As part of my travels in the Spring I spent three and a bit weeks in a tiny beach town called Ostional training to be an Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga teacher. For the uninitiated, Ashtanga is a physically strong form of yoga that is practiced in a set sequence. It focusses on aligning breath with movement, creating a moving meditation.
Rather than write up what I did for the entire time, which was pretty similar day on day, I thought I’d keep it short and q and a style.
What were the other people like?
Really cool and fun. Everyone was around my age give or take 3/4 years and we were all on the same page with what we wanted to achieve.
What was the food like?
Breakfast was oatmeal, fruit and a selection of nica style items (always including rice and beans obviously!). Lunch and dinner were variants of raw vegetables, fish, maybe a stew, a dip or a soup with rice and beans on the side. I loved it!
What was the training like?
The training itself was what I expected and as expected I loved it. It was awesome to spend all day practicing and learning about yoga and our teachers Caterina and Edwin were kind, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Throughout the training we all got the attention we needed to develop our practice and teaching. We were a smallish group of 10 which was the perfect size. I appreciate this even more now as I’ve heard a couple of stories of huge training groups and poor teaching on other trainings!
What did a normal day look like?
Wake up, practice, breakfast, lecture, lunch, free time, lecture, practice, dinner. Morning practice was always Ashtanga, afternoon practice was Rocket.
Why I chose ashtanga
I’d already taken a very lovely 100 hour Anusara immersion and hope to complete the follow in 100 hour teacher training at some point. However I decided to start my journey into teaching with ashtanga for several reasons:
– I love getting on the mat and knowing that thousands of other yogis around the world are doing the same thing, practising the same sequence in the same tradition. Its nice to think of how the practice has existed for years before me and probably will for many years to come.
– I was nervous about creating my own sequence so the set series appealed to me. That feels like a bit of a cop out but it’s actually a really important thing to consider before you decide on a programme.
– The emphasis on developing a consistent self-practice: Before I left for traveling I’d become very haphazard with my practice, maybe starting an online Vinyasa Flow class and quitting halfway through, or fully intending to go to class after work but working late instead. My training focused strongly in developing the discipline to get on the mat every day and I hope to keep it up when I’m home
– It really is a moving meditation! The strong focus on the breath and ultimately being able to flow through the poses without thought really helps to clear my head. Along with that the discipline of completing the sequence means I go through a tonne of emotions while I’m at it: frustration, anger, joy, tiredness, you name it! I figure that if I can be with them and stick with it until the end, I can do the same in life outside the mat
– The ItsYoga ethos: I loved that there was a big focus on modifying poses so that they’re accessible to everyone. They support local projects including the school in Ostional and a turtle sanctuary.
– Connection with the teachers: I contacted other training providers but Caterina was the one I felt most comfortable with. Her emails felt personal and like she was excited for me to be there. I got a sense from them that I’d like and learn from her, and I did!
– Location and timing: The training fitted in perfectly with my trip and was set on an isolated and beautiful beach in Nicaragua. Perfect.
– Rocket: This is another form of yoga based on Ashtanga but developed by Larry Schultz to give a fast track to doing funky arm balances and inversions. Its so much fun (even though I can’t get into inversions ok my own) and we got to practice every afternoon.
Why an intensive
I wasn’t sure (and I’m still not) whether I wanted to teach after the training. My main reason for signing up was to deepen my own practice and understanding so an intense suited me best. As a secondary reason I also decided I wanted to be able to give the course my full attention rather than fit it in around work. When I went away I’d had a couple of experiences with life becoming overwhelming when I tried to fit in weekend/evening courses around work and I learned from that mistake!
I also thought it would be a nice break from traveling, kind of like a retreat…..
….but yoga teacher training isn’t a retreat!
Of course you get to practice a lot, there is great food and plenty of time to think but there the similarities end! For me the main differences were that I was nervous about teaching and that hung over me until I finally got up and did it (and actually kind of enjoyed it!). Aside from that, being with the people on the course while everyone is going through something life changing is intense when it’s pretty much 24/7 for 3 weeks. Finally, I’d forgotten how hard I find it to pay attention for more than 30 minutes at a time! Its actually one of my favorite things about yoga – when I get on the mat in class I commit to stay on it to the finish no matter how tough it is – with lectures, not so much. I found myself drifting away several times and letting the heat and discomfort of sitting on the floor take over.
That said, it’s incredibly rewarding and provides so much opportunity to challenge yourself and grow as a result. I’m so happy I did it!
Will I teach?
I’m not sure about starting a career as a yoga teacher yet but I would like to give teaching a go. Maybe with friend and through volunteering first. Let me know if you’d like a class!