Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Forward Bends & Learning Sanskrit with Cheryl Oliver - YTT Week 7

March 2nd:

On Wednesday we learned Standing Forward Bends and I had to sit out some of them because I got too dizzy.  I did a class before YTT and was so tired and hungry by the time it started, I had no energy (and too much blood flow) to stay bent over for very long.  We also practiced Sun Salutations again, but mostly just learned the next 3 poses and how to talk people through them.  I made more flash cards and attached them here, for you.

March 4th and 5th:

This past week was an amazing experience for me, in my yoga teacher training.  We got to work with Cheryl Oliver, who is an Astanga Yoga teacher and professional speaker and teacher of Sanskrit (visit her studio's website).  I was thinking that the weekend was going to be so boring, full of learning a truly dead language from a boring linguist - but man was I wrong!  Cheryl was vibrant, confident, fun, loud and such an incredible and entertaining teacher; I am actually sad that she won't be joining us for the rest of our training.  She was just awesome and it's so cool that she's local, I would love to take one of her classes (when I'm not pregnant, because man am I sore from her Astanga flow!).

There is no real way I can put into words what I learned from Cheryl.  She has a booming voice, a beautiful singing (chanting) voice and just commands a room.  We did a lot of repeating after her and the energy in the room when she would sing or say a word and then we would say it - it was infectious and energizing - something I can't really convey through writing.  The enthusiasm from her, from all of us, from our YTT teachers - all coming together in repetitious chants - it was just awesome.  That's all I can really say.  If you have any interest in learning Sanskrit, Cheryl has handouts that make it really easy, and CDs of pose names and chants that you can purchase for $10 each, contact her through the website above and get your hands on one.  I HIGHLY recommend it.

Did you know that most yoga teachers are pronouncing poses and chants incorrectly?  I had no idea and most of the websites I use to look up poses are missing symbols on the letters that tell you how to correctly pronounce the pose names.  Who knew?!  Cheryl did and taught us and now I will be much more selective when choosing which sites I use to search for poses - don't use a website that doesn't include the correct Sanskrit names - symbols and all.

It was eye-opening and thoroughly entertaining and the time went by SO FAST on Friday.  On Saturday, we started with an Astanga practice and learned the names of poses as we went, repeating after her and trying them out on our own.  We did a practice that lasted almost 2 hours and it left me sore for days.  I was truly a waste on Sunday, I spent most of the day in bed after a morning birthday party, and am still sore days later.  I need to remember that my body isn't what it used to be and to maybe take it easy on myself so that I don't tired myself out where I spent most of the next day in bed.  It was awesome but really it wiped me out!  After our practice she told us the story of the Warrior poses, something I'd never heard before, and she was an awesome story-teller, I could listen to her tell stories all day long.

After lunch, we learned the first 4 Yoga Sutras and the quotes she had, and the way she explained them, was magical.  She made it really stick in my head and even to this day (4 days later) I find myself chanting what I learned from her in my head, and thinking about some amazing quotes she told us while she taught us.  From one teacher to another, she was truly incredible and knew how to involve her students, make it entertaining and keep us busy.  She even made us get up and move around when she could tell she was losing us, I need to try this with my own high school students!

I hope to meet/see her again, her energy is contagious and her spirit is amazing.  If you get a chance to work with Cheryl, DO IT.

Some things she said that stuck with me (all quotes/translations from Cheryl, interpreting Patanjali's Yoga Sutras):

Sanskrit is the language of yoga.  To establish a common language is beneficial.  If you learn the names, you will be able to take your teaching around the world.  Not everyone speaks English, but all yogis speak Sanskrit.  If we pay attention to the language then it speaks to our credibility as an instructor.  As important as alignment.  Put together Sanskrit and English and then you’re teaching Sanskrit while teaching yoga.  Practice the Sanskrit while you are teaching, you get better by doing it.

First Yoga Sutra:
atha yoganusasanam

(I do not have a keyboard to put in the correct symbols for correct Sanskrit
pronunciation, my apologies.) 

Translated “now instruction in yoga begins” or “now is the opportunity for instruction in yoga” or “now you are ready for instruction in yoga.”

Think about life in big funnel – everything goes into big funnel (everyone you’ve met, thing you’ve ever said, etc.) – then it goes down and funneled into one essence.  That funnel has made you who you are right now and it has brought you here for instruction in yoga. 

Second Yoga Sutra (the answer to What is yoga?)
yogas citta-vrtti-nirodhah

“Yoga is the calming down of the movements of consciousness.  It is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.  It is the ability to not be bothered anymore by the turnings of consciousness.”  Monkey mind – living in the distraction – everything that’s happening in your life, interrupts the other thing, everything blends in to everyone else.

When we continue to allow ourselves to be distracted then the shit hits the fan.  One meaning of vrtti.
Another way to understand vrtti – had a big day, so tired, want to go to bed, then you finally lay down and get into bed and then the thoughts come.  That’s vrtti – turning (tornado) of thoughts.
Vrtti – stories that we tell ourselves or stories that other people tell us about who we are.  “Yoga is the ability to move past the stories that we tell ourselves and the stories that other people tell us about who we are.”

“I am a _______.”  Answer the question.  Then take it away and what do you feel?  If we build our identity on something external to us, then we are destined to suffer.At a deep level, if we build our sense of self on something that is changeable, we will suffer.  If yoga is about reducing suffering and increasing happiness – make sure you hitch your star next to something that is never changing.

“Yoga is the ability to no longer be affected by the stories we tell ourselves or the stories other people tell us about who we are.”

Third Yoga Sutra (the answer to “If I do this, what will happen to me?”):
Tada drastuh svarupe vasthanam

“Then we live in our true nature” or “Then the true you can shine through.”  What is my true nature?

We are made of layers.  Our outer most layer is the annamayakosa (body that is made of food, physical body), then you have the pranamayakosa (life force, energy), the next layer is the manomaya kosa (mind body, mental body), then deeper you are in the vijnanamaya kosa (intuition, your true deep knowledge, that which you truly, deeply know), then the heart of things (the center of the being) anandamayakosa (bliss, ultimate happiness).

At the center of yoga, my true nature is bliss.  Don’t worry if you feel like this is a “load of crap,” your ananda has been covered up all through your life.  The vrtti has covered it all up.  The more that those pile on and the longer they have been there, the harder it is to break through.

From the practice of yoga the impurities are diminished which leads to the light of knowing.  Amazingly optimistic message.

Through yoga all of that stuff that has built up will fall away, and we will have the light of knowing.  We are not victims, never victims.  We never have to be a victim, we always have a choice.  We use our discriminative faculty, we make a wise choice and if those choices aren’t covered up by vritti then we can make a wise choice.

Cheryl chants the 3rd Sutra, listen here.

Fourth Yoga Sutra (the answer to "What happens to me if I don't do this yoga thing?")
vrtti sarupyam itaratra

“Otherwise we identify with the vrtti” or “otherwise you are condemning yourself to suffering” or “ you are condemning yourself to suffer by identifying with something external to you.”

See the choices available and then take action.  

Cheryl chants the 4th Sutra, listen here.

I also recorded Cheryl explaining these 4 yoga sutras in a very simple, understandable way.  Listen here.  I also recorded her chanting the sutras and us chanting them.  Kind of long but entertaining, so tough to do but so powerful, I loved it!  Listen here.  (These are .wma audio files, you may need an app or extension to be able to listen to them.)

And a very short video of some of us chanting:

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