Diary of a New Yoga Teacher
The journey, challenges, and victories of becoming a yoga teacher
Diary Entry No. 3
By Carmen Diaz, New Yoga Teacher
Hello yogis, hello summer! I hope you all are enjoying the long sunlight hours and the wonderful summer breeze! On my diary entry for the month of June, I wrote about coping with challenging times, as I was personally going through a lot at the time. I loved writing about it and let me tell you why… No matter who we are, we all go through “stuff” every now and then. It makes me happy to think that maybe through my article I could help you a little bit to overcome difficult moments in your life. To be honest with you, it also felt cathartic! So, many thanks to all of you for letting me vent out. This month I am excited to share with you the plans and projects I have for the near future.
The first and exhilarating one is that I quit my job! Yes, I did! Although scary, it really felt like the right thing to do. I was resenting the fact that I was spending most of my time doing something that I honestly didn’t enjoy. During work hours I kept daydreaming about how wonderful my life would be if I had more time to practice and teach yoga. Now, I will have more flexibility with my schedule to enjoy yoga to the fullest!
Another exciting project is that I am continuing my education as a yoga teacher. I am taking another teacher training certification on psychotherapeutic yoga. Sounds amazing, right? Well, it is! I’ve always been intrigued by the human mind and behavior. This teacher training utilizes yoga as an instrument to help heal mental illnesses, such as anxiety, PTSD, depression, among others. The school I am attending is “The LISPY School”, which stands for Lifeologie Institute School of Psychotherapeutic Yoga. It is an intensive 10 month program where we meet as a group for a full weekend once a month. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier for the knowledge I’ll be gaining. Something really amazing too is the way I came across the LISPY training. I met Melanie Wells, the owner and founder of the school through my animal rescue efforts. I’ve been involved for quite sometime in animal rescue and Melanie has a project that serves the abused and neglected dogs in the Dallas area. Melanie was lovely and we had many things to talk about and, of course, yoga was one of them. Melanie told me about the specialized teacher training her school offered and I was immediately hooked! How wonderful to use yoga to help heal our mind from illness. I am a true believer that when you really want something the universe conspires to make it happen. The universe is allowing me to be part of this amazing school and I am eternally thankful.
A few weeks ago, I attended the first weekend of training and I loved it. We went in depth about the structural anatomy and the nervous system. We learned so much about our amazing bodies!
I will be sharing with you many of the interesting things I learn as I immerse myself more into the training.
In this article, I also want to share with you brief information about the asanas that are best suited if you have a student suffering from anxiety or depression.
My intention is to give you as many tools as possible to have under your belt to use with your students. As I always tell you, we are in this together, so here it goes:
Yoga for Anxiety
As defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary, Anxiety is a “painful or apprehensive uneasiness of mind usually over an impending or anticipated ill”.
When we feel anxious we feel uneasy, sweaty, and our pulse increases. Therefore, we need soothing poses that can help balance that state of agitation.
The asanas that have a soothing effect are mainly forward bends. Forward bends have a calming nature because they turn us inward promoting calmness and quieting our mind. One of the reasons forward bends are so good for our anxious mind is that when we bend forward we create space in between our vertebrae and therefore increasing circulation to our nerves, nourishing our nervous system. Also, when we feel anxious we experience a sense of worry and bending forward satisfies the innate nature of covering and protecting our body when we are in danger.
Some of the asanas to have in your repertoire to reduce anxiety could be:
-Paschimottanasana, or straight legs forward bend
-Uttanasana, or standing forward bend
-Baddha Konasana, or cobbler pose
-Balasana, or child’s pose
Something to be mindful is that some students might have tight hamstrings and might not be able to bend as much. The benefit of the pose will be hindered if students begin to stress out because of their lack of flexibility. Therefore, the use of props is highly recommended to get the full benefit of the pose.
We always need to use a counter pose to balance out any tension caused by the asana. In the case of forward bends the counter pose will be a back bend. A good selection will be to use Viparita Karani (legs up the wall), which is considered a mild and calming pose since the lower back is just in a small back bend.
Yoga for Depression
When we are depressed we tend to feel fatigued and sad. To reduce these symptoms, we need to engage in asanas that are invigorating in nature and can lift our mood. Back bends are perfect for depression because they stimulate the heart chakra and bring energy towards our spine. When we do back bends our chest opens up, stretching our heart and also relieving accumulated tension in our muscles. Think about it… we are sad or depressed our head tilts down and our chest and shoulders are collapsed. Back bends do the opposite opening our bodies to the world and filling us with energy.
These are some backbends that you may want to use on a sequence for a student going through depression:
– Setu Bandhasana, or bridge pose
– Bhujangasana, or cobra
– Matsyasana, or fish
– Anjaneyasana II, or low lunge with back bend
As you can notice with the poses I am suggesting, the student doesn’t have to be an experienced or advanced yogi to perform these back bends. If you have a student with the necessary flexibility or strength, you can also include Urdhva Dhanurasana, or wheel which is a powerful energizing pose.
Also on some of these back bends you can do the supported version, such as supported fish or supported bridge. This way the student can get the full benefits of the back bend doing a restorative version of the asana.
To counteract the fiery action created by the back bends, you can include a mild, calming forward bend such as Salamba Balasana, or supported child’s pose.
While this is useful information to help your students that might be suffering from anxiety or depression, this is also very basic information. The healing powers that yoga offers for our mental health are immense. As I mentioned earlier, I will be sharing with you much of the information I learn during my training. Nevertheless, if you are interested in an indepth knowledge on psychotherapeutic yoga, I recommend the LISPY training. The LISPY School offers the teacher training twice per year, one of them will be starting in October. To join the school you don’t have to be a yoga teacher nor a therapist. If you are interested, please check their website, http://wefixbrains.com/lispy-lifeologie-institute-school-for-psychotherapeutic-yoga/
I hope you enjoyed this information and that you find it useful. It is time for me to say, until next month and enjoy your summer! Please feel free to send me an email at [email protected] if you have any questions or suggestions, or maybe just to say hello.