Category Archives: yoga teacher training

Let’s Get Practical…

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If you have been through any teacher training or are currently in a teacher training, you know that meeting the practical requirements can be one of the most challenging parts of the training.  As I approach the end of 2011, I find myself still one client-feedback short of my Relax & Renew assignment for Judith Lasater, Ph.D., that I began in March!  However, I think we find ourselves stuck in the mindset that the teaching needs to occur in front of a live studio audience (meaning, one of the already-existing classes in your favorite studio).  Unfortunately, I think I can attest that this is actually one of the least gratifying ways to meet the practical requirement.  Yoga is a gift that can be shared with any audience, anywhere, with very few resources.  Here are my top ten ways to offer a good karma yoga class:

  1. Church or Fellowship–Check with the administrators of your spiritual organization first.  Often, they are open to offering a free or donation-based class to the fellowship as one of their community activities.  Kids yoga is a great way to fuse stories, song, movement, and creativity.
  2. Girl or Boy Scouts–Kids love to explore their bodies’ potential!  While my son was involved with Boy Scouts, I often ran the physical exercise stations teaching the kids balance, strength, and flexibility… topped of course, with partner and group poses for the added challenge, cooperation, and pure fun!
  3. Local High School–Enough cannot be said about the need to build self-confidence and body awareness in our youth.  Teen and tween yoga is an opportunity for expression, acceptance, and grace amidst one of the most turbulent stages of development.  Hip playlists, jokes, and off-the-mat challenges awaken the best in this group!
  4. Support Group–When I was in Georgia, one of my favorite karma classes was for the Multiple Sclerosis support group.  I cannot express how important it is to get to know the audience, educate yourself about the issue at hand, and to listen to their needs.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude, though, after teaching simple chair yoga, with pranayama and meditation.
  5. Senior Center–Senior Centers are always looking for ways to light up their occupational activity programs.  Chair yoga, pranayama, and movement are a great way to brighten the residents day!
  6. Family and Neighbors–You don’t always have to think outside the box to find a supportive audience.  Family, friends, and neighbors are a great way to put together a class.  Check with your church, studio, or community center and see if you can use or rent (for a small fee, $25-$30 is the commercial standard for off-peak hours).  Even gyms don’t use their fitness rooms 24/7, I’ve used the base gyms to teach Marines from my husbands unit.
  7. OB-GYN–While it is important that you understand the physiology of the pregnant body, a simple yoga class offering standing or chair poses, deep breathing, relaxation, and massage will make Mamas-to-be very happy.  A few simple rules: mamas should not be on their bellies or their backs (backs after 2nd trimester), they don’t need big back bends, and they may not be able to touch their toes.  So what’s left?  Standing-strong poses, squats, balances, kneeling poses like cat, wall supported poses, heart-openers, and hip circles on the exercise ball. Restoratives are great, especially for active or working mamas.
  8. Art Studio or Gallery–Many art studios actually teach art therapy as a means to support or refine fine motor skills, but gross motor skills like movement, balance, and body awareness are an important part of the effort.  Sometimes studios have a classroom that is open for modeling that can be used at off peak hours as well.
  9. Local Spa–Spas that offer massage, thai yoga, and shiatsu understand how important movement-based therapy can be for their client base.  They often have a small room that will hold a few mats for yoga and meditation.
  10. College sports teams–Athletic trainers of competitive sports teams will tell you how much easier their jobs would be if their athletes spent a little more time warming up and stretching.  I have given team classes to college baseball, football, and soccer teams.  Not only does yoga warm up their bodies, but it helps alleviate the anxiety and nervous energy of the team before a game!

I have also developed up with a workshop based on my Circles for Change concept that I lead to support charity organizations like Off the Mat, Into the World; Global Mala Project; and Red Cross.  It’s called Simply Practical, a weekend chocked full of fun mini-workshops (3-hour) for teachers and students alike.  Each playshop will include an hour of technique or theory, one hour of application, and one hour of actually teaching each other… the weekend will present a total of 5 playshops led by various teachers, including myself.  The workshops are open to all teachers, teachers in training, and prospective teachers.  Free for Transcending Yoga Teachers in Training, $20 Donation per workshop for the public.  Proceeds will go to a charity decided on by the group!  To Register Online go to http://transcendingyoga.com/Simply_Practical.html .

Now that I have given you a few examples of how you can offer yoga as a gift to your community while fulfilling your goals as teacher, maybe you can think of a few venues to teach!

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Why Am I Here?

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Personalize your practice by setting an intention.

You’re in a yoga class, everyone else in the room has their eyes closed, you begin to sense your breath, then the teacher invites you to set an intention… and suddenly your mind draws a blank ____________, then the panic sets in… “What do you mean set an intention? You’re supposed to tell ME what to do.  I am here to listen and follow directions because I want to be a good student.  I don’t know what an intention is. Huh? Why am I here? Serious?”.

Bringing mindfulness and intention to your practice, whether it is in your living room or in a bamboo floored aromatherapy filled eco-studio, is the difference between being instructed to perform the latest parlor trick of foot-behind-the-head and being invited to move inward to touch the deepest layers of your self.  Some say it’s the different between a fitness class and a group yoga practice. It’s the difference between being a puppet on a string and becoming a pioneer of your mind, body, and spirit.  Intention takes you beyond the confines of the obvious physical challenges to the challenge of knowing why your are moving there to begin with.

Yesterday, you may have gone to class with the intention of giving something, anything, back to yourself , starting with time.  One hour of just you on the mat: a token, a gesture, a bow, to honor your self with pure undiluted attention to yourself. And you discover in this hour that through the mindfulness of breath and awareness in asana, you can master pure bliss in even the most obscure shapes and situations. A lesson you can carry away from the mat.

Today, you may have gone to class with the intention of healing an injury incurred over the long weekend. One hour dedicated to honoring your limitations, protecting the limb from further injury, and building vital energy, prana, to sustain the healing process. And you discover in this hour through the mindfulness of breath and aware in asana, you can master pure bill in even the most obscure shapes and situations, even if it means modifying the practice. A lesson you can carry away from the mat.

When you set an intention for your practice, the external aesthetics of the practice begin to dissolve into the deep internal inquiry of mindfulness of the body, mind, and spirit. You may begin to discover unhealthy habits or patterns that may be causing pain, or you may uncover hidden vitality within the body that you never knew existed.  Perhaps you fell asleep as soon as your head hit the mat in savasana. Note to self: sleep. Perhaps in adho mukha svanasana, you felt the sudden urge to do a handstand. Note to self: do more.  The scenarios are endless, but the practices and sequences offered are often repetitious. Each asana becomes more and more personal, intimate, and prolific as you align your practice with your intention. Each action becomes more focused and proficient when you align your efforts with complete mindfulness. Namaste

For more on aligning your yoga practice with intention, Valerie will be giving a weekend workshop on Topsail Island, NC, October 1-3, 2010 “Yoga Alignment 1-2-3: A paint-by-numbers approach to aligning body, mind, and spirit.”  Valerie Baltzer is an experienced yoga teacher registered at the 500 hour level with YogaAlliance®, E-RYT 500. She regularly leads yoga teacher trainings, workshops, and classes in the Onslow County area.

Mat Matters… Because our practice on the mat, matters!

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Yoga for Busy People
 

As a teacher and practitioner, I value the commitment to a personal practice and often ask my students and student teachers if they commit to a personal practice.  Hands down, the most common response is… “I wish I could, but I don’t have time.”
The nice thing about personal practice, however, is the freedom to make time for with whatever parameters are available.  Truly, you do not need a yoga mat, a quiet atmosphere, or even a full hour to practice yoga.  The essence of personal practice is about making time and space for “good”.  Rather remaining attached to the normal conditions of a yoga class, let go of the usual format and get creative with your practice!
Meditation—Give yourself 5 minutes in the morning, 5 minutes in the afternoon, and 5 minutes before bed to just sit and meditate.  If your joints are too stiff or your back is tired, sit in a chair or lean against a wall.  Use your watch or kitchen timer.
Asana—Take time to bow to your Self in uttanasana (forward fold) from your chair at work. Stay in the forward fold for 10 long breaths, or more if you’d like.  Energize in purvottanasana (reverse plank) by placing your hands your chair or desk, a great way to counter wrist and shoulder tension (use caution if you already have carpal tunnel).  Take a seated twist, sit side-saddle on your chair and holding the back of the chair and arm strength to deepen the twist.  Use the wall for adho mukha svanasana (down dog) or parsvottonasana (variation) to release shoulder, back, and hamstrings.
Pranayama—Practice your favorite pranayama, whenever you need to regroup. Ujjayi is always a great technique for releasing inner fire built up from stressful situations, whether it is a 3 minute Virabhadrasana III, or dealing with the boss.
Making time in your schedule and devoting sacred space for your personal practice is still important.  So, try to block some time and a space in your schedule.  It’s like cleaning up around the house, just in case someone special stops by.  So that, when a special guest shows up, and we’ll call this guest “Truth”, we are ready to invite them in and we have time to listen. But, you can practice your cleaning skills (or kriya) throughout the day in small increments, if your schedule didn’t permit the full white-glove detailing!



“Transcend the Mat, Transform your Life!”
Namaste,
Valerie Baltzer, E-RYT 500
www.transcendingyoga.com


Inner Bloom Yoga – New Class

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Thursdays, 1-2pm


No two blossoms are identical, yet they are alike in their beauty as they unfold their petals, opening to the light, reaching for the sun.  Each blossom is unique in constitution, color, shape, essence, and appeal. Yet, in a bouquet they share one common quality, beauty.  Every flower begins as a seed, nourished by water and earth, guided by the light of the sun.  We are all like flowers in nature, with a humble beginning and an ever pervading desire to rise above and unfold to the light.  We are all connected, some of us share the same roots, but we all share the cradle of mother earth and light of father sky.


Join me for an eclectic blend of movement, breath work, and guided meditations inspired by the needs of the students.  Each class is a totally unique experience based on the inner substance, guidance, and wisdom that we unfold through the body, like petals of a flower opening up to the sun.  An intuitive, organic approach to yoga, allowing the poses to unwind, rather than striving to fit the mold of a pose (asana).  This practice will awaken essential life force (prana) in all areas of the body, allowing us to make a deeper connection to the subtle energy within our body and the world around us.   


All levels welcome, playful spirits wanted!

Namaste,


Valerie Baltzer