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The First Step . . .

As many of you know, I was gone for two weeks in the beginning of April completing the first half of a 300-hour training in yoga therapy. What is yoga therapy? You could argue that all yoga is therapeutic, and I would agree with that statement. But yoga therapy goes deeper into terms of providing specific practices for specific conditions. In some cases, yoga can be part of the cure. For most however, yoga is used to provide a sense of healing and control for the client. Therapeutic yoga classes are often held as private sessions, or as multi-week classes for groups of people with the same condition, like scoliosis, PTSD or severe osteoporosis.

The training was held at the beautiful Ancient Yoga Center south of Austin, TX, which is on 200 acres of hilly, scrubby terrain. We were able to take short hikes every day on our lunchbreak. And the bluebells were just starting to bloom so the fields were covered in Austin’s trademark flower. Gorgeous!

And let’s not forget the peacocks! Probably a dozen roamed the grounds. They make the most bizarre cat-screeching sounds, often at 3 in the morning. The last day I was rewarded with this picture – he is right in front of the door to our dorm.

The staff at AYC took such good care of us! Ayurvedically balanced and scrumptious vegetarian meals every day, made by a small group of people who put love into every dish – I am sure that was the secret ingredient that made it taste so satisfying. They even baked an impromptu ginger cake with fresh whipped cream for Elyse’s birthday. Chef Jo has a cookbook coming out soon and I will be the first to buy it.

The teachers were AMAZING! I think the least experienced one had been teaching for 20 years. She was also an RN, and one other teacher was also a physical therapist. The students had an impressive range of backgrounds and skills as well – three published authors, a physician’s assistant, a psychologist, an art therapist and an occupational therapist, in addition to two former professional dancers. The mix of perspective was one of the best things about the training. That, and the fact that the teachers didn’t act like they had all the answers. They encouraged us to discuss, offer our experiences, and enrich the dialogue.

Our days went like so: 90 minute yoga practice at 6:30 every morning (yes, I did it!), breakfast, 1 1/2 hours on philosophy and process, two hours on body systems, long lunch so we could get outside, 30 minute yoga nidra practice (what a gift!), followed by two hours on kinesiology and structural assessments, and 1 ½ hours on applying our knowledge through case studies and discussions. After a dinner break, we had an hour lecture on special topics or did our own presentations. The last night we had a rocking dance party complete with a light up hula hoop! I feel incredibly privileged to have shared time with such lovely students and teachers.

What did I learn? Hmmm, there are a lot of answers to that question. Two weeks away from your normal life creates a special opportunity for introspection, and the program encouraged that. Their view is that you can’t be an effective yoga therapist without a fair degree of self-awareness. So I came back with a personal plan that includes more yoga nidra and relaxation, a commitment to self-care, and a promise to myself to slow down a little bit. I think it is rare in a group of 20+ plus personalities that you like every single person, but I did. We bonded really quickly, and I miss their energy and smiling faces every day. Professionally, my mind was blown daily. I came back with lots of great ideas for classes and practices, much-needed structural anatomy and assessment tools, and a reminder of the importance of listening.

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