Author Archives: Theodora Blanchfield

Week 2 of Yoga Teacher Training: The Most Transformative Week of My Life

venice beach

Last week was one of the most transformative weeks of my life: both physically and emotionally.

You all know I am therapy’s biggest fan, BUT the emotional progress I made last week makes me realize what a slow grind therapy is. My therapist and I discussed this notion, and I told her that if I stopped to think about it, I knew that I’d made progress emotionally. It was just more gradual.

I walked into that studio two weeks ago today not having much of an idea of what to expect but totally open to the prospects and possibilities of what this training had to offer to my body, my emotions, my career. I walked in to 14 strangers; those 14 strangers and I now know the depths of each other’s souls. We’ve shared our emotional baggage, our fears, our vulnerabilities and more—and that’s just our sutra (yoga philosophy, in the simplest terms) study. On the mat and teaching in front of each other, we’ve seen each other’s physically strengths and weaknesses; we’ve witnessed each other’s vulnerability as we stand in front of the room and attempt to teach to 14 other people.

The week actually started on a low for me; I was homesick AF, I BAWLED (like, shaking crying) in savasana as I felt a connection to my mom again (“Theodora, I think you’ve opened a portal to your mom,” my therapist said.) Last week was 15 months without my mom. One year since I got laid off. My dog’s 12th birthday. Two years since we went to Rhode Island for my mom’s remission trip; two years since my mom’s Daily Burn interview. As my tears fell over that bolster, I absorbed the reality that our bodies hold our emotions as I felt an intense release. (And then I went to Panda Express that night for some serious comfort food. Y’all, this is why I gained so much weight in college.)

I was having a TOUGH time, and two wise friends reminded me that growth and change aren’t easy. TOUCHE, FRIENDS, TOUCHE. I decided to download Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now  audiobook. I don’t audiobook often, but I heard how much powerful this book is with him speaking. I only listened to it to go to sleep and driving to my training, but just those reminders of living in the now transformed my Tuesday, and I felt so lucky to be in California, to be doing the teacher training, to be alive.

On Wednesday, I went to an event at my therapist’s house discussing grief. I admire her so much, so it was a little surreal to be at her house. Every single woman there was wonderful, and I left with several new potential friends and feeling lucky to feel part of a community, even if it was one built around loss. That night, that event, made me feel just a bit more grounded. I felt proud of myself for all I’d done to get myself to that place; doing the training, coming across the country, walking in the door to an event where the only person I knew was the one I paid, who knows all of my deepest and darkest feelings.

There is not one sutra session in the training that doesn’t bring up all the feelings for me. We’ve discussed “vrittis”—obstacles on the path to enlightment, also known as “whirlings.” Just stopping to think about the idea of these whirlings in the mind, and that they are totally normal but prevent us from being in the now has helped me tremendously to quiet my anxious and overthinking mind. Some of my favorite concepts—direct quotes from my manual.

Ahimsa: Non-violence, Harmony: “Unavoidably, life hurts at times but might not be causing harm.” OOH. Just because I have been in deep emotional pain, does not mean I am actually in danger.

Satya: Truthfulness, Honesty: “When you practice being completely present to yourself, to your environment and in relationships, then the truth of the moment will always reveal itself. The moment will resonate and be meaningful for all, rather then relating back to your personal history.”

Have you ever judged someone because of past experience and realized that you were wrong, but that your perception changed your interaction? Uh yeah, me neither.

By the end of the week, I was really freaking happy. We spent Thursday and Friday in practice working on inversions, and I now feel really comfortable with handstands and headstands at the wall. I am totally not going to make health claims (no, yoga does not detox you, sorry), BUT I will say that these inversions brought me so much joy.

Where earlier in the week cracked me open emotionally to let the pain out, the inversions cracked me open to let the joy in. If you know me IRL, I am goofy and giggly at my core (and also sarcastic AF.) Goofy, giggly me has been in hiding for the past few years…but the inversions brought her right. back. out. Something not that funny set me off after inversions, and I laughed my ass off to the point that my classmates were wondering what was making me laugh so hard.

It felt so good to return to that part of myself.

We also started teaching one pose at a time to the entire group, and it was nowhere near as bad as I was afraid of. I didn’t stutter or forget my words, they didn’t throw blocks at me, and everyone smiled. I felt so happy walking back to my spot afterwards, and so inspired to teach out in the real world. In the middle of one our two-hour practices (I LOVE my teacher Maya to death, but man does that woman love her a long-ass practice), I had a distinct moment of feeling SO STRONG and like a real yogi.

And on Friday, I attended a sound bath on the beach in Venice with a few of my yogi friends. (Wow, most LA sentence ever.) I’ve been to sound baths before and felt…nothing? Or anxious. So I wasn’t expecting much, but was happy to have new friends to hang with.

Well, once again, I felt that deep, deep connection with my mom as we watched the most magical sunset. One of my friends somehow just sensed I needed a hug and she came and put her arms around me as I sat there, once again, with tears streaming down my face.

The first thing I thought was how lucky I felt to be alive—a far cry from where I was earlier this year.

I felt lucky to have the time and resources for this yoga program, for the lessons it’s teaching me, the people it’s introducing me to, everything it’s doing for my mind and body.

I felt lucky for this ability to try out this dream of mine to live in California (and the flexibility to go back to NYC if I ultimately decide it’s not for me.)

And as I felt that magical sunset warm my face in the cool ocean breeze, I just knew my mom was looking down on me and that everything was finally starting to feel OK.

I still don’t know if I’ll stay in LA or not, but it no longer feels like I need to stay—like I need to get away from all the pain in NYC. I think I have the tools if I do go back, and no matter which decision I make, neither place is going anywhere any time soon. (Earthquakes and hurricanes be damned.)

Week 1: What It’s Like to Do a Yogaworks Teacher Training

yoga

I’m about to finish my second week of Yogaworks Teacher Training, but I want to try to recap each week. I’m doing a Yogaworks intensive training, which means, all yoga training, all the time, from 9-5, Monday-Friday, for a month.

I’ve wanted to do this for a few years, but the timing was never right for an intensive…and to be honest, I just didn’t want to give up nights and weekends. New city, flexible schedule? IN.

It has been amazing, it has been difficult.

I have learned so much about myself, I have learned so much about others, I have learned so much about yoga, I have learned so much about the world. Truly—I’m not exaggerating any of that.

Our day is broken up like this (with also 20-25 minutes of meditation at some point):

9-10ish: review of anatomy. I’m pretty solid on that after getting my NASM certification, thanks to my BFF the professor tutoring me

10ish-11:30 or 12ish: yoga practice. The first week, our practice averaged around 1:20 — sometimes 1:10, sometimes 1:40, by the end of the week. Some days that felt like 20 minutes; some days it felt like 3 hours. Either way, it’s certainly getting easier to practice longer, for whatever that’s worth.

12ishish: we break down the sequence we just did, and we discuss why each pose was done in that order and what are some good cues to teach it/which cues resonated with us.

12:30-1:30ish: lunch!

1:30-4ishh: Usually, after lunch, we’ll look at 1-3 poses in depth, and talk through which muscles are activated, how we should think about cueing in our own words (i.e. I would tell you “firm your hip in” rather than “firm your gluteus medius in.)

At this point in the afternoon, we’ll also practice teach—in this Week 1, in groups of 3-4. By practice teach, I mean one, maybe two poses. Still, as scary as it was at first, I like that we’re practicing on real people before going out into the world.

4-5: SUTRA STUDY! We spend the last hour of the day talking about philosophy, basically. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali  are the text that yoga is based on—the physical practice, the breath practice, and the meditation practice. The text also gives advice on how to get through life, and while some of the ideas are great, they can be difficult to translate into 2018 life circumstances, though are a nice ideal.

I’ll be honest—I am having a HARD time with the sutras, and that I believe many of these principles but cannot achieve them, or at least, yet. But I guess the journey is part of it? etc etc:)

What’s your fave yoga pose? Any questions about the training I can answer (other than what will I do with it? Still working on that one.)