What makes you an 'advanced' yogi?

Often some classes are marketed at ‘advanced’ or level 2-3 and it got me thinking: what makes you advanced at yoga?

When I first started yoga, it was all about the physical, the asana. My whole focus was being able to do a certain pose, to be the stretchiest or the strongest. I’m not going to lie, it was my competitiveness with other people to be better than them which actually kept me coming back.  With practice I got flexible and strong, could do the splits and a variety of funky arm balances. But does that make me advanced?

Having started to teach yoga and speak to a lot of yoga teachers, I’ve noticed that those who really flourish in their practice are the ones who have delved deep into yoga philosophy and truly encapsulate the principles of ‘ahimsa’ (non harming) and ‘santosha’ (contentment). The ones that try to do less actually achieve more. You’ll find in a class that the more ‘advanced’ yogis, the teachers or those who have been practicing for years will be the ones taking childs pose, having a rest, not taking every single option. On the other hand, those newer to yoga will often be forcing, grimacing and puffing and panting their way through flows and options that their bodies just aren’t ready for yet.

The more we start to embrace the ideas of contentment, the less we are driven by the ‘ego’. It is our egos which force us to do more, to think negatively when we fall or lose balance, it is the ego that draws unflattering comparisons to others about ourselves. But we are all different, our bodies are built differently, what one person can do another may physiologically be able to do. The person practicing next to you could have been doing yoga for 20 years or even teach.

When we break yoga down, it’s so much more than the physical. While I absolutely love the physical, it’s not what makes me come back to the mat. For me, the practice is starting to become a place where I listen to my body, if I want to move and do a strong practice I will, but if I need a slow, yin like-practice I’ll embrace that. I accept that my body doesn’t want to attempt handstands every day, that I can actually get so much more out of my practice through a steady and slow breathe, some stillness and quiet.

The magic happens when we go beyond the physical, I think that what makes you more ‘advanced’ at yoga is when you get less attached to the poses, this way it doesn’t matter if you face plant, you get back up and try again, even if it’s a million more times. Everything is just an opportunity to experiment and explore, to try something new and learn something about your body, that way you’ll never fail and you’ll never be good or bad, it’s simply an investigation.

Be curious, let the ego take a back seat, take your yoga to the next level.

"You can't please everyone, you are not an avocado."

What to do when a student gets yoga rage in your class

We’ve all been there. YOGA RAGE, it’s a thing. When you’re in a class and you’re not enjoying yourself, getting frustrated and not feeling zen at all. I’ve had it and I know a lot of yogis who have had it.

But what happens when YOU’RE on the receiving end of yoga rage?

I recently taught a cover class at a studio and I could feel the yoga rage from one student, she looked bored and frustrated, kept doing her own thing on the mat, looking round the room and even checked her phone- TWICE! I’m not going to lie, I was a bit upset, it did put me off and I was suddenly doubting my teaching capabilities, even though I’ve taught a million classes all with great feedback and happy students! One unhappy student was enough to bring my confidence down within seconds!

I then spoke to several other teacher friends who have had the same thing happen and I thought I'd write down 3 tips for when something like this happens, it really helped me.

1. Don’t take it personally

Obviously easier said than done, but you don’t know that person’s story, what they did in their day or what’s happening in their lives. Their yoga rage may not have anything to do with you at all!In addition, know that you are NOT alone, so many teachers have experienced the same thing, and it hasn’t got anything to do with your competence or abilities as a teacher, so many experienced and incredible teachers have had something similar happen in their classes so its not just you.

2. Focus on the positive

If only 1 person out of 20 people enjoyed your class, that’s good enough. If you got some smiles and chuckles, job done. You’ve brought space and balance to a student, you've accomplished your role as a yoga teacher. You’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, yoga is a very personal thing. I’ve been taught by several ‘celebrity yoga teachers’ at the height of their careers at top yoga studios and didn’t enjoy their classes so it’s okay if someone doesn’t like yours!

3.  Keep Teaching

Teaching is all practice. After that class, I dreaded my next classes as I was worried the same thing would happen. It didn’t. Don’t let one bad experience put you off.

Just in case no one told you today, you’re doing great. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

And remember: “You can’t please everyone you’re not an avocado.”

This goes not just for yoga classes, but in life. 

3 Reasons why it is okay to cry in a yoga class

3 reasons why it’s okay to cry in your yoga class

I used to find crying embarrassing, a sign of weakness and I would do my best to never cry in public, especially in a yoga class. However, in a recent class, tears came pouring from my eyes as I was in Pidgeon pose. Instead of feeling embarrassed, I embraced the sense of weightlessness and space I felt from the release, I left the class feeling lighter then ever.

1.       It is better to let it all go.

Crying is a form of release. Some places in our bodies like our hips hold onto deep rooted emotions, so when doing heart openers or hip openers it’s very common for emotions to surface, even if there’s no trigger behind them. Crying helps these deep seated emotions release, allowing us to find more space in our bodies and move on from any of these old feeling we no longer need. It just felt as if a weight off my shoulders had been lifted even though I couldn’t pinpoint where these emotions were coming from.  Holding in emotions will create tension in the body, so it’s better to allow them to flow!

2.       It is okay to feel.

I used to spend a lot of time trying to repress any negative emotions I felt, like sadness, anger, frustration and jealousy because of the negative connotations such emotions have. However, I’ve learnt to acknowledge all my feelings, the good and bad. We are all entitled to feel what we want whether happy or sad. Just embrace whatever you feel with kindness and without judgement

3.       No one will mind.

I’ve always felt self-conscious about expressing my feelings in public and feeling vulnerable. I was worried that people would be looking at me and staring. However, Yogi’s are some of the most supportive and caring people I know. In fact, it was a beautiful moment to share. During this class, another student next to me, also a yoga teacher started to cry too. After the class she came up to me and gave me a hug. This connection to another person was so comforting and uplifting. Sharing emotions and feelings with others is a beautiful experience we shouldn’t shy away from.

So just remember, that it’s okay to cry or even laugh in your yoga practice. When you start to feel something in yoga, it just means that yoga is doing its work! So just observe what comes up with love and then let it go. 

Yoga Teacher Training Advice

5 Pieces of Advice for Yoga Teacher Training

I am fresh out of yoga school and here are 5 pieces of advice I’d like to share with others based on my experience.

1.       Go with a beginner mind

I was under the mistaken impression that I would leave my YTT having perfected numerous arm balances and fancy inversions. However, the yoga practice was really basic. Bear in mind, there is such a range of abilities, some seasoned practitioners and other beginners on the training. A very basic yoga practice took me a while to get used to, but it humbled me and allowed me to really perfect my technique and alignment in the core, foundational poses.

2.       Prepare to feel all kinds of emotions

I’m normally a pretty happy go lucky kind of person. But on the training all my emotions were heightened. I felt frustrated and was incredible irritated at times. But at others I was bursting with happiness. The increased self observation, meditation and silence really starts to bring up a variety of emotions even if you cannot pin them down to a certain trigger. Just observe and let go. Remember, we are not our feelings!

3.       Rest when you can

I find it difficult to really relax during the day and during our self-study breaks I would go on walks, maybe squeeze in some self-practice in the couple of hours. However, in the final week, this really took its toll. I was exhausted. Take power naps to restore your energy. When you have a quiet hour or so really use it for yourself. You’ll need it!

4.       Support your peers

Sometimes yoga can be competitive, with everyone comparing and assessing others. However, it’s important to create a support system and a community on your training. It makes the experience so much more fun and pleasant when you let go of comparisons. Everyone has been doing yoga for different periods of times and ultimately we all have different body types. I’ve made some incredible friends.

5.       Enjoy it!

While the YTT is really intense and tiring, it is also so much fun. Smile, Laugh and Let go! When else are you going to be surrounded by like-minded yogi’s doing so much yoga every single day