A few days ago we celebrated the graduation of 12 incredible women who are now Yoga Teachers.
Together we went on a 24 day journey and it has been an honour to witness each one of them blossom.
This is not our first group and each training has been equally special, but this time I feel called to share a little about this experience that is so profound and about much more than teaching Yoga.
As you may expect, we spend a lot of time practicing – we start every day with meditation, pranayama (breath work) and asana (yoga postures). We also dive deep into ancient scriptures such as The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, we dedicate a lot of time to learn about the human body, including the systems of the body with extra emphasis on the nervous system and survival responses, anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, embodiment, we learn about Chakras, Ayurveda, Mudras (hand gestures), Sanskrit and Mantras (spiritual chants) and many other yoga related topics.
So far no surprises…
What we don’t include in the curriculum is how much happens simultaneously.
Here are some of the elements that make the experience healing and transformational.
The longer practices allow for time to go deeper and these ancient practices are truly powerful.
For those who have practiced yoga before, you may have noticed how you felt at the end of the practice compared to the beginning; for those who have been practicing regularly for some time, you may notice how different you feel if you go a few days or even weeks without practicing; If you haven’t practiced yoga before perhaps this article inspires you to try
Yoga (which also includes breath and meditation) has many scientifically proven physical and mental health benefits, including nervous system regulation – resulting in better sleep and digestion, which are at the core of our overall health. Mentally speaking, yoga can help manage stress and reduce anxiety and studies now show that daily practice can positively affect brain chemistry.
When practiced daily, the benefits are clearly perceptible and although most yogis who join a YTT tend to practice regularly, not many have the experience of a committed Sādhanā (daily spiritual practice).
Practicing daily gives the yogis the lived experience of the benefits of the practice, which enables them to share yoga from a place of authentic understanding.
Reflection on Spiritual Teachings
As mentioned in the introduction, during the programme we dive deep into the philosophy of Yoga. Every day we have spiritual lectures (satsangs) during which we cover the many topics required by the International Yoga Alliance.
However we not only study ancient scriptures, during these lectures we also invite the yogis to reflect on them and how they can apply these teachings in their lives.
Taking the time to reflect on yogic values promotes self-awareness and leads yogis to wonder about their way of life, which can be challenging but is also heartening.
On the first day of the training we create the group ethics together by sharing what we need to feel safe and what we can offer to create a safe space and we all commit to honor these guidelines for the duration of the training.
This fosters a sense of safety and instant closeness which enables participants to relax and open. From this place of openness we cultivate genuine connections.
From early in the programme we invite the yogis to practice teaching each other.
As previously said, YTT is about much more than just teaching yoga, but it is also an important element of course. We ensure that everyone has the opportunity to practice teaching every day so by the end of the training everyone is able to teach a 90min class, in their own way of course.
Ayurveda considers that everything we consume, from the sounds that surround us, the conversations we have and the amount of sunlight we receive daily contribute to our health. With this at heart, we choose unique retreat centres where we know the guests will feel at home.
Food and drink also play an integral part in our health and therefore our practice.
Although most yogis have an idea of 'proper diet' for optimal health, it is considerably easier to eat well when 3 lovingly cooked vegan meals are provided daily.
During the program we don't provide coffee nor sugar and although this can be tricky at first, everyone reaps the benefits of the detox.
The main focus of the YTT is to learn about and practice yoga of course, but we like to include a few extras. This time we had guest speaker, Serena (Mind Body Eating Coach and dear sister of ours) who offered an afternoon session on nutrition.
We also had guests Hunab and Marcela join us one evening to guide a Kirtan (mantra chanting). In the closing ceremony we include a Cacao Ceremony and Ecstatic Dance.
On days off we encourage participants to rest and to explore if they feel inspired to. This time some went to a Temazcal, some went on a sunrise stand up paddle boarding adventure, others had massages and some rode bikes to explore the beautiful town of Bacalar.
At the beginning of our time together we invite participants to take a break from social media for the duration of the programme.
Although everyone can choose to go offline or not, this promotes a phone free environment which nurtures presence and connection.
Most yogis who come to our trainings don't know anyone other than one of us (Rachael or me), sometimes neither, but by the end of the training they all develop close relationships with each other.
This bonding happens naturally as yogis open up and share about their lives, naturally a sense of familiarity grows and we all discover how much we have in common by the simple fact that we are all human.
This is something we have witnessed in online trainings too, which is a beautiful testament to the power of connection via the internet.
Well, it's been fun to reflect on what makes Yoga Teacher Training such a life changing experience, but as I read over this article I feel that despite trying my best to convey the magic of YTT, these words offer only a glimpse of what it really is like to embark on this spiritual journey of Self-remembrance.
In case you are interested, here are our upcoming YTTs:
4th-24th February 2023
19th April-19th May 2023
Earth Song, The Big Island of Hawai'i
Thank you for reading,
Love and blessings to all sentient beings