Monday, September 7, 2015

Day 3, Part 2: You Had Me at OM

Today was our first full day following our schedule, and it was a HUGE day. We began with two hours of asana class (physical poses), with lots of breathing to accompany each pose. Some of the breathing was familiar, such as breath of fire and ocean breath, but other stuff was brand new, such as sheep's breath. Sheep's breath is a cooling breath, and you actually stick out your tongue as far as you can, roll it vertically like a long straw, and suck in air through your tongue and exhale through your nose. So needless to say I'm happy that I'm in that portion of the population who is genetically able to roll their tongues!

The asana class was challenging but good. I cranked out a great wheel pose and full bow pose, which were the highlights of my morning. My super-tight hamstrings continue to challenge me in seated forward fold and shoulder stand and plough remain difficult.

My favourite part of the class is all the mantras we use. From the first "OM" I ever uttered in a yoga class at Zen Zone in Brandon, I was hooked. Mantra is defined as a sound or series of sounds having physical, psychic, or spiritual potency when recited in a certain manner. It operates on the belief that the world is in a constant state of vibration and we generate vibrations through mantra that can alter our physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional states. Our yoga teacher Michelle says that the mind is like a drunk monkey and mantras silence the mind. Every morning we begin with an invocation mantra in Sanskrit that invites bliss, consciousness, and truth eternally, ending with OM. No one has a definite idea where OM originated from, but it is defined as the verbal expression of creation and is present in some variations in all faiths. Christians say "Amen" for example. The other interesting thing that was confirmed for me today is that yoga is NOT a religion. Yoga is spiritual, inclusive, and encompasses all faiths.

Following our asana class, we had a break then two hours of theory. They say teachers are the worst students, and when I am learning something new at a conference, I usually paraphrase my learning and tweet it out on Twitter. Well no one does that at yoga teacher training, so it's old school with a notebook and pen. I don't even have a highlighter! Today's theory classes focused on the seven chakras (energy centres located along the midline of the body in line with the spinal cord) and prana (our life force). Pranayama is the term used to describe our efforts to control our prana, which encompasses a variety of breathing practices.

My favourite part of today was our final asana practice. We had a yin class, which is when we hold a pose for a minimum of three minutes, practice breathing techniques, and really relax into the pose. We concluded our practice today with yoga nidra. I had never heard of yoga nidra before, but we spent some time learning about it during theory today, and I was super excited to try it. Yoga nidra is the practice of dynamic sleep--sleep with a trace of awareness. It's conscious relaxation, and we got comfortable on our mats with bolsters, blankets, and eye pillows. Michelle's voice led us through 40 minutes of yoga nidra, including relaxation, breathing, and visualization. We set a sankalpa at the beginning, which means resolution or resolve--useful for overcoming habits or achieving goals. When our minds are in the yoga nidra state, setting a sankalpa is like planting a seed in the subconscious. The forty minutes seemed to be over in the blink of an eye, yet it seemed to last forever. It was an amazing experience and we do yoga nidra at least twice a week in our teacher training.

I was flying high after my wonderful day, but sadly got brought down to earth with an actual bite on the butt! Aussie A and I decided to go for a walk as I had less than 1000 steps on my Fitbit today. All was going well until an unleashed dog came running out of nowhere, barking its head off. We walked faster, but it chased us and went for me! Its teeth caught my brand-new Lulu wonder under tights and ripped them. We got away as fast as we could and I thought the dog had actually bit me. Poor A was subjected to me pulling down my tights in the middle of the street to see if the skin was broken. Thankfully it was not, as that would have meant a trip to the hospital and rabies injections! So it was a very scary experience but it could have ended a lot worse. The ongoing tragedy is that I only had two pairs of yoga crops (backpacking problems) and now I only have a purple pair. I'm accepting donations in Lagonissi, Greece, if you want to help out an aspiring yogi!

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