Monday, November 28, 2011

My Story Part III: Teacher Training and More

I signed up for teacher training in 2007 through Yoga North, the studio where I was starting to learn about the inner core, good alignment, and not pushing too far. I wanted to learn to use yoga to help my pain and to strengthen my body the way I needed. The 200 hour teacher training met one weekend per month for 6 months. The weekends were quite rigorous. The hours were something like this: 1pm-9pm on Friday, 7am-9pm on Saturday and 7am-6pm on Sunday. In addition to the weekend trainings, we had homework: studying philosophy, writing papers, doing a 40-day practice and journaling our experience, completing take-home tests, and teaching practice classes to a willing participant or two (read: family, friends or co-workers) so we could hone our new skills.

When I went through teacher training, Yoga North was in process of becoming more therapeutically focused, expanding on the Inner Core and Anatomy and Movement Principles from Susi Hately Aldous: move in a pure range of motion; move with the spine in mind; move from the larger joints first; when you are on your mat don't move into pain and if you are already in pain don't move into more pain; less is more. These were exactly the things I needed to learn in my body and in my practice.

Some of the inner core exercises we did seemed so simple I didn't believe they could help. We did things like laying on the floor with bent knees and squeezing a block between the thighs, tightening a belt/strap around the thighs and pressing out into it, and practicing pelvic floor lifts. We did awareness practices too like closing our eyes and barely moving into a pose using all of our awareness to focus inside. This is how I found out that Triangle was hurting me. I felt the tiniest of twinges at my right SI joint and realized, "Oh my gosh, that twinge was in the exact spot where I get the stabbing pain when I walk! I think Triangle is hurting me!"

This is about as far as I can safely go
in Triangle. Yeah, it's tiny but
I'm not in pain later.
This was revolutionary. Now that I knew what was hurting me I could avoid it. I was regaining control over my pain. OK sure, doing Triangle in such a tiny fashion that I barely moved was a bit of an ego-buster but I would do about anything to avoid the a-knife-is-stabbing-me-in-the-butt-pain I had been experiencing for at least 5 years during every walk I went on.

Of course the down side to this awareness is that now that I knew what tiny twinge to look for (future pain indicator) I found it in places I didn't want it to be: pigeon, extended side-angle, revolved head to knee pose, revolved seated wide angle, any and every forward fold, any and every back bend. Yeah, that's right, everything hurt.

So basically I had to go backward to go forward in my practice. I had to relearn the basics: core strength (block and belt work, pelvic floor work, transverse abdominus work), alignment principles (move in a pure range of motion; move with the spine in mind; move from the largest joints first), and less is more (when you are on your mat don't move into pain and if you are already in pain don't move into more pain).

Working with these tiny movements and this deep awareness made me feel like I was in "pre-yoga" class. For a long time I felt like I wasn't doing enough, I couldn't feel enough in my postures, I wasn't getting a good enough stretch. But these devious ideas lead us to do more than we should, push too hard, deplete ourselves with no cause, and quite possibly, cause ourselves pain.

Previously: My Story Part II: Yoga's Dirty Little Secret
Next up: Restoring my inner core and building stability.