Part of my Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) requires me to focus on a field of study of my choosing, alongside the program requirements. After exploring various forms of yoga, I have decided that my self-directed study and reflection will be in ashtanga . I’ve experimented with different forms of yoga from hatha, yin, power, hot yoga, bikram, yoga flow, gentle yoga, vinyasa flow, to kripalu and beyond. The mentorship and teaching practicum in my program will be closely linked to the yoga style I choose. I chose ashtanga for many reasons, but mostly because 1. it challenges me, 2. it provides me opportunities to grow, and 3. because I can practice up to three times a week at Bodywise Yoga Studio in addition to the other classes I attend. It seemed like a no-brainer. Not only that, Bodywise Yoga studio has numerous knowledgeable instructors with a background in ashtanga. It only made sense! Yoga instructor Sarah Elizabeth Smith cheerfully accepted my offer to be one of my program mentors.
Sarah is originally trained in the lineage of Sivananda Hatha, but started practicing ashtanga in Nelson, British Columbia, then spent 6 months at Yasodhara ashram in Kootenay Bay, BC. Her time at the ashram exposed her to an almost self-sustaining community in the mountains, where she was an apprentice in the garden. Everyone in the ashram had a role and contributed to the community, which Sarah describes as “having a sense of lightness; where you can almost feel the vibrations of people doing spiritual work there“. Sarah received one of her YTT’s from Ashtanga Yoga Victoria and has done extensive work with Ashtanga Yoga Halifax. Each time I speak with Sarah she tells me about another workshop she plans to attend; she is a forever student and continually upgrading her skillset. It’s refreshing to meet someone who loves learning as much as I do. Sarah is one of the most knowledgeable people I know in the world of yoga and I am elated to learn from her. She practices what she preaches and teaches from her personal experience and knowledge. Her extensive yoga training and five years of teaching experience makes her the perfect mentor for a newbie like me throughout my YTT. Although I have been doing yoga for a few years, I know nothing compared to what Sarah has learned. It’s with nothing but hard work and dedication that has got Sarah to where she is.
For Sarah, and many others, yoga opens the mind to the world. Yoga gives us the confidence to just got for it. Yoga teaches us to fail, and that failure is just part of the journey where we learn how to flow with change. The only thing we can rely on is change. I know this is true for me. I love that every yoga class at Bodywise Yoga Studio is different and that each teacher brings their own personal background to the class. Teachers are able to develop relationships with the students to help them grow in their practice; I’m blessed to have Sarah as my yoga teacher and mentor. Yoga is a tool to change the way we think. I learned from Sarah that the flexibility of the spine is connected to the flexibility of the mind. Turning your body upside down so to speak (i.e. headstand) is a way to turn your mind upside down.
There is such a mind-body connection to the practice of yoga and ashtanga also focuses on finding internal peace. Ashtanga is a practice which you develop over time and not about muscling through the movements. With ashtanga, we create heat within the body to ready the body for the next posture. Ashtanga is a practice that you do over a lifetime and not necessarily about the short term (that’s part of it), but more about the journey of developing/improving over time. Ashtanga teaches us to focus on our breath, which is always there, as an anchor point to use to flow with/through change. This is why Sarah believes yoga can be life changing because we grow from the inside out. I think I’ve chosen the perfect study for me.
Morning Yoga Anyone? Sarah is offerening a series of morning yoga classes at Bodywise Yoga Studio (1 week per month from 6:45-7:45 during February and March-see below). You just need to commit to one week per month in the mornings. Here are just a few of the benefits of getting up early in the winter and being active in the morning: no distractions, setting yourself up for your day, metabolism gets a kick start, muscles find their stretching ability for their day, and clarity for the rest of the day among other benefits. Pre-register for your session which includes hot herbal tea, lemon water, work books, small classes, and more individualized attention for students.
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