Recently, Nat (from Nat & Sandy Yoga) took a short trip to Portland for a training on mental health and wellness with Yoga Medicine. In this episode, Sandy interviews Nat on her experience and the main takeaways from her week in training. We discuss the importance of epigenetics in mental health, depression and anxiety, the enteric nervous system (your gut) and its connection to mental health, and so much more. This topic is hugely important for yoga teachers to be well-versed and sensitive towards, so if you’re currently a yoga teacher or looking to launch your teaching career, please do have a listen! We discuss tools and techniques to use within group yoga classes that may help someone with depression or anxiety feel a bit more comfortable.
Deciding to embark upon the journey in becoming a yoga teacher is no easy feat. It’s one of those decisions that can quite literally change the course your life path forever.
I remember back in 2011; I was drifting in time and space and unsure of the next step in my path. I was living in Madrid, Spain and working as a live-in nanny or au pair. I felt in my bones that I was at a crossroad but unsure of whether I would put roots down in Europe or make my way back to the states. It was during this transitional phase that I learned one of the yoga teachers I admired and respected was offering a 200-hour yoga teacher training; something I wanted to do ever since my first yoga class in college. I spent time sitting alone in a park while watching over the little boy I was caring for and surrendering my next steps to the Universe. That evening, I applied to Tiffany Cruikshank’s200-hour teacher training and had no idea if I would be accepted to her program.
After a week of waiting, I was accepted into the yoga teacher training program, which set my return to the states in motion. It felt amazing to have a renewed sense of purpose. After settling back into life in the Pacific North West, I prepared as best as I could with the prerequisite work we received (daily practices and books to read). Our program began in the fall with a one-week intensive, which continued to meet every weekend from September until early February, where we ended with another one-week intensive. To say I was woefully unprepared for the experience would be an understatement.
On the first day of our first week-long intensive, I walked into our practice room a few minutes before 7 am only to find a woman holding a perfect handstand in the middle of the room. I remember feeling like I should have just turned around and left at that point. I totally had a WTF moment, thinking that I had no business being in a room with people that were that advanced and that maybe I was accidentally accepted to this particular program. As you know, I stuck it out and stayed. I worked through my own insecurities in the process—reminding myself that we are all on our own individual journey, knowing that comparison is the thief of joy. Grant yourself grace to be human and honor your own journey.
After making it through my two-hundred hour yoga teacher training, I’ve since gone on to work through my 500-hour certification and am now actively working on 1,000-hours of training with Yoga Medicine. What I can say is that there are always nerves and what-if scenarios that arise, no matter how many trainings I complete. So, if you’re preparing for your first yoga teacher training or even diving back in for additional training, here are a few things to expect and how to better prepare.
Long, Yet Fulfilling Days
Most days will start with an early morning asana practice that will fuel the learnings in lecture throughout the day. After a lengthy practice, you’ll break for breakfast before settling into the first lecture for the day. If you’re lucky, you’ll have seats or back support, if not be prepared to use your creative juices to arrange props in a way that you can actively listen and feel comfortable while sitting on the ground. You’ll have a nice break for lunch—where I encourage you not to study but instead take a walk, listen to feel-good music, move your body. After lunch, round two of lecture will begin, leading right into a restorative evening practice before dinner. Each night before bed, review your notes for 30-minutes or talk through your learnings with a partner. It helps to solidify the new information while sleeping. A little down time and studying goes a long way.
It’s usually around day three or four when things start to get blurry, and signals begin to cross. Without fail, there’s always this moment of uncertainty, as if you’re in over your head. The information you’re trying to learn might feel insurmountable, but I promise that if you stick with it, by the end of the
week, everything usually begins to gel together. Trust that as you return home to implement your new learnings, you might even surprise yourself with how much knowledge you’ve acquired. Be sure to take plenty of notes and try your best to remain attentive during lecture.
Nearly every person I’ve ever met in any of my yoga trainings has been awesome! There are so many interesting people living their best lives and have so much to share. Be open to everyone you encounter; you never know what their life story is or how much you might be able to learn from the folks that are in your training class. I’m proud to say that many of my lifelong friendships have grown from yoga teacher trainings.
You’re in for a life-changing experience no matter what, remember to be open to possibility, leave all expectations at the door, and trust the process!
Get your Yoga Start with Tiffany Cruikshank’s Yoga Guide
Tiffany Cruikshank is a teacher’s teacher, international yogi, author, and wellness expert. Tiffany Cruikshank founded Yoga Medicine as a platform to connect people and doctors with experienced yoga teachers. Yoga Medicine trains their ever-expanding community of teachers to understand body anatomy, biomechanics, physiology, and the traditional practice of yoga.
With this fortitude of knowledge, they’re able to create individualized, effective yoga programs for each student.
Ready to channel your inner yogi?
Get your start with this comprehensive guide, crafted by Tiffany and her team of accomplished Yoga Medicine teachers, trainers, and contributors.
This detailed guide is for yogis at any stage in their practice (beginner, intermediate and advanced) and covers several topics including definition and history, motivation, basics and foundation, and many others.
We are thrilled to share this wonderful article by our very own Senior YM teacher Alice Louise Blunden. Alice recently completed the 500hr Chinese Medicine and Myofascial Release module in Spain and wrote this wonderful piece on how to manage anxiety and TCM which was published by Mind Body Green.
3 Incredibly Simple Ways To Manage Anxiety
By Alice Louise Blunden.
We’ve all experienced anxiety at some point in our lives. Whether it’s speaking in front of large groups people or performing on stage, that familiar rush of adrenaline is totally normal, and actually (believe it or not!) quite helpful. However, when anxiety becomes excessive, it can have debilitating effects. While certain medications can help you deal with these feelings, some fundamental changes also need to be made to your life for longterm freedom from anxiety. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, emotional stress and anxiety are tied to the kidneys and the heart. We can implement some theories of Chinese Medicine into our yoga practice to support the re-balancing of these organs to help alleviate our anxiety. Here are three simple tips that combine traditional asana with Chinese Medicine to help you de-stress and deal with anxiety:
A restorative pose like Reclining Bound Angle is an effective way to soften the feelings of anxiety by rebalancing the heart.
Roll up your yoga mat until its diameter is between 3-4 inches. Lie back so that it supports the length of your spine, and your shoulder blades can rest on either side of the mat. You may need to adjust the width of your mat to make sure it is comfortable for you and be sure that it supports your head.
Bend your knees and let them fall out to the side while you bring the soles of your feet together into Baddha Konasana. Place your arms overhead in a cactus shape, so that your elbows are at the same height or higher than your shoulders.
Practice this pose daily in the morning or evening, and stay for 3-5 minutes. Pay close attention to your breath and try to make each exhalation slightly longer than your inhalation. This will help you relax.
2. Kidneys: Reclining Big Toe Pose (Variation)
Reclining Big Toe Pose is an effective way to ease anxiety by rebalancing the kidneys.
Take a yoga strap and make a big loop, then hook the strap around the back of your skull. Raise one leg up and hook the other end of the strap around the sole of your foot. Hold onto the strap with your hands on either side (avoid bunching the strap together in the middle).
If you do not have a strap, simply raise your leg and hold onto the back of the thigh or calf (or foot, if this is possible for you). You will be holding this pose for several minutes so refrain from pushing yourself into your deepest variation of this pose. You want it to be relaxing, so if you find that your leg starts shaking, just ease off slightly so that you can find a softness in the pose.
It is natural for your shoulders to rise slightly away from the ground, but your aim here is to let them to fall back toward the mat. As before, practice this pose daily and hold for 3-5 minutes, paying close attention to your breathing through your nose. Notice the cool air as you breathe in and the warm air as you breathe out. If you mind wanders, simply bring it back to the quality of your breath and the sensations around you.
3. Mind: 5-Minute Meditation
If you struggle with anxiety, it’s important to keep your meditation practice simple and with very specific guidelines. This will help ease feelings of stress. For example, try counting the breath for 5 minutes when you wake up in the morning or go to sleep at night.
Alternatively, find a comfortable seat on a cushion so that your hips are slightly above your knees. Sit up tall and rest the palms of your hands on your knees. Let your shoulders be soft and allow your elbows to hang directly below your shoulders. Close your eyes and begin by just noticing the quality of your breath as you breathe in and out through your nose. After a few breaths, start counting: 5 counts for your inhale, 5 counts for your exhale. Continue this for 5 minutes (you can always set an alarm to remind you when to stop). An additional 1-2 minutes can be practiced as needed throughout the day.
Routine is fundamental to easing anxiety. Whether it is waking up each morning and meditating, or going on a run, both your body and your mind will benefit from this clear structure. All too often, we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves, which when we don’t reach, that can induce stress and anxiety. So keep it short and simple and build up your routine over time. Making just one small change that you continue every day, will have a greater impact then practicing everything in excess just once a month.
Start by introducing these three elements into your daily routine gradually, and choose a time that makes sense for you in order to stay consistent. Even if you begin by doing each pose for just one minute a day, that is still progress!
This is a brief intro to Tiffany’s ‘Medicine For Your Hips’ class at Hanuman Festival. To read more about shifting the focus of the hips from hypermobility to stability, check out her new article in Yoga Journal’s anatomy column here.
“Watch as Tiffany Cruikshank guides you through this mini-workshop at Wanderlust, “Side Crow Pose / Parsva Bakasana with Tiffany Cruikshank,” so you can spread your wings and get your crow’s down before the Wanderlust Festivals this summer.In this mini-workshop, you will learn warm-up postures, how to get into and out of the pose, the pose technique, as well as variations to make the pose more and less challenging. “
This video introduces you to some simple but deep work for the gluteus maximus & hamstring strength and helps integrate it with some simple core stability using postural awareness. The first part of the video (with the broom) is a great way to teach simple postural awareness. Start simple with the first phase or build intensity with all 3. The trick to this one is to take your time to do slowly (on yourself or your students, close the eyes if that helps) to maintain the integrity around the core & hip/leg muscles. This will be harder of course the longer you stay in each phase and the slower you go with bending the knees.
This video looks at the common wearing patterns on the hip joint from different postural tendencies and how to alleviate pain in down dog with a couple straps. This one is a great one for group classes or workshops, or with privates if you have an extra set of hands. Whether you use the strap modification or not it brings a deeper awareness to your understanding of these patterns and your ability to sequence for groups or individuals with this knowledge.
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