Yoga Teacher Training: Day 2

(This write-up is a part of a series about my experiences during the extensive Yoga Teachers Training course I pursued at The Yoga Institute. You can read the Day 1 post here.)

Last night, I slept only for 2 hours. I could not sleep due to many reasons: one, the hot weather, two, a new bed, and three, my unusual graveyard routine!

Tossing and turning until 2 a.m., I decided to read something on kindle. I read commentary on Yoga Sutra by Swami Satchidananda. I managed to read two sutras and highlighted important points. I drifted off to sleep.

5:30 a.m., 2nd May 2015.

My alarm went off at around 5:15 a.m.; with a heavy head, I woke up tired and groggy. I snoozed the alarm and dozed off again, after a while I felt a kind of urgency and sprang up from my bed, everyone around me was asleep (we are four in the room).

Our first class starts at 6:15 a.m., I had enough time to get ready for the class. I tried to wake up my friend next to me but he chose to ignore me, same with the next guy. How these guys were going to manage!

I felt good and fresh after shower. I was excited and looking forward for a new day. *smile*

I was happy to see Akhil. He was sitting in front of the main hall at the same place where Bhavana was sitting yesterday. I know both Akhil and Bhavana from outside the institute, hence the reference by first names.

Akhil is a lanky guy in his mid-twenties, he has a tranquil nature and you will not see him without a smile flashed if you happened meet his eyes. We exchange greetings and then I move ahead towards the class in our usual class, B4.

6:15 a.m., Yogic stories with Akhil.

As soon as Akhil entered, students assumed that he is going to take the class. Someone uttered ‘Namaste’ and Akhil acknowledged with the same with a big grin on his face, then everyone followed with a ‘Namaste’.

Akhil had a calm and soothing demeanor.

He took a long pause before uttering his first words, “Welcome to the first session of your teacher training course”. He asked, “How does the morning feel?” he continued with a pause, “Day depends on the morning, your day depends on the morning, similarly your three months course depends on the first session, similarly (pause) your three months depends on the first session!” laughter followed in the room!

He suggests us to offer our prayers to Patanjali before we start our class. He chants a Sanskrit prayer we then start our class.

He instructed us to sit straight when we are in a sitting posture and he shared about the three major load bearing areas in the body, the cervical which is the neck, the lower back and the knees and that there are no direct exercises to strengthen these areas but only indirect ways.

To strengthen the cervical we have to strengthen the shoulders, to strengthen the lower back we have to strengthen the core, that is, the abdominal muscles and to strengthen the knees we have to work on the quads.

He shared two stories one after the other and mentioned that there will be no moral to the stories, and asked us to come up with the moral of the story, and he emphasized throughout the class to remember that the stories without morals have ‘infinite morals!’.

He shared with us that he is reading the biography of ‘Milarepa’ who was a yogi from Tibet. He ends the class with a quote and asked us to ponder upon it, “the best fights are the ones… the best fights are the ones (pause) we avoid”.

8:00 a.m., Parisamvada with Hansaji and Doctor Sahaab.

We gather at the main hall and wait for Hansaji and Dr. Jayadeva. This is kind of a public gathering, people from outside the institute also join for Parisamvada.

The topic for today is ‘Jati’ which means Personality. It is a concept from the Yoga Sutra.

Dr. Jayadeva speaks for a minute and then Hansaji asks a question, “What type of personality are you?”, she continues “it is very important for us to know what kind of personality we are, how we react to situations and what kind of thoughts we have”. She revealed, “Yoga sutra talks about ‘personality complex’ that each one of us has a certain kind of personality.”

She then asked if anyone has thoughts to share. Someone shared that how he is sensitive and reactive to situations and gets irritated, someone else shared that how he was indecisive and could not take small decisions and how he used to get disturbed and how he has transformed after getting training from the institute.

Hansaji commented on these responses and said, “We humans unlike animals can change our reactions to situations with our thoughts, we can change actions with our thoughts and it is actions that binds us”. Then someone asked, “Do we tolerate injustice, do we not react to injustice happening to us or around us?” Hansaji’s wisdom on this, “we definitely act, but we do not get affected by the situations, we should take action but not with an agitated mind and not get irritated or disturbed”.

After the Parisamvada, we had breakfast. I went for a stroll in the campus for few mins after the breakfast. I contemplated on Hansaji’s question, I pondered, “What is my personality like?” I think sometimes I’m reactive and sometimes I think before I react, what I’ve experienced is that it is difficult to always think before we react.

I believe that we can develop our mental make-up or to put in more elegant words ‘quality of mind’ in such a way that we respond to situations rather than react to them. It would take a conscious effort to achieve this.

Victor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, reflected wisely upon just this kind of situation by saying, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”.

9:45 a.m., Samkhya Class with Geetaji.

This is one of those classes, which I was eagerly looking forward for. Geetaji teaches it. She introduced herself and explained what her name means, and told us the story behind why her grandfather kept her name Geeta.

We learn that Samkhya philosophy is pure philosophy and there are no techniques involved, it is theory and Yoga is the technique or the experiential part, hence, it is also known as ‘Samkhya Yoga’.

Also that Samkhya Yoga can’t be taught because it is not information, it is experiential.  In the west ‘Philosophy’ more so means ‘love of knowledge’ and it is quest for knowledge where it is limited by senses but the Indian philosophies are called ‘Darshana Shastra’ which means visualization science. It goes beyond the sense perception, it is based on intuition and knowledge is attainted purely through intuition.

She then introduced the history of Vedas, which she interestingly defined as the ‘storehouses’ of knowledge. Vedas were written by Sage Veda Vyasa and it has been observed that Vyasa almost appears to be author of many of the Indian philosophies in the span of thousands of years, hence it is assumed that it is not one person but different persons with a title or same name.

There are four Vedas: Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva. Each Veda further has four developmental stages: Ritual (mantras), Bhramana (priestship), Aranyakas (forest) and Vedanta (which means end of knowledge and it contains the Upanishads). The first two stages are known as Karma Kanda and the next two Nyana Kanda.

11:00 a.m., Asana and Pranayama with Deepakji.

Ajinkya took this class because Deepakji was not available. Ajinkya must be in his mid-20’s, with a lean yogic body. This was our first Asana class, it was an hour of stretches and simple asanas.

At the end of the class, after we sweat it out, Ajinkya explains that Asana is just a small part, he gestures this by the fist of his hand in front of his chest, of Yoga, he gestures this by swinging both his open palms in the air creating a virtual space above his head.

He instructs us to live cordially with one another for next three months. He instructed us not to compete with others because each one of us a different body and he further added that we should live like one unit throughout the course.

After the asana class we had our lunch then there was a relaxation class which was not lead by anyone, we gathered in the same class room and rested for 30 mins. We had recreation class by Deepakji after the relaxation class, which was like playing games in groups; people demonstrated their talents, like dancing, singing.

2:00 p.m., Anatomy and Physiology with Mrs. D.

This class is very interesting. Mrs. D (I don’t know what ‘D’ stands for, but we call her that) is an elderly lady in her 80’s but she is full of energy. Later I learned that she was a head Nurse.

She brought along with her a life size replica of human vertebral column. She then made it very simple for us to remember the different part of the vertebrae. There are normally thirty-three vertebrae; seven cervical, twelve thoracic and five lumbar vertebrae, five in the sacrum and four in the coccyx or tailbone.

She used a linking-memory-method to make us remember this. She asked us, “How many days are in a week?” Seven! So are the number of vertebrae in the cervical region.

She continued, “How many months in a year?” Twelve! So are the number of vertebrae in the thoracic region. “How many weeks in a month?” Four! So are the number of vertebrae in the coccyx and the remaining are five each in the sacral and the lumber.

Students were happy and amazed at their own capacity to learn and remember data and the difficult words. She went on like this for all the bones in the body, the legs containing the femur, patella, tibia, fibula, tarsals, metatarsals and phalanges.

The arms containing the humerus, ulna, radius, carpals, metacarpals and the phalanges. She also spoke about the sternum, the bone in front of the chest and the ribs and the skull. It was an informative session. Woof!

3:00 p.m., Patanjali Yoga Sutra with Promilji.

Immediately after the Anatomy class, was an interesting class on Yoga Sutra. Promilji asked the students to introduce themselves by giving their names, country, the purpose of doing the course and if they have studied yoga sutras before.

Patanjali was a reincarnation of Sheshnaag, who is the lord of snakes, with 1000 heads. Hence, Patanjali is known as having the biggest brain. He was very intelligent and is known as the greatest psychologist because he has expounded on the human mind in the yoga sutras.

He has contributed to Ayurveda (he wrote a commentary on Charak Samhita), language (use of Sanskrit) and the human mind (his greatest work, the yoga sutra).

Promilji then asked students a question, “What is Yoga?” we got many answers from the students like, yoga is for mind, yoga is asana, yoga is science of human beings.

She then asked, “How much percent is Asana of Yoga?”, again there were many different answers, 12%, 32% and I responded 1%. Then she informed us that there are only 3 verses out of 195 in the yoga sutras which mentioned asana, hence it amounts to only 1.5% approximately.

Students were enthusiastic in this class and asked numerous questions.

Promilji then introduced Patanjali Yoga sutra. She told us that Patanjali was the one who had codified Yoga Sutra based on a long oral tradition, which preceded him.

She told that it is divided in four chapters: Samadhi pada, Sadhana pada, Vibhuti pada and Kaivalya pada. There were total 195 sutras.

Patanjali used minimum words to write the sutras. The sutra with minimum words is 1.23, i.e, chapter 1 verse 23, with only two words, and the verse with maximum words is 2.34, with 19 words.

She mentioned that we would study only around 24 sutras because we cannot cover all of them in three months.

She mentioned that different chapters talk about different things. Like, Samadhi pada gives instructions for the best students of yoga; Sadhana pada gives instructions for the beginners and the mid-level students.

After this, students had many questions, like what are the techniques and what is the difference between eight-fold path and these techniques.

She calmly said, “The goal of yoga is samadhi and different paths lead to same destination, and the path depends on how well you are prepared and what past experience or your karma”.

There were more questions. “Do we have to start again to another technique when we reach to the final stage of samadhi in eight fold path?”, “Is one life enough for Samadhi?”, “What is the difference between Samkhya and Yoga?” and many others.

For the last question, she said, “Samkhya is the ‘why’ and Yoga is the ‘how’”.

Finally, Promilji assured students to follow the forthcoming sessions and that she is sure that all our questions will be answered eventually.

This was an interesting class and most of the students were intrigued.

4:30 p.m., Yoga Sutra with Promilji.

We had a short break for evening snacks and again we had a session with Promilji on yoga sutras. She started from chapter one, verse one. That is, YS 1.1 ‘Atha yoga anusashaman’ which means ‘now the discipline of yoga begin’.

She asked us, “What do you think is the discipline required for you to do Yoga?” there were many different answers; my response was “contemplation and reflection, and regular and consistent effort”.

She then mentioned that there are four kinds of yoga: Raja yoga, Hata yoga, Bhakti yoga and Karma Yoga.

She quotes BG 2.50 “yogah karmasu kaushalam” which means efficiency in work is yoga.

She then quotes HY 1.15 “Failure in yoga”, Yoga is destroyed by the following six causes: over-eating, exertion, talkativeness, not adhering to rules, i.e., cold bath in the morning, eating at night, or eating fruits only, company of men, and unsteadiness.

She also quotes HY 1.16 “Success in yoga”. The following six bring speedy success: courage, daring, perseverance, discriminative knowledge, faith, aloofness from company.

She also mentioned the contribution of Patanjali in Ayurveda and the four principles of Ayurveda: Achar, Vichar, Ahaar and Vikaar, that is, right conduct, right thinking, right food, and right actions.

After this heavy learning and highly interactive session, we had a break until the Asana class at 7:00 p.m. We had dinner at 8:00pm.

Post dinner few of us gathered and were interacting and somehow the discussions lead to talks about relationships and marriage, “What is the right age to get married in your country?” Since, we were from different parts of the globe, we had quite an engaging talk.

I got sleep at around 11:30 p.m., which was much better than day before. I got up at 8:00 a.m. After breakfast, I went to visit my family.

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TEJAS SHAH has Masters in Psychology, Masters in Philosophy and a Degree in Law (LL.B) from University of Mumbai; he is practising as Chief Clinical Psychologist at Healing Studio and pursuing M.Phil in Clinical Psychology recognised by Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI). His research interests are consciousness, phenomenology, positive psychology, philosophical counselling and yoga.

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