During our 4th weekend together for the 200hr Teacher Training, we focus on back bends. This can be a difficult weekend physically because back bends require a lot of strength and concentration. We also discussed the anatomy of the back and how to stay safe in your asana practice. At the end of the weekend, Jacque gave a guest lecture on yoga therapeutics.
On Friday night, we reviewed sequencing of standing poses, and then talked about sequencing an entire class. There are different strategies to putting together a class. You can build towards a peak pose, focus on an anatomical area, build a class around a philosophical theme, or just offer a generalized class. No matter what type of class you are building, you are trying to create a certain experience for you students. And the experience comes in part from how the class is put together. A class that starts with headstand is going to be a very different experience than a class that starts in child's pose. So we talked about strategies for putting together an effective class that would offer a positive experience for students.
Each day of teacher training, we do 20-30 minutes of meditation. Often we will start the day with meditation. Most of the time, we follow the simple instruction to focus on the breath. When you notice that your thoughts are wandering, recognize the pattern, and then redirect your attention to your breath. Our meditation practice is a constant practice of refocusing and redirecting. We expect that thoughts will come, but we do learn ways to manage our responses to thoughts. We began our day on Saturday with our usual meditation. Then I taught a 2 hour class that focused on two types of back bends - on the belly and on the back. On the belly back bends include locust, bow, frog, and side bow, among others. On the back back bends include bridge and wheel. Saturday's class was focused primarily on strengthening the back and preparing for wheel pose and drop backs. We practiced drop-backs at the wall. It was a new movement for most of the students and it takes some getting used to. A drop-back is when you start in tadasana and arch your back to 'drop' into wheel pose.
Here is a picture of one of the students in a wheel pose. This is a fairly new pose for Helen. She had only done wheel pose for the first time during our previous teacher training weekend. But she looks strong and comfortable in the pose!
On Saturday afternoon we learned about the anatomy of the back. The different segments of the back are adept at different types of movement. The cervical spine is fairly flexibly in all directions. The thoracic spine is specialized for twisting movements. And the lower back is specialized for back bending. However, in order to avoid putting too much strain on the lower back, we try to teach the rest of the back to participate in back bends. We talked a lot about scapular mobility and how to activate the middle and upper back. Back bends can be very therapeutic if they are done properly. Here is a screen shot from my power point presentation on the anatomy and benefits of backbends.
Jessica, the model in the picture above, is one of the graduates of our 2016 summer intensive and currently teaches at Blue Point's Geer St. location. (photo credit: Courtney Long)
On Sunday, we began again with a meditation practice followed by a class focused on a third type of back bends - those that are done on the shins, including camel pose and pigeon (kapotasana). There was a big emphasis on building strength in the quadriceps muscles in order to support the back bend. This was followed by some excellent student teaching. The day before, each student had been given a peak back bending pose, and was asked to put together a short 15 minute class geared towards that pose. There was a short introduction, a warm-up, standing sequence, and finally the back bend. Each student did a wonderful job and all are making great progress in their teaching.
Our next weekend together is in just three weeks. We will be working then on arm balancing and inversions.
If you are interested in our teacher training program, we will be unveiling dates for 2017 soon!