Becoming a Yoga Teacher in India: Review of 200-Hour Yoga & Meditation Teacher Training Course at Parimukti – Part 2

Becoming a Yoga Teacher in India: Review of 200-Hour Yoga & Meditation Teacher Training Course at Parimukti – Part 2

Continued on from “Week 1 – Becoming a Yoga Teacher” the following are ‘his and hers’ daily diaries of a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training Course in Goa, India. 

The whole group with Inge, our Teacher on Arambol Beach.

Day 10 – Monday (Hers)

Started the day in an asana class where I was unable to do many postures due to my knee. Although it is feeling a bit better, I just don’t want to injure it by pushing to hard. And in this class (where Bhavini had us trying to do the splits!) I felt I should sit out!

Today, we also had chance to get in our small groups and discuss the class we would be teaching on Wednesday. In our group of three, Diana and Michel and I, we came up with the idea of ‘confidence’ as the overall theme for our class. As all of us students would be teaching a class on Wednesday and would no doubt be nervous, we felt that a bit of self confidence and self-belief might be needed! Having a solid theme for our class, and something to work with, I felt better about standing up in front of people, and dare I say, was actually looking forward to it!

Lunchtimes at Jungle Dance.

The rest of the day passed smoothly with classes as usual and ended with an enjoyable yoga class with Inge, followed by a meditation class with Rory. We did some more eye-gazing in this class and worked hard to get beyond those giggles that inevitably arise with eye-gazing meditations. Rory suggested that we see our partner as a ‘mirror’ or ourselves and look at what emotions arise within when gazing into someone’s eyes for a long time – an activity that you rarely ever do in the day to day ‘normal’ world. I wondered – why are we so afraid of being looked at straight in the eyes? What are we scared that people might find? My partner Eva, and I, grew comfortable with each other quite quickly, as we broke through the embarrassment barrier. I really enjoyed the meditation in the end and felt a lot of warmth and energy from the whole group.

Day 10 – Monday (His)

First morning of getting up after a day off seems to be particularly difficult. I had to drag myself out of bed this morning and wasn’t really with it until I was getting out of the shower. Morning Asanas was very nice though, lots of hip openers, which are particularly necessary in my case. By breakfast I felt pretty much on track. In the afternoon we had our second Asanas class of the day. Even though I was worried about the physical strain of two active classes on our first day back, I ended the class feeling great. It included some work in pairs and in threes, which was much more effective than I’d have expected. You can really get some good stretches when someone else’s body weight is helping you out. I was surprised to find that all the pair work involved a decent stretch in both roles (and a very different stretch at that).

At the beginning of meditation class Rory announced that one of today’s meditations would be “neo-tantric eye-gazing”. That did not fill me with enthusiasm for the upcoming activities. However, when we got to that part, it wasn’t anything like as cringey as I’d feared it might be.

I finished the day in far better shape than I started it. Looking forward to tomorrow.

Day 11 – Tuesday (Hers)

An enjoyable day that went really quickly, mainly because any free time that we had was spent working on our own 25-minute class, which we’ll be doing tomorrow. The morning yoga class with Bhavini was quite intense and I sat out in some poses to protect my knee, which was still feeling weak. Despite the pain, it was actually interesting for me to do the alternative poses and to be mindful of which ones to avoid. If I have a class with a student with an injured knee in the future, I’ll know what to do!

In Philosophy we are now looking at the chakras, which I have to say I am not so interested in. When we were asked to connect to our first chakra, our Muladhara Chakra and visualise a colour, I found it hard to see anything. I might have seen red or purple or green when I closed my eyes, but I’m sure that it was just the light flickering behind my eyes, rather than any connection to my internal energy. The day ended with some restorative yoga with Bhavini, where I was mostly thinking about my class tomorrow!

Restorative Yoga.

Day 11 – Tuesday (His)

Today was an interesting day. The dynamics of the group seemed to have taken a shift. It was the first day in which people ate breakfast and lunch dispersed around the cafe area, rather than all together at one table. I assume this is mainly due to tomorrow’s intense day of teaching practices, especially as there have been no visible feuds. All the same, it was an interesting change…

In philosophy class, we’ve moved on to speaking about chakras. This is an interesting area for me. On first look, it’s exactly the sort of thing that the cynic in me would dismiss as nonsense. However, I have had some intense experiences during meditations that focused on those parts of the body (whilst playing the whole thing down and avoiding the word “chakras” like the plague). As such, I am open to hearing all that is explained. I’ll save my cynicism for later down the line.

It looks like everyone is quite well prepared for their teaching tomorrow. I just hope our body’s are prepared for all that activity too! Six hours of yoga is not going to be easy!

Day 12 – Wednesday (Hers)

I awoke feeling pretty good, though a little bit sneezy. I think I’m allergic to something in our room. I took an anti-histamine tablet and went to class for 7am. I couldn’t be late or out of action today – I was taking the class!

Diana, Michel and I had decided to do our class on ‘confidence’. When I walked in the room in the morning, I saw that Diana had set up all of the bolsters in a circle in the middle of the room with candles in the centre – nice! Our group was looking good already! She started with a beautiful introduction of how people may be feeling anxious on this day and how our class was going to be a self-belief and confidence boost for all. We held hands in a circle and said three oms together to feel the support from the rest of the group. She played some beautiful music on her guitar and we meditated together.

Once Diana had us all warmed up, it was my turn to do the power poses! I had watched a TedTalk with a woman called Amy Cuddy who had done research into how holding certain ‘power poses’ (hands on hips, hands in the air in a victory cheer etc.) for a short while can make you feel more powerful and confident. My 25 minutes went pretty fast and I really enjoyed being up in front of the class. Next, Michel followed on from me with some really fun, energising ‘pranayama’ concluding with a ‘lion’s breath’. Roar! At the end of our class everyone was very complimentary and we all felt like as a group we’d done a good job. The next teaching practicum, however, we wouldn’t have the safety of a group, it would be every man for himself!

Throughout the rest of the day, I observed everybody else’s classes, which were each so varied and well prepared. The class after ours was a ‘core’ workout with Eva and Irina. Then in the afternoon, there was a kind of ‘martial arts’ inspired yoga boot-camp with Linda and martial arts pro, Michael, followed by a more relaxed chakra alignment class with Maleen and Dhara. Finally, we closed the day with a light yoga and meditation by Lisa and Dave, which everyone (who was still able to stay awake by that point) really enjoyed. It was an amazing day where everyone really shone, and showed how far they had come since the start of the course. I think there are some yoga teachers in the making amongst us!

Dave teaching a spontaneous section of the class.

Day 12 – Wednesday (His)

Most of day 12 was taken up by our second set of prepared classes. Everyone did a very good job. You could really see how much we’d come on since our first class. People were more relaxed in front of the group, instructions were clearer and the supportive atmosphere was maintained.

Obviously my main interest was my own class. Despite having made pages of notes, when it came to it, I didn’t actually look at them at all. I wasn’t 100% satisfied, I felt that I’d maybe rushed through some of the aspects of what I wanted the group to do, but overall I was pleased with how things went. What’s more, I received a very positive response from my classmates.

Day 13 – Thursday (Hers)

I think today was my least favourite day so far, mainly because I was feeling so awful. It started at 5am with an attack of my allergies again. (They had gradually got worse throughout yesterday and by now I was sneezing repeatedly, my nose wouldn’t stop running and I had a bad headache.) I decided to try to do a ‘neti pot’ in the bathroom, as Inge had suggested that this could help with allergies. My snorting and spluttering also woke Dave up who was also feeling exhausted and run down.

As we were getting ready to leave for the day, Dave announced he would be doing a ‘silent day’. A silent day is something that is encouraged for one day during the course. You wear a badge to let everyone know that you will not be speaking, apart from answering practical questions, and you spend the day observing and looking within. A few of the students had already done their ‘silent days’. I was a bit scared of mine! I love to share things with people and a day of not talking made me feel uneasy. Dave’s announcement instantly put me in a bad mood. If you’re part of a couple, the silence of one directly affects the other, and I wish he’d have give me more time to mentally prepare. Especially as we were both feeling so tired and rubbish this morning.

I sat out of the morning class, trying to rest my knee still, which felt like it was getting a bit better, but not 100%. Allergy problems… knee problems… I felt like I was falling apart! Sniff sniff, sneeze, sneeze at the corner of the room. It was much less fun observing than doing the yoga, and I felt left out of the group because of my injury.

Inge doing the pigeon in her morning class.

At this point, I wasn’t sure how I was able to communicate with Dave. Could I look and smile at him? Could I hug him? I wished we had set better guidelines for what ‘silent day’ meant for the two of us. Mostly, I felt like he was just ignoring me and I was in a big grump. I had seen him talking to a few other people (course related chat) and saw him reply to a Whatssapp so I felt that it was just me being punished! I knew this was very childish, and it was mainly because I was feeling so tired, but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for myself as I nursed my ailments. At lunch time as I lay on the floor by the pool, I felt hands on my forehead, massaging my temples and rubbing the area of my sinuses. Dave! After he’d tried to heel me, we went to the main hall in silence, lay down on yoga mats on the floor, and I lay on his chest and we caught up on our sleep. Maybe you didn’t need to actually speak to communicate after all.

In the afternoon, Inge announced that we were going to the beach to do our ‘art of teaching’ class. On any other day, I would have loved this, but today I just didn’t have the energy. By this point, Dave’s silence had fell apart as he had forgotten at various points during the day, and he was also feeling awful. We discussed giving the beach a miss.

In the end, I was really glad that we took the opportunity to go to the beach and the teaching class was really interesting as we discussed the different types of yoga’s and how they originated. We left the beach just before Inge started a short Yoga Nidra session (I just didn’t feel like I could handle another intense experience right now!) and we were both feeling exhausted. Apparently Week 3 is always the toughest they say. I really hope I start to feel better soon as today was a big struggle! Now Dave was in normal speaking mode again, I explained all of my problems and everything that had annoyed me during the day in one big flurry of words. Poor guy. He told me he’d give me more warning of a silent day in the future and I promised to be more supportive.

Day 13 – Thursday (His)

Unlucky for some? We’d woken up at 5am when Nikki’s allergies hit hard and I didn’t go back to sleep after that point. I decided to take today as my “silent day” (we must do at least one of these during the course), much to Nikki’s annoyance. My silence fell apart reasonably early on, at about 11:30am, when I found myself mid conversation without having realised my folly.

My patience was low all day long, despite having a brief sleep in the hall at lunchtime. When it was announced that we’d be going to the beach for Inge’s sessions, I found myself unable to partake in the enthusiasm of my course-mates. I found myself stressing about how much we had to take with us, the potential for thieves to take my valuables while I have my eyes shut and of course, the possibility that Inge might have us acting like weirdos in public. The last of these dangers seemed like a very real one, but it wasn’t the case at all. We behaved like relatively normal people and got on with our work. It was actually very nice changing our surroundings after so much time spent in the same hall. All the same, I was still a bit twitchy while we were there.

I hope to sleep well tonight and be in better spirits tomorrow.

Day 14 – Friday (Hers)

Again, I sat out during Bhavini’s morning asana class in order to protect my knee. At lunchtime, Merel came to see me to examine my knee and see if she could give me any recommendations for how to make it heal faster and not damage it more. She told me that rest is good, and gave me some adjustments to yoga postures in order to protect it. It seemed that the problem had been hyper-extension and misplacement of my knee is some postures, putting too much strain on it. I’d obviously been doing things this way for years, it’s just that the damage had reared its ugly head now due to intense daily practise. It was a good job I was addressing the problem now! I decided to continue with asana class from now on with the adjustments Merel had given me, and sit out any postures that were too difficult.

In the afternoon, we worked more on our chakras with Meera, doing a meditation on each of the first five chakras. We had to try to visualise various things whilst focusing in on each chakra: the colour, the feeling, if it was flowing or blocked, what it might be that blocks this chakra and how we might try to unblock it. I found it very difficult during the meditation to separate the concept of the chakra, (i.e. heart signifying how much love you have to give), with the actual area in the body. With my imagination active and my emotions running wild I visualised each area of my body in terms of how I see myself, my own abilities and desires, which gave me a picture of what I basically already knew about myself. I really felt that I should be doing something different than this, trying to quieten my intellectual, analytical mind and just ‘feel’ the area where the chakra is supposed to be, and see what that brings up. Different people in the group had different results; some just seeing colours, others having pains in various parts of their bodies, others having strong emotions arise. My cynical side couldn’t help but wonder if we our minds were unconsciously manipulating the results of the meditation just to ‘feel’ something. I will have to keep my mind open and try again I guess, but at the moment, I feel that chakra meditations aren’t really my thing.

One student taking a well deserved nap in the hammock at lunchtime.

After Philosophy, I felt so exhausted and so I told Inge that I was going to miss the last two classes of the day. She had planned to do ‘Acro-Yoga’ (with my knee in mind she said!) and I was sad to have to miss the class, but knew that I desperately needed my rest. Dave dropped me back at home and I got right into bed, falling asleep for three hours until he returned at 7.30pm.

Day 14 – Friday (His)

Despite having slept quite a long time (comparatively), I woke up today feeling absolutely awful. It was the first day I had to pause for a sit down and a spurt of feeling sorry for myself on my way out of bed since the course began. I felt utterly deflated and only just managed to force myself into the shower. When I got out, despite the sobering blast of cold water on a cold morning, my brain still wasn’t catching up. I faffed around in a confused manner before finally getting everything together and the bike started at gone ten to seven. It was the first morning we’d arrived after Asanas had already started. I was very embarrassed as I scuttled to get my mat set up, hoping not to have caused Bhavini any offence. After about half an hour, I started to wake up a bit, just in time to be asked to lead an impromptu session (one sun salutation and two other postures). I think it went well as I felt reasonably present and alert at the moment of truth.

Over the rest of the morning, things took a turn for the worse. At the beginning of anatomy class, Rory had us move around the room whilst exploring what our most feminine and most masculine sides wanted to do, specifically how they wanted to move. In my case (by the looks of it, in many cases), neither of them were at all interested in dancing. My feminine side was content wandering around rotating her wrists (which were a bit sore), my masculine side just wanted to sit down. The poor guy didn’t even get to express his true desire, as I figured it would be rude to follow it, so I paced around rhythmically with my chest out a little more than it had been shortly before.

Before we’d started that activity, we’d been given a telling off for not having kept the room tidy. Word had come from Merel (who’d sat in on a class yesterday) that it was in an unacceptable state. Then, at the start of alignment, we received the same telling off again, now from Bhavini. This time the subject of late arrivals was also brought into the equation, among other examples of the group’s shortcomings. Having already felt so guilty about getting there late this morning, I felt severe pangs of guilt, and also (heavily fuelled by lack of sleep and crankiness) a healthy degree of defensiveness.

My bad mood continued into lunch. Then, in the afternoon, things took a turn for the better again. In philosophy we spent most of the class meditating on the chakras. The fact that I might not really believe in chakras doesn’t detract from the benefit I get from extended focus on bits of my body. I enjoyed the session. Nikki felt too unwell to do the rest of the afternoon, so I took her home and got back just in time for acro-yoga to start, which was immensely good fun. I didn’t do so much “flying”, but I felt important in the “spotting” role I held for most of the class.

In meditation class, Rory led us through a series of non-dual pointing meditations, which was about as far up my street as it’s possible to be, so I was very pleased with that. We also had a very nice chat about the subject on the way to our scooters. It’s nice speaking to someone who’s interested in these things. Back home, I normally find people rolling their eyes at me (as Nikki can confirm, she’s one of them). I finished the day feeling much better than I had done at the start.

Day 15 – Saturday (Hers)

Today was a good end to our second full week. Everyone seemed in a good mood, looking forward to our Sunday day of rest tomorrow, and also excited about our final week of exams and teaching practises next week. In just over a week we would all be qualified yoga teachers – what an achievement!

Students over breakfast.

I participated in Rory’s morning Asana class, adjusting my postures as Merel had advised and I felt pretty good. My knee pain was not entirely gone, but it wasn’t getting any worse, so that was surely a good thing? Maybe I just had to power through until the end of the course and rest it afterwards. I dreamt of treating ourselves to a luxury hotel with a hot shower (heaven!) once the course was completed.

Today Alignment was switched with Philosophy and so we had Meera before lunch today. In the class, we discussed our experiences during the chakra meditations. Meera was really digging deep into everyone’s experiences and the class resulted with no less than four people in tears (including myself of course!) as people got things off their chests that had come up during the meditations. Whether the existence of chakras and their spinning and blockage was real or not, their emotional affect on people was undeniable. Past relationships, family issues and guilt was discussed in relation to each chakra and I could relate to a lot of what Meera was saying. I spoke to an ex student on the way out of the class who saw a me drying my eyes whilst leaving the shala. I told her about the intense, cathartic, class. “Welcome to the TTC!” she said and smiled and gave me a hug.

The afternoon classes were light and went quickly. In Inge’s Art of Teaching class we did ‘contact improvisation dance’, which was really fun and something I hadn’t done before. Contact dancing is the art of moving together spontaneously, which we did with our eyes closed. Inge used it to discuss how we may want to be adjusted during a yoga class and how to inspire trust in our students. It was a fun way to get us to remember some important teaching tools. During Restorative Yoga at the end of the day, all I could think about was my teaching exam next week. What would my theme be? What pranayama would I do? (I still felt that I hadn’t really got to grips with pranayama yet). As I lay in reclining butterfly a million ideas went through my head. Next week, I was going to have to be on top form!

Day 15 – Saturday (His)

Sure enough, I woke up in a similarly bad mood this morning. Tiredness was really taking its toll. During the physical part of Asanas I was getting better, but during the meditation at the end I found myself unable to focus. What healthy morning activities couldn’t fix, caffeine could. After two cups of coffee with breakfast I felt much better and quickly came out of my grump. Philosophy class was an emotional affair, with at least three class members breaking down in tears whilst telling of their chakra experiences the day before. There was then a lot of hugging, which I reluctantly took part in. By lunchtime most eyes in the room were dry again.

In the afternoon we had a fun time in Art of Teaching, which was more active than theoretical. We explored adjustment techniques through dance-exercises where one member in a pair had their eyes shut. I couldn’t explain how fitting these exercises were with words, but they worked extremely well. I even felt quite happy doing the dancing today!

The day closed with restorative yoga, which was a welcome wind-down before our day off.

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