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I’m doing a yoga teacher training course – but why?

Sea and Forest yoga mat, Trindade

My heels hover above the ground in downward dog, I wobble in tree and tortoise looks like a distant dream, yet in a few days time I start a month-long yoga teacher training course. This might sound akin to someone rubbish at gymnastics becoming a gym coach, but there are a few differences.

Firstly, I’m not doing it to be a teacher. Perhaps one day I will be, but for now I feel like I have a lot more of my own practice to do before I can really pass that on. I’m doing this course to deepen my understanding of yoga – and that goes way beyond the asanas (physical yoga postures).

Beach at Tailwind Jungle Lodge

The beach at Tailwind Jungle Lodge where I’m doing my course

Unlike gymnastics and many sports, yoga isn’t all about the physical body and competition. It’s a way of life. In countries like the UK and US, yoga has often been stripped of its philosophy and reduced to mere acrobatics. Its practitioners often use it purely as vehicle to a more attractive body, rather than a path to understanding and bettering themselves and the world.

This isn’t the yoga I’m looking for. Nor am I looking for yoga that has been subsumed by the New Age. I want to know where it came from, how it works and what it’s all about. I’ve chosen an Ashtanga Vinyasa course and the little I do know about it excites me and rings true. I don’t yet know exactly what yoga means to me, and I imagine I’ll struggle with parts of it and be enamored by others, but I’m willing and excited to learn.

Why did I choose yoga?

But why yoga? What’s drawn me to it? Initially, it was because of the way it made me feel. Every time I’ve been diligent and practiced regularly, I’ve noticed the benefits both in mind and body. The frustrations and tensions you feel on the mat tend to mirror your everyday life. Despite this, I find it hard to keep the habit. As soon as I break it, I struggle to get going again. I become lazy and laissez faire, and I’m hoping that this intense month-long learning will kick-start and cement a lifelong practice.

I’ll also attracted to the philosophy of yoga. Asanas are only one of the eight ‘limbs’ of yoga. The others are more concerned with mental and spiritual well-being. For example, being vegetarian is part of a yogic lifestyle, and the first two limbs deal entirely with your behavior towards yourself and others – being truthful, non-violent, not stealing etc. They have similarities to Christianity’s ten commandments and Buddhism’s eight-fold path ­– basic ideas on ethical living.

Is yoga a religion?

But yoga isn’t a religion in itself. It uses a lot of the language of Hinduism so is sometimes confused with that – and it has similarities to religion such as its ethical code and study of ancient texts, but it doesn’t dictate the nature of a God to be worshipped. Instead that God is left open to interpretation. This suits me as I have no firm ideas on the subject and struggle with anything dogmatic. (As an aside, I was told the other day that in Quecha, there is no satisfactory translation for the word ‘religion’. Nature is their religion/God as there’s no bigger mystery than that.)

Despite my aversion to dogma, there is one thing I truly do believe in and that is mindfulness. Through studying and being in psychotherapy, I came to learn the benefits and importance of being mindful of your actions – learning to respond rather than react. It saves countless suffering, but is much easier said than done. Things like yoga and meditation are ways to practice being mindful. It’s not an easy path as you are constantly faced with yourself and your own responsibility for your actions rather than the fault of others, but ultimately, I believe it’s more rewarding.

Tailwind Jungle Lodge bungalow

Steve is joining me at Tailwind for the second two weeks, and this will be our home.

These are all things that play as a backing track to my life, but don’t always get the attention I’d like to give them. I’ve wanted to do a course like this for years – to really absorb myself in the practice and learn about it properly rather than dipping in and out of books and lessons. But the time has never been right, mainly due to work commitments. Even when this opportunity came up, I nearly let it go, worried that I should be working instead – but eventually, I decided to go for it. The Vegetarian Travel Guide will launch soon and my workload will increase. If I don’t do it now, I may never do it and I think I’d surely regret that.

So, as I said at the start, I begin my course in a few days time. My teachers at Drishti Yoga seem awesome and it’s all taking place in a gorgeous-looking place called Tailwind Jungle Lodge on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. The whole saga of the mole means I’m a lot less prepared physically than I would like to be, but I do I feel ready for the challenge.

Who knows where this adventure will take me, but I couldn’t be more excited to find out.

Im only going to have the internet once or twice a week for the duration of the course, but will check in occasionally to let you know how its going.

The photos of Tailwind are from tailwindjunglelodge.com

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Comments

  1. says

    Yes. Yes to all of this! I’d also love to do a teacher’s course some day, but not because I actually want to become a yoga instructor – rather, to get a better understanding of yoga itself. And not just to learn more about the philosophy (although that would be the most pressing matter), but about correct alignment too! Those poses can be crazy intricate sometimes…

    Completely feel you on getting out of the habit sometimes, though…oops ;)
    Naomi recently posted..What’s up with Tbilisi, Georgia? LOVE IS.My Profile

    • Victoria says

      I know! That’s one of the main reasons I’m doing it – to learn the proper alignment. It’s so tricky sometimes!

  2. says

    This sounds like it will be an amazing experience! I have never really thought much about yoga but I think recently it has become a stereotypical activity for people such as stay at home mums who have nothing better to do with their time (for example!) and its true meaning and philosophy has started to get blurred.

    After hearing a loads of positive things about it recently (and after reading this), I have been considering starting yoga – not just for the physical benefits but also, like you say, for the mindfulness and philosophical aspects of it.
    Lizzie recently posted..Spotlight on Why: Matt from Nomadic MattMy Profile

    • Victoria says

      Hey Lizzie, It’s certainly worth a try. Also, remember that there are lots of different types of yoga, so if you don’t like it at first, there are plenty more types to try!

  3. says

    Hello,
    I am reading your blog now for a quite a while, and what I really wonder is how you afford all that. You do quite outstanding experiences, and that is great, but you are talking about other people could live like you do. But whenever I see any prices it is about 80 Dollar or far more per night for just the stay, you are travelling back and fourth to Europe, Southamerica and so on. In no way I could afford that, and for “normal” backpackers an amount of 40 Dollar / 30 Euro per night including stay and meal and busses is normal. So I am quite nosey about how you do that. ;) And second I would wish that you would be a little more aware that you are somewhat priviledged to travel that way, because most people in the world will not ever be able to do like that, even if they try.
    I wish you the best, take care and ave a good time,
    Inka
    inka recently posted..Zu Gewinnen: Postkarten vom Ende der Welt!My Profile

    • Victoria says

      Hi Inka,

      I’m so sorry if I sound ungrateful. I do realise that my position is more privileged than many. Steve and I aren’t really backpackers per se. We have backpacks and we sometimes stay in hostels, but we’re working as we travel (I as a writer and Steve as a filmmaker, and we both have businesses we’re working on – this blog, Planetary and The Vegetarian Travel Guide). It’s every different to when I travelled as a student. For example, nowadays we often work for more than 12 hours a day!

      However, you’re mistaken in thinking we regularly stay in places that cost $80 a night! That’s way out of our budget! If we’re on the move, we normally stay in private rooms in hostels (these vary in price but our current one, for example, is $30, and I consider that pretty expensive. The majority of our time is spent in long-term apartments. The room at Descanso del Toro that we stayed in in Vilcabamba was meant to be $80 a night but we found out from some locals that if you stayed long-term, you could get it for $17 a night! A lot of what we do may look luxury, but we’re pretty good at finding bargains.

      That said, there are two things this year that have been extraordinary expenses and that was the trip to Europe and this yoga course. Both were really big decisions. I had to make a big cut into my savings for the Europe trip, but I looked upon it as a business investment, and it has already almost paid its way in contacts and opportunities for making money from my writing and blog. This yoga course is something I have always wanted to do. I struggled with whether or not to do it, both time-wise, and financially, but in the end Steve convinced me it was worth it and also helped with the cost.

      But obviously, I do need some sort of money to be able to do any of this. I was planning on writing a post on this soon as I like to be as transparent as possible. In fact, I will still write the post, but I’ll answer you too here. There are three places I get money from – my freelance work and my savings are the first two. The third one is inheritance. Both my parents have died so Steve and I bought a house and we receive some rent from that. It is my aim to be able to not touch that money and use it as a sort of pension fund instead (that’s something you lack with being freelance/having your own business). That’s one of the reasons I am working so hard on my businesses (I also simply love them!). I do realise, however, that the inheritance is helping give me the opportunity to do that. It’s something I struggle with as I grew up in a modest household and scrimped and saved for my gap year (working in a bar/doing data entry), and stayed in the cheapest possible dorms while there. It’s new for me to feel like one of the ‘privileged ones’ and it comes with a lot of guilt. That said, I also struggle when people tell me how lucky I am to have a house. I only have a house because my parents died, and that’s not lucky at all. I would much prefer to have them alive, and to be on a tighter budget than the way it currently is.

      Either way, I still think I’d be living the way I am – travelling and working around the world. I may have had to save harder when working in London, stayed in dorms the whole way round, and it may have taken longer to get the businesses off the ground, but I believe fully in trying to live the way you want to rather than the way you think you should – whatever your means may be.

      I hope that answers your question – as you see it’s a pretty long answer! I really hate to think that I appear ungrateful. It’s something I think of every day. Also, our budget is around £1500 a month for the two of us, sometimes less, which is about $40 a day each. The trip to Europe and the yoga fall outside of that, but I hope you still find the blog relevant :).

      Thanks Inka,

      Victoria

      • says

        Dear Victoria,
        you are so sweet! Thank you very much for your long, informing and nice answer, I really mean it.
        You do not, and really NOT, sound ungrateful. What I misunderstood was that I thought of you being, well, you know, a little “naive”, like that naive I know some people of that have much more money than others and cannot imagine how to do without or on a lower level. Some “rich” people that did tell me a lot of times I could do like them, too. I am so sorry that I was so wrong, please take my excuse.
        And anyhow, thank you really for explaining HOW you do all this. So you are priviledged in the way that you both seem to me very smart in organizational stuff. :)
        I am sorry to hear about your parents. My mother died long ago, and I know it is not just words to say you would swap you house for the lifes of your parents. With the little leftover of my mothers “inheritance” I will do my travel through South America, so the memory of my mother will be anchoraged within my journey, I think she would have liked that a lot.

        And I am sure your parents would like what you do, too.

        Thanks,
        Inka
        inka recently posted..Topfprimel Wochenrückblick IXMy Profile

        • Victoria says

          Thanks Inka. I’m happy to know I didn’t sound ungrateful. It’s a pet hate of mine when people forget how lucky they are to be doing things – especially when it comes to money and opportunity.
          I’m sorry to hear about your Mum. Like you, my Mum and Dad are firmly anchored in my journey, and I do hope they’d be happy with what I’m doing.
          Take care and thanks for reading :)

    • Victoria says

      I completely agree. I find yoga incredibly healing – and not always in an easy way. The things that come up can be a real struggle, but working through them is always worthwhile.

    • Victoria says

      Thank you :) I’m only online for a tiny but right now but I can give you a couple of tips off the top of head :) First of all, the key thing is to remember your audience. Think about who you’re writing for and why they’re reading. For example, are you trying to inform, entertain or both? If you’re informing, then make sure you answer any questions your audience might have. Put yourself in their shoes.
      My second tip is to practice! Write as often as you can and don’t publish what you don’t like. Getting someone you respect as a writer to read over and comment on your work is invaluable. And finally, read lots – other writing is your best resource for finding inspiration and learning what you like and don’t like as both a reader and writer. Feel free to email me at victoria [at] bridgesandballoons [dot] com if you have any other questions :)

  4. says

    As a Yoga teacher, you are setting an example to your students and teaching them to live a quality life. This path will enable you to live longer and live better. Learning new things keeps your mind stimulated and healthy. You will never tire of subjects to study, explore, and investigate. There are so many facets of Yoga, that one life span, is just not enough time to learn it all.

    It’s not a race, but it is a journey. You will find friends, colleagues, and students who are on the same path. This makes giving, receiving, and sharing a wonderful thing along the way.

    • Victoria says

      Thank you for commenting with such wonderful words. It is indeed a journey and I’m really enjoying the time and space to study yoga more deeply. There really is so much to learn!

  5. says

    Hey Victoria what a coincidence! I googled yoga teacher training to try and see if I could find a template/overview because little by little we are developing a training for Argentina, and as I am perusing I see an entry from Bridges and Balloons! How exciting you’re going to do a training. Ojo eh, I also thought it was just to deepen my knowledge and practice, and now I certainly am a teacher. I’m excited for you and would love it if you’d share what it’s like, I’m particularly interested in the format and what they include!
    So happy to know you guys are still adventuring, happy, and writing about it!
    Big love from Buenos Aires!
    Meghan

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