"I’m not sure I want to teach yoga"
This is one of the most common things we hear from people who are curious about Yoga Teacher Training. I think it’s wonderful as it means they have an intuition that it is much more than a course about learning to teach yoga, although it is a part of it of course.
Then what is it about?
There are many elements that make these experiences unique, for the sake of keeping this to a readable article, here are the main themes that I’ll elaborate on, for anyone interested in knowing more.
Time to pause and reflect
The Teachings, and how to apply them to modern life
Yoga Teacher Training is an opportunity to learn about and reflect on the ancient teachings of Yoga and how they can be applied to daily life. The challenges the sages of India encountered then are not so different to the ones humanity faces today, despite the drastic change in contexts.
When we look at the world and even at our own lives, it is hard to deny that there is much suffering and that a lot of it is caused by human unconsciousness.
Studying scriptures which speak of the obstacles that stand in the way of our inherent goodness is truly helpful to inspire us to commit to the spiritual path, but it is not enough. Taking time to reflect on these themes and discussing them with others is also supportive, but it is putting the teachings in practice that helps us realise them.
The Practice, on and off the mat
In my experience what makes yoga (including austerities, postures, breath work, mantra and meditation) helpful in supporting positive change is the practice itself.
These practices all cultivate presence and support the regulation of the nervous system, which are essential in making conscious decisions in moments of stress.
This is why we start our days with 2 and a half hours of practice during teacher training. This may sound like a long time at first but is such a precious opportunity to deepen one’s practice and experience the benefits of sustained daily practice.
Many yogis, myself included, say that they only start a committed daily practice after Yoga Teacher Training. Once we have experienced the benefits of it, it’s a lot easier to find the inspiration every day.
The intention, for the highest benefit of All
Another element that is truly helpful in finding motivation to stay committed to this path, on the good and the harder days, is our collective intention.
As per this simple yet profound quote by Lao Tzu, peace in the World starts with peace in our own hearts.
"How does my spiritual practice lessen suffering in the world?"
This is not only a question yogis ask during Teacher Training but a question I’ve asked myself.
At first, the inner changes and therefore outer changes may be so subtle that it’s easy to miss them and we may doubt that daily spiritual practice does indeed have an impact on our lives and the lives of those around us. However, I am yet to meet someone who has a sustained Sadhana (spiritual practice) who hasn’t seen how the world around them changed for the better.
In my personal experience, I have become more patient, more compassionate and more loving towards myself, my family, my friends and complete strangers, including those whose views and actions I don’t agree with. This may seem minor on a global scale but it means we contribute to a more loving humanity, rather than its opposite.
"I wish this was taught at school"
This is another comment we hear often during trainings, and indeed we couldn’t agree more, which is why we feel so passionate about sharing these teachings as far and wide as we can in the trust that their dissemination may contribute to the lessening of suffering in the world.
As we often repeat during trainings, we practice yoga not so we may become great yogis who perform impressive poses or who can sit still for hours, but so we may apply what we learn on the mat, in our lives. So we may be kind to one another and recognise all living beings as ourselves, that is Yoga.
The Sangha, being part of a spiritual family
Another aspect of YTT that makes it so special is the experience of being seen and held by a loving community.
According to the Buddha’s teachings the Sangha (the spiritual family) was one of the 3 Jewels (the 2 other being the Buddha and the Dharma). He taught that the sangha was an integral element to the spiritual evolution of each individual. With this at heart we intentionally cultivate a sense of community and mutual support from the beginning.
"What is the selection process?"
I have previously been asked how we know that the people who will come will ‘fit in’ and the truth is that we don’t have selection criteria other than wanting to do a Yoga Teacher Training. This may seem like a very unselective process and it is intentional. We trust that anyone who has a yearning to learn more about yoga shares the philosophy that all beings deserve love and this shared value is a great starting point to create a compassionate container.
Many yogis share that they find themselves feeling deeply connected to other participants who they’ve only known for 3 weeks. This makes sense when we consider that we take time to reflect on and share about deep topics on a daily basis. But most importantly we come together with shared aspirations and the intention to accept one another and love each other as we are – This is what makes YTTs islands of love.
The Space, immersed in nature
Creating a safe space is at the top priority for us as we know that healing can only happen when we feel safe. One of the first things we do is co-create a sort of code of ethics we all agree to. We also check in regularly to make sure that the space feels inclusive and safe for all.
Another element that contributes to the experience is spending time immersed in nature. We purposefully choose sanctuaries that are aligned with our values of respecting the earth and its inhabitants, where we can connect with the Earth, walk barefoot and lay in the grass or swim in the sea during breaks, away from the hustle and bustle.
So far we’ve hostel trainings in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala at Arco Isis, in Bacalar, Mexico at Lulu La Bruja, in Hawaii at Earthsong and our next 300hour this Spring will be at Tranquil Eco Lodge on a mostly uninhabited island ‘Isla Solarte’ in the Caribbean paradise of Bocas del Toro archipelago in Panama.
Time to pause and reflect
One of the few things the great Indian sage Ramana Maharshi advised his disciples was to be still. Modern life doesn’t support stillness, it rather requires much movement and forward planning. One of the wonderful gifts of YTT is that for a duration of time all basic needs are met. For most adults on planet earth at this time, life consists of travelling to and from work, working to pay for one’s needs, buying food, cooking cleaning, and depending on how fortunate one is, more or less time is left to spend with friends and family and perhaps on exercise and/or a hobby. This doesn’t leave much time for spiritual endeavours.
When we come together intentionally as we do in teacher trainings, every day is an opportunity for self-observation, to cultivate self-awareness. We take the time to ask ourselves questions like ‘What emotions are regular visitors?’, ‘What awakens these emotions in us?’ and ‘How do we react to these emotions?’.
We are aware that having the opportunity to take 3 weeks or a month off is a privilege and we aspire to help participants make the most of that time to reflect on ‘who’ they are, their life choices and what they truly value.
Though many yogis start teaching after YTT, very few quit their jobs and completely change their lives, though some do, many also share that their sense of what truly matters changes and we consider this to be crucial in the way we live our lives.
At the beginning of every training Rachael and I set the intention to create a safe container, share the teachings with integrity and trust that whatever needs to happen will happen. I believe this allows for transformation.
At the beginning we don’t know what form these transformations will take, but in every training everyone experiences insights and consequent shifts that range from imperceptible changes in self-talk, that we know of thanks to our regular sharing circles, to brighter eyes and a wider capacity to hold oneself, to hold others, to recognise the inherent beauty in all things, amongst many other things.
We are immensely grateful for the opportunity to witness such shifts and transformation in everyone who joins us and in ourselves as we also benefit from these times of reflection and introspection as we continue to peel the layers, of this idea of self, revealing our true essence a little more every time.
It has now been 20 days since the last YTT ended and as I sit and reflect on the many Yoga Teacher Trainings I have been part of, as a student, as a guide, as both, I feel my heart smile as I reminisce on all the beautiful transformations I have witnessed, in myself and others.
We now have almost 30 video reviews which you can find on our YouTube channel but I’ll leave this brief one by our beloved Amy so you can get a sense of what this blog speaks about in less than a minute.
300 hour Yoga Teacher Training in the Caribbean Island of Solarte in Panama 24th April to 21st May. Find our more here.
Hybrid 200 hour YTT Training ONLINE 7th June – 3rd November, IN-PERSON 12th – 18th December at Arco Isis Sanctuary, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Find out more here.
200 hour YTT 9th November to 1st December at Arco Isis Sanctuary, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Find out more here.
Please note that we had to decline a few yogis who wanted to join us in on the last training due to capacity so if you are feeling called to take part in one of the above please get in touch.
To stay in touch and find out about our upcoming offerings you can sign up for our newsletter on our website.
Thank you for reading,