Teacher training: one week down, four more to go!

Well I’ve survived my first week of my 500 hour teacher training. It hasn’t been easy and I’ve certainly been challenged. Here are some of the highlights/key points:

Michel Besnard
Think Clint Eastwood as he is now. But French. Mischievous blue eyes that glint when he’s being cheeky. According to Ayumu (Japanese, this is her second course with him), he’s currently being gentle with us. That’s a scary thought.

He’s a sucker for British comedy and loves Ricky Gervais and The Think of It. He quotes Fawlty Towers over breakfast and Allo Allo during class: [adopt French accent] “Leeeesen very carefoooly… I will say zis only wunce…”

As I’ve mentioned already, he seems to like prodding and slapping bottoms and probably rightly says that he’d get sued if he taught in the States. He has taught all over the world and spent years with Iyengar and Sri Pattabhi Jois. I’ve never met anyone as knowledgeable about yoga poses and he’s so humble. I think this is my favourite line of his so far: “Eeef anyone ever tries to keees ma feet, I tell dem to fack off.”

Rosalyn, his Chinese girlfriend and glamorous teaching assistant, is the bendiest person I’ve ever met. They’re a great double act.

We’re being trained so that by the end of the course, we’ll go away with an Ashtanga self practice comprising the primary series with the odd bit of the second series thrown in to provide balance. We’re all at different levels. Some people, like me, have hardly done any Ashtanga whilst others would scare my Dad.

I’m learning that the practice is truly beautiful. It’s so graceful. I’m also now aware of the benefits of a Mysore style class. We all do the set poses in sequence at our own pace. Michel and Rosalyn walk around the room giving adjustments and reminding us of the next posture when we forget.

I’ve learnt so much already and much is contradictory to Sivananda and other styles of yoga. As Michel says, we’ll do what he says for the next five weeks and then take away what we want – a lot of it makes a lot of sense though. Some of his teachings:

  • Mula bandha (pelvic floor to you and me): “Are you engaging your mula bandha?” If I had a Baht for every time I’ve heard that this week I’d be able to… erm… buy a banana.
  • Breathing into your abdomen? Forget it! How can you engage your mula bandha if you do that?!
  • Move the flesh away from your buttocks? That’s how you stretch your hamstrings beyond their capacity. Instead, roll the flesh away from your thighs, moving it upwards.
  • You think you know how to do Warrior I and II/Camel/Utkatasana/Sarvangasana/[insert name of almost any other pose]? You’re doing it wrong!!

It’s been a steep but amazing learning curve and we’ve all been put on the spot.

Utthita hasta padangustasana
Utthita hasta padangustasana (image from Yoga Journal)

The S.I. sisters
Lucy and I are in the special needs corner. Lucy is from Atlanta and enjoys DJ-ing when not teaching. Michel and Rosalyn are so astute. On day one they noticed that we both had problems with upward dog as we have sacro-iliac joint problems. We were given a modified practice. For sun salutations and vinyasa sequences we replace the troublesome dog with sphinx -> childs pose -> downward dog. We miss out utthita hasta padangustasana as we work our way through the standing poses. It’s about doing the poses in a way that suits your body and accepting ourselves as we currently are.

The resort
We’re very comfortable here with our air-con and our laundry service. I would probably go as far as to say that it feels a bit sterile and you could forget that you’re in Thailand. I haven’t seen one milipede.

But the pool and steam room are going down a treat after dinner most days. Chris (6ft 3in blonde haired, blue eyed Swede) has had his underwater camera out and we’ve been larking about practicing asanas in the pool. Another learning: no-one looks attractive in underwater photos.

Laughter yoga
We did this on the last day of the module with Michel. He  had us all going “haaaa haaaaa heee hee” whilst clapping at each other in a slightly demented fashion. Pearl (Thai and very huggy) clamped the sides of her face with her hands to prevent laughter lines/crow’s feet. Pearl was funnier than the laughter yoga.

The schedule
We’re in our Mysore class for 7am until 9.30am then we get an hour and 30 minutes for breakfast and a break. This week we’ve been spending the rest of the day with Michel but for the remainder of the course we’ll have the 11am – 1.30pm and the 3pm – 7pm sessions with different tutors. For the next five days it’s anatomy then we’ll have a day off.

Well that’s it for week one. My fellow students are all fab and bring their own thing to the table. Mitch for example is quite the linguist. He can speak Orcish and Elvish. This is a joke. Mitch, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry I started it. We’ll soon get bored of it… maybe by the final week.

I hope you’re all enjoying the Olympics. I should be at the athletics today but instead I’m here!

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