My Yoga Teacher Training
It’s been nearly four months since I completed my Yoga Teacher Training (YTT), and still there isn’t a day that goes past when I don’t think of it. I did my training at Blue Osa in Costa Rica. I had lusted for travel for some time and saw this opportunity to combine my YTT with venturing to a new corner of the world. So with borrowed backpack full of leggings and sun cream, I waved goodbye to dreary England and set off on my adventure.
The journey in itself was an ordeal. French air strikes meant that I was delayed on the ground at Heathrow Airport, resulting in a missed connection from Madrid to San José. I’d love to be able to say I stayed calm and collected during the whole incident (including two cases of chasing my lost baggage round Madrid airport) but I cannot lie and I will admit that I cried A LOT. The blessing in the storm was that my oldest friend Libby, now living in Madrid, was able to meet me that evening for beer and tapas. I’m also grateful that my mum was able to call the hotels in Costa Rica to change the bookings, and calm me down. We all need help sometimes. It isn’t a weakness.
The next day I went back to Madrid airport. Some more lost baggage drama later and I was on the 11 hour flight to Costa Rica. Arriving in San José, I braved the $1 bus ride to my hotel and took refuge for the night. The past two days had been emotional to say the least, but I felt stronger now having got through it. I woke up feeling fresh the next morning and made my way back to the airport for one last flight. In the terminal, I stumbled upon a bunch of girls in sports gear carrying yoga mats…Blue Osa travellers for sure!
The plane to Puerto Jiménez was tiny, with space inside for maximum 19 passengers. I’m not keen on flying, but it was impossible not to enjoy this flight. The views were extraordinary; I’d never seen anything like it. We landed on a strip where we were met by staff from Blue Osa who drove us to the resort in 4x4s some 30 minutes down a bumpy dirt track.
I remember so vividly walking through the gates and down the path at Blue Osa. Walking up the path to meet us, surrounded by cats and dogs, was Yogi Aaron with a huge smile on his face. After introductions and a quick tour, we all assembled in the cocina (kitchen) for a breakdown of what we had let ourselves in for…a month long intensive yoga teacher immersion. Believe me, intensive it was.
Each morning, we were awoken by the sound of bells at 4:30am…there’s challenge number one. We practiced silence until 7:30am…challenge number two. (In fact, it was all a challenge to begin with. I had to completely adapt my body clock – first with the jetlag, and then to a new schedule.) Tired and groggy, we got up and made our way to the cocina for our morning krias. Krias are ancient cleansing techniques which prepare the body for pranayama (loosely translated as breath control) and meditation. There are many krias, of which we did two. The first was drinking hot water with lime and ginger. Drinking the water cleanses the digestive system of any leftover waste before beginning the new day. Most days I took my water to the beach to watch the truly remarkable sunrise. I experienced immense gratitude and serenity in these moments.
The second kria was neti, a nasal cleansing technique. A neti pot looks like a small teapot. It is filled with distilled cold water mixed with a small amount of boiled water and salt. The liquid inside should be the same temperature and taste as tears. The spout of the pot is then placed inside one of the nostrils and as you tip your head, the water pours through the nostril and out of the other one, cleansing the nasal passages. Three forceful exhalations through the nose and repeat on the other side. I never learnt to enjoy the actual experience, but the feeling that follows is amazing. Breathing is smooth and more effective for pranayama. I have a friend who says it makes her brain sparkle…I’ve yet to experience that myself!
Morning meditation began at 5am sharp in the yoga studio. The studio at Blue Osa was like a huge treehouse with shutters opening right out into our little jungle. We practised pranayama, relaxation and meditation until about 6:15am.
After meditation, breakfast was served, in silence. We ate delicious homemade yoghurt and granola with fresh pineapple, melon, watermelon, mango and starfruit. At 7:15am, morning practice would begin by listening to Sanskrit chanting. At 7:30am, silence was broken and we’d have a little catch up before beginning our reading and physical practice. At 10:30am lunch was served, which was always fantastic news as we were forever looking forward to the food. Even though it was all grown on site or local to Blue Osa, it was out of this world. It was healthy, it was delicious, and it was filling. There was always enough and what was left was used for the next meal – no waste!
After lunch we were free until 1:30pm, giving us three hours to soak up the sun by the lap pool, swim with the dogs on the beach, contact friends and family at home or prepare for upcoming assessments. We had assessments throughout the four weeks: in groups, partners and by ourselves. Some were on the books we’d been studying, but mostly they were practical teaching assignments. Being thrown into teaching straight away was nerve racking at first but our confidence grew and we became a strong group of teachers.
Usually at 1:30pm, we’d meet in the cocina to read Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras…“the guidebook of classical, or raja (royal), yoga. Written at least 1,700 years ago, it’s made up of 195 aphorisms (sutras), or words of wisdom” (Yoga Journal - Who Was Patanjali?). These talks always resulted in lengthy philosophical discussions, interrupted only by snack at 2:30pm. Don’t let the word snack fool you…this was pretty much another meal if you wanted it to be, and most of us did. The phrase “portion control” was heard frequently amongst us yogis, although all memory of such a phrase disappeared as soon as the next delicious meal came out. Sutras continued on after snack for around an hour, after which we had a little free time before our final studio practice of the day. This finished at 6:30pm, giving us just enough time for a quick shower and drinks at the bar. I resisted alcohol for the first two weeks, but then there was a birthday and a completed assessment celebration and you know, I wanted a drink! I learnt that yoga doesn’t mean giving up alcohol or sex or life as you know it. It’s about recognising who you are and removing obstacles and attachments. It’s about leaning to free your inner self from dependency and not to become obsessed with people, ideas and stuff. Yogi Aaron quoted Oscar Wilde regularly: “Everything in moderation, including moderation”.
At 7pm, dinner was served – last meal of the day, I promise. We would all gather round the table and listen to the chefs explain what they had prepared and Aaron would introduce any new guests to the resort. We were a community. I can’t explain it any simpler or any clearer. The support amongst the group was outstanding and brought us to tears during the farewell ceremonies.
That’s the thing about spending a month with strangers – by the end you’re not strangers at all, not even a little bit. We were happy together. We had the blues together. We’d been hurt and shared our first aid kits. We were different and we were the same. I could not have wished for a better, more supportive group of yogis to spend that month with. Until we meet again…
Om. Shanti, shanti, shanti.