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My Yoga Teacher Training: Week One

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More To Love teaches plus size women how to learn body-acceptance and end dieting for good. 

My Yoga Teacher Training: Week One

Rachel Estapa

A drawing of myself in Mountain Pose

A drawing of myself in Mountain Pose

Atha yoga anushasanam
“Now, the teachings of yoga.”
—Yoga Sutra 1.1

I’m officially done with my first week of yoga teacher training! I want to share with you some of my experiences and thoughts as best I can. 

About Kripalu

Nestled in the hills of the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts lies a place that is magical. Converted from an old monastery, Kriaplu stands upon a sweeping hillside overlooking a lake, surrounded by lush grounds and hidden places of sanctuary. You can feel upon entering the space something is welcoming, yet very unfamiliar, about this place. 

Kripalu means 'compassion' in Sanskrit and is the name-sake of the yogic leader the center was devoted to. Every inch of the land, building, programs and people resonate the pure and simple message held within its name. Kriaplu is a delicate balance of community and personal reflection, of self-growth yet buzzing with people and stories rich with variety and spirit. It’s a space where you’re invited to offer up your deepest callings, or remain in quiet silence with your own experience. 

The Yoga Training

My yoga program began with a simple circle of my classmates, about 60 of us, standing side by side with one hand resting on our hearts, and the other, resting firmly on the back of our neighbor. 

That’s the beauty here - you are with yourself and others, supported and cared for.

Kripalu Yoga is not the typical style of yoga most are familiar with. While there is a slight flow to the practice, emphasis is placed on a connection between the breath, mindful placement and movement of the body, and the whole internal awareness of each movement. Kripalu Yoga is for all bodies, as it begins with the gentle and can be added on for more advanced poses. In Kripalu Yoga, you won't hear a teacher say “Ok, now do X pose” instead, you move and build each posture slowly, mindfully, until you then realize your body is positioned into a beautiful and strong posture best suited for what you personally need in the moment, led with breath, always. 

It’s the most amazing way to practice yoga I’ve done because it’s not about my body getting into a pose, it’s about a pose taking shape within my body - there is a difference.

Image of the front lawn at Kripalu

Image of the front lawn at Kripalu

A Typical Day 

My day begins at 5:15am with a slow morning rise, as our community yoga practice begins at 5:50am. We enter into morning practice with breath, deliberate and calm movements, and within two hours, have experienced all 21 poses and postures our training consists of. Each morning a new Kripalu trainer holds our practice. We experience their style and space and each class is exceptional. 

Silent, we move into morning breakfast and the whole building dines together quietly, no conversations, and it’s actually very nice to glide into the day without the jarring desire (or expectation) to hold a conversation. 

9am our training begins, we break for lunch, return at 2pm and concluded at 6pm. Within the whole day, easily I’m doing 7-8 hours of yoga. I’ve done more yoga in this week than I think I did the past 4 months combined, yet my body feels strong, supported, encouraged and loved.

In the evening, I usually have dinner with classmates and then spend an hour in the sauna and whirlpool, soaking worked muscles, and study and prep for the next day. I also have the option to attend other events, I only did one this week (I wanted to rest and relax as much as possible).

I’m in a shared bunk with 7 other women from all over the U.S. and world. One just came in from Egypt to attend training, another from Israel, one more lived in Indonesia for the past 8 months before coming back to study yoga with us, and another is off to Iceland the next day after training to work work in a hostel. All of us have our families and connections we’ve left behind for a month, all of us are humbled and happy to be here.

Overhead lights are turned off at 9:30p and all personal lights by 10p. We honor the practice, the routine helps, and we restfully sleep to prep to do it all over again tomorrow. 

How I feel

I’ve been to Kripalu before, so the initial awe wasn’t as strong - which honestly, is great because I feel focused and committed to why I am here. The first days were hard - I really missed my husband, was scared if my body would hold up (I didn’t know the daily schedule) and honestly, a month away is a long time! 

Field of wild flowers along the hillside outside our training space

Field of wild flowers along the hillside outside our training space

I’m the largest body in the program and I expected to be. I want to be visible, be seen, and represent that bigger bodies can and do yoga. And my presence here and talking about More to Love’s work has enlightened other teachers-to-be to realize that larger bodies experience yoga in a different way, but equally worthy and whole. Many have expressed gratitude for sharing my story and being here because they wouldn’t known about this level of body experience in yoga. 

I’ve personally detached from social media daily (check in maybe every two days) and it’s so refreshing to not have my phone on me constantly. I’ve not had coffee during the weekday mornings! And I feel amazing. The food is incredible, the air is so fresh, my body feels incredible and the pain I was terrified of experiencing in my hip hasn’t happened, in fact the opposite, my body has never felt this open and limber — and just in one week! 

I know this might be the honeymoon phase - the program here on out grows in intensity, the practice gets harder and the inner resistance will rise. I’m already feeling rumbles of personal issues around my identity as a “larger person” starting to be triggered, so I’m preparing for self-work in that area. 

I am so happy. Truly. I feel like I am exactly in the right place, the right time in my life, like the challenge before me will be met equally with my level of commitment, skill and passion. 

I will keep you posted of course, weekly, and I cannot thank my family and friends enough for allowing me the space to pursue this extraordinary adventure. I am full of love.