I'm not going to say too much about how much I loved these four days; how much respect I have for Jake and David for their willingness to join me in testing the unknown; to Chloe for organising and hosting it; to the teachers that came and played without any idea of what we were going to do; how they all embraced the bits they loved and also the bits that hopefully pushed them right out of their comfort zone. The video is made of parts led my myself, Jake and David as well as many of the teachers themselves. Those of you that have already finished our 200hour TT will recognise some themes and madnesses that have been taken much further as well as totally new investigations. It was all in the spirit of exploration and if nothing else it reminded us that yoga should be fun. Look out for the next Yoga Like Water London immersion for teachers in February or of you are new to teaching then our next 200hour Yoga Teacher training in Devon starts in Feb as well. We are also starting to organise this intensive at studios around the UK next year :)
We have been very fortunate to host our yoga teacher training course in both the green tranquility of Devon and the hustle and bustle of the big city, right in the centre of London. You couldn't pick two more opposite locations if you tried and yet I love each of them equally.
The two courses run in parallel and although the content and many of the tutors are the same, the feel and energy is often very different. The tendency as you would expect is for the London crew to be very focussed, full of energy and able to keep going for days on end at a full on pace. I guess that just tends to be the way of living in any city and it means that those sessions are generally fun, dynamic and full of questions. It is also where people travel in to join us form abroad, catching their flights in and out for each weekend of training. So the mixture of languages, backgrounds and life experience is very vivd and fun!
In Devon, the yoga training draws in students from all over the South West, Cornwall, Somerset, Dorset the Midlands and Bristol being very common although some come in from much further afield. With most of these students being from outside of the cities (and I class Bristol as the most chilled city on Earth) the pace of the weekends tends to be more laid back and in general more 'holistic' in nature. We attract quite a number of existing yoga teachers onto our devon course as well as total newbies to teaching yoga and this makes for a really interesting mix of all round fresh 'no-rules' enthusiasm combined with a lot of experience and knowledge. We also in general have more holistic and alternative bodywork practitioners join us, from backgrounds like massage therapy, physiotherapy you name it, it all goes in the mix!
These are gross generalisations of course and it can depend very much on any number of things but it remains completely fascinating to me how the 'same sessions' can vary completely in their delivery and the direction that they take from one weekend to the next. Regardless of where we are, the flexibility of every session stays the same, something that interests one group can lead us of on a tangent of exploration that doesn't come up in the same session elsewhere and vice versa-it certainly keeps us on our toes but it also means that the sessions stay very 'fresh' feeling in their delivery.
For me though, one of the most important things is that we offer both of the trainings here in the UK.
I have always been a bit puzzled by the need to fly people half way around the world to study to be a yoga teacher when we have maybe the most multicultural and fascinating city on earth as well as the breathtaking landscape of places such as devon, right on our doorstep. It avoids the need to burn up tonnes of aviation fuel and it supports the local economy. We would also never be able to afford to bring in all of the teachers that we do if we had to fly them across the planet.
So for us it all works perfectly, yoga teacher training in devon or london, the best of both worlds!
Our next TT starts in February in Devon; we are already just over a third full but you can join us for our taster day on the 23rd June in Ilfracombe if you are keen to sign up or are just curious about what on Earth we get up to!
One of our lovely students sent me this when she saw it on a wall in Bristol. Its so funny that when you are open to receiving messages they seem to appear all over the place, especially when you aren't looking for them - we start to see wisdom in anything and everything.
I get a wonderful stream of these sort of things in my inbox, from friends who have decided to confront their imaginary fears and start to view their life in a very different and open way, through to students dropping a lot of things in life that they feel they do not need any more, views and baggage that doesn't serve them anymore as they start to unresistingly accept the flow of things as they come.
Non-Resistance is a topic that often crops up on our courses in conversation-generally the idea will initially throw up a lot of resistance in itself!!
You will often hear 'But why do these things happen to me. How can I not resist them?!'
This is one of the greatest misconceptions of human perception, it is typical of the victim mentality, the 'poor me' state of mind that so many of us dwell in.
The clear misconception here is that Life doesn't happens to you. Life Just Happens! You are an integral and inseparable part of life and therefore if cant happen to you. Life, along with you as one of its infinite parts just unfolds as it unfolds. If you choose to assign some sort of separation and victim or victor mentality to this then that is a conscious decision that you have made.
You see 'Why do these things happen to me?' defines the separation that we feel between us and the rest of our perceived 'reality'.
There is, never has been and never will be any separation other than that which we create ourselves in our minds and then play out through our actions and speech.
We just imagine that we are separate. If I'm not 'me' then who am I? And what is left of me when Im no linger 'me' is the great fear. So we then spend the rest of our life consolidating and reinforcing this 'separate me' figment of our imagination, entering into a cycle where we actually do feel more and more separate, because thats exactly the reality that we are creating.
As Buddha said in my favourite line ever 'With our thoughts we create the world'
And if we feel that we are separate from a world that is indifferent to us, that doesn't care for us, imagine how that affects our state of mind on a daily basis as well as our actions and life choices .
So how do we break this cycle?
This starts with self-awareness and ends with self-awareness. We need to become familiar with the workings of our own minds 'We cant fix the problem if we don't know what the problem is'.
Through self awareness and internal observation of ourselves and our minds we begin to slowly realise that almost all of the time we don't even understand our own intentions, reasons and thinking. We start to see how this plays out in our behaviours, fears and judgements as we base them on our misconceptions, aversions and attachments.
It soon becomes very evident that maybe our fixed view of what is going on around us might just be a little mistaken?!
Suck it and see for a day. I dare you :)
This is a story about how things just happen when you let them. It is a story about effortless flow and non struggling so wonderful things can just happen, if you were a Taoist (and apparently Im a closet Daoist), then you would call it Wu-wei, actionless action, effortless effort....
A year or so ago I had this great idea, about bringing all of the Yoga Like Water Crew. past present and future family, tutors, friends and followers, altogether for a big holiday together. We looked at ideas and venues, here and abroad, I even had and have some in mind but then I woke up last week, as I occasionally do, with a total, uncalled for moment of clarity......Hold on, Im teaching at Soul Circus festival, I feel very passionately about that festival (Ill explain why in a bit) why don't we just hook up with them and bring my clan into theirs?
I pretty much knew that they'd say yes because thats the sort of family they are too! However I was thinking about next year -2019, when i emailed Ella and Roman, the founders of Soul Circus a couple of days ago with the idea. Being Roman of course he just turned round and said 'Wicked, why wait? Lets do it this year'.
So here we are two days later, a few calls, emails and messages down the line, and the Yoga Like Water lineup is confirmed for Yoga Like Water does Soul Circus and we will be in attendance with fifteen of our tutors and teachers contributing their madcap sharing skills, including the crews most beloved anatomy geek Lolo Lam, Gemma 'Any more chilled and Id be comatose' Peppiatt, the blistering Toni Ann Roberts; Kat 'Movement for Modern Life-I'd quite like to talk about dogs' Farrants and my boy Jacob 'I can flip upside down quicker than you can flip a coin' Smart.
Ill tell you when Soul Circus really sold itself to me. The first festival they did. I'd already spent the past ten years of my life working at festivals, running stages and building huge flaming installations, up all night waiting for the DJ to finish so i could unplug gas lines and speakers and go to bed, so to say I was jaded with Festivals would be an understatement.
Im teaching a Saturday morning hand balance slot in one of their hot tipis and being up early I go into the tent to discover that their is no power for the amplifier or the heater. I have a little curse, recognising that in festival time, locating someone and getting this fixed could take forever. I fiddle with a few leads, start tracing them back and there I find, already awake, the person running the festival, out the back of the tent, also following cables and trying to sort out the problem himself by fiddling about with a non-running generator! Not the site electrician, not a volunteer, not a contractor, but the guy running the entire gig, in his wellingtons, looking a bit the worse for wear after Friday night. And of course it got sorted and it was awesome and it has been awesome ever since. And thats why I like them, because they are a real family, doing stuff and being nice at the same time and it just works.
So what to expect in our Tipi? Free-flow movement, Yoga Nidra, Yoga for Climbers and yoga for Surfers, Yoga Dance, Yoga for kids and families, Rocket, some crazy ass sequencing wizards, Plenty of off the wall YLW style games and play and a whole lot more.
So if you haven't already got your tickets drop me a mail through our contact page as I can get you a special YLW discount
The Role of the Yoga Teacher - are we blindly asking students to follow our lead??
Should we be present to share rather than to teach? To share is a natural process, dissemination of ideas which are by nature of sharing are open to discussion, adaptation, mutation?
Just as we cannot take on the path of another- we cannot emulate the way that others have found their spiritual path-we must encourage others to find their own way. We can of course help them on their way, encouraging and offering guidance if we feel equipped to do so, but the years of lessons and introspection from our own personal journey cannot be passed on as a ready-made, off the hanger garment for others to wear. We are misguided if we think that way. At the same time however, the classes that we host are undeniably ours in the sense that we have to hold the space; our personality will guide the feel of our classes; we teach what we feel is necessary in each session.
We should try to lead classes with enough freedom that every student can find their own level and way of practising. We remind them that they should rest out whenever they need to, to take a variation of their own that feels good or even take a totally different pose if they feel that they need it. Encourage some spontaneity, be lifted and not downbeat when in class there is a student who decides to do something totally different. They are truly listening to themselves and hopefully you have been a part of bringing this about.
Eventually the sign of success is that the student shouldn't need to come to class at all. Our bank manager might not like that, but it is a good sign of a job well done.
Yoga in the Modern World
It would probably be fair to say that in the last 50 years, the practice of yoga has expanded to include more people than all of the combined yogis that practised in the possibly thousands of years prior to that. ‘Yoga’ as we practice it today is no doubt very different to how it was practised in the past. There is a heavy tendency towards physical asana practice, to the extent that it is now for most people synonymous with the very term 'yoga'. This isn't to say that we are doing anything wrong, it is wonderful how everything we practice evolves, and there is no specific reason that we should stay stuck in methods better suited to other ages and civilisations.
We are so fortunate in the modern era to have available to us not only countless lifetimes of 'spiritual' teachings that have been passed on through the ages, but an absolute explosion of scientific and technological knowledge that has come about very recently, in a infinitesimally short time span. We now know that many of the concepts understood by the ancient yogis from an intuitive and experienced point of view can be verified by current scientific understanding. I say current because we should remember that scientific knowledge is changing all the time, it isn't concerned with proving facts to be true, but instead with disproving theories, which are very different matters. Good research is unbiased and ready to yield to new evidence that might arise, just as good yoga should.
So for the first time in human history we have an opportunity to guide our yoga practice, not only through hearsay and the word of gurus but though actual (hopefully) impartial scientific evidence. That is not to say that ether is more valid than the other; we can certainly see that the yogis and rishis of the past intuitively understood the benefits of certain yogic practices, not just asana but pranayama and meditation as well, however now we can draw upon sound scientific knowledge from particle physics to brain scans to confirm many of their suspicions. Moreover we are now also able to understand more about the precautions and contraindications of particular asana and so protect ourselves and others from possible harm. Because this huge bank of knowledge and understanding are now available it should be our obligation as yoga ‘teachers’ to pass it on. To deny any aspect of it would be both pointless and irresponsible.
Whilst the popularity of yoga has grown exponentially and the way that we practice has probably altered beyond recognition, I would question whether the way that it is understood and taught have evolved at all. In fact I question whether we are potentially going backwards in both our understanding and methods of teaching yoga. I don't believe that this is a result of the western world practising more physical asana or being less concerned with other yogic techniques. In fact I'm certain that it doesn't matter in the slightest what you are practising or what you are teaching; what I do think is important is how we are practising and it and how we are teaching it...in fact whether we should be teaching it in the sense that we do at all.
The Teachers Role
In an average yoga class teachers are more than often ready to give and students are expecting to receive cues and instructions: to breathe in this way; place the foot in that orientation; extend the arm in this manner and so on. We are, both parties, consciously or more often subconsciously reinforcing separation, whether we are the teacher or student.
If I am leading a class I try to remember that I am simply present to hold that space; to facilitate the practice of others, so that they might understand themselves better just as when I am practising alone I try to remember that I am simply present so that I might understand myself better.
Whatever way you look at it, there is no doubt that as a yoga teacher you are going to become, wittingly or not, willingly or otherwise, role models for many of those that come to your classes. Bearing this in mind we should remember that we are on show when holding the space and what we do and say will be examined by many who perceive us to be their guiding light in the ‘science of yoga’.
In this light it is probably wise to have our own codes of conduct as with any professional organisation. There are certainly plenty of yoga organisations out there that you can join if you choose to and they will all have their own sets of guidelines, some of which are similar themes and some of which are more specific to their system of beliefs.