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.