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.

Enjoyed this article? Read Good Posture: Do You Have It?

Terry Littlefield

Terry Littlefield, RYT-500, Integrated Yoga Tune Up® teacher, and long-time practitioner, is a passionate educator with a big sense of humor and an even bigger heart. Her classes are a blend of science and spirit, breath work and ball work (Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls, of course), movement and meditation. If you want to have fun and experience safe, functional movement within your yoga practice, she’s your yogi.

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Amanda Burchert

I agree with each one of these points especially #2. The more you know, the more you realize you don`t know! I am grateful for the opportunity of experiencing the Level 1 Teacher Training as it has opened my eyes to new things and has made me a more inquisitive person – watching, questioning, practicing and reading.

Laura

Thank you for this top ten list! I can relate to pretty much everything. Serratus Anterior and the value of protraction was my major body blind spot discovery during my Level 1 training and I can already feel the effects of this increased awareness!

Robert Ouellet

I came to the yoga very late in my life and I am over 60 years old. I was surprise that a lot of yoga teacher and their students are in the performing mood to do the strangest and complicated asana. Almost no body correct you to have a good alignement. The author of the article give me hope that yoga circus will change in a near future.

Isabelle Côté

Always a student…. until 120 years old! It is so captiving to read what a teacher, after all these experiences, keep in her mind like a treasure. I am so greatful for the all the sharing with us. Merci!

Isabelle Côté

Always more to learn ! Until 120 years old. I am a student forever and with real joy and curiosity. So interesting to read what a teacher keep in is mind after these learnings and I am so greatful for all the sharing with us. Merci!

Katie Rutterer

As I crest the hump of my TT1, this post spoke to me in so many ways.

Body blind spots? Knew I had them, but was humbled to find out they were not at all where I expected them to be. And there’s probably more.

I love that the learning goes on – that what keeps this work so interesting to me!

Ekaterina

Agree with each point. And one of the things that important for me at the moment “Anatomy matters”. I’m 500hr certified yoga teacher. And I always felt I was missing something important. Now I’m in 70hr Lewel 1 YTU Programm. And finally I finger out what was missing “Anatomy”. Bingo. Now I have opportunity to fix it

Marie-pierre

Wow, je viens tout juste de terminer 70hres Yoga Tune Up.
J’ai aussi compris que “je suis l’élève de mon corps”
Merci pour cet article, il est un récapitulatif des moments forts de cette extraordinaire formation!

Marie-pierre

Wow, je viens tout juste de terminer 70hres Yoga Tune Up.
J’ai aussi compris que “je suis l’élève de mon corps”
Merci pour cet article, il est un récapitulatif des moments forts de cette extraordinaire formation!

Cheryl

I could relate so much! I just finished the training, also took an indepth YTT 200 hr and my brain was swimming (or gasping for breath) during the YTU training. I love learning, anatomy, etc. I’ll be rereading this blog and please write more. They’re fantastic!

Therese

Love your list! Especially #10. Sometimes listening to a chorus of Dart Vadars will keep you for relaxing. Quiet, please.

Lyson

tellement vrai. Super top 10. Beaucoup d’informations à partager et encore plus à apprendre encore! thanks

Anna

Terry, this is awesome. I am in the level 1 training right now (just finished day 5) and I couldn’t agree more with your top 10. I find it hard to write down only 3 things every morning 🙂 I feel like this is planting the seed for so much more learning and serving in the future. Knowledge is power and I certainly feel empowered!

Bridget

I tried to find my top three in this list, and I simply cannot do it. This is a great summary of the therapy ball experience. I wish I would have seen this months ago as people have asked about the therapy balls that I keep at work and in my car, and about the YTU level 1 training that I enrolled for. This provides a great summary, and is written in a way to be enticing for others to want to experience the therapy balls on their own. I will be sharing this link!

Juliet Hewitt

I love your list. For me the lesson on being a student of my body has been huge. So much of my yoga training was focused on helping others, that I forgot about the importance of taking care of myself. It is true for me that in order to care for others I have to take care of myself. And that the learning never stops!

Lita

This is a really helpful post, especially starting with #1 Posture. I have been having sort of a dilemma about yoga and what it is for me (and then what I want to share with others.) I have currently landed on helping us live better in our bodies (for a long time!) So this means becoming aware of habits, tendencies in standing, sitting, moving sleeping, etc.; noticing what might be working for you and what might be causing some issues (in your tissues.) Then go about educating ourselves, learning ways to counter not so functional tendencies and incorporating new beneficial… Read more »

Miao Zhang

This is such a great list! I’m on Day 1 of the training and I so look forward to seeing how much I can learn by Day 7! These points are so true and thank you for putting them into words and sharing. Live to learn. Live to learn. The more you learn, the more you realize how much more there is left to learn. Totally true.

Jennie

So great, I agree with ALL of them as amazing things learned through the Level 1 Yoga Tune Up course. Over using Ujjayi breath was one that was pointed out as a form to comfort myself when I can be replacing it with my Sankalpa at times when Ujjayi breath isn’t needed or instructed for a certain use.

jordana

this is fantastic!! it captures the idea of “living in the questions” which is something i have grown to accept and embrace over the past few years. that i dont have to have all the answers, and that its good not to b/c it encourages you to learn. i am proud to continually be a student-and in that role as student helping to keep myself sometimes on the other side of the classroom, even when i am teaching. i am a student of my body!!! this practice has also enabled me and empowered me-to learn how to be strong, to… Read more »

Kimmi Ott

Love the list! Similar experiences myself. My favorite is #10. Recently I told my students if your breathing is so loud that its disrupting the class, your probably disrupting your own nervous system and over toning way too much!!

sarah howard

Loved # 5. I work with athletes who seem to do the same thing over and over again and have been since an early age- lift, run, sport specific training. And they wonder why they are in pain (esp shoulder and low back). A movement practice is NOT included in their normal routine yet it is essential! That’s where I come in!

Melody

I couldn’t have said it any better. I love this recap. Printing and adding to my files. Therapy Balls also changed my life. I take them everywhere, even on long car rides to keep me sane.

Keisha F.

I finished training not long ago and it was great to hear that ujjayi breath has a time and place. It’s been such a huge focus my my practice ever since I can remember. Being able to leave this out sometimes so I can give my undivided attention to safe posture is way more important and I’m happy to feel like I now have the “permission” to do so moving forward.

Chris

Having recently gone through the teacher training myself, this was a perfect way for me to share with my friends what I learned. In particular the section on other kinds of movement is key for me. I have a pretty set routine of running and yoga, and the need to add new exercises to my routine to build and maintain balance are not only challenging (read engaging) but just plain fun!

Sebastien Noel

Un beau rappel de se qu’on a appris dans nos cours.Il y a tellement de choses à explorer dans le yoga,c’est un monde fascinant qui est toujours en évolution.

Elise

I just finished my YTU teacher training level 1 this week. I was not already of yoga teacher, but your top 10 list is the reflection of the my overall learning during this week. Also, I had a “heated” discussion with my family, doctors, chiropractor, on the benefits of YTU….NEVER do that !!!! lol I should make them read this article !!!

Thank you !!

Patricia Lamontagne

I just ended my Yoga Tune Up for Teachers course and all week long I heard this oceanic breathing (ujjayi) all around in the classroom. At the end of the week (or so), we learned that the ujjayi breathing is not something we HAVE to practice all the time in Yoga Tune Up training. In my regular yoga practice, I noticed that this breathing technique used to create some tensions in my neck but I thought it was because my body was just not supple enough. Now I know that this breathing technique may be not convenient for every exercise… Read more »

Geri Jannarone

As a new YTU TT who’s half way through the level 1 training, I found this blog such a perfect wrap up of all the things that make the method GREAT!

Cat Murcek

Thank you for sharing this, Terry! I especially appreciate the reminders about squatting well and keeping the gluts fired in backbends. I’d forgotten the importance of those things and now I’m second guessing how well I squat! lol

Alfredo Figueroa

Omg. It’s crazy. I am undergoing the level 1 certification and I am realizing the exact same things!
I’m totally geeking out.

And yes, the 11th, is the best.

Alexandra Duncan

Dear Terry, thank you for your great blog. I am currently doing the YTU Level 1 and after I enrolled, I did still have some questions about what I could expect from the training. Your article (and number 11) really motivated me even more and made me really look forward to the training. Now that I am in the middle of it, I couldn’t agree more with what you have written. I also love that there is also a focus on Sankalpa and mindfulness throughout the sessions, for me as a Yogi this keeps me connected to my spiritual side… Read more »

Sharon

Hi Terry, This is a beautiful, succint, and personal list – thank you so much for sharing. I am currently working through the Level 1 YTU training, and this read was helpful to integrate the knowledge being presented. I love #8 – It all matters. I have a lovely yoga teacher who is fond of saying, “Everything Matters.” That has always stuck with me, she says it as in the opposite approach to “whatever, it doesn’t matter.” Just the phrase “Everything Matters” struck a cord with me from a movement/biomechanics perspective in class, to the small actions and sayings and… Read more »

Vanessa Coulombe

Good top ten t hanks!

Sandy Gross

LOVE! Just shared it on FB.

Jaro

Terry, you are hilarious! What a great blog! So true! Maybe you should take over David Letterman, not Colbert!! Excellent summary of weaknesses of our bodies. Yes, I am a student of my body and now after YTU Teacher Training Level 1, I am not only a student, but an explorer/voyager/advanturer of my body!! So many things to improve, so many body parts to fix! Your Top Ten just NAILED IT!!!

Mindy Micheli

What a great post Terry! Your top 10 are so incredibly applicable and spot-on that I recorded them in my Yoga Tune Up manual…just for safe-keeping. One of your quotes that I loved is “My class is different every time because there is not a box big enough to hold all of the tools I learned and continue to learn”. It feels wonderful to look forward to this continued YTU process that encourages us each as individuals to learn and innovate everyday. This training was so inspiring on so many levels. I agree with you that we could continue this… Read more »

Chadd

I too finished the Level 1 Certification training and YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES to the top 10! I have a hard time creating a hierarchy of what I learned because it’s all so integrated in what we practice and how we live. For me, however, the “fasciae” of the training for me was my Sankalpa. I have to admit when Jill first told us to make our Sankalpa, I thought “Oh boy. Time to get woo-woo.” But you know what? It was actually time for ME to get a little woo woo. I reluctantly… Read more »

Baylea

I just finished Level 1 Certification training with Jill and you nailed it! I love your saying “same same equals same same”, before attending the training I was feeling stale in my teaching techniques and was observing a plateau with my students success in poses. After the training I began to insert YTU techniques and principles and literally in one class observed so much body awareness and introspection from my students, it was amazing!

Terry Littlefield

@Marnie. Great question. I wrote a blog on the butt. The link is below. Have you asked your teacher why? For me, after studying Jill Miller, Kelly Starrett, Jules Mitchell, Katy Bowman, et cetera, I’ve had to let go of a lot of “old” yoga cues: soften your glutes, spread your collar bones, flex your feet, stretch your IT band… I make the choice that is right for me and my body which is to turn those strong muscles ON. My backbends feel better, as do my hips. Hope this helps:) http://www.yogatuneup.com/blog/2014/12/03/no-butts-about-it/

Bonnie Chiong

FANTASTIC Top 10! It made me chuckle a bit as I have just finished the Level 1 training, especially ‘Body Blind Spots’ and ‘Throw the Box Away!’ Great list to forward on to those who ask, “Why do I need to do another training??”

Diane

So true. Breaking down to the basics to rebuild a strong structure is a lifetime of learning and practising and relearning and practising more. l am always reminded of the old Chinese proverb “house complete, life over.” It is so exciting to be a part of intelligent discovery and sharing this knowledge. We are all better for it. Namaste. Diane

Alisa Fairbanks

Yes, yes, yes! Great list and I totally agree with everything (I actually just completed the level 1 training). These are things to always remember!

Marnie

This is a timely article for me because no.1 I am currently studying backbends in my 200 hour Ytt and I recently joined crossfit to increase my mobility and strength. In my teaching manual, ( Teaching Yoga by Mark Stephens it indicates to relax the buttocks in back bends. I have always had a strong backbend practice with engaging my buttocks and I find relaxing that part of my body during back bends counter intuitive.
Could you explain why in more detail? Thanks!

Heather

Thank you so much for this post Terry. I got the role model book recently and I’m loving it. I haven’t taken Jill’s workshop yet, but I’m excited to take it in the future. Love your post about the squats. Looking forward to helping other people become students of their bodies. Thank you!

Bob

So so true, Yoga Tune Up training awakens more the body blind spots it opens the mind to some of its blinds spots. The more I learn the more I realize that there is to learn. At 60 plus my mind is struggling a bit to take it all in but i’m enjoying the challenge and my students seem to be really digging it too. Every yoga class is a little different, a little more student focused.

Luciana

Thanks Terry for this article. This is actually true. The YTU teacher training level 1 manual and the Roll Model book are my daily inspirations and amazing ideas and informations resources. Great 10 top list.!!

Sonia

I am a movement geek and am also addicted to learning. I love what Yoga Tune Up is all about. I have been working on my posture for a few years now and have noticed lots of improvements. I love that there is still so much to learn. Great top 10 list!

Kate

Nailed it!!! I love this list. Thank you.

Helen McAvoy

Spectacular!!! Thank you Terry! Hope to meet you one day!

Heather

Love your post – as I’m just finishing my teacher training I too have learned your list of ten.