Yoga Teacher Training Day 14: Mind Over Matter

Mind Over Matter Header
Welcome to another in my series of posts on yoga teacher training. We spent the second day of our September training weekend talking about the mind and meditation. The primary conversation of the day centered on the anatomy of our brains and the various functions as they relate to yoga practice and meditation. We also got a chance to teach our fellow YTT-ers again. Read on for more YTT weekend fun!

It’s All in Your Head

We spent the bulk of the morning talking about brain anatomy, particularly that of the limbic system. As much as I’m not a general anatomy buff, I did quite a bit of study on brain anatomy in my high school psychology class. I’ve always been interested in how the human mind works, so I found the discussion fascinating. We’re lucky enough to have a health psychologist in the group as well, so we got further benefit from her professional insights.

For those who aren’t familiar, the limbic system is the region of the brain responsible for learning, memory, and emotion. When we take in new information, the hippocampus is there to store that information and retrieve it for later use. Our emotions filter through the amygdala. Sensory input from our environment goes to the brain from the thalamus. The hypothalamus takes that sensory input and tells our fight-or-flight or rest-and-digest systems to kick in when needed.

Yoga and meditation affect the limbic system by promoting calming and de-stressing signals to the brain. If we are sending the brain the message we are calm by breathing deeply and moving slowly, we can have a positive impact on our state of mind.

More Arm Balancing

We wrapped up the morning with some group work. Each group was given a part of the body to warm up. We were to come up with appropriate exercised to warm that part of the body. Each group also had one arm balancing posture to teach to the rest of the class. My group had to warm up the hands and wrists and then teach firefly pose.

For the hand warm-up, we did two exercises. The first was a child’s pose where we tented our fingers and then pulled the arms back, waking up and strengthening the fingers. The second were the wrist warm-ups I wrote about in my first post on handstands.

We were running late to get to lunch, so our teacher trainer decided to pick only one group to teach their arm balance. My group was the lucky winner! We taught both a modified version and a full version of the pose. The modified version was done sitting on a block and keeping the tips of the toes on the floor. Tired as we all were from the workshop the night before, everyone gave the pose a try in both the modified and full versions.

Firefly pose
Firefly pose! It’s not my best arm balance, but like anything else, it’s a work in progress.

Mapping the Mind

We spent the first half of our afternoon talking about meditation. Of course there are a lot of benefits to meditation, but the doing it often trips us up. How do we do it? Are we doing it right? Are we really supposed to sit still and not think for five whole minutes?!

We talked about those questions during our conversation, and we’ll delve into them even more when I talk about our Sunday session. The interesting thing is that no matter how we are doing it, it’s the doing that counts. Even small doses of meditation, done regularly, can have a positive impact on our mood and mindset.

We also talked about our yoga practice as a moving meditation. That’s right, you actually don’t┬áhave to “sit there and not think”! You can use your yoga practice to come into that meditative state and experience all of the benefits of meditation.

Time to Teach!

The afternoon wrapped up with us getting some practice with teaching. We were to have prepared a 15-minute mini-class to teach to our fellow YTTers. We broke into small groups and each of us had to lead our group through our mini-class. It was truly amazing to see how far we’ve all come. Everyone had a well-sequenced class and was so much more confident in their teaching. The cues were more in sync with what each of us saw in our students, rather than what we had in our heads to say. Modifications and props were offered. It was really fun to see how much we’ve all grown since our first foray into teaching one another!

That’s it for Saturday! Next week, I’ll have our Sunday field trip to Lake Pointe Inn in Maryland. You’ll want to be sure to come back for that one! Thanks for reading!