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Yoga Teacher Training: Preconceptions vs Reality

I signed up to train as yoga teachers at Sampoorna Yoga, India in December 2017 with my best and yogi friend Anna. This was nine months ahead of the course, which turned out to be very unnecessary planning ahead (most people booked only a month in advance).

As I left for Asia in July, this gave a six months to think about my decision to train as a teacher, the course I had chosen and the people I would meet. This post is about just that. What to expect when you've decided on your school for Yoga Teacher Training Course (YTTC), the preconceptions you might have, and then the reality that this faces up to when you get there.

This is based on my own fantastic experience at Sampoorna Yoga, Agonda, Goa, India.

My first preconception came when our schedule came through on an email. Our daily schedule looked a little like this:

6.30-8.30 Ashtanga Yoga Led

- Biscuit and banana break!

9.00-10.00 Meditation, pranayama (breathing) and chanting

- Breakfast

11.00-1.00 Anatomy / Philosophy Theory

- Lunch

3.00-4.45 Adjustment & Alignment (hands on stuff)

-Biscuit and banana break no.2!

5.00-6.00 Student Teaching or Vinyasa yoga class

6.00-7.00 Posture Clinic (debunking myths about and problems with poses)

- Dinner

7.45-8.45 Satsang (optional and once a week) – an open discussion on yoga, philosophy... with Sudhir

Preconception: This course may be too spiritual and meditative for me...! What kind of philosophy will be useful to me as a yoga teacher?

Reality: Philosophy was my favourite class at Sampoorna, and the one thing I learnt the most about over the 3 weeks. I learnt the fundamental importance of knowing the origins and meaning of yogic tradition, in order to debunk mysticism. Our teacher, Sudhir, brought the stories of ancient Indian Yogic Philosophy to life and I found their teachings applicable to my own practice and way of life. The effect of this in India was a deepening of my yoga practice, meditation experience and understanding of myself that has been humbling to me.

I value the grounding this philosophical and spiritual side of the course gave me now that I am back in the UK, too. I have found that reminding myself of the history behind yoga helps to avoid distractions and keep me grounded in my practice. Yoga is so much more than just asanas (poses), something I hope to show through my own teaching.

Preconception: There won't be enough food. (!)

Reality: At Sampoorna, there was an overwhelming abundance of incredible, vegan/vegetarian Indian food. I was overwhelmed most of the time. We had two breaks between classes, where biscuits, chai and herbal tea was served. The staff managed to carry heavy tea dispensers to some very unlikely places! Breakfast consisted of the freshest fruit, porridge, cereal and Indian choices; Lunch was delicious soups and salads, but Dinner was the showstopper, with a buffet of Indian vegan curries, vegetables, creamy sauces, naans and a desert which sometimes was mysterious chocolate coconut balls that tasted of heaven.

A seemingly ridiculous fear, but a well founded one. I would say whilst you are doing your YTTC it is hugely important to have a well fed body and brain, considering the somersaults they are both doing day in day out!

Luckily, our group happened to be in India for Diwali (festival of light), which saw a huge celebration with staff, students, and teachers feasting and dancing. I have never eaten so many naans in my life.

Preconception: There will be advanced, slightly irritating yogi-Gods-and-Goddesses on my 200H training. They will only want to prefect their Sanskrit pronunciation and handstands all day.

Reality: A wholeheartedly supportive and fantastic group of people from a multitude of different backgrounds, careers and yogic styles awaited me at Sampoorna. The energy and excitement of meeting everyone after the opening 'fire' ceremony could not have shattered my preconception further!

At YTTC, 3 weeks of training are emotionally and physically draining, but it is the heartfelt support of your peers that makes you show up to every afternoon Posture Clinic class, even when they are on chataranga dandasana (pressup pose). The friends that I made at Sampoorna are undoubtedly the thing I value the most now that I am venturing out into the world of yoga teaching in the UK.

If you are looking to do a 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Course (YTTC) - something you need to teach at almost any studio in the UK - then make sure you research before you go. Try to think about why you want to train, and that should help you to write a list of questions for your search. Keep in mind the style of yoga, the length of the course, and the focus on yoga anatomy, philosophy and history - how is this balanced? Food is important too...

At the end of my training, one of the three intentions I decided to part with was to keep an open mind. Open minds and hearts attract similar forces, the more positive your attitude, the more positivity will come your way.

Good luck!

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