I recently completed my advanced 300-hour yoga teacher training during a one-month immersion program in Bali, Indonesia. Under the guidance of YogaWorks trainers, Alicia Cheung and Oliver Reinsch, I spent 34 days at a remote mountain resort practicing yoga around the clock. Alongside 15 other students from around the world, I honed my teaching skills in many of the areas that I anticipated—for example, how to properly sequence a higher-level class and how to walk students through more challenging poses such as arm balances, inversions, and difficult standing postures. While I certainly strengthened the asana portion of my yoga practice (the poses themselves), I deepened my entire yoga practice in ways that I never anticipated.
My biggest take-away from this experience is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to yoga. Indeed, “yoga works for every body,” as YogaWorks says, but it certainly does not look the same for every body, even people with similar physical structures and abilities. And, the progression from beginner to “advanced” is not linear.
Yoga is an 8-limbed path that includes movement, concentration, meditation, breath work, an ability to let go of attachments, and even adherence to a moral code of conduct to guide interactions with others and oneself. Each of these “limbs” helps one to experience a life overflowing with contentment. The extent to which each limb is practiced is entirely up to the student. I learned that both the student who spends two hours every day practicing handstands is just as advanced as the student who is equally as flexible, but instead attends a restorative yoga class twice a week and spends the rest of his/her time practicing mindfulness and non-attachment. With a greater understanding of the eight limbs of yoga and first-hand experience of how it has the potential to enrich all aspects of our lives, I am excited to incorporate more subtle body awareness into my classes.
Moreover, my training revealed that hyper-flexibility is not necessarily the be-all and end-all of yoga, especially if students wish to practice Vinyasa yoga through old age. In fact, new research is revealing how injurious it can be to push our bodies to the limit in terms of our range of motion. A more sustainable and advanced way to practice Vinyasa flow is to disregard the aesthetics of each shape and instead focus on mobility and functionality in the pose. That means incorporating more dynamic movement and engaged stretching to enhance one’s functional range of movement and strengthen tissues instead of locking out the joints and end range loading, which can overstretch and damage the tissues. Given how much of a difference these changes have made in my personal yoga practice, you can certainly expect to see more functional range conditioning being offered in my classes.
I am grateful to have had this once in a lifetime experience to live the yoga practice in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and I cannot wait to share what I have learned with all of you! Please feel free to email me if you have any questions and/or are interested in booking a class.