Diary of a Yoga Teacher Training

20th September – Seats for Take Off

It’s Friday, the start of this adventure. I have felt physically sick with anxiety all week; sleepless nights trying to gradually hand over all KF related responsibilities. My inner control freak has been running riot; my identity firmly trapped in my ability to sell houses in Chelsea. The guilt of letting colleagues down eating away at me, questioning my audacity to ask for two weeks (yes, TWO WEEKS) of unpaid leave. Well, it’s too late now; my work phone is locked in my bedside drawer at home and I’m at the airport, taking the longest break in my working career to date – four weeks starts now.

The flight is somewhat average at best (Air India in case you’re remotely interested) and as I arrive in Mumbai, connecting to Goa, hungry and lacking sleep, I come across three, 20-something females with yoga mats strapped to their backs. Friends. NEW TEACHER TRAINEE FRIENDS! Alice, Beth, Lucy and I make our way through transfers and onto our next flight – Goa incoming.

21st September – The Simple Life

Dunes Holiday Village, Mandrem, North Goa. Sounds (and looks) quite glamorous doesn’t it?! Think again. My home for the next four weeks; “D14” – a very basic tree hut, on stilts, albeit thankfully with an “indoor” en suite bathroom. The highlight of this bathroom; the “walls” are covered in psychedelic lime green and pink tarpaulin – what a feast for the eyes! My next door neighbour and new friend, Lucy, pops her head out from her almost identical hut and we look at each other and laugh/slightly cry. Little did we know, our basic huts would feel like home in no time at all (it also turns out that we hit the jackpot being up on stilts – no rats, limited creepy crawlies and our own little balcony/terrace – living the dream!).

22nd September – Day 1 / A Typical Day in the Life

6.30am – Alarm goes off. Get up, listen out for Beth saying “morning Lucy, morning Toto”. I quickly grab Lucy and head to the yoga shala (a 1 minute commute – dreamy).

7am – 30 minutes of meditation, in silence, in stillness. I rarely sit in meditation for more than 10 minutes at home so after half an hour, everything feels tingly, numb and my monkey mind is well and truly causing utter chaos. It gets easier.

7.30am – 2 hour practice; ashtanga vinyasa primary series (every, damn, day until week 3 when they finally unleash the Rocket practice – more on this later). Working through sun salutations A & B (nailed it), standing sequence (getting by), seated postures and closing (not a bloody clue – send help).

9.30am – Breakfast buffet. Aka the highlight of everyone’s day! Fresh fruit, muesli, smoothies, nutella pancakes, eggs – nothing is too much to ask of the lovely chefs and waiters. I could get used to this.

10.30am – Theory, lectures, more practice. Everybody has already fallen in love with Dulce, one of our teachers, and it’s only Day 1 (we’re yet to meet Jamie – he arrives in a couple of day’s time).

1pm – Lunch break. Aka “Toto’s tanning time”. Later known as “I want to tan but I also have to do my homework which is due in 10 minutes and I also have to buy more unnecessary stuff from the beach sellers”.

4pm – Theory, lectures, more practice. Hamstrings slowly dying by this point in the day.

7pm – Supper with the gang. Mixed veg curry and rice, pretty much daily, occasionally going crazy for a tofu and mushroom masala, with more rice.

8.55pm – The daily plod/jog up to “Auntie’s”, the shop at the top of the road to stock up on dark chocolate, vegan ice cream, nut butter and granola before she closes at 9pm. We love Auntie. She feeds our basic, first world problem filled souls.

9.30pm – Bed. Exhausted. Repeat for 3.5 weeks.

26th September – Triggered

Jamie Clarke. What can I say. So much knowledge and I’m completely gripped by what he is saying but boy, am I on edge.

Jamie has been leading us for the last two days. His approach is firm; he wants to trigger you, to unleash the very parts of yourself which you hide away, to reopen a wound so that it can be healed. This training is closely linked with the chakra system; each module of the course relates to a different chakra and a specific focus on our life/relationships/subconscious patterning. For example; module one, root chakra, linked to our relationship with our mother (cue all the wheels coming off).

I am starting to understand more about living with a lifelong medical condition and how it has shaped my childhood, my relationships, my beliefs and my personality. I am scared of making mistakes, of not being good enough, of being singled out as failing. I am so triggered by Jamie; I don’t want to be told that i’m not good enough. I notice that i’m not speaking up very much in class either; quite a rarity for a self-confessed chatterbox.

I am beginning to notice that my sense of play, particularly in my yoga practice (inversions/being upside down) is missing. Years of being wrapped in cotton wool by my parents out of pure fear of me becoming more ill (for which I love them dearly), of limiting my exposure to things which weren’t 100 percent controlled, has resulted in me being a complete scaredy cat when faced with the possibility that something might go wrong. These beliefs and subconscious patterns are showing up in more ways on this training than I thought was even possible. That being said, I’m absolutely loving the challenge.

28th September – First Day Off!

Escaping Dunes (I adore it, however mixed veg curry and rice is starting to get repetitive) in search of sundowners and hummus. Sundowners in Anjuna beach, followed by hummus at Art Juna Cafe, plus a full body massage back at “Shanti’s” in Mandrem for the equivalent of £10. Winning!

30th September – Karaoke Queens

Jamie’s birthday – our first party! Jamie’s birthday wish however; a karaoke night. Panic ensues.

My closest friends and family will know that I can sing, however singing in public is something which fills me with absolute dread. I used to just about manage to sing a solo in chapel at school but in the last few years, you couldn’t pay me enough money to stand up and sing in front of people. Another classic example of fearing that i’m not good enough. Triggered.

Lucy (aka ball of unbelievable energy who can sing/dance/run marathons/handstand for days) suggests that we do a duet. Lucy and I have been singing/warbling in our adjacent, tarpaulin lined showers to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow”. It seems like a safe enough bet, given we’ve practised our harmonies several times already today.

Present day: There is video footage of our duet (not to be shared on here!) which I have just watched back but all I can say is that the karaoke evening was the moment where I started to open up on the training and believe that my true self was perhaps enough, dodgy singing notes and all. Thank you Lucy for encouraging me to sing my heart out x

Karaoke highlight – Cherise singing Tina Turner’s “Rolling on a River”. Unforgettable! Cherise is my other tree hut neighbour and I could quite happily listen to her singing all day, every day.

4th October – Day Off Numero 2

A 5KM run along the beach at sunrise with Lucy and Beth (now appropriately named the “TYP OGs”), followed by meditation, practice and a massage all before lunch. Finishing the day with the most amazing sunset swim with Beth and Hannah; my fellow water babies!

5th October – Missing Family

It’s my Dad’s 60th birthday today. My parents have organised a big party on Islay in Scotland with 40 friends for the weekend, including my two younger sisters, one of who’m has flown back from South America so that she can be there. I am sad not to be celebrating such a milestone birthday with Dad but I feel that today is a key moment in this training; I feel something bubbling inside me, a sensation around my heart. It feels right to be here.

Emotionally, I have felt pretty resilient to date but as we move further up through the chakra system, I definitely feel more vulnerable. I feel uneasy as we approach the heart and throat chakras, almost nauseous.

My physical practice feels stronger, although my hamstrings still firmly hate me. I’m enlisting the help of inversion Queen, Lucy to help me with my pincha and handstand practice on the beach. So far we’ve gone from heavy legged, elephant-like attempts at a handstand to brief moments of hope.

9th October – Launching the Rocket

After two and a half weeks of primary series ashtanga (all day, every day) we have lift off; Rocket yoga is finally here! The excitement is real, swiftly followed by the realisation that the rocket practice includes a LOT of inversions and arm balances (hence “lift off”) and is possibly even more tiring than the primary series. RIP hamstrings and shoulders.

11th October – A Visit to the Ayurvedic Doctor

One of the assistant teachers on my training, Charlotte, is actually a friend of mine. There is quite a strict rule at TYP about ensuring a student/teacher boundary and as such, Charlotte and I are not supposed to socialise. During a brief cheeky catch up, Charlotte mentions that she has been to see the local ayurvedic doctor and suggests I go too. We walk together to the doctor’s surgery and remember what it’s like to be friends who talk about things other than chakras and chaturangas.

Present day: I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty of the doctor’s appointment other than to say that it was completely eye opening and everything that the doctor said, made total sense. Even as a nutritional therapist, the simplistic power of traditional Indian medicine blew my mind. If you ever find yourself in Mandrem, North Goa, Dr Rohit is absolutely worth a visit.

13th October – Facing Fears

No time for lunchtime tanning today; it’s my practice exam! I spend my lunch break teaching my final class to an assistant teacher (Charlotte – hitting the jackpot!), whilst Dulce and Jamie observe in the background. Positive yoga pants firmly on, I leave the shala feeling like I could actually teach people yoga!

This afternoon brings my biggest challenge of the training to date; a photo shoot. No sequences to fluff, no sanskrit to mispronounce, just me and a camera as we build our marketing material for the “real world” of teaching. Six months ago, this would have resulted in a full blown panic attack. I have only recently opened up about my long struggle with body dysmorphia and if it wasn’t for the four months of weekly CBT therapy which I endured in the first half of 2019, this photo shoot would have been a disaster.

Instead, here I am, bare faced and imperfections on show, reminding myself of how far I have come. For the first time in years, I manage to tell myself; I look beautiful. I am enough.

Present day: Thank you Kirsty and Gina for being so wonderfully patient with me on such a scary but transformative day x

15th October – My Friend Sita

I met Sita on my first day in India. A 23 year old beach seller (illegal in India) with three children, Sita and I quickly hit it off as we told each other our life stories, while she convinced me to buy half of her “shop”. On the occasional wobbly day, I would walk down to the beach to clear my head alone, only to be greeted by Sita who didn’t quite understand what “alone time” meant. A big hug and some wise words from Sita always followed (with maybe another anklet or toe ring purchase for good measure). I had definitely made a new friend.

Today, I visit Sita in her newly opened shop in the village to choose a dress for tomorrow’s closing ceremony and party. We try on several options, including many unnecessary accessories, and settle for a beautiful blue patterned dress with a low back. My inner estate agent admires Sita’s sale conversion rate; she cannot read or write (much like some estate agents) but boy she can sell!

Present day: I miss Sita. We swapped numbers before I left India and on my return to London, we stayed in touch via Whatsapp voice notes and the occasional (hilarious) video call. This lasted for about one week and then one day, my messages stopped sending to her. I haven’t been able to reach Sita since but I hope that when I return to India in March for mandala training, we will be reunited in spectacular fashion!

16th October – The Big Finale

Exam day is here! Butterflies in my tummy, I have a long day ahead of me. My teaching exam is the final class of the day so until then, I have three classes to practice as a student (that’s a lot of chaturangas) and one as an observer.

My 75 minute class flies by and as we ceremoniously close the exam space, tears start to roll down my cheeks. Feelings of relief, joy and sadness wash over me; a realisation that this is all coming to an end far too quickly. We make our way down to the beach for some sun and fun photos before getting ready for the closing/graduation ceremony and famous after party.

The after party in full swing; an all you can eat vegan buffet, alcohol, karaoke, dancing and a beach fire pit. Yogis on the loose! We start to say our goodbyes to those who have flights to catch, which includes Beth and Lucy – cue more tears!

I call it a night, retiring to my beloved tree hut for one final time, this time as a yoga teacher.

17th October – Homeward Bound

Waking up without hearing the dulcet tones of Cherise and Lucy feels unfamiliar and sad. I make my way down to the shala for one final practice with the remaining yogis. The partygoers are put through their paces by Dulce and one of her famous mandala vinyasa sequences. Mild hangover cured (for most – some are in a dark place!).

Alice, Martha, Bex and I venture to a local “health retreat” hotel for a very detoxifying/raw food-esque final breakfast. Sorry? No coffee? We hotfoot it back to Dunes for soya milk cappuccinos – creatures of habit!

The final day flies by, ending with an intimate dinner at some of the group’s new swanky huts in Ashwem. Come midnight, Kirsty, Bex, Charlotte, Marie and I are in taxis on our way to the airport for our 4am flight. London, here we come.

18th October – My Top 10 Highlights

As I sit here, over 12 hours into my journey back to London, I acknowledge that this training has been the best, most transformative and special experience of my life to date. The teachers, my friends for life, India; I feel happier, healthier and more connected to my truth than ever before.

My top 10 moments (too many to choose from!):

  1. Root chakra fire circle (essentially lots of burning things!)
  2. Dinner at Art Juna (I love hummus)
  3. Karaoke Night 1
  4. Sita (obsessed)
  5. The beach photo shoot
  6. Ayurvedic doctor’s appointment
  7. Sunset dance routines à la Dulce (and sunset swims)
  8. Final exam day
  9. Final mandala practice with Queen Dulce
  10. Making friends for life

Thinking of doing a Yoga Teacher Training?

I think this needs to be an entirely separate post in itself so please let me know if you are interested in learning about my experience of choosing a yoga teacher training course and the things to look out for when making your decision (you can comment below or reach out to me via email/social media).

I personally loved my training with The Yoga People. I am fully aware that not everybody loves their teacher training experience and no training is perfect, however I feel so lucky to have been guided by such experienced teachers and to have found a course which worked for me. To Jamie, Dulce, Marina, Malin, Charlotte and Anniken – thank you!

I am currently six months post-teacher training, in the depths of London lockdown due to COVID-19, feeling grateful for the time to reflect on my yoga journey to date. This diary style blog post is mostly for my own benefit, however it seemed like a therapeutic way to get back into the flow of writing. If you made it to the end, congratulations! I hope you found it a nice way to pass the time! xxx

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