My adventure started with a hot soy milk & cinnamon at Costa Coffee, Heathrow Terminal 4, ready to fly to Malaysia for my teacher training course having come straight from eating my way through vegan Italy. Airports are really improving with their plant-based options: having been to London's main three in the past few weeks, I've seen vegan wraps in Pret, almond milk smoothies and vegetable sushi everywhere. I was happy to learn that Etihad does well on the airplane-food front too - although there was no way of specifying 'vegan' online, I went for 'Asian vegetarian' and, aside from the butter & Dairylea condiments and the cheese-sandwich breakfast, they put on a good spread. (The dates were a little 400g treat I picked up cheap at Abu Dhabi on the way.) I arrived in Kuala Lumpur late at night, sleepy but carbed up and excited to start my yoga teacher training at 7am the following day.
My plan was to blog about everything we’d cover on the YTT course - what I’d struggled with, what we’d been learning about that day, the philosophy side of things. In reality, this past week has been REAL. This is day nine, and everything already has changed - from my hip joints to my morning routine. I know we’ve only touched the surface, so I’m really excited for what’s to come. With that said, I thought I’d go ahead and write about my initial reaction to the course so that there's room to properly delve into different topics in future posts.
Yogshakti’s 200-hour Integrative Yoga Teacher Training is an intensive full-time course that merges Scaravelli and Yin principles for a truly balanced, accessible and fluid style. We're covering philosophy, the science of breath, principles of practice, anatomy and of course asana. The days are structured with asana, kriya, bandha, pranayama and meditation in the mornings, followed by anatomy, philosophy & teaching methodology in the afternoons.
GOTTA SHAKE YOUR ASANA
When I first joined the physical practice in Guru Shilpa’s class, it was like turning up to Crossfit where everyone’s doing Zumba. It looked kind of half tai chi, half dance - arms were swaying and knees were bouncing softly; eyes were closed. Having started the course two days late due to travels, and with everyone else looking 100% in the zone, I was mesmerised and just let go of my ego and started to ‘loosen up’ too, as instructed. I learned to undo the tension that pushing myself to my ‘maximum edge’ had written on my joints previously, and instantly found joy in this buoyant, childlike practice where having fun is encouraged.
YIN & YANG
Vanda Scaravelli came to yoga in her forties and was playing around with her legs wrapped around her neck in her eighties. This lady was all about the working with the spine, feeling your way into postures, and individualism. She wasn’t looking to create dogma; she advocated finding your own way and being energised by prana to feel your body’s own flow - and this focus on personal rhythm, I think, is reflective of her younger life as an accomplished pianist. On my first day of class, we first practised asana with Scaravelli’s spinal principles and lizard-like movements for 2.5 hours, then practised with Yin principles after breaking for breakfast - this involves easing into poses and letting gravity do the work, really letting go with your weight. The early morning practice was, in a way, the ‘yang’ to the later ‘yin’ - requiring stamina and with a sense of vibrancy. I found the Yin practice contemplative and relaxing, and have since found that Yin is particularly good for bringing me into a meditative state, as it lets go of tone and therefore makes it easier for me to focus on mindfulness alone. On the topic of mindfulness, meditation practice has been deep. It’s that subject you could write a thousand sentences on, but nothing will come close to explaining it as much as sitting and bringing your mind back to stillness & the breath for half an hour will.
NO PAIN, NO PAIN
There are a hundred take-homes from my first week with Shilpa that I would love to share with you already, but alas, I just ate half a jar of peanut butter and I should really go to the gym. So for now, one idea that I love is that we must always keep our bounce. There’s no closing or putting pressure on the joints, and every pose is worked to its appropriate edge, not its maximum edge. This was HUGE for me! Coming from a childhood of gymnastics, it’s always been “Here’s what it should look like. Now you push yourself until you look like this” - but in reality, the body responds happily to rotating, bouncing and softly resting into progression. Yesterday I got into a lotus position from a headstand for the first time, and it had nothing to do with pushing myself. The external hip rotation I’ve been working with has naturally opened up my joints, and every moment working to open them up has been enjoyable, not painful.
That’s the gift of Scaravelli, and I’ve only been learning for nine days.
I’ll update on the course again soon, but for now I’d encourage anyone and everyone to check out Scaravelli yoga. And then grab a mat, get your upper back curve & your lumbar curve, and feel your way into practice, inviting your body to go as far as it pleases with absolutely no ambition but to be free. It makes such a difference!