By far my favorite topic to teach during yoga teacher training is Philosophy. When I first started practicing asana, I wanted nothing to do with it, but now I’m enthralled with the Eight Limbs, the yamas and niyamas, the kleshas and Kriya Yoga. Plus I usually end up blowing participants’ minds during Philosophy because it’s information they’ve never been exposed to before entering teacher training.
When I get to the posture modules, though, this is where 99% of the participants get jump-on-the-couch-Tom-Cruise-style excited.
I can’t blame them.
In the West, especially in America, we all start yoga in the physical practice (known as Hatha) where the focus is on breathing, postures, and meditation. I started there, too!
During yoga teacher training, participants get to dig into the details of around 50 poses, experimenting with different tweaks and tips to see what works the best for them. And afterward their eyes are bright and shiny with newfound knowledge for practicing postures.
It all starts with Mountain Pose
The first pose we unpack in yoga teacher training is Mountain Pose. In Dona Holleman‘s Dancing on the Body of Light (don’t go looking for it, it’s long out of print.) she dedicates seven and half pages to explaining the anatomical positioning for Mountain Pose.
She writes, “Tadasana (Mountain) contains all the postures in the same way as white light contains all the colors of the rainbow.”
By this, she refers to how every pose has some element of Mountain within in. It may only be an elongated spine, or a knee in alignment with your ankle, but it’s there all the same. And by understanding the individual elements of Mountain, you will be that much better able to “execute” the other poses.
IT ALL STARTS WITH YOUR FEET
I can’t retype 7.5 pages (that’s a naughty thing to do without copyright permission) but I can share the important functions your feet provide in standing postures.
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MOUNTAIN FEET RECAP
Here’s a quick recap for proper feet positioning in Mountain Pose:
1. Your feet need to be hips-width distance apart for optimal alignment and stacking of your joints.
2. Your feet need to be parallel, toes facing forward, in order to engage your thighs and protect your low back.
3. Your weight needs to be evenly distributed through the four corners of your feet.
There’s so much to pay attention to, and that’s just with your feet. There are six more alignment considerations and I cover them in the full video available in the Mini Yoga Teacher Training.
One of the best ways to prevent injuries from yoga classes is to understand, first, the pose and its purpose, then understand how your body responds in those poses so you can adapt as necessary.
My goal when instructing individuals is to show the functional side of yoga. We see enough of the pretty aesthetics and cirque de soleil poses. What most of us need from our yoga practice is increased range of motion, better circulation, and consistent stress relief all while having a body with fewer aches and pains.