(This article was originally published in October 2015)
For those of you who know me personally, you will know that I have been practising yoga on and off, though more recently on, for many years. It’s a pastime that I have enjoyed in a variety of places including, at home, in yoga studios, on the beach, in the park, and pretty much anywhere I lay my mat, both in the UK and abroad. As a busy Londoner, there is no better way for me to retreat from the stresses of city life than to roll out my mat, stretch out and quieten my mind. Practicing yoga is a form of self-love and realisation, it is a wonderful way to tune into my body & mind. I am not a deeply spiritual person, however, I am increasingly mindful of myself, and how I feel both internally & externally.
Also, on and off for the past few years, I have thought about taking my hobby one step further and immersing myself into the world of yoga by becoming a yoga teacher, but have always held back from taking the leap because the time wasn’t right, or I was too focused on my career off the mat, or I was worried it wasn’t a good idea, or I thought becoming a teacher might take away what I enjoy about yoga. Fast forward to August this year, just after resigning from my job and taking a leisurely month off to think about my next step. I was walking home one morning after a spin class when I had my epiphany. My moment of ‘If not now, then when?’. A moment which had long been on the cards. In as many ways as possible, I asked myself, is anything really holding me back? If I enjoy yoga so much, why shouldn’t I pursue it? It was a moment of clarity.
Traditionally, a yoga teacher did not need to have formal ‘qualifications’ to teach, instead, yoga and its associated teachings were passed down from teacher to student over the course of many years. Then when your teacher or guru deemed you ready, with their blessing, they would send you out into the world to pass on their teachings and find your own students. Nowadays it’s very different! Yoga is a booming industry with more and more people discovering and taking it up every year. Yoga studios are opening across London, and the world for that matter, en masse in order to keep up with the ever-increasing demand. In order to teach yoga at most studios, it is now required as a basic minimum to possess at least the 200 hour RYS (Registered Yoga School) certificate in order to be a 200 hour RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher). Having said that, everyone knows that there are plenty of excellent yoga teachers without yoga ‘qualifications’, though this is trumped by decades of valuable experience in the field of yoga; and there are undoubtedly yoga teachers with their yoga ‘qualifications’ but are quite frankly useless and uninspiring when it comes to teaching.
I started to search for a course which was accredited by Yoga Alliance USA, the governing body which most yoga studios in the West are aligned with. This ensured that I had the correct certificate to teach in those studios. I even read a couple of stories online shared by yoga teachers who had signed up onto non-Yoga Alliance yoga teacher training courses, even 200 hour ones, investing a lot of money and time, only to find out that they couldn’t teach at their chosen studios as they didn’t have the correct certification. I came across lots of dubious courses, among those were online courses claiming to offer a certificate! Thankfully, I also came across the section of the Yoga Alliance website which recommends accredited yoga teacher training schools. While browsing through the various yoga teacher training schools, I was looking for a course which covered a broad spectrum, was preferably in Europe so easy to get to, was not overly-spiritual, worked with an experienced network of teachers and had a strong established reputation.
Tribe Yoga fit my criteria to a tee and had a four-week intensive 200 hour course coming up imminently in Southern Spain. I booked the course a little more than a week before it started (and had even less time to prepare as I was also taking a break in Barcelona during the same week!), but had no hesitations whatsoever as I knew I had made the right decision. The course used the Ashtanga Primary Series as its asana base, which was perfect for me as I was first introduced to yoga through the Ashtanga Primary Series (in the form of David Swenson videos and his practice manual). All three Tribe Yoga teachers for the course, Mark Ansari, Raquel Salvador and James French, had incredibly varied and deep yoga experience. I was really impressed that Mark had received the honour of studying directly with Pattabhi Jois, creator of the Ashtanga Yoga series, in Mysore, India, in the 1990’s. The only downside is that I didn’t have time to carry out the three months of suggested daily self-practice yoga prior to the course, nor did I do the pre-course reading. As it happens, I spent the week prior to the course sightseeing in Barcelona, eating at the city’s finest restaurants and counting my laps in the pool at the Mercer Hotel as part of my exercise regime! Nonetheless, and more importantly, I was mentally and emotionally prepared for the course, it was something which had long been coming and the time was finally right.
The venue, Cortijo Caseria del Mercado, was gorgeous from the outset. It is an organic farm nestled high up in the heart of the Alpujarra mountain range in rural Southern Spain. A place honouring nature, ecology and tradition, with farmhouse style accommodation, a natural mineral water swimming pool, a gorgeous and spacious yoga shala with breath-taking views across the mountains and the cutest farms dogs you can imagine. The farmhouse is so isolated that the nearest town, Orgiva, is a 45 minute drive away. The family-run farm is headed up by Joachim, along with his uncle, Paco, and other farm hands in the form of Joachim’s local farmer friends and WWOOF-ers (volunteers on the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms programme). Joachim’s children are also quite active in helping out.
The first day of the course was very easy-going; an opening ceremony was laid out where all the formal introductions took place. The teachers; Mark, Raquel and James introduced themselves and talked about their experience with yoga and what they could offer as teachers, we were also introduced to Jay, one of the teaching assistants, and informed that David, the second teaching assistant would be joining us the next day. In total, there were just six students, meaning we had near 1:1 attention throughout. The other students were lovely and very international – aside from myself, there was one Swiss, one French and three Germans.
We were informed that our daily schedule from Monday to Friday would be:
- 06:10 am – 06:15 am – Jala Neti (a Kriya technique)
- 06:15 am – 08:30 am – Asana Class
- 08:30 am – 10:00 am – Pranayama and Meditation
- 10:00 am – 10:50 am – Fruit Smoothie and Mid-Morning Break
- 10:50 am – 01:00 pm – Lecture
- 01:00 pm – 03:45 pm – Lunch Break
- 03:45 pm – 06:00 pm – Asana Methodology and Teaching Practice
In addition to this, we would be practising Mouna (silence) until 10:50am each day. We were handed our yoga teacher training study manuals and informed that the first week of the course would cover topics including: What is yoga?, The History of Yoga, The Yamas, Kriyas / Jala Neti, Anatomy for Yoga, Sanskrit, Conscious Eating, Asana Methodology & Adjustments, and Teaching Practice. We also had two evenings scheduled for Bhajans and Chanting, which were led by James.
The accommodation at Cortijo Caseria del Mercado was largely shared, however, I opted for a private room with an en-suite bathroom. My room had a door which opened out onto the mountainside, which I loved. I had considered choosing shared accommodation like the other students but I was far too aware that one month on an intense course is a long time, especially in addition to the isolated location and communal-style living. It was important for me to be able to have time out and relax on my own.
Waking up at 5:45am was difficult (and it didn’t get easier, not even in the final week) but once I had recovered from the initial shock of my alarm clock going off at what felt like the middle of the night, it was a peaceful routine between my room and the yoga shala. The 6:10am Jala Neti practice was an eye opener for me – Jala Neti is a Kriya, which is a holistic purification technique whereby lukewarm salt water is poured into one nostril and flows out the other, then repeated on the other side. This is then followed by some deep and rapid Kapalbhati breaths through the nose. Initially, I wasn’t keen on the Jala Neti practice but quickly found out that it wasn’t as scary as it sounds.
Each morning before the asana class one member of the group delivered a short reading in the form of an inspiring and meaningful passage, quote, story or even a song. I gave a reading in the second and fourth weeks of the course, both my readings were stories with underlying moral messages.
The asana classes were led by Mark when we practised Ashtanga and by James when we practised Hatha or Vinyasa Flow. I loved Mark’s style of teaching, he taught exactly how I want to teach. He was clear, direct and knew the Ashtanga Primary Series inside out and back to front. James classes were more ‘flowy’ and in many ways more challenging as we didn’t know what was coming next. I really enjoyed his sequences and testing my strength throughout.
The Pranayama (breathing exercises) and Meditation class that followed the asana class was led by James each morning. James was notably methodical with the structure of these sessions and made what could have potentially been a very demanding class for me, pleasurable. James stressed that as students we should “take what works and leave the rest”, which is exactly what I did. Admittedly, some of the Pranayama and Meditation techniques, such as Bhramari Pranayama, had little to no effect on me, while others, such as Nadi Sodhana, were very effective and I could internalise all of my energy and focus.
Learning about the different aspects of yoga as dictated in The Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga from Patanjali’s Yogasutras was incredibly fascinating and thought-provoking. As was learning about the different paths of yoga – to call yoga multidimensional would be an absolute understatement. For those of you unfamiliar with these terms, The Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are the steps that leads yogis towards greater awareness, transformation, meditation and ultimately Samadhi (enlightenment). They are split into external and internal stages. The external being the Yamas, Niyamas, Asana and Pranayama, and the internal being Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. These steps are channelled through the different systems (Hatha, Kundalini, Tantra, Laya, Japa and Kriya) of the different paths of yoga: Karma, Bhakti, Jnana and Raja. It sounds complex but it gradually became very clear as the course went on.
The Asana Methodology and Teaching Practice sessions were especially enjoyable for me. Going through each pose in detail was interesting and refreshing, it also made me very aware of how I perform each pose myself. We discussed Godfri Devereux’s Dynamic Yoga method through which the internal dynamics of each asana are based on four basic fundamental aspects: the foundation, the core, the bandhas and the breath. Additionally, something I had never really considered was exactly how much yoga teachers need to talk throughout a class. Between grounding the class, directing the breath, moving students in and out of asanas and providing coaching points in each asana, there isn’t really much time to be silent. Fortunately, any concerns that I wouldn’t enjoy teaching disappeared swiftly – I really enjoyed instructing the class.
The week one assessment consisted of a test and 10 minute practicum of 2 x Suryanamaskara A and 1 x Suryanamaskara B. The test was pretty straight forward and covered the first week’s learnings. The whole class was a tiny bit nervous about the practicum and looking back now, I laugh because in reflection, it was the simplest little sequence.
The first week ended with a weekend of hiking through the mountains. On the Saturday, after a hip-opening themed yoga class with Raquel, I walked to the Junta De Los Rios waterfall in Portugos via Busquistar with Katrina (Mark and Raquel’s au pair) and Chispita, one of the dogs from the farm. The round trip took us through a steep valley and up the other side, and lasted almost five hours. The mountain path into the valley was accompanied by a vertical drop literally a couple of feet away from where we were walking, and to compensate the steepness, the path zig zagged all the way down into the valley. Chispita, the little dog we were walking with may have been very cute and a great companion, but she was scared of every single other dog in Busquistar, which is set on a steep hill. So there were a couple of moments when we had walked all the way through Busquitar (up the hill), only for Chispita to see one of the local dogs and bolt back down to the bottom of the hill. There was undeniably a lot of toing and froing during that section of the walk and in the end Katrina had to carry a muddy Chispita through the village so we could go to the waterfall. As we approached the waterfall we randomly managed to acquire a little white kitten along the way, which followed us for about 45 minutes, before we left it with another group of hikers and walked off. The waterfall was pretty, modestly-sized and surrounded by orange sand due to the high mineral content of the water. By the time we returned we were exhausted but I was just in time for the afternoon group Kundalini meditation.
The Kundalini meditation was new to me and unlike any meditation I have ever done. The purpose of the meditation is to allow the energy in the body to flow without any obstructions. The whole meditation was set to music (lots of electronic keyboards and jangly sounding instruments), took about one hour in total and was divided up into four sections that were roughly 15 minutes each – all ideally done with the eyes closed to help focus the energy inwards. The first section involved shaking the body out, which might sound simple enough but 15 minutes of shaking was uncomfortable. The second section comprised of dancing in any way or style. It was hard not to take a peek around the room and look at what everyone else was up to and in all honesty, I wasn’t feeling the vibes. The third section was a silent observation of how we were feeling internally and finally, the fourth section, which I was very grateful for, was 15 minutes of Savasana. Coming back to James’ quote to “take what works and leave the rest”, this was one practice that I will be leaving for now. However, that said, and without invalidating other people’s experience of the meditation (I heard it’s very liberating), I may well come back to this meditation in the future and give it a second chance. Finally, to end the day, there was an option to watch a conscious movie about the environment but I consciously chose not to – by this point, I simply wanted to relax on my own and take some time out.
On the Sunday, I ended up walking with three of the other students, Katrina and one of the WWOOF-ers to Almegijar via Notaez. Almegijar was celebrating the festival of its patron saint, Santo Cristo de la Salud, and a local chef was making free paella for the whole village. Again, the round trip took a good five hours, we scaled the mountainside to get there (and comeback) in the blazing sun, with the tasty paella making every step worth the effort. We returned in the early evening for a Yoga & Breath Work for Stress & Anxiety session with James, where he went over the role of the lungs and how they both store grief & are the home of inspiration. By employing the breath with the asanas, we would eventually find our rest & digest mode. I found the session really interesting and will absolutely try to incorporate the learnings into my own practice and teachings.
Week two began at my usual waking hour of 5:45am in the pitch black. As mentioned before, the early starts never got easier but one of the nice things about getting up in the dark is that the sky was always full of stars as we walked to the yoga shala for our morning practice. We then got to watch the sunrise over the mountains (around 7:30am) while practising, which was hands down on my top ten list of beautiful experiences.
By this point, I was also beginning to cook a little more and take advantage of the abundance of fresh, delicious and organic farm foods which were readily available to us. I made a lot of ratatouille and rice, supplemented by the copious amounts of sugar bread (essentially doughnuts) and chocolate that I bought from the bread man & the supermarket man, who would turn up in their van-turned-shops at 11:30am on alternate days. The bread man and supermarket man would drive around the mountains in the area to all of the isolated farms and as they arrived, they sounded their horns for about five seconds so everyone would stop what they’re doing and come out – for a good week after the course ended, every time I heard a long horn, I thought it was the bread man or supermarket man! (But, alas, that’s just every other street on London for you).
Our lectures in the second week covered Chakras, the Niyamas, more Anatomy for Yoga and much more Asana Methodology, Adjustments and Teaching Practice. The Chakras lecture filled me with questions, all beginning with ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘but…’. Some of it made sense, other parts sounded like the figments of an overactive imagination. They were certainly interesting to learn about – who knew there were 72,000 nadis (energy channels) in the body? However, embodying them and identifying them in my own body was a challenge, sometimes I felt like I was connecting with my chakras and channelling my energy into specific areas of my body and other times, I felt lost. While I wholeheartedly agree that we resonate with different energies at different times, I struggled to control my energies. It definitely gave me food for thought and I will read more on the Chakras with time.
The Asana Methodology, Adjustments and Teaching Practice became more prevalent in the second week. I was slowly becoming more confident with teaching poses and knowing how to either assist a student (to deepen their pose) or to adjust a student (to correct alignment). I learnt that being aware of other people’s bodies was the key to effective adjustments; knowing how much pressure to apply, how to put your hands on someone without and what is likely to be muscle tension.
Towards the end of the week, Raquel delivered a truly relaxing Restorative yoga class, I was so blissed out during the session. Restorative yoga is one of my favourite styles because it is so peaceful and calming. It was exactly what we all needed. Raquel, along with James, also gave a great lecture on the Niyamas (internal codes of conduct for conscious living) and how we can put them into practice. I was amazed to find out that some yogis in India take their ‘Tapas’ Niyama to such great lengths and actually spend a lifetime with one arm in the air. I would question if that truly leads to greater purity as I strongly doubt that it does!
Our sunset rooftop Chanting sessions with James continued to be surprisingly pleasant and the WWOOF-ers often joined us for what can only be described as the simplest yet catchiest songs, one song had just three words which were repeated over and over again for about five minutes and was then stuck in my head for the rest of the evening. A couple of my favourite songs were Om Namah Shivaya and Baba Hanuman.
A few of the students chose to practice Vamana Dhauti, a Kriya technique which cleans the oesophagus and stomach – in effect, self-induced vomiting. It is practised first thing in the morning by drinking at least two litres of lukewarm salt water, then jumping up and down on the spot before sticking two fingers down your throat and vomiting back up the water. The belief being that bile and mucus come up with the water and leave your stomach free of toxins. I chose not to practice this Kriya as I didn’t feel comfortable with it and prefer to cleanse in other ways.
I gave my first morning reading in week two, reciting a famous Chinese folktale about a horse with the moral; ‘What seems like a blessing maybe a curse and what seems like a curse maybe a blessing’. The story had a brilliant insight into life – it illustrated that you can never tell if something will turn out to be good or bad luck in the long term. The idea is part of Taoist philosophy which teaches that you must live in harmony with nature and what it brings you, good or bad. Therefore, I reminded the other students not to lose their will to continue if something unlucky happens, nor should they be complacent because of something lucky, or because something that they desire comes very easily to them.
For the week two assessment, we had another test, followed by a 45 minute practicum. The practicum had to include a focus / theme, references to the Yamas & Niyamas, specific coaching points, verbal & hands on adjustments, demonstrations, good rhythmic vinyasas and effective sequencing. My practicum went really well and I was amazed at how quickly 45 minutes can pass when you’re teaching.
The week ended with Saturday being spent on Joachim’s farm and helping the WWOOF-ers pick almonds and figs, which was then followed by a fantastic home-made paella with lentils, potatoes and salad. I also had a two hour Shiatsu back massage with one of the teaching assistants which was nice. On the Sunday, I hiked up to the top of the old mine behind the cortijo with Katrina. The views across the valley from the mine were amazing – I had so many moments where I had to pinch myself because I was so happy to be doing my yoga teacher training and because I couldn’t get over how beautiful the scenery was. I felt so grateful to be surrounded by such stunning mountains and nature. In the evening, there was another optional conscious movie but again, I declined as I wanted some time out.
As week three started, I think everyone was beginning to feel a little weary, the early starts and busy days were beginning to take their toll and once more, I was glad to have my own room & space. In addition, we were all feeling the positive effects of a strong daily yoga practice and the not so positive effects such as muscles ache, small injuries and fatigue. The morning asana practice had begun to get more interactive with one student each morning not practising and spending the session as a teaching assistant, helping with the adjustments. The Pranayama and Meditation sessions became more advanced and we were learning Kundalini Pranayama exercises where reaching a different state of consciousness was indeed close to passing out.
We covered more Anatomy for Yoga where I learnt that, anatomically, I have short arms, a strong inward rotation in my thighs and flexible elbows. It was interesting to learn about the human body and the various internal & external limitations we all have when it comes to movement. I discovered that the reason my arm balances are not my strong point is because of my short arms. I had always thought I simply didn’t have the strength or the flexibility. My Dandasana is done on my fingertips, I will never be able to do the full bind with a straight back in Marichyasana C and my Parivritta Parsvakonasana will always be done with my hands in Anjali Mudra (prayer position). However, my free standing handstand should come easily which is positive!
Raquel delivered a really valuable lecture on yoga class sequencing and structuring. It sounds like something simple, but getting it right is an art in itself. She mentioned that she had previously been in classes where the teacher had literally run out of things to do near the end of the class and started doing sun salutations. Additionally, I myself have previously been in classes where the teacher is all over the place – it’s incredibly off putting. We were advised to consider before each class: the theme for the class, level of the class, time of day, energy of students, props available and length of class.
James gave an introduction to Tantra and its associated practices, including Tantra yoga; work on the subtle energies within the body to enhance spiritual growth and physical wellbeing. Through the exploration of these energies and their connection to the universe, the purpose of life and the connection to others can be understood in a new dimension. We learnt that Tantric yogis believe that the world is an illusion / dream, and more specifically, it’s Shiva’s dream. Therefore, they embrace the dream and make the most of the world (with no attachments), believing that anything can be a root to enlightenment and seeing the divinity in everything (through transfiguration). We also learnt about the Tantric love making process, retaining sexual energies through Bramacharya (one of the Niyamas) and the sacredness of Ojas. I found it very thought-provoking but also had reservations about the practices and beliefs. I don’t believe that the world is Shiva’s dream, that people will die when they run out of Ojas or that teenagers are grumpy because that’s when they start to lose their Ojas. It’s another topic I will do more reading on because while it was good introduction, I clearly wasn’t seeing the bigger picture by just scratching on the surface.
There was a Yoga Nidra session towards the end of the week with Raquel, which worked wonders on me. Yoga Nidra is one of my favourite ways to relax, finding that mysterious space / borderline where your subconscious mind is active while asleep is powerful. The deep relaxation technique and method of Pratyahara (one of the Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga where you shut down your external senses and internalise your meditation) was developed by the Bihar School of Yoga and effectively soothes at all levels; physical, mental and emotional. On top of that, we had a session on Shiatsu massage (it was not part of the curriculum but a nice break for everyone) which helped everyone to loosen up further.
We were also introduced to the Brown Rice Diet / Cleanse during one of the group conscious eating discussions, whereby the dieter eats brown rice only for ten days. At the same time, the dieter cannot drink any water, although they can drink mint, basil and cinnamon tea. The diet lasts ten days because it supposedly cleans 10% of your blood every day, it even claims to cure cancer. Once again, I was quite apprehensive of what I was hearing and could imagine that prevention of cancer is more likely. Either way, brown rice is very healthy for you and I need to eat more of it.
The week continued with more Teaching Practice & Adjustment sessions, and the week three practicum was a 60 minute class, incorporating all of the specifics from the week two practicum criteria, a Chant, one Pranayama or Kriya, and an introduction to a meditation technique or practice. I chose to dedicate the class to Ahimsa, the first Yama, taught the Nadi Sodhana (alternate nostril breathing) Pranayama and gave an in introduction to Ujaii breathing (the breathing meditation / internal mantra activated during the practice of asanas). I really enjoyed the practicum and had very positive feedback which gave me confidence for the final practicum in week four.
To end the week, I took a trip to Granada for one night with Katrina to see the Alhambra. We had a brilliant time there and the Alhambra and its gardens were as beautiful as they appear in the photos I’d seen in guidebooks. We walked all around the city, through Albaicin (the old town), up by the caves and through the tourist area – and of course, we sampled a glass or two of the local wine. It was good to have a short break from the cortijo, it felt a little strange being in the city (albeit a small one) because we’d gotten used to life on the mountain, but it meant that we returned feeling refreshed, happy to be back amongst nature and ready for the final week.
As week four set in, everyone was beginning to feel sad that the course was almost over. I did my best not to feel sad, I felt like I’d taken advantage of everything I had been offered and experienced. I had been extremely attentive during all of the classes and lectures, so that I could enjoy the free time given throughout the course, without worrying that I should be studying. I had walked around the mountains on the weekends and walked the farm dogs, Chispita and Delilah, during the sunsets. I had taken a trip to Granada and made an effort to explore the surrounding area. There was very little I would have changed and stayed focus on being as present as possible, enjoying and soaking up everything around me.
During one of the asana sessions at the beginning of week four, we did the whole Primary Ashtanga Series blindfolded. It was unexpected and one of the strangest things I had ever done, but a wonderful way to explore the different postures and feel my way into them, without relying on external cues. I even found some of the poses to be easier thanks to the heightened sensation of internal awareness.
We had wonderful Ayurveda lecture with Mark and Raquel. Ayurveda is definitely on my list for further research, as the traditional Indian health system, it uses the Doshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) to determine one’s state of health and emphasises maintaining the mind, body and spirit balance through diet, yoga and lifestyle. I liked that in contrast to the western approach to diet (one size fits all), Ayurveda believes that we need a diet that balances us.
Mid-week, we had our final assessment and 75 minute practicum. I went into my final practicum positively and even managed to squeeze in the John Lennon quote that “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. The quote could not have fit in better when I was grounding my class and encouraging the students to be present during their practice. I will be using that quote again as I teach other students. The practicum went very well and I personally thanked all three teachers for simply being wonderful teachers. Individually and collectively they were very inspiring, they all had their clear strengths and together were an invaluable source of knowledge.
From then on, the second part of the week was laid back. We had another blissful Yoga Nidra session, covered Ethics & Business for Yoga Teachers, did a slow moving Dynamic Mediation (moving our hands very, very, very slowly to music) and did some Partner yoga. I also gave my final morning reading on the penultimate day of the course about embracing the first Yama, Ahimsa, letting go of stresses and having clarity of mind. I reminded everyone that when we hold onto problems or things which burden us, we inadvertently harm ourselves. While it is important to think of these things, we should also remember that we have a choice in how we respond to a problem. Sometimes, it’s better to let go of it and sometimes, it helps to simply write it down, sleep on it and come back to it the next day. With practice, I believe that making these choices will translate into a more relaxed self.
Our final group asana practice was the Ashtanga Primary Series performed in silence, and the final meditation was an Anahata (heart chakra) meditation where we channelled love and appreciation at one another. We then had a short break before returning to the yoga shala for our closing / graduation ceremony, which began with a sharing session (where we talked about how we were feeling) before we celebrated the month past and becoming qualified yoga teachers. The afternoon was free for us to do what we liked so I went for a big walk to Castaras to have one last good look at the mountains and scenery (and sneak in a celebratory can of Fanta), before returning to the farm for a lounge by the pool and a delicious dinner with the group.
On my final morning, I woke up with a tinge of sadness. I was excited to be heading back to London to see my family and friends, go to my favourite restaurants, even go on a mini shopping spree but I was sad to be leaving the farmhouse, my new friends and fellow teachers, the adorable dogs, mouth-wateringly good organic farm and the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen. That being said, I hope I can return to the cortijo at some point in the future because throughout the month that I spent there, it had become a special place, full of warm and lasting memories.
The daily yoga practice during the teacher training has benefitted me greatly – every class that I’ve been to since I arrived back has felt relatively easy in comparison. I am less focused on stretching myself into pose as far as possible, but more focused on getting my alignment right first before I consider deepening into a pose. I am also very aware of each teacher I go to now and analyse how they teach, what I like, what I don’t like and learn from them.
As a student, I will continue to go to as many yoga classes and lectures as possible, not only to learn but because I truly enjoy them. I also have areas for additional study that I’d like to undertake, such as Restorative yoga, the Chakras and Anatomy for Yoga.
As a teacher, I hope I can assist and inspire others on their yoga journey. My classes will be about energising the body, opening up and ultimately relaxing the mind and body. They will be for people who want to retreat from the stresses of the city and take a moment for themselves, where they can switch off from the world, turn off their phone and relax. Quite simply, they are for people who want to stretch out and feel good.
Each class will be fun and challenging, delivered in a mix of English and Sanskrit, with easy to understand demonstrations and optional hands on adjustments. I will make sure that students leave feeling refreshed and renewed. Yoga is unique because it has no boundaries, it can be done almost anywhere, at any time, with anyone and requires little more than a mat. It is suitable for all ages, fitness levels, shapes and sizes. I believe that there is a style of yoga for everyone and I will encourage students to discover what works for them.
Importantly, my fear that by becoming a yoga teacher, I’d take away what I enjoyed about yoga, proved to be completely untrue. In fact, it only enhanced and grew what I loved about yoga, with many laughs along the way. At the same time, yoga makes more sense to me now than ever. When I look at the many layers which contribute to the world of yoga, it all slowly begins to fall into place – even if I do have to take what works and leave the rest.
I would like to thank my teachers, Mark, Raquel and James; the teaching assistants, Jay and David; my fellow students and now teachers, Nancy, Patricia, Janne, Andrew and Kevin; Katrina; Joachim & Paco and of course, Tribe Yoga, for being a part of this special journey.