Why do yoga teacher training?
Yoga has been a constant in my life since I was 16. Alongside snowboarding, it comes an equal first as my longest relationship – 18 years and counting! Without yoga in my life, I’m certain I’d have more injuries.
As an athlete, I bend so I don’t break. Just like all the other female athletes I look up to that promote yoga as a significant part of their lives.
The reality is my personal journey with yoga only scratches the surface of what this ancient practice offers. My experience to date has been very focused on the postures or asana. However there is so much more to yoga, its philosophy, its rich history and accompanying lifestyle that an active, aware, and already dedicated yogi like myself would greatly benefit from. So at 34, with both a curious mind and time to commit to my own growth, I signed up with the Shri Gaia Institute to do my 200-hour yoga teacher training in Canggu, Bali – at the beautiful Ecosfera hotel on Eco Beach.
I had zero interest in becoming a teacher.
Get travel insurance. Seriously. Don’t forget.
The yoga 200-hour teacher training is an intensive format: a 4 week-long course of physical yoga asana, philosophy, theory, methodology, introspection, journaling, teaching and workshops. With the Shri Gaia Institute yoga teacher training, it is actually more like a 300-hour course as they deliver well over-and-above the 200-hour content and curriculum. The course is incredibly rich and value-packed, but definitely more intense than other 200 hours teacher training (TT). I dived straight in.
In anticipation of the course, I asked my friends who have done it what to expect and if they could offer any advice. Answers varied, but all insisted that it changed their life in some way:
It’s really interesting to learn more than just the physical side of yoga. All TTs are different but they can be quite spiritually transformational.
I really got to understand how my body worked and it took yoga to a whole new level for the mind and soul!
What you get out of it depends on your intentions as much as anything else. Yoga can be transformative if you allow it to be. Knowing you I would say you will find it difficult to surrender in certain moments and be vulnerable. Saying that it’s quite likely you will get a calmer mindset, higher ability to deal with stress and more presence to both yourself and your surroundings with continued practice. Do it!
Definitely well worth the investment in yourself… It will teach you a lot about yourself and the practice, which is meant to be a lifetime practice, not just a once in a while. It’s a way of life not a series of poses and exercises. DO IT!
Reasons I did my 200-hour yoga teacher training
My main motivation for doing the 200 yoga teacher training course was to deepen my own practice and understand a bit more of the WHY behind the physical and mental side of yoga. But also because in my life at that point, I was at a crossroads:
- Uninspired to return to my career in advertising and the mundane, stressful life in a big city
- Emotionally broken from living with my ex-boyfriend over winter and going through all the pain that that entailed
- Finding it increasingly hard to open up and love after being hurt repeatedly in relationships
- Telling myself repeatedly that I ‘wasn’t good enough’
- Becoming detached from my family in some respect, with guilt that I couldn’t put my finger on, eating me up on the inside
- With no clear goals, direction, or enthusiasm for my future direction
- I didn’t know who I was anymore but I had strong feeling that I was destined for a change of some sort
Many people do their yoga teacher training because they are looking for answers and change. It turned out that I was no different. One student said it perfectly on day one, he wanted a “Reset”. Others had a clear goal of becoming a teacher. Some were there in the hope that yoga could cure their chronic pain. No matter what the primary motivation to sign up, we were all looking for a transformation of some sort.
Everything you are taught on your 200-hour yoga teacher training is a toolbox for you to take what you want from it.
The 4-week journey
Saying it is a journey is the best way to describe it. And what you put in, is what you get out.
As my good friend Jack said to me when I asked if I should do the course, I would find it hard to be vulnerable. He was right. Here we were in front of 30 strangers, asked to dance around the room (no, I’m not drunk yet), or share a deeply personal story about ourselves (no, I’m scared what they will think). But these were the most beautiful moments and throughout them, I became increasingly aware of my aversion to being vulnerable in front of strangers, maybe even my close friends.
At 34 and being somewhat stuck in my ways, I also found the discipline required to attend all aspects of the course, challenging. The daily structure did not allow for much free time. I like to surf, mostly alone. I find that large groups of people drain my energy. At times I withdrew myself. I was staying away from the retreat center, which was equally a blessing as it was like a retreat from the retreat. But If I was staying on-site I’m sure I would have been more involved: more yoga study, more yoga discussion, probably a deeper experience, and relationships. I became aware of how I was rebelling against the discipline. I thought about where else in my life do I do this.
Unlike some of the other students who found themselves with unexplained heavy hearts and bursting into tears during week 2, I didn’t have these transformative experiences so early. A part of me was so eager for this, as that’s why we were all there, right? I too wanted some revelation on my life purpose.
This finally came on the second Sunday break (we had one day off a week), when I finally got to spend some time alone. So much guilt came up and I too started to cry. It was in the stillness and most unexpected moments that these small realisations happened for me. Later in weeks 3 and 4, this repeated after meditation when I got to sit alone with my pen and paper, or out in the surf when I found stillness to reflect.
The start of week 4 started in tragedy for me. During 6pm methodology, my phone wouldn’t stop beeping. Friends in Australia were desperately trying to get information from Bali, as a broken surfboard was washed up on the cliffs at Uluwatu during the early surf. The board belonged to a good friend of many friends from back home, and someone that touched my heart on many occasions.
It was getting dark and Jae was still missing. He had paddled out in 12ft Uluwatu alone on a small board and never came back. 2 hours after the first phone call that had me panicked and calling everyone I knew in Uluwatu, his body was found washed by the currents to Impossibles. Despite two amazing Hawaiians trying to resuscitate him in the surf, the waves took him and he drowned.
Jae’s passing hit me hard. He lived a very similar life to me, traveling the world snowboarding and surfing and living off his other passion, playing music. Lessons about the futility of time, the strength of love from family and friends, and the wonderful community I am part of in snowboarding and surfing arose in me. I felt overwhelming gratitude for all of my blessings that I had been taking for granted. The next day I went to Uluwatu to honor him and everything he was by offering flowers to the crashing waves at Uluwatu’s cliffs. As the beautiful Hawaiian that tried to save him said to me when we spoke, “rest in positivity Jae”. It was so joyous to hear that he caught a huge sick wave in the set just before.
The teacher appears when the student is ready
Everything you are taught on your 200-hour yoga teacher training is a toolbox for you to take what you want from. Whether that is tools for you to understand yourself better. To teach. Or tools to live your life in a more meaningful a connected way.
Some of the more obvious lessons you will learn include:
- Eating a clean mostly vegan diet & how that makes your body and mind feel
- Tolerance for others as you live in a tight community for the month and practice, study, eat, sleep, laugh and cry together
- Discipline to turn-up on your mat each day. Day after day.
- How to be vulnerable around strangers and with yourself
- How to say what you mean with clear direction and purpose
- A better understanding of your body and anatomy
- Exploration of your mind in meditation
- Discovering who you really are after you strip all the bullshit away
- New feelings of being inside and outside of your body
Some of the more subtle lessons I personally learned were:
- Awareness of the disempowering stories I tell myself that do not serve me
- How the character traits of others that annoy me are actually a mirror to myself and my own character traits
- How I create my own set of rules to govern myself and set myself apart from others or the status quo
- How I am capable of so much more love than I show or feel
- That quiet and timid characters are not arrogant and I shouldn’t be so quick to judge
- That everyone is living a life I know nothing about and to be kind at all times
- That to really listen and observe says so much more than the words that come out of my mouth
- That every single person on the course would teach me a meaningful lesson about myself
So why do your yoga teacher training?
If you are reading this, I’ll hazard a guess that you’re looking for a nudge in another direction of this thing called life. My advice to you is, if you can spare the time (and what is a month of your life in the grand scheme of things?), there will be no time better spent then learning about yourself, who you have become and what direction you want to take in a world of infinite opportunities. If you are open and willing to listen, observe, trust, be vulnerable, share and support you will be deeply moved by a yoga teacher training. Change is the by-product of a wonderful life-changing experience with like-minded people that are at a similar stage in their life to you.
Quite simply, yoga teacher training will transform your life, giving you a nudge in a new direction. If you want to teach & share this with others than that is a bonus. First, do it for yourself.
This is my advice. But don’t take my word for it. This is what my fellow students said:
It’s a journey just with yourself. You will have finally time to think and work on your body and mind. It is amazing!
– Anna Polakowska, Poland
You will gain knowledge from a different perspective of life in a community of truthfulness, supportive and likeminded people.
– Ashley, England
The Swaha 200 hour YTT course is for anyone looking to know more about themselves. Both how our bodies work and move, as well as how we fit into this complex, fascinating, challenging and beautiful experience called life. For myself personally, it’s a combination of a much needed ‘re-start’ or ‘re-boot’, a systematic self-work process that points inward for answers, and allows the opportunity to commit to a regular practice concerning the mind, body and spirit. By positively commencing a new cycle with a fresh internal and external outlook on life, I feel a stronger connection to my self and the world as a whole. The course has been a simple but challenging and ultimately powerful investment in my own journey that I will (as a qualified facilitator) be sharing with others through the philosophy and joy of movement that is modern Yoga.
– Giles aka Gino Zego, Australia
If you are interested in doing your 200-hour yoga teacher training, I can’t recommend Tanya Popovich at the Shri Gaia Institute enough. Her knowledge, achieved from studying all over the world with a vast variety of teachers was absolutely astounding. While it is intense clocking up almost 300 hours in the 4 weeks, you greatly benefit from diving deeper into all aspects of yoga. Tanya is unlike no other yoga teacher I have ever met. She is exceptional.
Thank you to everyone who made this experience so incredible.
Editor’s note: If you are after travel insurance, I definitely recommend World Nomads. Prices are really reasonable. You can purchase the insurance after you have left home for your trip; something that is quite unique to World Nomads and really helpful if your plans change as you travel. They also pay your medical bills direct so you never have to fork out and be out of pocket. I whole-heartedly recommend them.