My name is Terry Littlefield and I’m addicted to learning. I wrote this blog because I want to share some of the highlights of studying with people that geek out and find joy in learning to help themselves and others in the movement arena. I wrote this blog because, as I learned in Yoga Tune Up®, I am a student of my body. (More on this later.) I wrote this blog because teaching is my passion and I want to teach people with the confidence and care that they deserve. I also wrote this blog because I used to love David Letterman’s Top Ten lists and wonder if Stephen Colbert will do them. They are so simple and so effective.
Since beginning my Yoga Tune Up® journey in 2012 and becoming an Integrated Yoga Tune Up® teacher, here are the Top Ten Things I have learned:
1. Posture is No. 1. Stand with your skull above your ribcage. Your ribcage above your pelvis. Think ears, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles all on the same lateral line. And most important, get your feet parallel. I cannot stress enough how important posture is. I practice good posture constantly. Like yoga, it’s a practice. I hope that students learn from me as a teacher. I want them to learn to stand up for themselves. That starts with good posture. Impeccable posture. If you are teaching with poor posture, stop it right now. You are better than that. And you are leading by example.
2. There’s always more to learn. A lot more to learn. I showed up to my first training thinking I already knew so much and learned there was so much left to learn. I’m not joking. I started with the Level 1 certification and my head exploded. Several times. I had a 200-RYT that was more in depth than most and I was still blown away with what I didn’t know. Shoulder flexion is arms above your head…oops. There’s more to a yoga class that 100 million chatturhangas and wild thing…Really? Wow! Okay. Cool.
3. Think outside the box. In fact, throw the box away. Honestly, I learned that there is no box. My class is different every time because there’s not a box big enough to hold all the tools I learned and continue to learn. Shoulder warmups before downward dog. That’s just crazy talk…Or is it? Hip issue? Pigeon is not the only answer!
4. Body blind spots. In YTU, body blind spots are places in your body that are lacking awareness. They’ve been abused, neglected, overused, underused, et cetera. I was introduced to my own body blind spots and it was beyond humbling. I have a great looking half moon pose but I have no gluteus medius. Uh-oh, someone has been resting in her joints, not using muscles. Body blind spots are no joke.
5. Other forms of movement are necessary. I learned about and tried other disciplines. I didn’t want to admit that I needed anything other than my yoga practice, but learning about strength and stabilization helped my low back, my hips, my crazy loose sacrum, my posture and my breath. Weights need to happen. I know. I know. But it’s true.
6. Squatting is crucial to growing old. I needed to learn how to squat. I thought I was squatting in yoga with chair pose but a real squat taught me where I needed to strengthen. My legs are getting stronger and my butt is getting better. Who doesn’t want a better butt? Gyms even have classes themed around getting a better butt. Aesthetically pleasing as it is, it’s necessary for pelvic floor health and ankle, knee and hip health. I advise you to work with a movement educator near you to learn to squat. I can teach you about squatting if you live in the amazing San Fernando Valley.
7. Using my backside in backbends is non-negotiable. I understand there is still controversy over this topic BUTT there doesn’t need to be. If I use my buttock muscles in backbends, I keep my low back safe and I, again, build a better, stronger, butt. Stop relaxing your glutes in backbends. Stop it already. Retire that cue.
8. It all matters. Anatomy, biomechanics, science, kinesiology, fascia, joints, muscles, load, bones, collagen… it all matters and if I care about my body, and the bodies that show up in my classroom, I should be learning all that I can, all of the time. Same same equals same same. Change it up.
9. Therapy balls changed my life. Sore muscles from teaching all day, overused, underused, abused tissues and joints knead therapy balls. I don’t go a day without rolling my feet. The best part of using the therapy balls? They help my students learn about their bodies. Do you know where your shoulder blade is? You will after you roll a ball all around it!
10. Ujjayi breathing is not necessary all the time. I use it sometimes, but I learned I can also quiet my mind and have meditation with quiet breath. It’s very freeing. I see students using ujjayi breath so forcefully it’s actually adding more stress to the practice of yoga. Learn ujjayi breath from a teacher and know it’s okay to use quiet breath as well in your practice and in life.
This list could go on and on, but a top ten list has to stop at ten…Or does it? Tune in Friday for No. 11. It’s a bonus and you don’t want to miss it.