This month was the first YTT weekend since our retreat. Upon arrival on Saturday morning, the room was charged with energy and excitement, even at 7 in the morning. Finding ourselves together in the same room again was a joy. There was also nervous energy, as we knew from pre-weekend emails, that we would be teaching this weekend.
We started the day Saturday by discussing kriya yoga. Patanjali essentially described Kriya yoga as yoga for beginners. Not because it is easy, but because we know that the physical practice of yoga is only one of the limbs of yoga – the yoga of action. Essentially, kriya yoga seeks to keep the body busy, moving, in order to allow the mind to be still. In the teachings of kriya yoga, there are three exercises to practice: tapas, Svadhyaya and ishvara pranidhana. It’s worth taking up a few lines to elaborate on these three exercises, as they allow the beginner yogi to eventually get to the other limbs of yoga.
Tapas is austerity or self-discipline. Essentially, the yogi is asked to live simply, to be happy with who he or she is. Tapas is attained by the way of the body, with consistent physical practice.
Svadhyaya is self-study: to recite, repeat or rehearse to oneself. This step is about reading scriptures and to use these readings as a way to look inside and study the self, in relation to these teachings. The goal is not to become a scholar, versed in all sacred yoga texts, but rather to reflect on the self, to better the self.
Ishvara pranidhana is essentially surrender. Surrender or acceptance of a supreme being. his is scary stuff for many of us. The words can be translated to ‘offering the fruits of one’s actions to the Divine’. You can then try to see it as approaching your practice in the spirit of giving, offering. This exercise means shifting your perspective to see, feel, receive all that is offered around us, moving away from the ‘I’, moving aside the ego – to let the grace that is all around us simply pour in.
All this before 10AM!
At 11:00 on Saturday, some of the students and mentors actually taught the flow yoga class. It was exhilarating. For me, it was my first time teaching in front of real people, not my YTT colleagues only. It was humbling, challenging, fun and scary all at once (I can’t wait to do it again!)
The afternoon was a workshop with Bhaskar Goswami on meditation and mindfulness. I could probably write 70 pages on those 3 hours, but I will contain myself.
We started off by talking about what mindfulness is… Being mindful of what exactly. We talked about how the small act of ‘noticing’ things, things that we take for granted every single day, can be the first step for a shift away from our give and take a way of living life, toward a new way of living life… receiving. So this first step… NOTICING. Noticing generosity, noticing the gifts that are all around us every day, the sun, the wind, the sounds we hear, our breath. When this happens, nothing changes, life stays the same all around you. What is different is that you see it differently. Then some magic happens: the more you notice, the more you see. There is so much to be grateful for. Bhaskar calls this act of noticing a ‘life hack’.
We discussed the afflictions or obstacles that can make mindfulness a challenge: craving, aversion, agitation, drowsiness, and doubt. Each of these is potential roadblocks to mindful meditation and each can be challenged by practice, focusing and self-study.
Now, the best part… Again, we’re still only Saturday: inner transformation. What is it exactly? In this type of transformation, you literally take on a different form (caterpillar → butterfly). This means that you cannot go back to the previous form. Your perception of reality changes. For us humans, transformation happens inside.
We talked about the 4 basic human desires or aims of human life. These desires compel us to act, and are each areas of potential transformation: Artha (material desires), kama (desire for pleasure), dharma (desire for a purpose) and moksha (desire for liberation). All the discussions around these desires were interesting and we discussed how we can shift the balance away from letting these desires control us, to using them toward transformation.
Again, for me, the discussion around dharma really resonated. Perhaps it is the point where I am in my life, having just turned 40, perhaps it is due to the changes in my personal life over the last year. Regardless, I am in search of this purpose. I feel this desire for purpose. When this desire is ‘out of whack’, one can become blinded by ambition, living, succeeding, but not thriving. This discussion got me thinking about our YTT weekend with Bram, where we were first introduced to dharma and got me wondering whether I still felt, a few months later, that I had really, truly identified my dharma. In fact, following this discussion with Bhaskar, I re-read my notes from the July weekend. I’ve since fine-tuned it a little.
A few blog posts ago, I had talked about my dharma being my compassion, empathy, optimism, and strength. I’ve given it more thought and realized how these all intersect together to become my dharma. My compassion and empathy allow me to hear and understand points of view other than my own and to have an understanding of what people around me are going through. My optimism makes people gravitate toward me and want to open up. My strength allows me to hear and share with others without fear of judgment. MY dharma is that then: sharing with others journeys, by listening to them, hearing them, really hearing them and maybe sometimes helping them, even in the slightest way. I often struggled with this aspect of my personality, this tendency to always see both sides of the coin. I always wondered whether that made me ‘flaky’, without a strong opinion. Time (and age!) and this YTT journey are helping me to understand that this is, in fact, a strength. I don’t need to defend my point of view, I don’t need to convert others to my way of thinking. I take it all in and I gladly share my view with those who want to hear it.
I felt so powerful driving home Saturday with this new knowledge. I felt like I finally accepted this huge part of my personality, finally realizing that it is not a weakness. It’s what allows me to connect with so many people. It helps others feel comfortable opening up to me without fear of judgment. Hell yeah!
Ok, there is still a whole day I haven’t talked about but I can’t tell you everything. I want to tell you all just enough so that your curiosity is piqued and that you might consider joining the next YTT (or the one after that if you’re like me). Seriously, each month, the experience gets better. You have to be ready for it though, what happens during YTT. You can’t be afraid, you can’t take yourself too seriously, you have to be ready to teach super badly that first time. But all these steps, each of them, they’re getting me one step closer to transformation. Maybe this time next year, I’ll finally be a butterfly.
Nadine is the 2018 winner of Energie EnCorps YTT #WhyIamWorthIt Scholarship,who will be blogging on her Yoga Teacher Training experience over the course of the year. Follow her journey. Celebrate with her in her a-ha moments, relate to her struggles and learn how the philosophy of yoga can be brought into your own life. Thank you so much to Nadine for letting us all into your mind this year. Learn more about the Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training and Mentorship programs at Energie Encorps West Island, an internationally recognized Yoga Alliance School, click here: https://bit.ly/2ASHwg5 Interested? Follow Nadine Dumas on Instagram!