Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How to Choose the Right Yoga Teacher Training

Find a yoga teacher training that is going to teach you to deeply understand yourself and how to create a personal practice that will empower you to live to your fullest potential. Knowing yourself is the first step to being able to teach others.

I have been leading yoga teacher trainings and immersions for advanced yoga study for over 10 years and there are always questions that come up from dedicated students and potential teachers when they are ready to take the plunge into a yoga teacher training.  A training program is a large investment in time, money and energy and it can truly be one of the most transformative experiences of your life.  Choosing the right yoga teacher training for you is a decision that should be weighed carefully. 
Here my top ten tips on how to choose a yoga teacher training. 

  1. Find a teacher training program that is led by a senior teacher who is steeped in daily practice and study. A teacher must first truly embody the teachings to be able to transmit them to you.  Don’t be shy about asking your potential teacher trainer about their personal practice. If you are interested in teaching and living yoga as opposed to instructing a class this is an important distinction to make in choosing the person who will be guiding you through your yoga journey. 
  2. Beware of being dazzled by arm balances and fancy poses as your marker of whom you should study with. Attend a few classes or workshops with the potential teachers on your list. Notice how they interact with students. Ask them if they have a teacher and who they have studied with. Do some research on the lineage of teachers that they come from.  
  3. Try  not  to use convenience of location as the main factor in choosing your training program. I have seen many students choose a yoga teacher training program because it was right down the street from their house without knowing anything about the studio or the teachers teaching the program. If your favorite band was playing 20 miles away you would probably drive to see them.  Make an effort to get to the best.
  4. Consider the type of student you are. Trainings have many different schedules: from weekend modules for 14 weeks or so, to once a month for a year, to 15 days in a row or even month-long trainings in beautiful retreat settings. What is the best type of learning environment for you? Will you get overwhelmed with learning too much information over a short period of time? Do you like to have more time to digest and practice what you have learned before moving on to something new? Do you want to incorporate your training with a vacation to Costa Rica, Bali or Nicaragua? There are many options to choose from, research them all and listen to your intuition about what would best serve you. 
  5. Find a training that is going to teach you to deeply understand yourself and how to create a personal practice that will empower you to live to your fullest potential. Knowing yourself is the first step to being able to teach others. Make sure you know what topics are going to be covered in the training. Most studios have an information session, make sure you attend!
  6. If you have a special interest find the training that specializes in that type of study instead of generic yoga training. If you are interested in teaching prisoners go study with James Fox in his Prison Yoga Project. If you are interested in Yoga Therapy study with Gary Kraftsow or Larry Payne. If you are interested in Tantra study with Rod Stryker. Yin Yoga? You should find Paul Grilley ASAP. And if master teachers are not accessible to you find their senior teachers who live close to you and study with them. 
  7. Make sure you know what topics are going to be covered in the training. Most studios have an information session, make sure you attend! If you really want to learn about the Chakra system make sure they are covering more than just the basics. Many studio’s will be bring in guest teachers to teach the portions of the training that they are masterful at like Ayurveda, Anatomy, Yin or Restorative. Look for trainings that bring in experts. It will give you a more well rounded experience. 
  8. Don’t let money be a factor. Many studios will allow you to work as a karma yogi doing work around the studio or on social media to work off part or all of your training. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can set up a payment plan or do some karma hours in exchange for a discount.  
  9. Start now! Get yourself started before your training even starts by reading a few books or watching a few online courses in your spare time. Reading books like The Heart of Yoga by T. K. V. Desikachar, The Secret of the Yoga Sutra’s by Pandit Rajmani Tiguanit, Yoga for Transformation by Gary Kraftsow or Yoga and Ayurveda by David Frawley . Watch Anatomy for Yoga with Paul Grilley or find online videos from the teachers you want to study with most. 
  10. Use the same type of discernment that you would in choosing a doctor or nutritionist. Get referrals, do research, go to classes and mostly trust your gut. 

Tracee leads workshops, retreats and teacher trainings internationally and is a senior student of Yogarupa Rod Stryker. She has been studying in his ParaYoga style since 2001. Tracee teaches the Yoga of Willpower and IntentionTM with the desire to help students enrich their lives through sharing practices that lead to self mastery and self-empowerment. Find more about Tracee at www.traceeyoga.com

Twitter- @Shaktidiva

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Monday, December 31, 2012

SWAHA !!!!

Early last year two trusted healers told me that 2012 was going to be a year of transition, of many things that had long been kept secret coming into the light to be transformed and healed. I was on high alert for most of the year watching and learning as many things began to shift. 
Long held family secrets came to the surface, my fathers health began to decline and my relationship began to take on a new dynamic. Things were certainly shifting and transforming. There were a lot of tears, betrayals and miscommunication. As painful as some of the things that happened were, it allowed for a deepening of a of love, understanding, compassion and surrender. But this didn't come without practice. It is not exactly intuitive to practice loving kindness towards someone who is actively lying, stealing and trying to deceive you. But if you practice trying to stay non-reactive and in the present moment and just witness- you can sense the fear, the shame and the trauma that is causing them to act in ways that are not congruent with their true nature and maybe not even aligned with who they really wish to be. In doing this you can see how you react out of those same places of pain and fear in your own interactions and decisions. It is this realization that can help to dissolve the walls of separation that we so easily erect when we judge others. This dissolution creates a softening that allows you to see and experience so much more than is visibly apparent. As we practice this more and more we learn how to witness and respond as opposed to react.
When my father transitioned several weeks ago he gave me a very powerful initiation and for a moment the veil was lifted. And in those last moments I was able to source from teachings I had learned from my teachers to hold space for a peaceful transition for him. I wonder where I would be without those teachers?
As we move forward in this next year hopefully we will be able to take the fruits of the lessons that we have learned and use them to sustain us through even more growth and transformation. Being an example to others is a powerful way for us to share and reinforce what we have learned. This isn't about preaching, but actually embodying the teachings and becoming a beacon of light that shines the light for others who may be going through a break up, death of a loved one or just lack of purpose in life. We all have something to share. That something is not necessarily our story of what happened, but the lessons that came from it. 
I am more confident than ever that creating community and sharing what we learn and have with each other will be the salvation of this world. 
My commitment for 2013 is to create more opportunities to authentically share and create community. 
I was reminded today by two posts on FB from @HillaryRubin and @SallyKempton of the practice of writing down on a piece of paper all of the things you are done with and ready to let go of from this year and burning them in the fire. Creating space for the new. As I sit here in Big Bear, I have a fire burning and I am writing and letting go throughout the day. 
Om Agniyae Swaha!

Wishing You All a Beautiful New Year 
Create. Share. Inspire

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Yoga for a Broken Heart - Part 2- Deep Rest

When was the last time you rested deeply?  Really allowed yourself just to sink into a deeply restorative rest. All to often the definition of our practice is active, working out, getting a great sweat. And reserve time for resting when we are on vacation kicking our feet up with a good book, but even then you are not resting your mind is still active. My task for you this week is to allow yourself just 20 minutes EVERY DAY to do nothing but restore. Let go of doing.

 Our yoga journey is meant to help us reclaim that part of ourselves that is never changing, that part of us that is the same as it was before we had a name. In order to do this we need to let go of resistance. Mostly we are aware of the resistance of outer circumstances, but how often do we consider the inner resistances that hold us back,  mainly the endless cycle of  negative thinking that you may not even notice as you move busily about your day. You would be surprised at what you can accomplish when you let go of resistance.

The biggest challenge may be to find 20 minutes in the day to do the practice or a quiet place to do it. But this is part of self care. Part of your commitment to healing yourself. Motivate yourself and know that you are important enough to take this time  out for healing. Even if it means going into the closet or sitting in your car to get away. It is our birthright to be peaceful and free. This is one of the most important steps to realizing that freedom.

Here is a link to the deep relaxation practice. Let me know how you do!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Yoga for a Broken Heart - Part 1- Committing to Stillness

There are many ways that we become heartbroken. It can be from years of failed relationships, a betrayal from a partner,  divorce , the loss of a loved one, abandonment, disappointment, even loneliness. Some of our heartbreaks are so deep that it feels as though we may never recover. We become so disconnected from ourselves that we need something to guide us back to wholeness.
All to often we search for something or someone outside of ourselves to make us happy. But those of us who have tried that route have no-doubt experienced the fleeting  happiness that is born from a relationship incubated in a bubble of neediness. It is our relationship to ourselves and the understanding of who we really are that will bring us that feeling of completeness and the knowing that we are never truly alone.
The Yoga Sutras describes a light that resides inside each of us- A luminance  that is beyond all sorrow. This light is said to be located at the heart center. If we can access that light by letting go of resistance, offering gratitude and surrendering to what is,we can once again- and maybe for the first time taste our true nature -one that is full of joy, freedom and bliss. 
The process of accessing that light requires svadyaya (self Study), abhyanga (diligent practice) and vairagya (dispassion). We  have to muster the courage to walk through the fire of transformation and we should begin by making a sacred commitment to ourselves towards our own healing. 
But first we must learn to become still.  Stillness is probably the one thing we'd like to avoid. Busyness keeps us distracted from our issues and the pain at heart. Perpetual motion is a great tool to avoid seeing our patterns, ways we could have acted more wisely or compassionately . It staves off those voices of doubt in our minds that maybe we actually are unlovable or underserving and might always be alone. It seemingly keep us from feeling the pain. But it's still there, under the surface, bubbling away- deciding whether to burst forth and release or sink deep and create toxicity and dis-ease.  And at the end of the day it only serves to keep our healing at bay. 
We need to stop the endless watching of TV, surfing the web, overworking and the countless coffee's with friends who just want to cheer us up or rehash the story over and over as they project their own relationship woes onto us.
Even our asana practice can became a way to distract ourselves. However if we turn off the music and infuse our asana practice with the subtler aspects of yoga like pranayama, mantra and bandha's we can use it to prepare us for deep meditation. From this place we can begin to pry open the door to the cave of the heart. Isn't this what the practice was meant for? To have effect on how we show up in world and not just how we look in the mirror?
It is said that in the stillness the unknown becomes known. It may be scary to look into those painful and cavernous places within ourselves. But it must be done if we want to be free.
Make the decision now to to take your seat,close your eyes, be with yourself and breathe. Being still will illuminate your inner world and how you experience the outerworld will be shifted. But the practice of meditation is much more powerful when you practice daily . If possible do it in the same place at the same time everyday and you will see that the cumulative power of a daily practice becomes palpable very quickly.
Lets do an experiment together and commit to sit. Commit to get still, same time, same place everyday (if possible) just for the next 30 days. You may have a favorite meditation or you can use the Morning Clarity Meditation for the first week if you are just getting started. I will be uploading more meditations each week that will lead us deeper into the healing and expansion of the heart.
At the end of this 4 part series I will  announce a time for a Google chat so we can share our experiences  and connect as a community.

Here are some things that will  help you to move your healing journey forward this week:

1. Non-expectation
2. Silence  at least 30 minutes before bed
3. Reduce media intake
4. Take time to be alone

Hari Om Tat Sat

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Winter Soltice

As we move from the darkness in to the light. Remember the quote from the Rig Veda: May the teachings of yoga lead us from the unreal to the real from the finite to the infinite and from the darkness into the light.
Take today to consider starting anew. Letting go of old habits, divesting yourself of beliefs systems and thought patterns that keep you imprisoned. Use your practice to elevate you to a place where you have a new perspective. This will allow you to see possibilities that you may not have considered. It will draw people to you who have a similar world view and create new opportunities.
There are many who are going through life transitions right now. Moving to a new place to follow a dream job and leaving loved ones behind, divorce, a new baby, moving into a dream house, foreclosure, death of a loved one, a new marriage, turning 50 or considering a new career.
Every transitional event in our lives is an opportunity to learn from the past and create a new foundation. But we must find the discipline to follow through. It takes work and commitment. If we can't commit to our own happiness and fulfillment what or who can we truly commit to?
We must ignite the fire of Agni within ourselves to burn away lethargy, activate our power center and to burn the ghosts of the past that haunt us. Fire is the key to transformation. Try learning the practice of Agni Sara to begin to stoke the fire.
Find your path, your teacher, your lineage whatever resonates in your heart and follow it with determination and resolve and watch a new way of being unfold.
Hari Om

Monday, August 15, 2011

What I Learned by Looking at My Shadow

I arrived early for my yoga class and found a sunny spot to place my mat and do a short meditation and invocation to prepare the space for my students. When I opened my eyes I saw my own shadow, it was a nice silhouette of of me sitting in meditation. Kind of a cool picture, I thought. But then I looked closer and noticed that my shoulders were creeping up towards my ears. When I actively released my shoulders downwards I felt a wave of relaxation and realized that I must have been sitting like that during my meditation. When I see this posture on others I assume they are stressed, defensive or fearful. I thought... just what am I holding on to?
In the book Yoga and Psychotherapy muscle tension is described as a "primitive way of separating oneself. By keeping the muscles tense and partly contracted, it serves as a boundary between oneself and others", thus giving the illusion of security. What secret invader could I be unconsciously trying to ward off ? Come to think of it I have had a sore neck over the last few weeks. I tried a few stretches, Epsom salt baths, even sleeping without a pillow for the last week. I replayed my various activities over the last week that could have possibly strained my neck. I finally settled on the unfortunate pounding I took in the impact zone while Stand Up surfing, but that was over a month ago and I really didn't remember hurting my neck. A posture can reflect the way a person is feeling inside, but holding the body a certain way can also accentuate those feelings and cause the feelings to be sustained, inhibiting our growth. Was this shoulder tensing preventing me from growing? At the very least my neck was hurting and that was effecting my practice. As I went through my day I realized I was tensing my shoulders more often than not. Something else was going on.
 I thought about the exercise that I had just completed in my teacher Rod Stryker's new book, The Four Desires. This particular exercise was designed to uncover your vikalpa. As Rod describes it "Your vikalpa are the kinds of mental constructs or beliefs that split or separate you from your highest self and from the destiny that your highest self would have you fulfill. In the end, it is your vikalpa that make up the inner obstacles - your false ideas, deep seated patterns and perceptions- that lead you away from your highest destiny."
A person can set many goals, intentions or sankalpas (resolves) but unless you have uncovered your vikalpa, it will be nearly impossible to fulfill your true destiny.  Once I completed the exercise and uncovered my vikapla, the set of beliefs that have been standing in my way of achieving great success became abundantly clear...like a ton of bricks... falling on my head. I flashed back on many opportunities come and gone that I let slip through my fingers-  relationships that I stayed in for too long- because really... I didn't feel I deserved to be successful and why I didn't feel I deserved it was even more surprising. But with that realization came a lightness. Just like it felt when I released the tension in my shoulders- a wave of relaxation.
So now I am using the habit of holding tension in my shoulders as my Departure Point, another technique outlined in The Four Desires. Rod describes this as a "juncture where you break the momentum of your old trajectory by interrupting a habit pattern and thus trigger a new trajectory twoard your goal. By giving something up you create an opportunity for the universe to fill the resulting gap with something new, and specifically something you desire- your sankalpa." It may not sound like much to give up, but I am already feeling the freedom its created in both my body and my mind. I sense a fire lighting the way towards achieving my goals that comes from a deep place and a new awareness that will help me to avoid the pitfalls that I have made it in the past due to my limiting beliefs.

You can order The Four Desires- Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity and Freedom by Rod Styker at www.parayoga.com along with the accompanying guided meditations.
Please feel free to share your vikapla stores here.