Making the decision to enroll in a Yoga Teacher Training really surprised me. I always thought only those incredibly fit and impossibly bendy girls who do yoga on Instagram could go to YTTs.
I couldn’t put my thighs behind my shoulders, so I obviously wasn’t “yoga” enough. And yet, sometime in late 2013, I signed up for a 200 hour yoga teacher training with Wise Living Yoga Academy in Chiang Mai Thailand.
My Yoga Journey, In Short, From the Beginning
I tried yoga for the first time with my mom in 2006. It was my senior year in high school and I liked it, but I didn’t really get it. It just didn’t click with me at the time, but it stayed in the back of my mind. Lurking in the shadows.
I didn’t take another yoga class until 2012. I always thought about taking yoga classes. I talked about taking yoga classes. But I never actually took any yoga classes. I was too busy
studying skipping class.
But in 2012 I moved to South Korea. One morning, desperate to meet people and find something to do that wasn’t teaching, I googled “English Language Yoga Classes, Seoul” and a place called “Celebrity Yoga” came up.
It was a Bikram Yoga studio in Gangnam. After one class, I was addicted.
Unfortunately, this coincided with a very dark time in my life. I’ve written about that many times. Now is not the time nor the place.
The good thing that came out of my Bikram obsession was my dedication to yoga and my desire to learn more. As I planned a six month backpacking trip for 2013-2014, a friend in California encouraged me to take a yoga teacher training.
“But, I’m not good enough,” I thought. “I’ll just look like a fool.”
Yet I signed up. I was curious and what the hell, it’s another thing to add to the resume, right?
A Yoga Teacher Training at Wise Living Yoga Academy
Zoom ahead to February 2014 and I walked through the front gate of the Wise Living Yoga Academy in Chiang Mai. It is a peaceful ashram run by a truly lovely couple, Jeenal and Daniel. They had both studied for many years at the Yoga Institute of Mumbai in India, and had recently moved to Chiang Mai to spread the knowledge of classical yoga.
Classical Yoga? At that time, I had no idea what that was.
This was a completely immersive 200 hour YTT. The program lasted for one month, and we studied full-time Monday through Friday, with a half day on Saturday. It was intense, but also life altering.
Everything about our days at the ashram was structured to teach us the Classical Yoga lifestyle. It was a complete immersion. Day by day, we learned bits and pieces of this lifestyle, little realizing we were already living it in the daily pattern of our lives at the ashram.
We covered yogic philosophy. We meditated. We ate vegan food. We enjoyed silent meals. We practiced gentle asana, and stronger asana. We slowly, peacefully, effortlessly adopted the classical yoga lifestyle.
I guess to best explain what a “classical yoga” lifestyle is, if you’ve never really heard of that before, I’ll outline a typical day at WYLA.
A Day in the Life of a 200 Hour YTT
- 5:30am My alarm rings. I sit up in bed and silently drink some water.
- 5:50am I make my way through the fragrant gardens to the meditation hall. Silently, along with my classmates, we enter the hall and take our seats on cushions on the floor.
- 6:00am Guided meditation begins. Daniel’s soft voice leads me into my inner tranquility. I close my eyes. Focus on my breath. Let my mind relax.
- 6:30 – 7:00am We finish our meditation and quietly head back to our room to retrieve our mats.
- 7:00am Morning asana practice, lead by Daniel or Jeenal. We practice sometimes gentle, sometimes quite challenging Asana practice for an hour and a half.
- 8:30am Breakfast. A gorgeous buffet of vegan porridge, fruits, and other delights.
- 10am to 12:30 Philosophy. The morning is spent with Daniel, discussing philosophy of ancient India. We discuss texts such as Hatha Pradipka Yoga and the Bhagavad Gita
- 12:30 – 2pm Lunch, Another stunning vegan buffet of bright vegetables, salads, curries, and rice. Rest time.
- 2:00-2:30pm Yogic Relaxation. We practice and try not to fall asleep. We’re also learning how to teach this practice.
- 2:30pm – 5:00pm A variety of classes with Jeenal. Some days we study pranayamas. Other days we study the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali. Still other days we study yogic cleansing techniques.
- 5:00-6:30pm Asana Practice. With Daniel or Jeenal we learn how to teach different asanas.
- 6:30 – 9:00pm Dinner. Another stunning vegan buffet. After dinner we have personal study time until we sleep.
If it sounds intense, it was. I’ve never learned so much in such a short time. The experience was one I will never forget.
What I loved about my Yoga Teacher Training
The flow of knowledge was measured out so well. I think it is safe to say that most of my classmates were as clueless as I was in the beginning. We thought that yoga was mostly just a style of exercise that was loosely connected to mindfulness.
Jeenal and Daniel were able to gently lead us into the knowledge that Yoga is a holistic philosophy of how to live ones life. Meditation is an integral part of yoga. Food is part of yoga. Exercise is part of Yoga. Everything is part of yoga.
Yoga is a way of life. Yoga is a goal. Yoga is in everything you do, from the moment you wake, to the food you eat, to the things you say.
In the immersive setting of the ashram, we were able to truly experience the yogic lifestyle. Living in peaceful tranquillity, surrounded by floral gardens, trickling streams, and chirping tropical birds, we were able to experience a quiet sense of contentment.
I was also able to learn, for the first time, that I didn’t need to punish my body with exercise. I learned to appreciate my body for what it could do, and to stop hating all my imperfections.
I saw first hand the myriad benefits that come from a steady practice of meditation. The benefit of speaking less and listening more. And the serenity that comes from stillness.
Were there things I would have changed about the course? Perhaps a few. I wish we had read the texts beforehand, so that we could have discussed their ideas in greater depth with Daniel. I wish just a touch more emphasis was placed on having time to practice actually teaching asanas, guided meditation, and pranayamas.
But on the whole, taking a yoga teacher training in Thailand was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. WYLA truly became my home for that month. A home I would love to return to someday.
My Takeaway: Even If You Think You Aren’t Ready, You Are
If you’ve been thinking of taking a yoga teacher training but have been holding yourself back, stop. I’m here to tell you: you are ready. 200 Hour courses are less about learning to teach and more about deepening your own relationship with yoga. After all, how can you teach someone the path if you don’t walk it yourself?