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The final 2 weeks of my Yoga Teacher Training were very busy and intense so as I am writing this I have actually already graduated from the course and now have my certification! Week 4 post is coming soon!

Week 3

The title of this post "Practice and all is coming" is a quote by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. During this time we began to learn about several yoga philosophies such as Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Ashtanga Yoga. A common theme was that one should not overly focus on the results of their actions and practices but instead focus on the process. The results will take care of themselves.

Here I am practicing tree pose ( Vrksasana)

During week 3 I have now become very accustomed to the routine of twice daily asana practice. We have also begun to delve deeper into yogic practices. Additionally we also began to practice asana in other classes such as during anatomy and during the newly scheduled adjustment and alignment class which has replaced our mantra class. With this additional asana practice it wasn't uncommon to be practicing yoga positions for 4-5 hours a day. At this point I also began to get a taste for teaching and structuring yoga lessons. One of the first teaching assignments that we were given included working with a partner to create a 20 minute sequence with a peak pose. Several times we would also be called on randomly to teach a sun salutation sequence, or to sit on the platform in the front of the class and lead the class through the opening mantra. This experience definitely put me outside of my comfort zone but as I did it more often it began to get easier and helped me to fulfill one of the intentions that I set during the beginning of the course which was to gain confidence in teaching.

Now in addition to all of the asana practice and teaching experience that we were gaining, we were now introduced to some shatkarma/ shatkriya practices. These are 6 bodily cleansing processes. They include:

1) Jala Neti- nasal wash with saline solution. This one I was actually familiar with because I often use a nasal rinse to clear my sinuses when I have allergy issues. Though something that I did learn is that it is actually not good to do a nasal rinse when you are sick because it removes protective mucous and exposes you further to pollen and germs. We performed this cleansing during both the 3rd and 4th weeks. Another form of net cleansing is surya neti where a long peace of cloth is used to cleanse the nasal passage. We practiced with a rubber string which is easier for beginners. The objective was to place the string into the nose and all the way through the nasal cavity and out of the mouth, then use a back and forth motion on both ends of the string to cleanse the naval cavities. Due to my squeamishness and not being able to get past the slight pain of sticking a foreign object up my nose I was not successful in this practice.

Here is the neti pot used for the jala neti and the rubber string used for the surya neti.

2) Dhauti- abdominal cleansing with saline solution. Essentially you drink a liter of salt water and then press on your stomach muscle on the left side of your body as you release the contents of the water back up out of your mouth. A finger down the throat can be used to get the flow moving for beginners. Yes it is essentially self induced vomiting and yes I did it. Its also important to add that this is best practiced on an empty stomach so you are only releasing the salt water that you took in and not actual food particles.

3) Nauli- this is an abdominal massage cleansing where you move and contort your abdominal muscles side to side and up and down in a wavy fluid motion. It helps to create heat in your abdominal area and release toxins. We did not practice this one.

4) Basti- this is enema body cleansing and can be performed with water (Jala Basti) or dry (Sthal Basti). We did not practice this technique but something that I found fascinating is that it is performed by physically using your anal sphincter muscles to suck water into your bowels and then release it out of your anus. That's right if you have enough control of your body it is possible to suck water into your bum hole without using an enema bowl or bag just your own body.

5) Kapalbhati- this is a pranayama cleansing exercise where you forcibly and repeatedly exhale through your nose. The inhalation happens automatically and is passive. We practiced this several times throughout the course.

6) Trataka- finally this cleansing technique used concentrated gazing to produce tears. It is often performed by gazing at a candle with open eyes not blinking and focus until the eyes begin to water. The flame of the candle should be at eye level and horizontal. After some time the eyes are closed while now focusing on the image of the flame in your mind.

Celebrating International Yoga Day

Since the course took place in the month of June, I was able to celebrate International Yoga Day in India with my classmates and hundreds of other yogis and yoginis! International Yoga day takes place on June 21st each year and corresponds with the summer solstice or first day of summer. To celebrate we attended a large yoga gathering in Ram Jhula where we did yoga with about 200 other practitioners.

Here I am super excited that I am about to be celebrating International Yoga Day in Rishikesh India, the birth place of yoga.

We then took part in a Ganga Aarti ceremony and watched some very beautiful and talented yoga performances.

Here I am holding a flower during the Ganga Aarti celebration.

Here is a picture of one of the amazing yoga performances that was put on for the crowd.

Here is a short video of another amazing performance of pole yoga.

It was quite an enjoyable day and we afterwards celebrated further with a dinner at a local restaurant.

My 2nd week of yoga teacher training in India is complete. It's hard to believe that we are already half way through the course. In a short time I've noticed myself getting both mentally and physically stronger. I am learning more about my body and self awareness. My posture has improved and I am learning for the first time how to breath correctly and attentively. Breathing may not seem like something that one should have to learn. Though after 2 weeks of pranayama classes I truly feel like I am actually breathing correctly for the first time in my life. I notice my breath going inside as I inhale. My spine and stomach expand up and out. Then as I exhale my spine and stomach contract and my breath releases completing the cylcle of inhalation and exhalation and returning the breath that the world gave me back into the world. Learning to pay attention to and control my breathing has allowed me to gain clarity and put my mind at ease. I have learned several mantras. A mantra is meant to free the mind from uneccesary thoughts. Mantra is a sanskrit word where, man= mind and tra= to set free. During mantra repetition you train the mind with awareness and breath. Out of all of the mantras that Ive learned my favorites is The Self Realization mantra. Self Realization Mantra Om Asto Ma Sadgamaya; Tamso Ma jyotirgamaya; Mratyorma amritamgamaya. Om shantih shantih shantih. This mantra is short but it is packed with meaning. In a nutshell this Mantra is an invocation to the universe to lead you from untruth to truth, from darkness(ignorance) to light(knowledge), and from mortality to immortality so that you no longer fear death but realize that you are more then just your body.

Its also important to note that when the universe is mentioned that you are the universe. We all have the universe and life inside and outside of us.    

I feel a strong connection with this mantra because one of the reasons I went on this journey was to connect with myself and realize who I truly am. What I have most learned in my time here in India so far is that the only way to me is through me. 

Here I am at the beautiful wedding of one of my teachers sisters. It was nice to experience suchba great part of Indian culture and amazing food, music, and dancing! 

This is a continuation of my previous post about my first week in Rishikesh, India. As mentioned before it really has been a great week and I have had great experiences in my classes and out and about seeing new sites and trying new things. 

On Sunday 2 friends from my yoga school and I went to visit the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram, sometimes better known as "The Beatles Ashram" This Ashram is no longer active and only the remants are left. Additionally the location also happens to be a tiger reserve according to several signs that I saw leading to and at the location. Though I did not see any tigers while I was there. 

Sign indicating tiger reserve but no tigers in site. 

As we continued to walk we saw many small dome shaped buildings. These buildings were used as meditation huts to help yoga practitioners meditate in a quiet space and to keep the energy of their meditation enclosed in the circular shape of the dome. 

84 of these meditation caves are spread all over the property. We went inside a few of them to look around and when we climbed the stairs to the 2nd level of one of these caves we found this beautiful message painted on the wall.

Life goes on within you and without you.

This message really struck me as meaningful to my own personal life journey. To me it means that life is a continuos force that exists both inside of you and outside of you. Everything that exists in the outside world exists inside of each of us. It also is a good saying that sums up a lot of what I've been learning during my Yoga Teacher Training in terms of taking the time to connect with your true self. In one of my classes the teacher asked each student what yoga meant for them. I said that for me yoga is like a dance or competition with myself. It's a way for me to take time out of the day and connect with my true inner self. I started out doing yoga when I was a kid. I found a book at my local library called Yoga for Children. It was a brightly colored book of other kids just like me in various yoga poses. I would spend hours looking at the pictures in the book and doing my best to put my body in the same positions. After a while I wanted more then just what was available in the book and lucky for me there was a yoga show available on a local tv channel. This was before all of the yoga videos that are now easily accessible online. For 1 hour a day at the same time everyday I would flip the tv on and follow along with the yoga session that was shown. I really enjoyed this but eventually I wanted to learn more so I would look for yoga classes around my community when I could. These were free or low cost community yoga classes. There were no fancy yoga studios and branded yoga mats, clothes and equipment. Though I really enjoyed yoga I did fall out of it for a while. Looking back from where I am now I noticed that I would start and stop yoga for various reasons on and off but would constantly always come back to it. 

As we continued to walk through the property of the Ashram we came across this room that had pictures of the beatles during there time spent at the Ashram back in the mid 1960's. There were also various posters displayed about transcendental meditation (TM)

The song "Across the Universe by The Beatles" was inspired by their time spent at the Ashram. 

A brief synopsis of TM 

Photos of the Beatles at the Ashram. 

Next thing I knew I had spent so much time inside that room reading the various posters that when I turned around to leave my friends were no where in sight. Oh no where could thehave gone I thought to myself. After asking someone if they saw the way that my friends went it wasn't long before I found them. The place where I found them also happened to have this awesome mural painted on the wall. 

Along with this awesome quote which is absolutely true for me. I will always believe in love. One big theme that I am learning about in my yoga training is the importance of self love. It is not until someone can fully love themselves that they can love others. Furthermore when you fully love yourself there is only room in your heart to love others because you realize that everyone is connected as a collective conciousness. The love that you feel for yourself is really love for everyone. 

To sum up my trip to the Ashram I think these 2 pictures are perfect. It is a beautiful view of the Ganga River and the city of Rishikesh. Seeing the Ganga and the city from this perspective was quite breathtaking and this photo honestly does not do any justice to the magnificence of the view. 

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