Welcome back! I hope everyone has had a good week. I’m here with Day 10 of my yoga teacher training journey. We continued our focus on heart-centered mindfulness. Fair warning, I’m going to spend most of the post probably talking about the afternoon session. It was a great day jam-packed with information as usual, but the afternoon practice was a standout for me. We did a bhakti yoga practice that centered on the peak pose of hanumanasana, and it was a blast!
Loving Through Lotus
Sunday we delved ever deeper into our weekend of heart-centered mindfulness. We spent some time in the morning with lotus mudra. Lotus mudra is a representation of a heart opening, and we were to envision our hearts first and then the hearts of others we love gently held in our own hands during the mudra. Thus, we set the tone for the day, opening and offering our hearts and sending our loving-kindness out into the world for others.
We also worked with the mantra “om mani padme hum”. Our teacher trainer explained this as a Bhuddist mantra regarding the Six Perfections. Since the mantra has six syllables, each syllable can help perfect each one of these dimensions of humanity: generosity, morality, tolerance, energy, meditation, and wisdom.
As we learned the mantra, I found a particular resonance in the last syllable, “hum”. I was raised in a musical household and have been a singer my whole life. I could feel the vibration of that last syllable rise up through all of my vocal registers. Imagine my surprise when our teacher trainer immediately pointed out what I had been thinking! She talked about how it made her think of giving voice to her heart, and it really resonated with me. It would not be the last time singing would come into play for the day!
Taking Care of the Knees
We spent the rest of the morning talking anatomy. Specifically, we focused on the knees and kneeling poses in yoga. The practice of yoga can put a lot of stress on our knee joints, which is an area of the body that is inherently unstable. There are no muscles in the knee joint itself, and it is dependent entirely on the musculature above and below for movement. The primary supports for the knees are all ligaments, which tend not to heal well as they don’t snap back like muscles.
We spent some time exploring various kneeling poses. The conversation focused largely on helping students who might have knee problems when they walk into our classes. We talked about ways to use props and modify poses to help students who have knee injuries or pain, as well as ways to keep the knees safe for students with healthy knee joints.
Back to Our Sequence
We spent some more time Sunday afternoon finishing up our group sequences from Saturday. As you might recall, my group had Bird of Paradise as the peak pose. As a group, we decided our sequence hadn’t quite spent enough time opening the hips and hamstrings. We decided to change some things around and focus more on those aspects in the beginning of the practice, adding in some low lunges and lizard poses in order to ready those areas of the body for the peak pose. Since time had run short the previous day, we also felt our cool-down sequence had been rushed. We went back and refined that section as well, focusing on poses that would help to bring balance and integration to the body after our peak pose.
Time got away from us once again, so my group did not have the chance to present our sequence. However, as I group I think we felt really good about the practice we had put together. Hopefully we will get a chance to present it in the future. In fact, after the hanumanasana sequence we did later in the afternoon, we might have a few more ideas for opening up those hamstrings!
“Singing is an Act of Love”
The afternoon ended with our second guest instructor of the weekend. Erika Laurenson of the Mindbody Center in Morgantown came and did a practice with us centered around hanumanasana. You might be more familiar with the pose if I just said we worked on splits, since that’s pretty much what hanumanasana is!
Like Colleen, Erika practices Anusara yoga and she spoke with us about Bhakti yoga. Bhakti yoga is a type of yoga focused on loving devotion, and I’m not sure anyone could embody that better than Erika. Her kind, loving spirit just radiates from every fiber of her being, and her presence totally fills the room with a warm and inviting energy. If you can’t tell, I loved her teaching and the practice in which she led us.
We learned a teacher-student mantra first, and Erika chose to sing the mantra. She talked about how she has grown over the years as a teacher, and that she doesn’t mind singing in front of people. The title of this section is something she said, and it resonated so deeply with me: “Singing is an act of love.” Singing the mantra together was definitely an act of love between teacher and student. It was a joyful moment for me, bringing together my loves of yoga and music.
Hanumanasana and Star Wars
Erika did a practice with us based around the story of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman’s leap from the southern tip of India to Sri Lanka. As Erika told the tale, she likened Hanuman to Luke Skywalker (see, she’s also a nerd, and this is why I instantly adored her). Like Luke, Hanuman has great powers, but he often forgets about them and has to be reminded to use them. Also like Luke, Hanuman goes on a hero’s journey. Hanuman journeys India to find Lord Rama’s wife Sita. He ultimately discovers she is imprisoned in the Kingdom of Lanka, which is when he makes his leap across the ocean to save her.
The pose named after him, hanumanasana, is in honor of this leap. It served as the peak pose for our practice. As you might expect, the practice centered largely on opening up the quads and hamstrings. It was honestly one of the toughest practices I can recall doing in the last several months. I could not believe how much I was sweating by the end!
Spoiler alert: I did not achieve hanumanasana. I’ve worked hard on my strength over the last few years, and I’m not as flexible as I used to be. But it was a fun practice and one of my classmates did get into the pose! She surprised herself, and said she felt like she was seven again. Then, Erika surprised us with another peak pose: Vasisthasna. It’s the love child between a side plank and a side heel stretch. I did manage to get into that one!
The end of Sunday marked the halfway point for our teacher training journey. I can’t believe how quickly this first half has flown by. I’m certainly looking forward to graduating and teaching, but I’m still really enjoying this time of learning. I love spending these weekends immersed in the world of yoga. I’ll be sad when they are over, and I’m glad I’ll have these posts to look back on. I hope you are all still enjoying the journey with me.