A major highlight of last month was my visit to Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, to study Yoga Tune Up® (YTU) with Jill Miller. I have enjoyed practicing with Jill’s excellent media offerings – favorites include the Yoga Link series and the Coregeous DVD – and have incorporated some of her creative, effective sequences into my own teaching, so I was excited to study with her in person. My already high expectations were greatly exceeded, and I am so glad I decided to study with her.
It was my first time at Kripalu, and having heard great things about it, I was enthusiastic to check it out. Its setting in the Berkshires is lovely, and the abundant offerings of fresh, vegan-friendly cuisine were a delight. I would have loved to investigate the trails, the optional classes, and the spa facilities, but I was completely and utterly occupied with my Yoga Tune Up® Level I Teacher Training Program.
The training program was supremely well organized, thorough, and intense. An unbelievable amount of material and activities was packed into the 1-week training! Each full training day included instruction, YTU practice, multiple practice teaching opportunities and assessments, and extensive homework assignments. There were optional group homework sessions in the evenings; I am sure these would have been beneficial, but after a full day interacting with the training class of just over 50 students, plus Jill and her 5 excellent teaching assistants, I found myself in need of some alone time. Thankfully I had a single room!
I also took advantage of the silent dining room for some much-needed social downtime. (Breakfast is silent in all of the eating areas each day, and there also is a small silent dining room available at lunch and dinner.) I am thankful that I am able to accept myself as I am and take care of myself in this way without self-judgment. In fact, there were a number of introverts in the training, and it was refreshing to hear other acknowledgments of the challenges presented to us by the training atmosphere.
Jill Miller’s Yoga Tune Up® method is, in my opinion, truly genius. Jill has applied her extensive knowledge of anatomy and exercise physiology to her years of intense and dedicated yoga study and practice and created what I think of as “Alignment-Based Yoga Plus.” Her sequences are innovative, anatomically sound, and therapeutically oriented. In addition to alignment-focused poses and mini-vinyasa sequences (‘mini-vinis’), her method incorporates yogic breathing methods and self-massage techniques using Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls.
The Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls are firm, but somewhat pliant, balls with a grip to them, and they can be applied in various locations using a wide assortment of techniques to massage the body. In this way, tight muscles and bound up areas of fascia (fibrous connective tissue located beneath the skin and around muscles and organs) can be loosened and soothed. Ball rolling also aids with proprioception and overall body awareness.
In addition to learning YTU sequences, breathing instructions, and ball rolling techniques, the Level I Teacher Training included more education in anatomy than I received in my entire outstanding, year-long, alignment-based 200-hour yoga teacher training program! With the assistance of related homework assignments, we learned to communicate about yoga poses and ball rolling movements using muscle names and the directions of movement at the joints of the body. Andrew Biel’s “Trail Guide to the Body,” a required text for the course, along with educational demonstrations using skeletal models, facilitated the learning of this material.
The learning has continued throughout the last month as I completed the take-home test and additional homework assignments. I am awaiting notice of whether I have succeeded in meeting the requirements to become a certified Yoga Tune Up® teacher. I hope to begin sharing this work as a certified teacher, and I also would love to continue my YTU education with additional trainings, such as the Core Integration Immersion, the Breath and Bliss Immersion, and YTU Integrated Embodied Anatomy Training.
In Jill Miller’s recently published book, “The Roll Model,” an amazing guide to her ball rolling techniques, she features the stories of many of her students who have experienced remarkable healing through using the YTU ball rolling method. It was exciting to witness the occurrence of similar breakthroughs among my fellow trainees. Stories were shared about increases in the range of motion in previously stuck or injured areas, the relief of chronic pain, and new acceptance of previously unloved areas of the body.
Most inspiring of all were several comments about Jill’s instruction helping participants feel that they aren’t broken after all and that their bodies are not problems to be fixed. Rather than focusing on the achievement of a perfect-looking yoga pose, Jill’s teaching emphasizes how the body feels and functions and encourages an appreciation for and acceptance of our bodies as they are. These are things I aim to bring to my yoga teaching as well.
The spiritual aspects of yoga also were expertly interwoven into Jill’s teaching through instruction in crafting and using a Sankalpa (a statement reflecting one’s highest intention or purpose) and the use of yoga nidra techniques during savasana. It was exciting for me that these features of the training aligned perfectly with my iRest® Yoga Nidra training, and I look forward to further exploring the synthesis of these two brilliant methods in my teaching.