As a personal trainer, the more clients I trained, the more I realised that focusing on just exercise and nutrition alone isn’t enough to achieve sustainable health and wellness in modern society – not just for my clients, but for myself as well.
Yoga fills that gap, providing flexibility training, deep breathing development, stress relief, mindful awareness of your body and environment, and mental space in a world that’s becoming increasingly busy and cluttered. So last year I began a part time two-year diploma in yoga.
Here’s what I’ve been up to as a yoga teacher in training.
During a month-long trip to Europe with my husband a few years ago, I spent a lot of time reflecting on where I was at in life and what I still wanted to achieve. Working as a personal trainer had given me a good base for understanding and instructing physical exercise and basic nutrition, however my own experiences have taught me that there’s more to health and wellness than just diet and exercise.
The ability to slow down in modern life is incredibly underrated; busy lifestyles have created or worsened a range of problems from hormone and metabolism disorders, to sleep issues, nutrition problems, anxiety and stress, depression, fertility issues and the list goes on…
I’ve been practicing yoga for almost a decade now and feel it has been integral to the management of my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, weight management, anxiety and stress issues. I’d previously toyed with the idea of signing up for yoga teacher’s training but having already spent a cumulative six years of studying previously, wasn’t sure I was ready to commit to another round of education and was kind of waiting for a sign that it was the right choice to make. On the return flight home, the in-flight entertainment had a documentary called Yogawoman about the direction modern yoga was taking, and the influential women instructing yoga around the world.
It was so inspirational that I felt this was the sign I was waiting for. When we arrived back in New Zealand I followed through as self-promised, and enrolled in a two year part-time yoga diploma.
Getting into it
To catch you up on where I’m at now… I signed the contract to enrol in the yoga course in November 2014 – a few days before I found out I was pregnant with Miss E! Not one to back down on a challenge, I found I could continue studying my chosen course regardless of pregnancy, which meant I could still get started in the first semester of 2015.
In Western society we tend to think of yoga as purely the physical strength and flexibility training, or the asanas. But it’s so much more than that – it’s a way of life, a philosophy. The more I learn about it, the more excited I get.
I started out with a slightly skeptical but open mind, expecting to take more interest in just the physical side of things, but the philosophy and mindfulness training has helped improve my relationships with those around me and improved my anxiety and stress issues. Miss E is an incredibly chilled out, happy baby, and I like to think that’s because I spent the majority of my pregnancy doing stretching, meditation and relaxation!
The course started with just three papers for me:
- Yoga Philosophy – the origins of yoga and the various philosophies behind it
- Anatomy and Physiology – the science behind how and why the body works as it does
- Yoga Practice – asana/poses practice and basic instructing
Learning and modification
For Yoga Practice I was limited in the asanas I could perform due to being pregnant, so spent most of the semester observing while also learning alternatives and adjustments to suit the different stages of pregnancy so that I could still participate in the classes. Towards the end of my pregnancy I spent most of the time in Baddha Konasana (seated bound angle pose), Tadasana (mountain pose), Balasana (Child’s pose), Upavistha Konasana (seated wide-legged forward fold) and cat/cow which wasn’t particularly challenging or exciting, but at least I could be involved – and yoga is all about inclusion regardless of your ‘level’ and listening to your body! When I wasn’t on the verge of falling asleep I could still do some of the standing strength work such as the Warrior poses, and the balance work for shorter periods of time.
The semester finished up in the final week of June so I was very pregnant at that point, and three weeks later Miss E was born! I’m not sure I’d recommend studying and having to finish your final exams so close to giving birth given the choice… The whirlwind of parenthood led me to take a semester off college, so I resumed studying at the beginning of this year. Nothing too crazy to begin with; just two papers – Ayurveda which is an ancient Indian healthcare system, and Managing a Natural Therapies business which was just a short four-session course on the ‘serious’ side of things including marketing, budgeting and goal-setting.
The most interesting thing I’ve done this semester so far has involved creating a personal routine of Ayurvedic practices based on the doshas – your Ayurvedic constitution which is decided from a number of factors including digestion characteristics and physical traits. We then had to follow it for 30 days and record our experiences. I used sandalwood incense for calming my always-busy mind, formed a brief asana routine and drank warm lemon water every morning among other practices. These were all simple things I could include in my everyday life and helped improve my appetite, my digestion and mental clarity, and ensured I’d have some physical exercise every day (even if it involved Miss E sitting at the front of my mat, playing while I did it!). I’ll continue to do these practices as I really did feel the positive benefits of them.
We’re currently working towards an assessment on Ayurvedic massage which involves a lot of oil, a lot of relaxation and – needless to say – is helping calm me down after a busy week of personal training sessions, gym classes and running around after baby. End of semester will already be here in a few weeks, then its several weeks of holidays to reflect and re-energise before the final semester and a greater focus on teaching and practical classes!