Becoming a Yoga Teacher in India: Review of 200-Hour Yoga & Meditation Teacher Training Course at Parimukti – Part 3

Becoming a Yoga Teacher in India: Review of 200-Hour Yoga & Meditation Teacher Training Course at Parimukti – Part 3

The final part of our day-to-day diaries of the 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training Course in Arambol, Goa. It’s been an incredible month of emotional ups and downs, physical challenges and life transforming knowledge! Now, at the other end of the experience, we can honestly say that this is one of the best and most intense experiences that you can do as a traveller in Asia.

Don’t know what we’re talking about? Read Part 1 here.

Day 16 – Monday (Hers)

The start of the final week! Today was an enjoyable day, starting with a Vinyasa Krama class with Rory, which made my body feel good and relaxed my mind. I really like working with the breath during a yoga class and unlike during a meditation, I found it quite easy to focus on my own breath throughout the two hours.

In philosophy we studied the koshas, which are the layers of the body, from the physical body to the different ‘energy bodies’, the breath, the thoughts, the intuitive mind, and then finally oneness with everything!

Asana practise in the afternoon was Yin Yoga with Rory which I really enjoyed. He brought music to the lesson which I like as I find it easier to relax, especially in Yin Yoga, as you stay a long time in each pose, really feeling into the pain and releasing tension. Rory came round and did a bit of acupuncture poking during the class and I’m not sure if it did the trick, but my knee felt better after the class, as did my body and mind. I’m still not convinced to go under the needles (do acupuncture) though yet. (Rory is an acupuncture therapist).

At the end of the day we did a chakra meditation. In my own head when Meera announced the mediation we’d be doing, I groaned. I felt that we’d already done a lot of chakra meditations, and unlike some of the others in the group, I wasn’t really getting any exciting results, other than getting stuck with my emotions.

I pulled myself together. No, come on, try to do it! Try to listen to Meera’s instructions one by one and try not to lose focus, nor try to expect anything at all to happen. After I decided to give it my best try, I found that my mind was able to focus quite well as we followed the breath up the body, inhaling into one chakra and out of the next one, connecting each chakra in turn. As I focused on the breath, early on, I noticed something a little strange was happening. Thoughts came into my mind at each chakra, nothing strange about that, this always happens. But, this time, they weren’t about the day-to-day stuff, they were unusual, old memories, random thoughts, that I felt had been forgotten long ago. I tried to focus during the meditation and not conjure up any memories deliberately. Everything was going smoothly until a mouse ran over Dave’s yoga mat and disturbed us all.

Thinking about the various memories that had been evoked during the meditation later, I wondered if there was a clear connection between each one. For example, when I breathed into the heart chakra and out of the throat chakra, I saw Dave at a Pizza restaurant in Barcelona. Dave told me that this was the first night that he’d realised that I had feelings for him. Could this have been the connection of the heart with my subtle communication chakra at the throat? I did the same analysis with each memory and found similar connections. Perhaps, I’d had my first chakra meditation breakthrough? Very interesting!

Day 16 – Monday (His)

Having had a day of rest, I enjoyed classes more again today. Though I was hampered by a painful wrist during morning Asanas, which had me sitting out of more of the activities than I have had to in any class up until now.

Another pose I had to sit out!

It feels like everyone’s quite excited about this last hurdle, as confidence and self-belief are on the rise, as are the responsibilities. Tomorrow we have another teaching practicum. I will be starting at 7am with pranayama and a warm up. I’m pretty sure I’ve got it well prepared. Let’s see tomorrow!

Day 17 – Tuesday (Hers)

Today was our final practicum before the main exam class, (where we’d be teaching a one hour class by ourselves). We had split into two groups and had to teach 20-25 minutes each of a whole two-hour class. My section was ‘seating poses, inversions and a short meditation’. I felt that the class went well, although I recognise a few things that I could have improved on. The feedback from Rory was as expected. I did a few poses a little too quickly and forgot to do a counter-pose (The Fish or The Cobra) after the shoulder stand. All positive constructive feedback from which to improve on!

In Anatomy class, we focused on the first of the joints that we’ll be studying –the knee! My arch enemy this week! What a complicated joint, and so much that can go wrong! I counted that six out of the eleven members of our course had knee issues. I asked Rory the rather controversial – ‘is yoga as good for our bodies, particularly our knees, as we think?’ I received the same answer, which is to listen to your body, warm up properly, and make adjustments. Any type of exercise can be damaging to your body if you don’t warm up properly and do too much after a period of not much exercise. I realised that my injury was likely caused by not enough preparation and improper alignment before the course, rather than the actual classes at Parimukti.

In Alignment today, we looked at yoga for pregnancy and discussed how a class should be designed during the three different trimesters or pregnancy. Some of the students got really into their roles as pregnant mothers!

The rest of the day outside of class, was mainly spent discussing the upcoming meditation and asana exams, plus the theory exam which would be on Saturday at 10am. Inge mentioned today that they would be inviting outsiders (strangers!) to come and attend the exam classes if they so wished, and so we should assume that there could be a beginner or a highly advanced yogi / yogini in the class. A flutter of nerves was felt throughout the room, or throughout my body at least!

Day 17 – Tuesday (His)

If truth be told, I wasn’t very happy with my practicum. I was exhausted and fear I came across as such. The pranayama I’d chosen wasn’t at all appropriate for the task of waking the group up. I spent too long on neck warm ups. I started people breathing with “ocean breath” and then didn’t ensure they were keeping it up. All the same, by the end of the warm up the group did seem more awake. It was the weakest practise I’ve instructed so far, but it wasn’t awful. I can learn from my mistakes…

The focus now is on our final exams. Timing is my biggest worry. One hour sounds like a lot of time. Perhaps it will be. The danger runs in two directions. I might do everything too quickly and run out of things to do. Or, I might get to the end of the hour without having done all that I want to. The former would be worse than the latter, but both would be pretty bad!

Day 18 – Wednesday (Hers)

A funny day today, a real mix of highs and lows. (Mostly highs!)

Low – It started with a low point when I had to sit Inge’s class out this morning due to my bloody knee again! I hate missing Inge’s classes as they are so creative and so much fun! However, I did observe and get some good inspiration for my class.

High – Loved anatomy today as we talked about the spine, what an interesting joint! We lay down and found each others cervical, thorassic and lumbar spines which was really more of a massage for each of us!

Low – Philosophy class was replaced with Alignment today and a weird tension was apparent between Meera, the teacher, and a few members of the group. I’m not sure how it even started, but it created an uncomfortable atmosphere for a short while, which lingered a little too long into the rest of the day … A few times during the course we have been compared to other groups, and how we are more ‘individual’ and in touch with our childish energy (possibly true!). It felt a bit upsetting to be compared negatively to other groups and I wondered why we were so bad in comparison? I’m sure it was just a miscommunication and I had no negative feelings towards any of the teachers or the group.

High – In Alignment class, I mastered a new posture that I hadn’t tried before – the fore-arm balance (as it says on the tin). It was fun to achieve something new having felt that physically I haven’t been myself during this course.

Learning difficult arm balances in Alignment class.

After Alignment the rest of the day continued on a high to be honest, and I enjoyed the Sivananda sequence that Meera taught in afternoon asana class. The whole sequence is based around the journey of being born and you start the class in a headstand (representing exiting the womb!). (Contrary to every yoga teaching manual contra-indications!)

High – The real high of the day were people’s meditations. Wow – I was so impressed by three of our classmates tonight! After only three weeks, we are really starting to sound like we know what we’re talking about! Micha started with a really interesting active meditation focused on judgement which asked us to look differently at what happens when we are judged ourselves. He suggested that we accept the judgement, look at it in ourselves, and then let it go. Wise words and a nice sequence to go with it! Then, Linda did a meditation on the ‘senses’. She asked us to remember all of the things that we had seen, heard, felt, tasted and touched that day. She was noticeably nervous before-hand and I willed her to do well. In the end, she was amazing! Finally, Diana did a meditation opening the throat chakra. We ended the day singing a really fun mantra together, “oley mama, oley mama, oley, oley oley, oley mama”. 

Day 18 – Wednesday (His)

Morning Asanas with Inge were fantastic this morning. An excellent start to the day and full of poses I thought I should be able to use in my exam class.

The day took a slightly sour turn in philosophy. A couple of the class were a bit confused over the subject matter we were revising. Meera wasn’t pleased by the requests for clarification and reiterated the point that we are an unusually bad class in our style of learning. This time I didn’t react badly, as I had the last time, but it was clear to me that other members of the group did. One girl was moved to tears.

My motive for reacting better this time may well have been that I was too preoccupied by my exam prep. It feels like everything is about to happen and I don’t really have any idea what I’m going to do. In reality, I do have quite a good idea about what I’m going to do, but somehow it still doesn’t feel like that’s the case.

Also… the pressure’s on after three members of the group did their first meditation exams this afternoon. They were all great and it made for a very entertaining hour. My plan for my exam is far more traditional than what people were enjoying today. I’m worried they’ll all find it boring, especially as it’s last thing on Saturday, when all but two of the students will have finished all their exams and will be feeling ready to party!

Anyway, I’ve got lots to do, so I’d better go and prepare!

Day 19 – Thursday (Hers)

The day before, Meera had told us that anyone who hadn’t yet done a ‘Silent Day’ must do one before the end of the course. With only three days left, I decided that today was the day! Dave decided to do his again too, as last time it had all fallen apart . So, we both woke up at 6am and got ready to go to class in silence. It actually wasn’t that different than a normal day, as we are both too tired to chat at that time anyway! All it did, was stop us complaining about how tired we were and which bit of our body parts were aching!

At breakfast, I sat with the group and listened to their conversation, without joining in. Being a chatty person, who feels the pressure to contribute in a social situation, it was very strange to realise that I couldn’t participate. I still felt responsible somehow, to contribute, to make people laugh, or something. When I relaxed into my silent state, I actually really enjoyed it, and felt a sense of calm and relief inside that I actually had never felt before. At lunchtime, I had more time to explore my silence. I listened to music (wasn’t quite sure if that was allowed, but it felt good!), studied and just watched the trees by the pool blowing in the wind. I felt happy and calm. It actually wasn’t so bad inside my own head with my own thoughts after all! I definitely decided that I talk too much!

In the afternoon, Inge took the Philosophy class and gave us a fascinating introduction to Ayurveda. She explained about the three ‘doshas’ and diagnosed each of us as either Vata, Pitta or Kapha. The doshas are derived from the five elements, and are different body types that express your physical, emotional and mental character.

It was truly incredible how well the profiles matched up to reality. When she was describing the Kapha profile, I felt like she was describing Dave, and when she talked about Pitta, I felt like she was talking about me! After dismissing Ayurveda as something that I didn’t believe in (after a dodgy Ayurveda consultation in Kerala!), Inge had reignited my curiosity. I wanted to learn more!

After the Ayurveda class, I found it hard to maintain my silence as Inge held a ‘sharing circle’, and we all got the chance to discuss how we felt about the course so far, and get anything that we wanted off our chests! There were a few tensions and a few controversial comments aired, but in the end, everything was resolved and there were no bad feelings within the group. After the ‘sharing’ I found it difficult to go back to my silent state and Dave and I decided at the end of the day that there were just too many practical considerations to continue our silence into the night, although surprisingly – I’d have been willing!

We vowed to try a day of silence one day when we’re in the countryside out on a walk, as we had both enjoyed it! I had enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would, and actually liked my silent self – what a surprise for me, I thought I’d hate it!

Day 19 – Thursday (His)

I had another go at silent day today, as the last one fell apart a bit. It’s definitely an interesting experience. I get a mixture of annoyance at not being able to share things with people and enjoyment of not having any pressure to partake in social interactions.

I’m feeling quite stressed about my exams, particularly Asana and the theory, which I feel I have no time to study for. I’m worried that I don’t have any handle on how long my routine is likely to take. When I practise it on my own I’m sure I’m timing things very differently than I will in the actual class.

One very welcome session today was about Ayurveda with Inge. We’d previously been for an “Ayurveda consultation” in Varkala, which, combined with the excessive amount of Ayurvedic products (including cigarettes!) and services on show everywhere, left us with the impression that the whole thing is a sham. However, this discussion with Inge rather changed our views on it. We were both able to identify our doshas very easily. It also seemed that within the group there was very little disagreement when it came to diagnosing each other. The class was a lovely break from exam stress and left me wondering what I could discover in Ayurvedic teachings that might interest me.

Day 20 – Friday (Hers)

Today was a wonderful day, filled with lots of emotion!

In the afternoon, It was time for Dave’s yoga class! He had decided to do his class on correcting the condition ‘posterior hip tilt’. Nobody in the class actually had that issue (apart from him), but the exercises could be done by anyone. I could see that he was a bit nervous beforehand, but he did really great, and his sense of humour made the class fun and interesting. I was so proud of him. It would be me up there tomorrow – eek!

In Meera’s Philosophy class today, she held a ‘compliment’ circle. The group created a circle with one person sat in the middle, and each person had to say a compliment about the person in the centre. It was incredible and almost everyone ended up crying by the end of the session! (Apart from Dave! We’ll crack him by the end!) Each of the compliments were so genuine and lovely, and it was as much of a joy to give them as it was to receive them. What an amazing ego-boosting exercise!

At 6.20pm, I had my meditation class, in which I had decided to focus on the notion of ‘appreciation’. The idea had come from an experience that happened to me in Agonda Beach last month. I had got a splinter stuck in my finger, deep underneath my nail, and I couldn’t believe how painful that tiny little foreign body could be. I explained to the group my stress at trying to find a clinic to remove the splinter and how much it had throbbed and caused me pain. After having the splinter finally removed, I realised that I was actually happier now, than I had been before I had gotten the splinter stuck in my finger! The relief and joy of ‘not having a splinter’ made me realise how good I had had it! I tried to recreate this experience in the class, asking the group to remember a time when they felt physically uncomfortable, and a time when they were emotionally distressed. I hoped that after the meditation, a sense of joy was created when they realised that they could be happy with everything as it is right at this moment. I received good feedback and was pleased with how it went.

The other meditations that evening were very interesting! Malin did a very active meditation based on her love of rock climbing, and how free and amazing she feels after reaching the top. Then, Mikel did a fast track session on the Buddhist meditation of ‘Vipassana’. He took us through the 10-day retreat, in 15 minutes, with one day passing every minute.(Now that’s my kind of meditation retreat!) Although it was a short space of time, he managed to give us a good idea of what we would expect if we decided to do a Vipassana retreat ourselves. (I don’t think I’m ready for that yet!)

Day 20 – Friday (His)

At 4:30pm I had my Asana exam. I was very nervous on the run up to the moment of truth, but felt quite comfortable when the class started and got progressively more comfortable as time passed. I was slightly disappointed that the music I had chosen was a bit too quiet for everyone to hear as clearly as I’d have liked. My worry about timing was justified, though in the way that I had far too many activities for the time, rather than the other way round, which would have been much worse.

This was the heaviest of the exams out of the way and I’m feeling like a fair bit of the weight has lifted!

One very nice activity today was our session with Meera. We sat in a circle, placed one of us in the middle and then lavished that one with compliments. It’s one of those things I’d normally find very cringey, but I must admit, I did rather enjoy it, especially the bit when everybody told me how great I was!

Day 21 – Saturday (Hers)

Today, at 8.15am, I taught my first one-hour yoga class! The theme that I had chosen for my class was ‘Let Go’, which could mean different things to different people. For example, it could mean letting go of some stress or worry, a painful memory, a bad habit, guilt or attachment. In the past, I have really enjoyed classes with a theme that runs throughout the whole class and I hoped that everybody could relate to my concept. We did lots of ‘sighing’ breaths (pranayama) to release stress and lots of twisting poses to detox.

Although I was very nervous before the class, once I got to the front on the mat, I relaxed and really enjoyed the one hour! It went pretty quickly and I felt like I had done as good a job as I could have done, in the time I had to plan. Everybody seemed to enjoy it and my feedback was encouraging, although of course, I have things that I need to improve! Overall though, I was proud at how far I’d come since the beginning of the course when I found it hard to even teach one sun salutation!

After my class, I couldn’t relax just yet, as we had our written exam at 10am! We had two and a half hours to complete four sections, with six questions in each – Philosophy, Anatomy, Art of Teaching and Alignment. I had a bit of a headache going into the exam and it was an absolute scorcher of a day (very unusual for this time of year, Meera said), and so I felt like I may have rushed some of the questions. However, it is not a case of pass or fail, and I think (hope) that the teachers are looking for a level of understanding, rather than knowing all of the Sanskrit names for the poses!

After the exam, everyone relaxed a lot more, apart from those who still had to teach their classes. There were no more regular classes, only exam classes to attend / observe. In the afternoon, I participated in a class by my new Indonesian friend, Lisa, who had been very shy at the beginning of the course, but had now come out of her shell a lot more. She had improved so much since the beginning, not only in her teaching but her English skills, and I was so pleased for her. Then, we had a class by Mikel who taught a really fun class of yoga with music, where he managed to energise a very tired group! For us observers we felt like we were watching a performance!

To end the day, Dave had his 15-minute meditation session. It was based on his own memories from childhood about waking up in unfamiliar rooms whilst staying at other peoples houses, yet always having a familiar space behind his eyes. The meditation was wonderful, everyone was blown away, and I was so proud of him. I think it’s fair to say that he has become the meditation ‘guru’ of the group! With the theory exam, exam classes and meditation sessions out of the way for the both of us, we felt so relieved and proud of ourselves, and everything that we’d achieved through a very intense month! Instead of going out for dinner, we just went home, had ready-made noodles and fell fast asleep! The celebration will begin on Monday…

Day 21 – Saturday (His)

Nikki’s Asana class was the second of the day. She was great, as everyone other than her had predicted. I felt very proud of her.

Our theory exam involved more questions than I had imagined. I was still writing when the end was called, but I did manage to answer (with shorter and shorter answers) every question on the papers. I left philosophy for last, recognising that the questions gave a lot of space for me to start babbling. I decided to start with the two most concise subjects, alignment and anatomy, then art of teaching, before using what was left for philosophy. I think I did OK overall, though there was certainly a lot of depth missed out of some of my answers due to the shortness of time.

Leading up to my meditation exam at 6pm, I found myself pacing around desperately trying to decide which of the various options I would go with. I guess meditation is the part of the course I feel most connected to and therefore the part I most wanted to shine in. The exam lasted 15 minutes, which is not long at all and I was concerned I might try and put too much in and not be able to leave enough space. In the end I was very pleased with the results. I would, of course, have liked everyone to have had an Earth-shattering insight during the session and then form a group around me as my first disciples. That isn’t quite what happened, but they did all sit in silence for quite a while after the meditation had finished and several of them suggested I start putting my meditations up on YouTube, where they promised to follow me. Maybe there’s hope for me as a guru yet…

Day 23 – Monday (Hers) Final Day!

Last day of the course today! I couldn’t believe we were almost yoga teachers! In the morning, we had two classes left, Diana and Malin’s exam classes. They were both great, rather chilled and very welcome on this last day. As a musician, Diana had written a song for us all to end her yoga class. ‘Traveller souls’. It was a beautiful gift to the group and I’ll never forget it!

Diana’s song ‘Traveller Souls’ with Dave playing the djembe.

After class, we received feedback from our theory exams. There were no grades given like back in the dreaded school days, and so everything was pretty laid back. The idea was just so that we know which aspect of Yoga we need to study more. For me, that’s anatomy! In the afternoon, we had a ‘What’s Next?’ session with Bhavini, who gave us ideas and options of what we could do now we were qualified yoga teachers! Each person shared where they’d like to go from here, and I was surprised to hear that everyone in our group had some desire to teach yoga in the future. Bhavini has previously said that out of each TTC class, probably only about 20% go on to actually teach Yoga, so I wondered if our group would be different? Either way, everyone explained that they had gained so much from the course, regardless of whether they ever became teachers or not.

Finally, at 4pm, it was time for the closing ceremony. The event that we’d all been waiting for! Dressed all in white, like on the first day at the welcome ceremony, the hall was decorated with flowers and we all wore a garland of orange carnations. Everyone was in a great mood and we all looked pretty proud of ourselves and each other!

Two very happy students!

Dara from True Yoga Reviews, who had been taking part of the course, began the ceremony with an ‘Angel Walk’, which was a pretty weird experience. One person had to walk through a tunnel of people, whilst they were sent love in the form of whispers, caresses, massages (I liked this best!) and other forms of gentle touch. It was bordering on a bit tantric I thought! I enjoyed it, but not as much as Dave I reckoned! Haha!

Finally, it was time to collect our well deserved certificates. Wow – they look so professional and official! We finished the day with a sing song with Inge on the guitar, lots of hugs and congratulations to each other all round.

To conclude, I have thoroughly enjoyed the TTC at Parimukti and I would recommend to anybody, who is interested in Yoga, not just in becoming a teacher, but in working on their own practise and self development. There are now so many opportunities to work and travel as a yoga teacher, that I didn’t properly realise. (Check out Yoga Trade and Workaway who offer jobs for travelling yoga teachers). It seems that many doors have been opened for Dave and I, and I’m really excited about it!

THANK YOU PARIMUKTI – I will remember these 23 days forever!

A photo to send to Nikki’s Mum!

Day 23 – Monday (His) Final Day!

What a lovely thing it is to wake up at 6am knowing that it would be the last time in a while you would be required to do so. What a lovely thing it is to wake up knowing that you have done all your exams and that today is going to be the lightest day you’ve had in a long time.

The two Asana exams in the morning were both nice and easy going. Perfect! Then we had a very good spirited run through of the exam questions with each teacher. In the afternoon we had our closing ceremony. It started with an ‘Angel Walk’, where you make two lines and one person walks down the middle getting “given love” by everyone else on their way. It seemed to tread the line between an embarrassing exercise that I would feel uncomfortable about and pre-cursor to an orgy! I actually quite enjoyed it. Perhaps that’s not a surprise, I was being stroked all over by multiple women’s hands after all…

Before the certificates were handed out we had another sharing circle. There were a lot of passionate “I love you all” type sentiments being thrown around, mixed in with “there have been highs and lows, it’s been very emotionally trying at times” and the teachers’ “I’ve learnt a lot about myself and about acceptance whilst teaching this (tough to teach) group”. My contribution was pretty tame compared to all of that. I had a great time on the course! I learnt lots. I was tired at times, but never emotionally pushed to any extremes. Maybe our group was lively and difficult to deal with, but I’m used to groups of hormonal teenagers who’d give anything not to be at school and regularly express that fact!

In the evening we all went out for dinner together. It was a very nice occasion, ending with a sing song with the guitar. It felt like the group had really got to like each other. I’ll miss them, I’m sure.

To close, I’ll say this. I wasn’t expecting to get so much from a yoga TTC. I really enjoyed it and found I kept up with the physical side of things very well, not that yoga’s a competition. Yoga’s not a competition, we’ve been told that time and time again. Really, it’s not a competition. But…

I was the only one to do every single Asana class and not sit a single one out. SO THERE!!!

A smug Dave!

The closing ceremony.

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