Thursday, July 14, 2011

Weekend with Matthew Sanford

Thought during the weekend
This will likely be my last blog post before being out of touch for the next month while I'm in training. Fortunately for me, I get to write about an entire weekend of yoga with Matthew Sanford at Studio Bamboo.

So...some background. Amy Sanford, my yoga teacher in Nacogdoches at Morning Glory Yoga Studio, regularly keeps up with my practice despite me currently being 1,110 miles from Nac. When I told her I was going to Bamboo, she quickly studied everything about their website, their studio, and their instructors. After everything checked out okay, she saw that Matthew Sanford was giving a workshop at Bamboo. Amy attended his workshop in Texas at a yoga conference, so she recommended that I go to it if I could. Well, when your teacher tells you to do something, you better do it. :) I couldn't have been happier that she told me about it. What an incredible experience! The title of the weekend was called Self Realization and the Asana.

On Friday morning, Ann and Delynda went with Matthew to give a class to the physical therapy clinic staff at the hospital where I just so happen to be working. All I had to do that morning were three needle stick to draw blood in the lab. Guess who headed down to physical therapy clinic as soon as that was over...this guy. After only a quick introduction and a handshake, I instantly felt a connection to Matthew and knew it was going to be a spectacular weekend of learning.

Me and Matthew Sanford
at Studio Bamboo
If you didn't click on Matthew's link to learn more about him, I'll let you know that Matthew's story is incredible. When he was 13 years old, he was in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Despite this disability, he has been practicing yoga for 20 years and instructs what I imagine to be thousands of people every year. Not only does he instruct people who work with people with trauma, loss, and disability, but he leads yoga classes for people of all abilities. So, as Matthew says, "I'll ask you something to bake your noodle." How does someone who can't move their legs not only do yoga, but teach others how to do it? As I learned this weekend, yoga has a lot less to do with "Yoga Journal" poses than with the individual's own expression of the asana. It also has much more to do with energy than I imagined before this weekend.

After the class with the physical therapy clinic, I went with them to a yoga practice for the Wounded Warrior Project. I knew instantly that this was something I wanted to be a part of. I'm currently working with Ann from Bamboo to start the process of getting certified to teach. I learned recently that there is a possibility the rest of my GI Bill will pay for the certification. If possible, I'd love to help Ann with the classes and to be more involved in the project in general. Hopefully, I will be able to work with my chain of command to be able to attend the classes on the weekends to get certified. Friday night was an hour and a half talk with Matthew called Inner Body, Outer-Activism. We discussed his story, his book, and his non-profit called Mind Body Solutions.

Saturday's morning class was called Precision, Alignment, and Effortless Sensation and the afternoon class was The Art of Adjusting. Both classes were incredible. The poses that we did in the class weren't necessarily the most difficult or complex poses, but the way in which we did them brought a new aspect to even seemingly easy poses. The aspect that I'm talking about is the movement of energy through the spine and the body. Until this weekend, it's something that I've vaguely understood as a concept but hadn't actually felt. Through some group exercises involving partner posing and partner support, the difference between little to no energy vs. lots of energy was overwhelmingly apparent.

Sunday's morning class was Back Bending From the Inside Out. Oh man!! Back bends are my favorite poses. To me, the opening of the chest is one of the most wonderful feelings about the physical aspect of yoga practice. It's also one of the greatest non-phsyical aspects because of the flood of emotions and energy that is released in all back bends. We did some gradual chest openers and some work with straps an partners that I've never done before. The Sunday afternoon class was a teacher training. There was a lot of discussion during this class. The discussion began with the difficulties that people who practice yoga have in explaining yoga to people who don't practice or aren't quite sure what yoga is. What I took away from this discussion was that everyone has some form of yoga as a concept. It may not be a practice of asana, breath, and emptying the mind. But what I learned is that yoga as a feeling can be translated into many different activities and states of mind without actually practicing traditional yoga. I also learned that a lot of yoga can't be explained in ways that our science-y western minds typically think. Some things about yoga just feel good and don't need an explanation at all. When your teacher comes around and gives you a subtle adjustment, it's very rare that it doesn't feel good. It has little to do with the teacher trying to "fix" your pose. After this weekend, I've learned that it has almost everything to do with the positive energy from the teacher to the student and the student to the teacher. Teaching and learning go both ways, and the benefits of that exchange go to both the teacher and the student equally.

The weekend of learning and practicing really solidified that I would like to teach at some point. While I really want to go ahead with the teacher training as soon as possible, I still think it's too soon for me to actually teach. I'm not sure that there will be a defining moment where I will feel ready, but as of today, I don't think I'm ready. Part of wanting to do the teacher training is to gain a better understanding of my own practice and where I want to take it before I try to share it with others. I'll be exploring all of this over the next three years.

On the wall at Hot House Yoga - it
looks like yoga mats, but it's just
paint on the wall surrounded
by a frame - genius
I went to another studio yesterday. It was my first visit to Hot House Yoga in Virginia Beach. There are two studios for Hot House. I really enjoy the hot yoga, and Hot House only offers hot yoga. It's a different experience than non-hot classes. I'm not sure if I would like that to be my main studio though because I'm not sure if constant hot classes are safe. I definitely see the benefits of them, but maybe not as my sole practice. Either way, the studio, the instructor, and the class were all great. They also offer teacher training at Hot House, but I really think I want my teacher training to come from Bamboo even if my main practice doesn't come from their. I feel very connected to the teachers at Bamboo and I think they would be the best fit for me. I still need to visit The Space Above which is also closer to our house in Norfolk.'s late, and there is more nursing orientation tomorrow morning at 0730. I hope everyone enjoys the rest of the this month and next month. See y'all in August.


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