In August 2019 I attended a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training on the tropical island Koh Phangan in Thailand. It was one month of fully immersing in the practice. When I signed up for the training, which was kind of an impulsive decision, I had no idea that that one month was going to change my life as I knew it. Completely.
I was living in Melbourne, in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city centre. I had only moved there recently from Amsterdam, with high hopes and expectations. But I ended up struggling to find peace in this new environment. Instead, I felt stuck and hopeless about my future. Every day I woke up with less spirit and more anxiety. Until I felt so depressed that my doctor advised me to stop working and stay home for a while. I wasn’t able to do much. Even going to the supermarket made me feel anxious. Every day I would just be staring at my laptop screen like a zombie, hoping to find the key to my happiness and a life purpose on Google. There would only be two reasons for me to leave the house during that time: decaf oat lattes and yoga.
During those dark and gloomy days I rediscovered my love for practicing yoga. I would go to class almost every day (sometimes twice a day) and float out of the studio afterwards feeling peaceful and fulfilled. Until one day an idea was planted in my brain. I noticed the positive effects of practicing yoga on my mind and body, and wanted to immerse fully into the practice. So, without knowing what to expect or if I even wanted to become a yoga teacher, I decided to sign up for a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training in Thailand. Why Thailand? Because flights from Australia were cheap, I knew the country and because some gut feeling told me that I had to do it at that specific school on Koh Phangan (yes, there is more to the island than Full Moon parties). And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in these twenty-something years of my life, it’s that the gut knows what the gut knows. Little did I know that I was in for quite a ride.
Yoga is more than just physical activity
The first day of the training I felt nervous. I was afraid that I would be the least experienced of everyone. That all the other students would be super advanced yogi’s and able to gracefully fold themselves into pretzels and other cool shapes. I quickly learned that that is not what yoga is about. There’s more to it than flexibility and strength. In fact, yoga is so much more than just the physical practice. It’s a whole lifestyle and philosophy. Everyone in the group was at different stages of their practice and taking the course for different reasons. Some were there to become teachers, some for personal growth, others had quit and left everything at home to go through a transformation and see from there. But there was one thing we all had in common: we were there to deepen our understanding of the practice we loved. And I think I speak for most of my fellow students when I say that during that month of training, we also gained a deeper understanding of ourselves.
“I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much in one month time.”
A Yoga Teacher Training is a very intense and personal experience. I expected it to be intense on the body (and with 4 hours of yoga asana classes 6 days a week, it was), but I didn’t expect it to be such an emotional rollercoaster. At the beginning of the training we were told that the shala was a safe space for everyone. That we were to leave our judgments, of others as well as ourselves, outside the door. I felt that safety to be vulnerable instantly. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much in one month time. I would cry on the most random moments: during the asana classes when I was holding a Warrior pose or just lying in savasana. When I was chanting mantras and singing kirtan. On the first day off I took an ice bath and when I crawled out of it after 15 minutes, shivering, I burst into tears. It was as if I finally felt safe to release some of the old emotions that were stuck deep inside my body for months, even years. Until towards the end my heart felt light and open, a feeling I never felt before (I experience a similar feeling during my Vipassana meditation course a month later).
What I learned
We learned about all the different topics within and related to yoga, such as the history, philosophy, anatomy, Ayurveda, the art of teaching, and so much more. But what I also learned, was how to love myself. And that was a personal breakthrough for me. I experienced what it felt like to take care of my body and mind in the best ways possible, to shower both with love and complete acceptance. During the training I developed self care habits which now are still part of my daily morning routine, such as tongue scraping and meditation. We were encouraged to refrain from consuming alcohol and other intoxicants during the length of the course, which had a huge positive impact on my mental and physical health. I had to face the facts: my lifestyle needed these drastic changes in order for me to feel balanced and happy. I couldn’t go back to my old way of life after this experience. So I promised myself that, from now on, I would live a life fully in alignment with my body, mind and soul. And that is the most empowering, loving and transformative decision I have ever made.
Excuses and self limiting beliefs
When I was still toying with the idea of Yoga Teacher Training in my head back in Melbourne, I came up with many reasons why not to do it. Excuses such as not having the money or time and lack of experience. Self limiting beliefs talking me down by saying that I would never become a good yoga practitioner, let alone teacher. That I wouldn’t fit in with the yoga boys and girls. But after a month of overthinking and going through all the information I could find on the internet, I decided to follow my gut feeling and just hit that ‘apply’ button. And I am grateful I did. I gained so much more from this experience than I could ever have hoped for – including amazing new brothers and sisters who shared this powerful journey with me.
A 200 hour YTT is just the beginning
Even though I am able to sequence and teach a full 60-90 min yoga class now, there still is much to learn about the practice and the philosophy. Honestly, I feel like my yoga journey has only just begun. I will always remain a devoted student of the practice and I strive to become an excellent teacher. Yoga transformed my life for the better. It has changed the way I think, feel, speak, eat, move, listen and see the world. Which is why I am dedicated to share this gift with the world and help all who could benefit from it.
My first YTT assist
The current world situation has unfortunately made it very difficult to attend Yoga Teacher Trainings. Thankfully, Yoga Alliance is temporarily allowing schools registered with them to offer their YTTs online, making it possible to do a Yoga Teacher Training from the comfort of your own home. And I am super grateful to announce that I will be assisting my beloved partner and amazing yoga teacher Shy Sayar during the next Online 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training with his school Tantravaya Yoga. I am over the moon excited about this opportunity and feel ready to learn more about yoga and all that comes with it!