Yep its over a year on since I did my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training in Goa and I have been thinking about writing a blog about it for a while. I started writing this during the Covid-10 lock-down period, yet even though we are not quite out of it, and I have had a bit more free, it has taken me a couple of months to get down to it with everything going on. Those who follow me on Instagram will know its been a really funny time with a roller coaster of emotions. Anyway lets look back to a more joyous time.
I remember my 200 hour YTT like it was just yesterday. The whole thing went by so quickly that it felt like a bit of a dream. I chose to do my YTT at Samporna Yoga School in Goa. I had booked it only a couple of months before heading off there in late February 2019. The course spanned over 3 1/2 weeks, but including arrival, departure days and weekends I spent 4 weeks over in Goa.
When it came to choosing a School to do my YTT with, I was set that I wanted to do it abroad and I also wanted to do it in India. There are loads of schools to choose from in India, however I was apprehensive to travel there by myself as you hear awful stories about females travelling alone in India. I settled on doing it in Goa, as it is a part of India which is a bit more a holiday destination where I would feel more safe and would give me peace of mind while travelling solo. This way I felt I could still experience the culture of India while feeling comfortable and safe. Remember I am here to study a course, so the less stress the better!
Once settled on Goa, after researching a few yoga schools, I choose Sampoorna. There are many reasons why I settled with Sampoorna; the main reasons were to have a mixture of teachings from Indian and western teachers, the course structure and how the school included a 'yoga village' with accommodation on site so you could fully immerse yourself into the yogic lifestyle. Another plus side was the the Yoga School was situated only a 10 minute walk away from Agonda beach. I love to be near the coast as it gives me a lot of grounding, to feel the sand between my toes and to hear the sound of the water. To be near the beach to study my YTT made it an even more idealistic setting to study. Also it would be a place I could go if i ever felt overwhelmed or needed some time to myself out of the yoga school.
It was the end of February 2019 when I excitedly got on a plane to travel to Goa to start this amazing journey, to broaden my knowledge and practice of yoga. Back then I was still unsure whether I wanted to teach yoga, I purely went on this journey to just learn and delve in deeper. With my previous practice of yoga back then, I felt like I had only scratch the surface with a regular daily practice; I wanted to know more about the philosophy and the lifestyle and to experience all the wonderful benefits for the mind, body and soul. Those who know me, I absolutely love to learn and experience new things, making myself the happiest and healthiest human I can possibly be, and taking my YTT was an exploration of all of this.
I arrived at Sampoorna in the early hours of the morning. After taking a taxi I had booked from the airport, driving down long , winding roads, I was unaware of my surroundings as it was dark. I arrived apprehensive as I was unsure whether anyone would be up, thankfully the security man showed me to my room halfway up a hill. My first impressions of the place in the dark was that it was peaceful. It was was early morning, once in my room, I wasted no time and simply got into my night dress to catch a couple hours of sleep. Later in the morning my roommate arrived and we both chatted and settled into our room. Her name was Caterina, an American lady with a lovely aura and a beautiful smile. I remember how we rearranged the furniture in our bedroom that first day as we both were not happy with the set up or the energy of the room.
We had our first meeting with everyone that morning where all members of staff introduced themselves and we sat in a big circle. There were about 60 students in total studying the 200hr YTT program. We were later split into 2 groups named Lotus or Tulip. I was part of the Lotus group. After our first meeting, we had some time to sort out getting our manuals and packs for the course. We received our manuals in these white drawstring backpacks with writing equipment, a netti pot and 2 Sampporna Yoga T-shirt’s. It was such a nice gift to have and we could keep forever to remember our journey on Yoga Teacher Training. During that first day, it gave us time to explore the area, settle in and to have a little peak at our manuals. We had Fire Opening Ceremony the next day and had be prompted beforehand to wear and bring something white for the occasion. That first day, I remember exploring the yoga school and the beach as well as my first meetings with some fellow yoga students who later became friends that I am still in touch with and hope to be throughout my yoga journey.
The next day, the first actual day of our course started off at 06:30am with an Opening Fire Ceremony. The 60 200hr YTT students plus about 40 300hr YTT students gathered in the yoga shala halfway up the hill. Karma yogis (helpers and previous students of the school) blessed us, put flower garlands round our necks before entering the shala. We sat in circles around a Buddhist priest who’s conducted the opening fire ceremony where we chanted mantras. The teachers and karma yogis took part in throwing things into the fire. Karma yogis came round and threaded red bracelets on all our wrists as we chanted. This marked the beginning of my YTT journey. After having photos taken, the rest of the day was spent getting stuck right into our course.
So how does a typical day at a yoga school pan out. For us 200hr yoga students, the day would start with getting up around 5:30am and making our way up the hill to the Shala for a 2 hour Asana practice. During this time we were asked to remain silent (Mauna) until breakfast to embrace the Niyama, Tapas (self-discipline). With a short break in between, Asana practice was followed by a 1 hour practice of meditation. After this we would then be able to break our silence and make our way down the steps to have breakfast. In between breakfast and lunch we would have a 2 hour class on either Anatomy or Philosophy usually alternating between the two on each days. At lunch time we had a 2 hour gap to have lunch and to have some free time. Classes would restart at 3:00pm with 2 hours of Alignment and Adjustment class; where we delve in deeper into every posture from the Ashtanga primary series followed by 1 hour of either another Asana practice or Student Teaching; a chance for us to practice teaching yoga to each other. After this some days we would also have an hour of Posture Clinic; where we would look at some more demanding postures and have workshops on how to practice and teach them. I remember taking part in a Chaturanga, Back-Bends and Inversion workshops during this time. Classes would end at 7:00pm taking us to dinner time.
We would get all our meals from the yoga school apart from on the weekends. There was a good variety of food, served buffet style, all vegetarian. At breakfast we usually had a choice of porridge, granola, fruit or toast. Lunch and dinner would consist of a soup, a salad, then a choice of a maybe 2 dishes such as a curry, or dhal. rice and naan, with some chilli pickle or other sauces to accompany. The food was fine, but after about 2 weeks I was getting bored of eating the same things and even though it was all vegetarian and relatively healthy, it was very carbohydrate heavy which I know for my body and health isn’t the best diet for me.
Halfway through the course many of the students got ill with vomiting, high fever and feeling very ill in general. There was talk that it could have been something to do with the food or water. It is very common in India to get ill from something like this as the cleanliness is not like anything at home. The yoga school got a doctor to come in onsite to treat all those suffering and really made an effort to make sure our meals served at the school were as clean and hygienic as possible. I remember the stories from the Tulip Group saying they were in Asana class, in the middle of practice one girl would run out of the shala to be sick, then 5 minutes later another girl would do the same, and this happened throughout the practice with about 5 or 6 people! I was fortunate to not get sick, but I really did feel for the other students during this time.
With a packed timetable and eating and living on site at the yoga school meant I really got to experience and live the yogic lifestyle. With a mixture of Indian and international teachers plus students from all over the world it was such a great place to be in with like minded people who you could learn so much from. we really had a bond in our lotus group and I really connected with the 30 people in our group, sharing so many fond memories and laughs together with them and our teachers. I made a small group of friends and our friendship blossomed as the weeks went by. We are still in contact now and I am so happy that this training course and the universe brought us together. It was such a blessing to meet such beautiful souls. Our teachers Sudhir, Alan, Danni and Kimber were also amazing teachers and friends. Our two main teachers Alan and Danni, our group grew very close to. They made classes very fun, full of jokes and laughter with lots of encouragement and positivity. I am very thankful to of had them as teachers.
On the weekends we would have Asana practice in the morning, usually a more playful fun practice but then afterwards we were free for the weekend.
On the first weekend, i went on a little boat trip with some friends in my class. We woke up early Sunday morning and the speed boat took us out to see the dolphins and to explore 2 remote beaches you could only access by boat. It was good fun exploring and hanging out, connecting and making new friends.
One other weekend I went to visit a spice farm. Many other students also wanted to come, but as it came closer to our exams they decided not to come, or they had unfortunately suffered with the food poisoning bug going around. This didn’t stop me from going myself. I had a wonderful time being shown around the spice farm, which just looks like a rain forest. The spice farm was family run passed down through generations, an to learn how it started with coconut trees which then provided shelter among other things for them to then grow other spices was really fascinating. I joined a group with a few other tourists, a German family and some s to dents from another yoga school.
During the rest of the weekend, it was mostly spent staying in Agonda; relaxing and walking on the beach and grabbing things to eat together from the cafes on the street. Our two favorite places to eat were definitely cafe Zest and cafe Mandela whee you would definitely find Many Sampoorna students hanging out there. Our favorite place to go for dinner was a restaurant called Fatimas which did the best curry and garlic naan. As the weeks went by, we spent less time exploring and relaxing on the weekend and more time studying and practicing for our exams.
Our exams consist of a mixture practical work, in 2 different forms and a written paper. The written paper was on our knowledge of anatomy and philosophy as well as how to teach a yoga class. We had 2 practical exams, the first was to sequence and teach a 30 minute Vinyasa flow class. The 2nd exam we had to pick a posture from the Ashtanga primary series out of a hat; explain the key and the aim of the pose, say it’s name in Sanskrit and English, the dristi, explain how to practice the posture, it’s alignment, how to modify the posture and how to adjust someone in the posture. This exam was so nerve wracking for me. As we went round the circle, students picked their posture and explained them. I was later in the circle and was really hoping I don't end up with 'Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasa' or something I would have no clue about. I remember I had to go to the toilet about 7 times as well because I was so anxious. In the end I ended up with Navasana, Boat Pose, which I was relieved about...once I knew it was boat pose. I remember my friend Holly who demonstrated the posture really helped me out when I had to explain the practice and modifications, but in the end it was all ok and I passed!
In our Vinyasa flow teaching practical we would participate as students in each other’s exams. This would take a day to do. I was very thankful to have been the 2nd or 3rd person to take their exam so I could get it out the way. Then I could just relax and participate in other peoples exam, instead of having the anticipation of waiting my turn. It was really fun to teach and to prepare a flow to teach for the exam. It was also lovely to participate in each others as I feel like it is an experience that we will never forget and something that brings all of us closer together as a group.
Once all our exams were complete, all students ended their Yoga Teacher Training with Closing Ceremony and Graduation. This time round no-one didn't pass which was such a relief. Again we wore white, and had another ceremony where we chanted mantras and were invited to offer fragrant medial herbs and grains into the fire in small groups. We then had Graduation ceremony where we were awarded our certificates. Afterward we had some vegetarian food before making out way to the beach for photos at the beach. This was such a joyous occasion where we could all celebrate each others achievements. I felt really connected with the students, teachers and friends I had made. It was an amazing journey to go on and connect with such beautiful souls.
When I think back to my YTT I cannot help smile to myself as I have so many wonderful memories. I miss the lotus tribe dearly. We are all in a Whatsapp group still and we occasionally update each other or ask each other for advice which is so lovely. It so nice knowing we are still connected and can support each other. I have made some amazing friends from my YTT that I would have never met if the universe didn't bring us together at that particular moment in time. I am so thankful for this. Since my YTT I have visited my friend Astrid in Bali, went to Soul Circus Festival with Holly and Sami and have met up with my friend Gemma for a yoga class and brunch in London. Many others we chat on instagram together which is such a lovely way to connect and see what each other is up to. I hope to keep these connections alive and we continue on our yoga journeys. I'm sure when the time is right, we will meet and connect again.