Saturday, November 30, 2013

Yoga-Teacher Training: Week 13, Part 1

I've been waiting for today for 3 months. It's the day four of us taught our 45-minute final practicum classes in front of one of our instructors. I've been working hard to prepare, running through my class almost every day for the past two weeks, teaching Graham and my sister and cousin, rewriting my sequence (many times), and finalizing my playlist. I even reworked the sequence (and playlist) one last time this morning before teacher training. I wanted to make sure it flowed nicely and made sense.

Our day started with an hour-and-15-minute class taught by one of Sutra's instructors. I paid lots of attention to the cues the instructor used as sort of a last-minute study session. I then watched one of my fellow trainees, who has been having a tough time lately, lead us through her class. She is excellent at centering and opening herself up to the class. I admire that about her. Then another trainee taught her class, but I sat that one out to study my sequence a little more and calm my nerves. I loved her closing quotes and her enthusiasm. She always seems to be having so much fun while practicing and teaching yoga, and that's really what it's all about.

Then it was my turn. I wasn't really nervous, but I didn't have as much energy in the beginning. I made gratitude the theme of my class and shared how grateful I am to have gone through this training with the other ladies. I concentrated on being louder, so I wasn't showing as much personality at first, but once I become more comfortable I even made a few jokes, remarking at one point how no one seemed to want to do head stand so let's just all take a child's pose. I also "lied," not meaning to bring our toes together but rather to keep them wide so we can rag doll up to standing. Those moments were fun; I love making people laugh, even if just for a few moments out of a 45-minute class. I hope to be comfortable enough to keep doing that from now on. My favorite yoga teachers, including Angie, who provided the feedback, are not afraid to be vulnerable, and that's the kind of teacher I want to be.

I can't express how satisfying and humbling it is to have one of your favorite teachers tell you how proud and impressed she is with your class. She said that it showed how much I worked on my sequence and that she has no doubt I will be a great teacher once I bring my personality out more. I wanted to shed tears of immense happiness when I heard that. If nothing else this yoga-teacher training has boosted my confidence, which was non-existent before. I'll be forever grateful for this experience, which isn't exactly over yet. Tomorrow we have a Mafia class followed by the final three practicum class and graduation. I'm so excited for my fellow trainees and can't wait to see how it goes.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My First Taste of Green New American Vegetarian

Friday's rain put me in the mood for a bowl of chili. I scoured the Internet for restaurants where I could get a bowl of vegetarian chili in central Phoenix. The winner was Green New American Vegetarian, which is on my drive home from work.

The charming little eatery serves all sorts of vegan dishes. I satisfied my chili craving and got an order of fried noodles. This slightly odd pairing was just what I needed that cold, rainy evening after a long day of work.

Chili and noodles to go, please!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Yoga Teacher Training: Week 12

It's a short week! We had our final lecture on Tuesday on the business of yoga. Now we don't meet until the end of the month, when we each teach a 45-minute class.

So much to do to prepare:

  • Record myself teaching my all-levels class and then run through it. (Halfway done.)
  • Finalize my playlist.
  • Figure out what the theme of the class will be.
  • Assist one of my teachers in a class.
  • Finish my makeup assignments. 
  • Practice teaching.

Yoga Teacher Training: Week 11


As we near the end of our training, it's time to learn about the business of yoga. On Tuesday we talked about the difference between community and industry, what makes a good yoga teacher and whether to get liability insurance. What most appeals to me is to be part of a community rather than a money-motivated business. Of course, you have to make a living, but when your energy is tied up in solely making money, you aren't really serving others. The intention shouldn't be to become a local celebrity or get rich. A parallel I see in yoga teaching and being a journalist is the desire to help others. If I can help just one person feel better after a class then I will be content.


Saturday was a blur. We started our session with our last naturopathic medicine lecture. We talked about finding natural skin and hair-care products that don’t use dangerous chemicals. We also talked about natural remedies for common ailments, reducing our use of plastic, being aware of where and how our products and food are made, and so much more. The takeaway:  become a more knowledgeable consumer.

We then took part in a backbend and heart-opener workshop. Heart openers are so important to me  right now because I so often have tight shoulders and slump forward. Literally opening the heart can energetically open it and give me more confidence. And confidence has been my intention in every yoga class lately and throughout this training program. Earlier that week I did some reading about the benefits of backbends and heart openers and came across this helpful info on the Yoga 411 blog: "When you come into a heart opener the focus should be the front part of the body. Instead of bending the back, open the heart center. Instead of dropping the head back, focus on a long neck. Allow the front part of the hips and thighs to find length and a bit of stretch."
After the workshop we got hands-on practice in adjusting each other. The gate pose adjustment had my obliques sore for days.  The other adjustments felt heavenly, especially savasana. And while it was a little intimidating to adjust my teacher, who better to give me feedback on my hand pressure and movements?


I can’t think of a more blissful way to start our day than a massage-therapy session in which we adjusted each other in savasana and had adjustments done on us by the therapist, all using fragrant oils. I didn’t want it to end. We also massaged each other and did some partner poses, like Warrior B while holding each other’s forearms. Following that was a workshop on yogic breathing. We practiced the three-part breath that's good for centering, ujjayi breathing, Skull Shining Breath, Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostile Breathing) and Sitali breath. Then it was show time. The final two hours were dedicated to two 45-minutes yoga classes taught in groups of three or four. I was assigned the cool down/savasana portion of class, which I had yet to do. I had planned to do 15 minutes of class but then a fourth member was added to our team, so it was trimmed to 11. I went over my allotted time by a lot. It was a valuable lesson in being mindful of time. What I perceived to be three minutes of time after I was given a heads-up was actually eight. Yikes! Our teacher exclaimed how impressed she was with all of us, and I felt better about how I did, even though I did forget to walk around the room more and I didn’t adjust anyone in Pigeon on the right side. I also tried to change a song and instead shut the entire sound off, so a team member came over to fix it while I kept teaching. Even after trimming parts of my sequence down the time was over, so I’ll have to work on that a lot more between now and Nov. 30. Finding my voice has been a slow process.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cloudy day at the Grand Canyon

I finally experienced the wonder that is a cloudy, rainy day at the Grand Canyon. It even started sleeting for a few minutes at a time. We soaked in a completely different view of the Grand Canyon National Park than I've ever seen, with ever-changing shadows and random rays of sunlight.

Desert View watchtower.

Pinyon jay, I think.

marette mendoza, grand canyon

Cellphone shot of elk at the Grand Canyon.
Such a cold, windy day called for a bowl of vegetarian chili from the Desert View snack bar. It warmed me up before running over to the watchtower in the snow/sleet.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Yoga Teacher Training: Week 10

These past 10 weeks have flown by. When I signed up for yoga-teacher training, three months seemed like an eternity. I'm now realizing how the program just scratches the surface of yoga, leaving so much more to learn.

Tuesday and Saturday 

Tuesday was a practicum night, so we took a class instead of our usual lecture. Saturday began with more on naturopathic medicine, followed by two hours of asana mechanics, where we went over backbends, and two hours of asana method in which we each taught a portion of a power flow class. Some of the feedback I received was that our teacher liked how I finally called out for an audible sigh and that I dimmed the lights as we started to cool down. I was told I need to work on my Titibasa call-out and flow Crow into the sequence better. Our teacher commented on how I have soothing voice; I just need to project more confidence.


Sunday Funday began with a session on the benefits of massage therapy. The first thing I wanted to do afterward was make an appointment to get a massage. It opened my eyes to seeing massage as more of a healing art rather than a luxury. Then we had a session on anatomy and the asanas, followed by two hours of workshopping backbends and heart openers in anticipation of a backbend workshop the following weekend. Our homework: Teach a class in groups of three or four. My part was the cool down/savasana, which I haven't done before. 

It's getting down to the wire!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

November morning on Piestewa Peak

I started this gorgeous breezy day with a sunrise hike at Piestewa Peak. It's a perfect outing to go on with out-of-state visitors; just make sure they are up for the climb. You can't beat these city views.

Take a break at this shaded bench.

I made sure to climb to the summit marker this time. It brought back memories of first climbing the mountain on a field trip in elementary school.

The wind made sitting at the summit more exhilarating. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Queen Creek Olive Mill

Graham and I took our visitors to the Queen Creek Olive Mill for a tour and breakfast on Sunday morning. I didn't realize how far of a drive it is from central Phoenix. It's best to make a day of it by also going to Schnepf Farms across the street. 

For $5 each we took a tour of the olive mill. We learned so much about the mill's history, how to make olive oil and olive-oil quality. Now I know what to look for when I next buy some.

The mill building is a store, coffee shop, restaurant and tasting room. Outside sits a garden that grows organic vegetables. Inside, take your pick from gelato, breakfast foods, cupcakes, sandwiches, pizza (on some nights), and more. 

I tried out a frittata sandwich with a mashed potato for breakfast while Graham couldn't resist the waffles topped with berries. The food was filling and made using the mill's products. I was tempted to try a cupcake but I'll save that for next visit. 

That morning there was also a complimentary wine tasting held outside. A band was setting up to play, but we missed it. There are plenty of picnic tables outside on which to enjoy a meal or glass of wine. 

Olive oil flavors include Meyer lemon, bacon and garlic.

We tried some Superstition Coffee and chai tea latte. You can bring your drinks on the tour.

We watched as olives were being pressed. 

Then we tasted olive oils. 

Fresh roasted coffee beans.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Yoga-Teacher Training: Week 9

This is super late. Yoga, work and prepping for visitors put me so behind on blogging. There are now only three more weeks of training, and I'm thrilled/terrified.

Tuesday was our second discussion of the yogi lifestyle. We learned the twelve habits of a yogi and discussed which we most want to focus on. My No. 1 focus throughout this year and especially the training has been to maintain a positive attitude. It's the most difficult thing in the world sometimes. We as a society are so programmed to be negative. When people talk about their relationships or jobs, they tend to say the things that annoy them. Lately Graham has been reminding me of when I am only seeing the negative by saying "First world problems." It's a silly reminder that my stresses are really nothing compared with the real struggles many people face.

That Saturday I observed a Power class and was able to adjust in Downward-facing Dog, Pigeon and Savasana. I jotted down about two and a half pages of notes and cues. I'm glad I was able to get my hands on people to practice adjustments. Later, during training, we attended a class at the studio instead of our usual lecture. The final four hours were for discussing the characteristics of a class, the bell curve, transitions and other teaching fundamentals. Then we had some teaching practice in the studio.

I started Sunday by teaching my sister and cousin yoga. I led a slow beginner's class that they seemed to enjoy. We want to make this a regular class every week or so. Training started with a class at the studio, followed by four hours of Power Flow. We first went over what the basics of a Power Flow class are, but really the best way to learn that is to practice, so that's what we did. We would flow through parts of class, take notes, then flow again. We had plenty of time to play around with arm balances, inversions and advanced variations of poses. I went home exhausted that night but it was so fun!