Teacher Training with Erich Schiffmann

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I recently got back from LA where I spent  10 days at Exhale in Venice Beach doing Teacher Training with Erich Schiffmann.  When I did my first Yoga Teacher Training in 2008, Erich Schiffmann’s book, Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness, was on our reading list.  I immediately connected with the clear, easygoing tone and elegant explanations of all the basic asanas. 

I finally had the opportunity to take a workshop with Erich at Yogaville in June summer of 2009, and knew I had found my teacher.  My yoga teacher training was an excellent program and learned a lot, but in many ways, it was at odds with what my own experience of yoga was like.  There are so many RULES! Haha!  I remember one of my fellow teacher training colleagues had brought her copy of Erich’s books for her to sign, and next to one of the poses she had written “NO!!!” In big letters because we were told that we should never ever teach that pose.  I always did a lot of practice at home between classes and it was easy and fun.  No rules.  It was really empowering to me at the time to learn from Erich that doing yoga your own way is a totally valid, and in fact, meaningful way to practice.

Erich Schiffmann teaches what he calls Freedom Style yoga.  It’s a practice that is based in meditation where the asana practice culminates in an intuitive practice.  The idea is that meditation gets you in touch with universal wisdom, so you are living and making decisions in a more inspired way.

I remember that first workshop, I had so many questions... most of them started with “HOW...?”  Eventually I figured out the answer to most any question I would want to ask Erich is some version of: “Meditate.”  Easy, right?

Meditation and yoga are techniques to investigate the Truth.  By meditating, learning how to practice asanas guided be meditation, it is possible to experience peace, love, goodness, God.  To realize that we are spiritual beings in a physical world.  This is a beautiful, life-affirming philosophy, made all the more beautiful because it is true.  The “yoking” that happens in yoga is not joining to something new, it is waking up to the fact that we were never separate from the Divine. Ever.  I experience this in my own practice, and it is such a powerful thing that I want to be better at sharing it with my students, which is what brought me to Erich Schiffmann’s Teacher Training. 

The focus of the training was three-fold:

  • Meditation.  Always meditation.  This is the primary practice.
  • How to practice in a creative way. This included learning and teaching back some of Erich’s asana sequences, as well as freeform sessions where we practiced on our own and took notes about what happened.
  • Teaching.  This is the bulk of most other teacher trainings... sequencing, adjustments, practicing teaching.  We did do some of this, too.  I would be happy to give you the Awesome Savasana Adjustment of Awesome, for example.

Two days, Erich’s wife, Leslie, who was a nurse and is a Viniyoga teacher, came in and gave some perspective on therapeutics and teaching beginners.

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Erich has been a student of yoga legends BKS Iyengar, TKV Desikar, Krishnamurti, Joel Kramer and Vanda Scaravelli.  He’s been on the yoga scene for so long, he predates the recent trend where you get a certificate for showing up for any kind of thing.  So our class made a certificate for him since he never got one before.  What is amazing about Erich is that while it’s indisputable that he is a yoga master, he is humble, generous, loving, and tons of fun to be around.  In short, he’s a gem, and I feel so fortunate to have him as a teacher.

If this sounds interesting and exciting to you, please make sure you go to ErichSchiffmann.com.  Remember that part I said about Erich being generous?  He records audio of all of his classes and you can download them.  Many are available to listen to for free, but I recommend you sign up for the indigo membership because you get unlimited access to everything, including special full-length videos!  It's awesome and totally worth it.

Yin Yoga Sequence for Halloween

Who rocked a tiny witch hat teaching yin yoga this morning?  This girl right here!  Ways in which yin yoga is a great practice for Halloween:

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  • Skeletons! That's right, y'all, it's all about the bones.  Everyone's bones are different, and that will effect what your poses look like. Looks don't matter!  It's all about what you feel. Are you getting the intended benefit of the pose?  You're good.  If not, change it so you do!
  • You can wear your favorite Halloween themed socks! Generally teachers frown upon socks in yoga classes because your feet will likely slide around instead of grounding into your mat.  We're pretty much just rolling around on the floor, so stay cozy!  Yay for socks!
  • Black Cats!  OK, so it doesn't have to be a black one, but have you ever picked up a cat?  You know how they go all noodle-y and limp?   That's what we're going for in a yin practice.  Totally relaxed.  No effort.

Here's a grounding yin practice that will help keep you from getting spooked this evening!  Start with moving gently and build up to longer holds so you can chill out and be ready to scare up some fun... or sleep like the dead!  Enough halloween clichés?  OK let's get started.

  • Shake out your bones:   Walk around, shake it out.  Do a few cat/cow stretches.  Roll out your shoulders.  Take a few minutes to get just a little warm and limber.
  • Dragon: Knee-down lunge.  Let your hips sink down towards the floor.  Rest your hands on blocks or rest your hands on your front thigh.  Two minutes each side.
  • 1/2 Butterfly: Place one foot to the inside of the other thigh.  Fold forward. Three minutes each side.
  • Prone Twist:  Sidle up next to a bolster or a pile of blankets.  Right hip to the short edge of the bolster, knees can be together or scissored apart.  Lengthen your spine then walk yourself forward, belly down on the bolster.  Four minutes each side.
  • Caterpillar or Dragonfly:  Pick your favorite forward fold.  Five minutes.
  • Sphinx: Lie on your belly and prop yourself up on your elbows.  You might want to start with your elbows forward of your shoulders, and gradually walk them back to intensify the backbend.  Three minutes.
  • Reclined Butterfly:  Sit with the soles of the feet together in front of a bolster or pile of blankets, then slowly lie back.  5 minutes or more.
  • Don't forget a few minutes in Corpse Pose (savasana!) at the end!

Yin Yoga Workshop at Awaken Wellness

OK so I intended to blog while I was in LA for Erich Schiffmann's teacher training and that totally didn't happen.  Sorry about that.  It was awesome!  More on that later.  While I was at Exhale in LA, I took a couple classes with Denise Kaufman, one of the pioneers of the yin practice, so I have new insights to share with you at this workshop on Saturday! Hope to see you!

Yin Yoga workshop!

Saturday, October 27th, 12:15-2:15 PM

Awaken Wellness

7130 Minstrel Way Suite 160, Columbia, MD 21045
410-312-9922

Are you stressed out? Tight all over? Low back pain? Bellydancer with overworked hips? This is a great practice for YOU! I'll present loads of easy-to-understand anatomical information and guide you through adjustments for you to get the most out of every pose. Knowledge that you can take home and to every yoga class!

Yin Yoga is a passive practice that deeply affects muscles and connective tissue by holding poses for several minutes at a time. Learn how to improve and maintain range of motion in the spine and hips and refresh and rejuvenate the entire body through this restorative practice.

Register Online!

Traveling Yogini

 Over the past couple years I have ramped up my yoga and dance training and am in the fortunate position to have both the desire and ability to travel to study with master teachers.  In addition to that, my husband and I like to travel for fun.  I blame my parents for instilling this love of seeing the world at a very young age.  My goal is to be a travel ninja.  I want to streamline what I pack and how I plan so that I can relax and enjoy my trip as much as possible.  And do it all in one carry on bag.  Totally possible.

I’ve posted about my one-bag travel before, but since it’s an ongoing process figuring out how to be a travel ninja, I’m going to continue to post about how it’s going.

A lot of the resources about traveling light are a little excessive for my tastes.  Could I survive for two weeks packing one pair of underpants and a few tablespoons of Dr. Bronner’s in the one pair of cargo pants I’m wearing?  Probably.  Would I enjoy it?  Not really.  There has to be a happy medium between that and checking a separate duffle bag just for my flip-flops.  (Hi, Mom!)

As mentioned in my previous post on travel, Aeronaut by Tom Bihn is my luggage.  It is that and a purse.  A reasonable sized purse and not one of those gold lamé monstrosities I see ladies trying to pass off as their “personal item.”

Tomorrow morning, I’m heading to LA for ten days of teacher training with my sweet mentor, Erich Schiffmann.  Then, two days in Disneyland with my husband!  I have some more posts coming up about travel techniques, and I'll also try to check in while I'm on the road about yoga and LA.

My Packing List:

All my stuffs

All my stuffs

  • 3 pairs yoga pants
  • 1 pair leggings (Yes, they’re different things! Not pants!)
  • 4 tank tops
  • 2 sports bras
  • 1 regular bra
  • 4 pairs undies
  • 4 pairs socks
  • 1 tunic top
  • 1 wool dress
  • 1 jersey skirt
  • 1 wool hoodie
  • 1 lightweight cardigan
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 pair Merrell mary janes

It fits all into my backpack packing cube, but still I feel like it might be too much.  I'll report back with whether or not I wore everything.  In addition I have yoga gear, beautification gear, camera, etc.  that fill up the rest of my bag.

My Outfitting Strategy:

I try to stay within a palette of colors, although I have what some people may consider an unconventional approach to “matching” so I’m not entirely successful at this.  But still, I try to pack so that tops and bottoms are interchangeable and I don’t get stuck with a top matching only one bottom.  It’s not that I care if people see me wearing the same thing more than once, but I get bored myself.  I recently learned that this technique is called a Capsule Wardrobe.  Lady Light Travel has a great post about this and I really like that her example uses an awesome color combo (brown and tangerine) that demonstrates that you can put together a lot of really cute options with a few pieces.  I’m also a fan of tunic tops and zany mini skirts that I can pull on over my yoga clothes so that when I’m running around before and after workshopping, I look slightly more put together.  In a bohemian kind of way.

Yoga gear:

I have a Manduka eKo SuperLite Travel Mat and also a Yogi Toes Skidless Towel. Depending on where i’m going and what I’m doing, I might take just one or the other.  Since I’m doing a 10 day YTT where Yoga is going to be the primary thing I’m doing, I’ll take both.  And I still might layer both on top of a borrowed mat because I love me some super luxe asanating.  I also like Manduka’s eQua Towels!  The hand towels are great for just about everything.

Let me know your most favorite travel tips or if you have any questions about traveling light! 

Creating a Practice System

Maybe you already practice now and then at home, but you feel stuck or uninspired.  I am here to help.  I apply the same techniques to yoga and dance practice, so I’m sure you can apply and adapt to whatever you want to work on.

First, let's revisit these important questions I mentioned in my last post about practice:

Why do you do Yoga?  What inspires you? What goals do you have?

Also, how often do you want to practice?

From here, you might be able to figure out where yoga is on your priorities.  Is it more or less important than reading  or watching TV? Date night? Cleaning the house? In my world, sleeping for 30 more minutes is more important than getting out of bed and doing yoga first thing in the morning.  I'm OK with that.  Look at your priorities and look at your weekly calendar.  Figure out some times that will work for you.  Try a few and pay attention to the time of day and routine that feels best.  When you figure out what works, make that time sacred because it's space to work on your goals and enjoy the things that inspire you.  It doesn’t have to be a long time.  Just block it out.

Take notes.

Stick with a routine for a while and then check in.  How do you feel about the duration of each session?   Is your routine easy to maintain? Are you enjoying it?  Do you feel like you’re making progress towards your goals?  Is that even important?

I keep a journal of my practice notes that includes:

  • The intention for the session’s practice
  • Details of what I actually did (not always the same as the above!)
  • Yay! (what I am excited about, proud of, goals met)
  • Needs work
  • What I want to do next practice
  • Weekly, monthly, and longer-term goals

As a result, here’s what my daily practice looks like right now:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga asana/conditioning
  • Shimmy drill
  • Technique drills
  • Rehearse troupe stuff, solo play time, etc. according to my goals
  • More yoga

What does your practice look like?