I'm Back! Reflections on my Yoga Teacher Training
Wow, it's March already! Where has this year gone? Like any other year in my life, it seems that this year has been the busiest, most action-packed and full on so far. Three months in and I have enjoyed relaxing summer holidays, completed my yoga teacher training, moved to a new city and started university, all the while trying to retain some consistency and routine in my life (easier said than done). Today I would like to share with you a little bit about my yoga teacher training experience, in particular with those of you who are considering becoming a yoga teacher yourselves. As you may (or may not) know I completed a 20-day intensive training course at Byron Yoga Centre (Byron Bay, NSW) to complete my Level 1 (2oohr RYT) teacher training. In short, it was an amazing and quite life-changing experience which I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to become a yoga instructor, or simply any yogi wanting to deepen their own practice and understanding of yoga philosophy.
Byron Yoga Centre has a fantastic reputation, which it lived up to during my training, as I had fabulous teachers, interesting classes, AMAZING vegetarian food and beautiful grounds including a mineral salt pool (perfect for sore muscles). There were three shalas (yoga rooms) in which we partook in yoga and theory classes, as well as a main living/dining and communal bathroom area. The rooms were twin share and had all the essentials (bed, cupboard, light and fan). The ashram was also located close to the town of Byron Bay, so a 15-minute walk took me straight into town and to the beach, which was stunning. Unfortunately, I only had one day free to spend wandering around the town, but it was still lots of fun.
The style of yoga taught at Byron is Purna yoga, with purna meaning complete, whole or integrated. I really enjoyed this style as the asanas are similar to those that I practice (they are based on the traditional Ashtanga/Hatha/Iyengar postures), but there was also a large emphasis placed on the practice of pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation. For me personally it was a great opportunity to explore different types of pranayama and meditation practices and include them in my daily routine (we had to keep a daily journal of our practice as part of our training). In terms of asana, or the physical yoga practice, we did heaps! At the start it was 1-2 classes per day with lots of asana in our theory classes too, and in the last 8 days we did 3 90-minute classes daily to accumulate the necessary class experience for our qualifications. Whilst three classes a day was physically demanding, there was a lot of emphasis on resting when necessary and taking care of the body. On top of this we were also expected to do a daily asana practice of 20 minutes.
It may strike most people as obvious, the but 20-day intensive style training was INTENSE. Each day started at 6am with a 90-minute yoga class, followed by breakfast, then theory class from 9-10.30, a short break, then more theory from 11-12.30. Lunch was our longest break, from 12.30-2, then more theory until 3.30, another break and more theory until 4-6pm. Dinner at 6pm and then a final theory/meditation class from 7-8.30pm. Then off to bed for some well-deserved rest before getting up to do it all over again. The intensity of the course suited me, as I could completely immerse myself in everything and anything yoga for 20-days, however it did require some mental stamina and a good pace. If I had pushed myself too hard in the first few days there is no way I would have come out the other end feeling as good as I did. In training we learnt the alignment and cues for each of the level 1 postures, the anatomy and physiology of yoga and movement, safety and injury modifications, corrections and adjustments, yoga philosophy, Sanskrit, sequencing, use of props and an array of other things. I personally loved the anatomy and physiology classes, as the science behind how each joint and muscle is supposed to work was simply fascinating. It also put a lot of yoga poses and flows into context for me and I could understand how and why there was a best way to do something.
The fellow trainees on my course were quite simply an amazing bunch of individuals. The group was diverse, with ages ranging from 18 (another boy my age) to 60+ and people from all over the world including France, Canada, Malaysia, Japan and Hong Kong. I even had the honour of being in a group with a gorgeous Buddhist nun who radiated with love and compassion for all things. The greatest part was that we all shared a love and passion for yoga. Finally, I was in a place where I could eat, live, breathe and talk about yoga 24 hours a day and no one cared. In fact, it was such an open place that the conversations over meals covered everything from love, sex and religion to man buns, polygamy and bathroom habits! All in all the people, staff, teachers and trainees, were amongst some of the coolest and kindest people I have ever met and I will certainly not forget the memories we shared any time soon.
How could I not feature a whole section about food? The food at the Byron Yoga Centre is lovingly prepared each day and is based on the traditional Sattvic yoga diet. The sattvic diet is vegetarian, but also excludes eggs, onion, garlic, chilli and other strong and astringent foods. The food included a lot of lentils and beans, vegetables, salads, fruit, gluten-free grains, dairy and meat replacements such as tofu and tempeh. I loved all of the food, even though it was quite different to my normally paleo-style diet. At first my digestion struggled a little bit with all of the legumes and potato, but it adjusted after about four days and then I was fine. The hardest part for me was not eating too much, as the food was all so delicious and more-ish. There was also dessert every couple of days, including raw cheesecakes, chocolate scotch fingers and gluten-free apple crumble (my personal favourite). I think my highlight however was the homemade maple syrup muesli that was on offer each morning, I simply couldn't get enough of it with yogurt and stewed fruits including apple, pear, dates, figs and oranges.
It was a great opportunity to see how I felt on a vegetarian diet, and to be honest I thought by the end of 20 days I thought I would be craving chicken or a huge steak, but I didn't. In fact, with food that good I could probably be a vegetarian, however I know that for my body that probably isn't best for my health in the long-term (due to my pyroluria). I did get a lot of inspiring ideas, however, for vegetarian and vegan meals to create when I next get myself into a kitchen.
My teacher training was an amazing experience and something I will remember for the rest of my life. I went with the hope of learning to be a yoga instructor and came away with a new perspective on the world. I also learnt a lot about myself and my own yoga practice that has changed the way I practice. One of the key things I 'discovered' during my training is that I am hyper mobile in my knees and elbows, and that I have been locking out through my joints for the past two years. Luckily I became aware of this before any real harm could be done to my joints, but it is now my challenge to always make sure I place a "micro bend" in my elbows and knees when practicing. Not only that, but my challenge now is to build strength and stability around my joints, rather than increasing my flexibility out of proportion to my strength. Like all things in life, yoga is a matter of balance between strength (sthira) and flexibility (sukha), and this is now something I am striving towards in my practice.
Through all of the meditation I also felt myself become more 'in tune', if you will, with the Universe or whatever you want to call it. This culminated in me buying my own set of Goddess cards that I use to guide me on a daily basis. The study of the yogic philosophy also reaffirmed my belief that there is something divine and magical out there, and it is watching over all of us.
After finishing my training I moved to Melbourne to start university and I also found a studio in Brunswick where I will be teaching yoga classes, starting on March 18th 2015. If you are in Melbourne and would like to know more about my classes, please visit my website here or my Facebook page here. I hope to see you there!
I think that's enough for now, however if you have any specific questions about my yoga teacher training experience then please feel free to comment below or send me a message via the Contact Me page.
Keep healthy and happy,