Monday, July 6, 2015

Which YTT is right for you?

I can only tell you my personal experience and hope it helps you make your decision.  I already knew my priority was to go the source and that meant traveling to India.  I wanted to be as close to the culture and origins of Yoga as possible.  Second, I wanted knowledge.  I felt pretty comfortable with the whole teaching part of the course, I wanted the content, and not just the physical anatomy of each asana, I wanted to know the philosophy behind each pose.
I was bound by the time of year I could travel to India, so that was an easy parameter for me to plug into the equation.  For my second YTT I wanted to learn more about Yoga Therapy;  aha!  My second parameter.  And thirdly I wanted to go to a working Yoga clinic to learn and see yoga therapy in play.  I chose Andiappan YTT in Chenai.  Guruji runs a school and clinic and offers 200 and 300 hour YTT for teachers and therapists.  To this day I remember my time there fondly and refer often to my notes taken in class.  The training I received has been invaluable to me in my personal practice and in my teaching career.
My third training ,which completed my 500 hours in YTT, had to be in the mountains of India, again near the source of Yoga, and I wanted more yoga philosophy and literature to be part of the training.  I researched several schools until I came across a review of Association for Meditation and Yoga in Rishikesh that praised the teacher and the course content. All my criteria were met.  Rishikesh is a holy city in the foothills of the Himalayas, the Ganges run through the city, and the YTT offered the topics I wanted to learn. As with my first and second training, this course further deepened my own practice and has given me the skills and knowledge to better guide the yoga students that share yoga with me.

Knowing how I researched my own YTT training I want to be as clear as I can when describing the YTT our school offers.  I planned the curriculum to reflect my priorities in teaching and in content.  My hope was and is to offer students an opportunity to live a yoga life style for those 2 to 3 weeks they attend the YTT course. 

 I firmly believe that  Yoga must  be experienced.  Side by side with each lecture class we offer real learning demonstrations, practicums and student teaching opportunities, from Day one of the course.

As Patanjali in the Sutras states one needs " right knowledge, right wisdom to practice yoga."  And, an often quoted adage by BKS Iyengar, "Words cannot convey the value of yoga – it has to be experienced."

Why do we share yoga with our  friends and horses?
Because it is so much fun!

The yogic path to connecting with your horse
The practice of yoga is like our relationship to horses, both require us to harken back to or childhood days of endless curiosity, spontaneity, and complete lack of self-consciousness.
Our young rider and yogi comes to class each week with a ready smile and an air of joyful eagerness.  He gently reaches out to the horses to kiss and pet them.  He doesn't think first and act later.  He trusts his own feelings and  acts out of  joy and instinct.  He is only 4 years old and probably cannot articulate the concept, but as his teacher and guide, I can see that his relationship with our horses and his own sense of self-confidence and self-awareness has grown steadily as he spends more and more time with the horses, mounted and on the ground. 
Horses respond  to emotions of happiness, contentment, acceptance, and peace.  These are all emotions we strive to cultivate through our yoga practice, on and off the mat. Just like this young student,  we will find a greater depth of connection to ourselves and to our horses when we let go of our "adult" ego and become like children again.
Can we approach the challenge of our yoga asana practice with endless curiosity?  Not  to find out if we can do the more advanced  asana but to explore how we feel as we challenge ourselves .  Can we use our curiosity to open ourselves up to undiscovered possibilities?  Will that curiosity be ego driven or selfless?
Can we allow ourselves to be open to the learning of the moment?  to revel in the spontaneity of our efforts?  Will we see the moment as an opportunity to change direction all together;  the challenge we thought we were addressing now becomes unimportant as we allow ourselves to be aware of other subtle actions at play.
 As we lose our ego can we look at  this asana differently?  Perhaps we can approach the asana from a perspective of our breath?  Can we view this asana more holistically? Will our efforts become  guided by our instincts now instead of our ego consciousness?
When we delve deeper into our Yoga practice we allow ourselves to remember our childhood's love to explore, to act with intuition, and to lose ourselves completely in the moment. That is YOGA.
Horses are always experiencing that "moment."  They are always in a state of Yoga, or oneness.  They freely offer us the  opportunity to share this experience with them, we just have to be aware of the invitation. As we do on our yoga mat, when we approach a training objective with our horse, let us try to be curious and open, let us let go of any set rules and trust our intuition, and let us try to merge our ego with that of the horse and become one with him.
For example:  When teaching a young horse to move in a straight line and gently round his body in a turn, sometimes the lesson becomes not  about the horse's body position and balance but more about our ability to initiate and maintain a two way dialogue with our horse. 
 As riders we are constantly communicating and listening to our horse.  We develop the skills to listen, understand and react, all in a timely manner, to what are horse is signalling to us.  To do this we must practice Yoga, the art of oneness and union.  We consciously allow our inner child to run free.  Our sense of curiosity becomes a willingness and openness to explore.  We let go of preconceived notions and welcome spontaneous moments of learning to enter our raining sessions.
I don't know why, but horses are generous and will give back more than two fold what you give to them.  So let yourself go.   Let your ego fly away.   Let your sub-conscious merge with your horse and experience the joy of oneness with this beautiful and noble creature.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Yoga, Horses, and Young Kids:  a Winning Combination

Today we had a major breakthrough in our yoga and horseback riding class.  Our youngest rider came today for his one hour class.  He arrived eager with a smile on his face and, as usual, a million questions;  porque?...  This young boy is curious about everything!

When he first came to us he was afraid of the horses, the dogs, and the cats.  He would cling to his Poppi and shy away from the horses.  The first time he actually rode one of our horses was a great feat for all of us.  Today, after just 3 classes of riding solo in the arena he asked if he could trot.  Previously he was adamantly opposed to doing anything more than a slow shuffle with the horses.

With a smile, and of course many questions, we rode together on Centella, our 18  year old mare, in a trot around and around our arena.  What a joy! and then he even cantered for a short time.

Usually after riding in the arena we take a walk around our garden, with one of us walking beside him at all times.  Today we did something special;  with his riding helmet on and on a lead rein we walked down our driveway and onto our small country lane.  This was his first trail ride!  He asked if we going far or near.  He asked why he had to wear a helmet.  He asked why Centella was walking close to my horse, Half-Pint.  He asked why and when he could go further.  He asked why the road was hard.  He asked why we had to turn around and head home.  He asked and asked and asked.  This kid has an insatiable curiosity about life.

Afterwards he happily helped take off the riding pads and halters and lead the horses to the pasture after saying "muchas gracias" to both of them.  

This young rider has come a long way.  In our yoga and horse back riding classes he is learning confidence in himself and his own actions and he is learning how to communicate and bond with another animal.

Congratulations Matty, good job!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

What is meditation and how to do it?  Oftentimes just the word "meditation" is intimidating.  We have images of  either ascetic and skinny Indian men sitting motionless in a cave or we have beatific images of a rotund Buddha sitting contentedly under a tree.

For me, as I travel my own yoga journey, meditation has come to mean true mindfullness in every moment.  That moment can be during a sunset dance meditation on the beach, or a quiet moment with my horse.
Being aware of each breath I take and  being sensitive to my own emotions  for me defines a large part of my  yoga practice.  Meditation is part of the practice and the goal of the practice.

Just as yoga is the practice and the goal.  The observance of Yoga and of Meditation give us the tools to go further into our practice and deeper into our meditation but these observances are complete in themselves and as such are the goal.  Your practice is your achievement.

There is no sudden arrival at your Yoga, or Union.  You experience it every day.  As BKS Iyengar said, yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory, do it and all will come.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

As a retreat guide what I learn while “on the job.”

Every time we offer our Yoga in Harmony with Horses retreats ( that is me and Terry Lillian Newton of Kindred Spirits) we gain just as much or more than our guests.  In our most recent retreat I received the gift of letting go of my inner dis-harmonies and realized the joy that act gave me.

We had just ridden one and a half hours in the morning sun through countryside and steep hills.  With the help of our ever cheerful volunteer we unsaddled the horses and left them in a shady spot as we hiked through the jungle to the hidden waterfalls and pond.  Our guests marveled at the verdant foliage and jungle noises.

Upon reaching the waterfalls we cooled off in the pond and started to have fun and connection with yoga poses. It was when we reached the large boulders and tall tree growing literally in the middle of the creek that I found my yoga.

waterall yoga 3.gif
Once we settled into our individual meditations I began to simultaneously chant OM.  I felt the vibrations of this primordial and spiritual sound resonate deep in my lower chakras and rise up to my heart chakra.  I was in the moment, my thoughts and body in a state of calm and relaxed awareness. 
 Peace and Harmony

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Waterhole Rituals with Linda Salinas: finding true connection with your horse when he is at liberty and allowed to be in full expression

Horses at liberty, no tack, no restraints, they are free to make their own choices, to decide if they will interact with us or not.

Horses at liberty:  a beautiful concept.  How do you view your horse?  More importantly how does he view you?  Is he always in a halter and tack when you interact with him?  Does your horse have the joy and freedom to just be a horse when he is with you?  

With the spectacular background of Volcano Arenal  we sit in a meditation circle to begin our day

The Water Hole Rituals, formualted by Carolyn Resnick, are a simple and elegant group of behaviors that people can emulate with their horses to forge and enhance their connections to them.  The premise of the rituals, as I interpret them, is to 1.  allow your horse full expression at all times, and 2.  to abide by the "rules" of herd behavior, that is we take on the role of lead mare.

As lead mare we are charged with the responsibility to protect and lead our herd, at all times.  How does a lead mare guide her herd?  She guides from behind, with clarity, integrity, and swiftness.  Horses are prey animals and herd animals.  They are on the look out for predators and they are searching for the security of a lead mare to keep them safe.  

Once a shy horse, leery of human contact, Apache now  seeks contact, he trusts his curiosity to initiate and maintain connection

Linda Salinas guided, coached and encouraged us in a 5 day clinic to appreciate and learn how to "lead" our herd.  In order to lead your herd you first  make a connection with your horse.   When he initiates the contact he is in full expression of his freedom of choice.  We can build upon that first contact to deepen our connection so that he sees us as the source of security and comfort, and  joy and play.  As a yoga practitioner I like to look at this as the true Yoga expression of Union.  In Yoga this union is often expressed as the union of body, mind, and spirit.  There is harmony and a connectedness among all things.  

Two curious beings

What do we do with this connection?  Well, that is up to you.  The rituals are tools to help us connect with our horse.  Whether you are a competitive or casual rider,  this true connection will enhance all your activities together.  Your horse will be your happy and willing partner, always curious to see what next fun adventure you two will have, whether in the competition arena or the trail, or your backyard.


To learn more about the Water Hole Rituals see Carolyn Resnick and Linda Salinas.