that I over complicated the practice, bringing in more & more complex poses & transitions, losing track of time & pace. I reached a stage when tuning into breath, that I had to slow whole practice down to regain focus. This became one of my greatest lessons, that has really informed my teaching style since: ‘Don’t over complicate things. When starting out with teaching yoga, be kind to yourself too. It is really easy to get lost when teaching & can attempt to bring in more adventurous poses, but maybe slow it down a little. Pace yourself & breathe!” (from personal blog of experience).

Work & Community Classes

I advertised free yin yoga sessions through social media platforms & friends & family who had expressed an interest. Whilst it took time to build engagement, numbers of yogis attending increased gradually & it was heartwarming to see people come back to the classes each week & the lovely feedback shared. One friend commented ‘you were like goldilocks.. just right!’ – which made me smile a lot. I personally adore guiding yin yoga & through all my teaching experience to date, yin yoga stands out as an area of the practice that I would like to explore more. As an individual with managed bipolar, I can relate to the concept of finding your edge, allowing yourself to release more into a pose with time & finding stillness in mind, body & breath & is a practice I hope I can guide others through more. 

I work at Cardiff University in South Wales, UK & during the pandemic a top priority is staff & student wellbeing. I started to offer Friday lunchtime yoga to relax & unwind & chair yoga within our disability staff network. Engagement each week has been brilliant. I originally circulated to my local team & invited them to share with whomever maybe interested (capped at 30) & numbers gradually increased with a core group tuning in each week. I had intended to stop at the end of October, but with encouragement from the group & as we enter a second lockdown in Wales, I will be continuing classes through November.  I am aiming to do further chair yoga with our disability staff network & prior to first delivery was worried about not being inclusive enough in this practice & spent time considering the language & options/ modifications offered with diverse abilities. Feedback from one member was ‘super appreciative of how attentive you were to everyone’s needs’.

Healthy Home Yoga

Through My Vinyasa Practice, I saw the invitation to join the new initiative that Jennifer Osbourne started in August with Healthy Home Yoga (https://www.healthyhomeyoga.com) to help build this provision, in light of the pandemic & facilitate people’s asana practice in the comfort of their own homes. After sending details through to Jenn & connecting through zoom, I joined the team from the beginning offering nourishing & balancing flows twice a week. I helped to promote sessions, through Instagram & Facebook posts & have linked with the other new teachers virtually, which has been an extremely rewarding experience. As with any new business it has been a slow start & I’ve been very fortunate to have two regular yogis who zoom in to every class & it has been a joy to connect with them across the globe.

Summary

I feel very privileged to have been in a position to teach & guide yoga practices virtually & reach so many different people in time & space from a diverse range of backgrounds & abilities during the last few months. It has been an exponential learning experience, both through the material & content provided through My Vinyasa Practice, the virtual environments created through zoom & the continual self-exploration along this path.

Through the journey so far, I have been able to better understand where I feel most able to support others in their asana practice, with a focus on connecting mind, body & breath to relax, unwind & destress. I have identified many of my own limiting beliefs & continue to work through them & understand my triggers with tools to manage. Through understanding my own boundaries & acknowledging limits, I continue to work to have an optimal mindset to safely provide a space for others to practice asana. Eternally grateful for the opportunity that My Vinyasa Practice has provided at a very challenging time & how the knowledge & tools provided continues to help me grow on a daily basis to help share the practice of yoga, always coming back to collective truth ‘divine beings in a human experience’.

Settling into teach yoga virtually: Adapting

I am so grateful to those who have joined me online over the last few weeks for late evening yoga. It has been so rewarding to be able to guide yin & vinyasa flows & to hear of some of the benefits it has had.

I have learnt so much about the practical side too, including:

1. Importance of a stable internet. Zoom is very keen to tell you when things are getting ‘unstable’.

2. Lighting in the room, particularly if teaching in the evenings. Very surprised how important this is in my quite dark home!

3. Taking it slow when teaching & guiding a practice virtually. Finding less is more has been a definite improvement through sessions.

4. Music & microphone takes a special skill, I still haven’t mastered!

Having tried & tested virtual yoga a few times now, keen to be part of a team & very excited to be joining Healthy Home Yoga & Nourished Wellbeing in the next few weeks.

Healthy home yoga is based in the US & Nourished Wellbeing is based in the UK. Both offer a range of virtual yoga & pilate classes for everyone with a number of different teachers & time slots. A range of class packages are available with some special offers too!

Until the end of September I will be offering free karma yin yoga sessions at 8pm every Monday eve. DM or email crystalcoreyoga@outlook.com to receive the zoom link if you would like to join.

Whilst this year has been like no other, on many levels.. reaching a space of gratitude, acceptance & contentment. Seeing new norms appear all around & embracing whatever arises with discernment.

It is what it is’ favourite motto of 2020

Maybe see you (virtually) on the mat. With love & light, namaste x

Teaching yoga virtually: reflections from first week

Over the last couple of weeks, started to begin to teach yoga using zoom. Covering some classes at Diana Brook’s studio has been amazing & have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to teach strength & grace/ balance & stillness yoga.

The first class was Sat, 1st August & I had several days to prepare. I chose the sequence, practiced it on my own & with a friend online before doing the class. I had everything set up at least half an hour before. Internet tested, laptop/microphone fully charged & animals separated to various parts of house to avoid there usual ‘joining in’..

Really enjoyed teaching the first class so much & managed to recall most of planned sequence & felt so exhilarated to have got all the way to the end. Those who took part, seemed to really enjoy with some lovely feedback!

The following Wednesday a second cover class came up & being on annual leave, jumped at the chance & started planning. I practiced the sequence beforehand, yet felt more nervous the second time & forgot a couple of the planned balances whilst in the flow of the moment.

I also wasn’t quite as organised & whilst computer/mic were charged, had forgot about the animals & had a Holly cat joining in for most of the practice! Teaching online with a cat clawing your body is slightly challenging & I learnt this lesson the hard way..

Still enjoyed every moment & plans started to whirl on how to teach virtually more regularly.. which led to the yoga classes page & potential plans to deliver sessions around current home/work balance.

When you are just starting out & trying to reach people who would like to follow evening yoga classes at 8:30pm (GMT+1), I realised that this would be quite a challenge & may not appeal to many people’s lifestyles!

Decided to give it a go anyway, if you don’t try then you’ll never know & offering some karma yoga to see what may emerge. Very much enjoyed connecting with one of my oldest friends who zoomed in to yin & restorative yoga from her balcony whilst on holiday & realised it is possible.. if I can get my head around promoting/marketing a little more.

Also recognised this might not be the only way & trying to decide how to take forward the business side of yoga is quite challenging & keeping options open & versatile, current approach.

The following Sat morn, I woke up to a message asking if I could cover the 9am strength class – an absolutely yes! Jumped out of bed to get ready with about an hour or so to prepare. Checked all kit charged.. animals away from the mat.. setup with 15mins to go.. knocked over full cup of tea. Cleaned up & back to the mat, all set to go!

The practice passed in a blur. I got a little carried away with some of the stronger ashtanga asanas, with so many vinyasas & chatarangas that I was trying hard not to pant.. realised I had to slow down & brought in a malasana.. yogi squat to balance & connect back to the breath! Something I had been saying throughout the practice & really needed to do.

The last minute class was my greatest lesson. Don’t over complicate things. When starting out with teaching yoga, be kind to yourself too. It’s really easy to get lost in the practice when teaching & can attempt to bring in more adventurous poses, but maybe slow it down a little. Pace yourself & breathe!

This week, I’m trying to learn & slow down the pace. Connecting back to breath & observing whatever arises, without attachment. Happy Monday all. With love & light, namaste x

Beginning to teach yoga: where to start?

I have taught many different things through my past life experience, from practical & theoretical science to understanding conscious, conformational & unconscious bias. However, coming to teach or guide through a yoga practice is a whole different ball game no matter your prior teaching experience.

Trying to teach yoga in a way that is authentic & supportive to the student, providing a safe space, cues that help alignment, with an inclusive language & modifications that make the practice accessible to a range of students is a whole lot to think about when you first begin.

On top of that is the slightly more fundamental challenge of speaking/cueing whilst both demonstrating poses & observing the students & providing appropriate adjustments as needed.

If I think about it too much, it can feel overwhelming & often have to come back to the yogic philosophy to ensure quieten the chitti vritti & focus on breath.

Aside from the practical side of getting into teaching yoga once the registration/insurance is sorted, there is the whole other side of currently being in the middle of a viral pandemic. Whilst things appear to be slowly improving (in the UK, July 2020), there is a new norm morphing around us & many other health & safety factors to consider. Sticking to virtual methods, whilst not ideal, feels like the safest & easiest way forward for the time being, although would love to be able to practice more in an outdoor setting.

Where to begin has been cycling in my head for the last week or so. I have ongoing ashtanga teacher training that will provide valuable additional knowledge & would like to simultaneously build on current MVP training & begin the more practical experience of guiding classes.

To date, I have a 9am cover class lined up for Saturday 1st August (super excited & very grateful to Diana Brook), have started recording more YouTube videos with a short beach yoga & a 1hr karma yoga (featuring some ashtanga primary series asanas) & I am linking with some other yogis I’ve met through MVP about virtual options.

Nothing set in stone & going with the flow of what presents in the Universe. Staying present (as much as possible) & enjoying being in this human experience & very grateful to be on this path. What is to be is to be!

With love & light x

Return to Ashtanga Modified Primary Series Yoga Teacher Training (YTT): through the coronacoaster

After starting a 9 month in person Ashtanga Modified Primary Series YTT with Jamie Yoga in Jan 2020, everything was put on hold in March as COVID-19 circulated & lockdown was implemented. It’s been a rollercoaster journey through the months in between & this weekend finally reinitiated training in a new way!

Diana Brook had adapted the studio for us to be able to virtually zoom into a live practice each morn & blended learning through multiple sessions with a mix of face-to-face & virtual connection to ensure safety with new ways of being.

I’d been dreading the physical practice, after such a long time out & had built a narrative in my head around the memories I’d had from back in Jan/Feb where I felt weak & not strong enough. When it came to it this weekend, I felt able (was still hot, sweaty & achy but limbs weren’t like jelly) & could see how my chitti vritti had been impacting perception & throughout this time, I have been practicing & strengthening in different ways. It brought home the importance of coming back to truth, a constant reminder of being & stilling the mind.

Jamie led all the teacher training through some of the Surya Namaskara A & B asanas including observations, modifications & adjustments with interactive elements to help integrate & initiate our abilities to teach. Jamie brought an incredible energy & sense of humour throughout & delivered in this blended way with professionalism & dedication. His in depth knowledge & experience of the ashtanga practice shone through & being back with the team of people that had started this journey & their shared enthusiasm, was truly uplifting.

We finished this afternoon with a session on pregnancy & post-natal yoga with Lindsay Gale & took away so many important messages around positive language & creating a welcoming inclusive space to help nourish & restore.

One take home was the consideration & importance of modifications, giving permission for the student to listen to their own body as a guide & only taking asanas/adaptations that feel comfortable for them – a potential valuable guide to all 🙏!

.

My vinyasa practice (MVP): 200hrs final practicum experience & lessons learnt

Experience teaching the class
I enjoyed preparing the script & choosing asanas for a 1hr mindfulness flow Karma practice. Recording this final practice for the 200hr MVP YTT felt like a consolidation of many of the teachings I have observed over the years, particularly with Diana Brook & Jo Gardener, two phenomenally inspiring yoga practitioners. I tried to build in the lessons I have learnt this year about teaching others though the MVP teacher training course & the initial training I’ve started with Jamie Yoga. Trying to incorporate a more inclusive language through cues & applying a more adaptive style with modifications wherever possible.

From the start I gave the option for participants to listen to their own bodies & take the cues as a guide & coming to rest in child’s pose if needed at any time through the practice. I tried to draw in the feedback from my mentor, including metaphoric cues & linking the intention at the start through to the end of the practice with a focus throughout on coming back to the breath.

Rationale
I chose to do a gentle flow class, bringing in mindfulness through the practice & connection of mind, body & breath. Rationale for this based on the importance of pranayama as a tool to help still the mind & ground in the present moment to reflect the yogic philosophy. Asanas were chosen to flow through the typical structure of a yoga sequence building through a gentle warm up to the peak & then grounding back to the earth using seated asanas before integrating in savasana. I didn’t want to over complicate the practice & tried to keep the flow simple & easy to follow, choosing asanas that I have always enjoyed & have found helped with own mindfulness & connection with breath, hoping it too would help others.

Areas to Improve
Teaching to camera is very different to in person & sometimes forget I am recording & become absorbed in the moment. Without the presence of those around, aware of the constant check in I have to do to stay present. Also teaching virtually recognise the need for extra cues to help participants to be able to easily follow the practice. Conscious that at times I muddle words like hands & elbows or I’m thinking ahead to next pose & when that happened in this practice tried to recognise & slow down thinking & stay present.

I was using a microphone to help with sound & during the flows it had dislodged & at one point landed on me in bridge, which distracted me from the practice for a moment & went a little off focus in cueing & movement.

Doing the MVP course has helped me to acknowledge & embrace the challenges of virtual teachings & learning for next time to ensure I have microphone well fixed for the recording. Also have a lot of animals & have always enjoyed them interacting when I am doing my daily asanas but also aware that they may be a distraction for viewers of recordings.

Reviewing the video, I felt I could have given cues a little faster & built in more asanas or vinyasa flows, particularly in seated poses, where I was going to do vinyasa flows in between each pose. When it came to recording, the vinyasa flows felt too much in the moment & decided to leave them out & on reflection could have offered participants an option to take a vinyasa in between for extra movement.

I opted out of the vinyasa flows because I felt a little physically tired as I was working through & body was asking for gentleness & as that was in line with the intention for the session, decided to exclude the vinyasas. I also felt some of my own asanas weren’t quite in alignment & did consider re- recording. I have acknowledged through my personal self-reflections on daily yoga practice that this is part of my own chitti vritti & perception/verbalisations/limiting beliefs that practice is ‘not good enough’ & instead came back to truth ‘a divine being in a human experience’.

The fact that I felt physically tired may have also impacted chitti vritti & in the future will ensure I am prepared in my physical, emotional, intellectual & spiritual bodies to embrace the practice & delivery with more energy & that as a yoga teacher you need to be kind to yourself too in order to hold a safe supportive space for your students. At the end of the practice, choosing the asanas & flow I had, I personally felt more nourished & replenished & grateful for where I was at on this journey. It certainly has not been the expected path I anticipated travelling this year & more than anything have learnt adaptation & flowing with what presents, trying to not hold attachment or aversion & practice more discernment.. which I have also recognised is easier said than done!

As one chapter closes, another opens & looking forward to what arises through next stages of journey. With love & light 🙏

Five tips for mental wealth

Mental health or wealth as I have heard it recently referred to, has been a personal focus over the last 20 years or so. After being diagnosed in my mid 20s with bipolar, recognised the importance of maintaining balance in mind & body to help navigate the twists & turns that life presents. 

The recent impact of environmental factors & balancing family/work life whilst maintaining mental wealth & identifying potential triggers became forefront. Believe we all develop our own coping strategies & there isn’t necessarily a one stop fits all & thought I’d share personal top 5 tips that have found helped own balance:

  1. When emotional body & mood is low connect with loved ones: At these times instinct maybe to hibernate & burrow away. I’ve found this is the time to reach out & connect with loved ones. Even if only in a small way it can help to reset & counter. This maybe a text, call, social distancing walk or virtual catch-up, whatever works for you. Remembering you are not alone.
  2. When physical body & energy is low make time for self-care: Recognising when your batteries are running low, based on overactivity, time out maybe what is needed. Finding & prioritising time to take a break for self-care. Being kind to yourself & remembering the phrase ‘always fit your own oxygen mask before helping others’ applies in life & not only on planes.
  3. When spiritual body feels disconnected spend time with animals, people or in nature: If feeling disconnected to the world around, particularly in current climate, if you are fortunate to have pets (& with 2 dogs & 3 cats, my own home is filled), their need for love, attention & food is consistent each day & connecting with them always brings a smile & puts everything back into perspective. Alternatively get outdoors, walk, observe the birds, the trees, the people, everything that we are surrounded by & appreciate the beauty in the little things.
  4. When intellectual body feels cloudy, rest: Being productive feels impossible when intellectual body is not functioning well. Whilst you may have commitments or deadlines that feel essential to meet, if your intellectual body is saying no, rest, sleep, meditate, take a break. Listening to your own body & what it needs in that moment will help more in the long run & prevent you from burning out.
  5. Understand what self-care looks like to you: Each of us have different ways to nourish our mind & bodies. Finding what works for you & having them in your toolkit to draw the one that your physical, emotional, spiritual or intellectual body needs in each moment. For me this includes knitting, reading, taking a walk with the dogs in the woods, swimming, having a nap, meditating, practicing restorative asanas or taking a long hot bath. No matter how big or small your self-care toolkit is, hold on to what works & keep building that toolkit so no matter what this human experience presents, you’ll feel able to face it one way or another.

Would love to hear what your top tips are for mental wealth & feel free to reach out, connect & share what works for you. With love & light, Sam x

Practicing self praise through reflection

In the past I’d spent a lot of time thinking & reflecting back or forward on many many different things. Doing the @myvinyasapractice YTT from the start it recommended daily journaling around your physical, intellectual, emotional & spiritual bodies. Checking in on how each body felt & defining how through the day you would help to support. Then at the end of the day giving yourself self praise.

The morning check in felt quite straightforward to do.. with many common themes emerging from the Monday morning sluggishness to the weekend bounce.

What surprised me was how hard it is to give yourself self praise. At the start the best I could summon was ‘did good today’.. & trying to expand from that felt hard. Then sort of cheated by going back to the things I’d written to support each of the bodies in the morn & saying (mostly) ‘Did this, well done!’

This eve as reflect back decided to go one step further. Self praise from this wet & cold mid summers eve in South Wales is:

‘Glance back & see the path travelled. Even with the multiple range of hurdles the environment & human experience has presented, still in this physical body & ploughing through. Great job!’

Goodnight one & all – Monday embraced – enroute to upward roll of the week 🙏.

Route into yoga teacher training – during Covid-19

My route into yoga teacher training (YTT), didn’t quite go as planned.. I set out in Jan 2020 on an Ashtanga Primary Modified 200hr YTT course with @jamieyogatrainings & @dianabrook aimed for delivery over a 9 month period with one weekend a month of face to face training.

In March 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK & we entered lockdown & life as we all knew it changed dramatically. This started a new phase of life & being, socially distancing from loved ones, with fear & uncertainty about what the future would hold. I am not going to go into impact of that here.. that is a whole other story!

The yoga however was put on hold. The course was suspended until it would be possible to return to some new kind of norm & this is planned to restart in July 2020.

Initially I focused on trying to strengthen my yoga practice & improve alignment & flexibility. Eventually my motivation started to wane & I started to lose some of that initial drive I started the year with.

So.. I decided to try another (hopefully complementary) path & signed up for the @myvinyasapractice online 200hr YTT in June 2020. It was a whole different approach & self-directed with daily self-reflection coming back to truth ‘a divine being in a human experience’.

The last 5-6 weeks took a whole new turn. Through the course, I’ve learnt so much about how yoga is a part of daily life & beyond the asanas & how it touches on all aspects of being. Bringing back the importance of connection.

Today I submitted my final 3 mini classes on the teachable platform. I have 8 hours of zoom workshops left to watch & then planning for my final 1 hour karma yoga class followed by reflection & just maybe I’ll be one step closer to being able to teach & share the practice of yoga with others.

This eve, feeling gratitude. Gratitude for what was, what is & what will be. Remembering it is this present moment & stilling the mind that is precious on this journey of life.

Sending love & light 🙏