Updated January 3rd, 2018.
I had my first introduction to yoga in Koh Phangan, Thailand.
I had done several yoga classes in various parts of Southeast Asia during my travels, but it was here where I began to take classes regularly and began to really see the benefits to my whole being. Practising yoga three times a week at ‘The Yoga Retreat’, a lovely school with a view over the jungle on the beautiful west coast of the island, I felt my body become stronger and my mind become calmer. I felt that whatever was happening in my life at the time, I could find some sort of stability on the mat.
Fast forward 10 years and I’m in India, the birthplace of Yoga, travelling with my partner. By this time, I’ve used Yoga and meditation at various stages of my life, to help me through difficult times. I decided that being in India was the perfect opportunity for me to take my practice further. I wanted to learn more about yoga, the philosophy behind it, the mental and physical benefits and perhaps in time, share that with others. We contacted a few schools in Goa, southern India, about taking the 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training Course, which is the first basic course for those wanting to become a yoga teacher. It’s also a great foundation for those who don’t necessarily want to teach, but to gain a deeper insight into the entire Yoga lifestyle.
We formed a connection with a school, Parimukti Yoga, who had been running for two years, located in the hippie beach town of Arambol, northern Goa. The owners of the school were happy to let us join their next TTC in exchange for reviewing it honestly, and in detail, on South East Asia Backpacker Magazine. Renowned as being intense, hailed as transformational, and taken by thousands of students in Asia every year.
Would we be able to complete the entire course? Would we find it as life-changing as people say it is? So, unedited and with no rough edges smoothed, here is the day-to-day diary of the experience of my partner (Dave) and I at Parimukti 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training School in Arambol, Goa…
- 1 Daily Diary of Parimukti Yoga and Meditation 200-hour Teacher Training Course in Goa, India
- 1.1 DAY 1: Thursday (Hers)
- 1.2 DAY 1: Thursday (His)
- 1.3 DAY 2: Friday (Hers)
- 1.4 DAY 2: Friday (His)
- 1.5 Day 3: Saturday (Hers)
- 1.6 Day 3: Saturday (His)
- 1.7 DAY 4: Monday (Hers)
- 1.8 DAY 4: Monday (His)
- 1.9 DAY 5: Tuesday (Hers)
- 1.10 DAY 5: Tuesday (His)
- 1.11 DAY 6: Wednesday (Hers)
- 1.12 DAY 6: Wednesday (His)
- 1.13 DAY 7: Thursday (Hers)
- 1.14 DAY 7: Thursday (His)
- 1.15 Day 8: Friday (Hers)
- 1.16 Day 8: Friday (His)
- 1.17 Day 9: Saturday (Hers)
- 1.18 Day 9: Saturday (His)
Daily Diary of Parimukti Yoga and Meditation 200-hour Teacher Training Course in Goa, India
DAY 1: Thursday (Hers)
After discovering that we would be starting the first day at 12 noon rather than the impossibly early (7am), I have to say I was relieved. I’d been dreading a cold shower at 6am, and so the 10.30am cold shower was (a little bit) better.
The Welcome Meeting was great. The teachers all seemed down to earth and approachable and I could see already that their different personalities would work well with a varied and intense course. As each student introduced themselves we got to find out a little bit about these people with whom we’d be spending a lot of time with over the next 25 days. (The course runs from 5th – 30th January from 7am to 7pm daily).
The most interesting part of the day for me was the introduction to philosophy. I can tell already I’m going to like this a lot. We discussed ‘What is Yoga?’ and everyone had a different opinion about the concept of Yoga and its personal benefits. The teacher, a lively Indian woman called Meera (who had grown up in the Osho commune in Pune!), was brimming with knowledge and I could see that in this first class, she was only scratching the surface of all that there is to learn about this 7,000-year-old art. We touched on tantric meditation, quantum physics, different types of pain, enlightenment, non-duality, God and happiness. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
After philosophy, we had our first asana class. Before the class, I was worried that the class may be too difficult and full of superstar yogis and yoginis! I quickly realised that there were no posers nor show-offs in the class and everyone was at different levels. The class overall was great and I really felt that we went deeper into postures than I am used to. I realised that although yoga is good for your body, bad practise can do your body harm, over stretching and not engaging the muscles in the right places can actually cause problems when you are older. At 32, I felt that this was a good time for me to really bring this to mind, before I haphazardly jump into a downward dog and do myself some long term damage.
Finally, the last class of the day was meditation. Perhaps the part of Yoga TTC that I thought I’d find most difficult. (I am hopeless at sitting still and find myself getting restless very easily!) I was pleased to hear that we would be doing a dynamic ‘kundalini meditation’, 15 minutes shaking, 15 minutes dancing, 15 minutes sitting and 15 minutes lying down. During the 15 minutes shaking and dancing I could feel my self-consciousness preventing me from throwing my arms above my head and shaking my bum to the rhythm of the music. When I opened my eyes slightly and saw that everyone else was letting go and doing what the hell they liked, I felt more comfortable to do the same. I really started to enjoy myself and thought that it’s a shame that in England, where I’m from, people need copious amounts of alcohol before letting themselves go!
Driving off on our ‘scooty’ (motorbike) down the lane after our first day of TTC, I felt excited about all of the new ideas and knowledge that I’d be introduced to during the next month. I can’t wait for tomorrow! (I’ll let you know if I feel the same after that cold 6am shower!)
DAY 1: Thursday (His)
The opening ceremony was a friendly and very nicely presented affair. We were sat around an OM surrounded by a circle of flowers, with 12 seats set around, much like the numbers on a clock face. We started with a chant and a short meditation. A little introduction to the course was made and then came our personal introductions. I like to consider myself a charming and charismatic person. Unfortunately I was unable to display myself as such. Instead, it came to my turn to introduce myself and I mumbled ·”Hi, I’m Dave”, followed by a short series of “blahs” before I quickly passed the flower (our conch) on to Nikki.
Everyone on the course with us came across as very nice, as we were to learn further over a very tasty vegetarian lunch. We were pleased to discover none of the hippie-posers we feared we may be surrounded by.
After lunch was “Yoga Philosophy”, which was a very entertaining class indeed. A couple of years ago my interest in meditation developed into an interest in reaching non-dual seeing. I was very pleased to see that much of the content of the course was going to be of great interest to me and, I concluded, likely to help reach enlightenment very soon in, if not on the first day!
Next came Asanas. I was a bit hounded by pain in my knee during the cross-legged start to the class and looked forward to moving into some other postures. We did so reasonably quickly and I was pleased with the amount of guidance we were receiving, especially that we were pausing in certain positions and then analysing where in the body we were feeling tight. (Turns out the pain in the back of my knee during forward fold was thanks to my poor technique, rather than high level of professionalism I had assumed to have been exercising).
At six came the moment of the day I had most looked forward to, an hour of meditation. Imagine my horror when it was revealed that we would be spending fifteen minutes shaking, then fifteen dancing, before two more quarter hour segments of what I considered to be more traditional meditation! I was going to be expected to express myself freely through the mode of dance! I couldn’t understand how this could possibly be compatible with the first two points on the “rules and guidelines” list (no drugs and no alcohol).
I have to admit, I spent the majority of the shaking time worrying about what was going to happen next, but eventually managed to let myself go a bit. I even felt a bit of a loosening off in the shoulders as I let them shake. When the dreaded dancing started the music took on a tempo of around 120-130bpm, similar to what I’d have been presented with back in my student days, when I frequented the house-nights of Leeds, a time at which I certainly had been able to let myself go with relative ease and danced (as the popular quote advises) as though nobody was watching.
On this occasion, I was in a room full of people who genuinely weren’t watching. In fact, (I know because I peeked), they mostly seemed to be getting into it without any trouble whatsoever. I soon eased in to having a sober dance and my self-consciousness twisted its focus to “they’re all doing this better than me”. I ached rather a lot over the next 15 minute standing meditation, during which time I mainly made plans of the witty comments I would hope to make when writing up this entry. Not the most centred meditation I have ever done… The last 15 minutes of lying down felt well deserved. When it finished, I felt great and left the day thoroughly looking forward to tomorrow.
So… let’s see how that 6 O´clock wake-up goes…
DAY 2: Friday (Hers)
Getting up at 6am wasn’t as much of a struggle as I thought it would be, although writing this at 9.30pm now, I’m absolutely shattered!
The 7am morning asana class was more intense than the day before and I really enjoyed it. The teacher, a lovely young Indian woman named Bhavini, really went deeper into the poses and made sure that we were doing things correctly, engaging the right muscles and relaxing ones that needn’t be tense. I warmed up my body on the chilly morning and felt good.
Next was ‘Anatomy’ class with Rory, a young English guy from Glastonbury. The class was really more of an introduction, getting to know the other class members and learning to feel more relaxed around each other. Already, there was a really good atmosphere amongst the 11 members of the group. We were starting to lose inhibitions around each other, laugh and express ourselves easily.
The next class was our first session of ‘Alignment’, perhaps the class that I expected least to enjoy, but ended up enjoying very much. We discussed the meaning of alignment, why it is so important and how we can make sure we get the most out of each posture without doing damage. I vowed to listen to my body more and not over stretch or ‘hyper-engage’ as I learnt is a tendency of mine.
The afternoon philosophy class was the ‘History of Yoga’ and we learnt about where Yoga came from, important texts that have influenced Yoga over the years, The Vedas, The Bhagavad Gita and The Sutras of Patanjali. We also discussed how Yoga has changed over the years. Did you know that there were originally 840,000 postures?
Finally, we had our first class of ‘The Art of Teaching’ with Inge, a smiley dreadlocked woman from Holland. This was perhaps the most challenging class of the day, as already, Inge began to hand over the baton of teaching to us, and start to prepare us for what we all want to be – ‘Yoga Teachers’. That first step from student to teacher, leading the class for a few minutes, was very nerve-wracking and the teacher did a fantastic job of making us feel like we were in a safe, friendly space to express ourselves. A few silly games helped us to start to realise that we would be teaching a whole class by the end of the course!
We ended the day with my first ever Yin Yoga class, which is a very slow and restorative yoga. I found it interesting to stay in the postures for a long time, rather than skipping through them and I felt at a few points that I was able to feel discomfort and examine it for what it is, rather than wanting to jump out of the position immediately.
A great first full day, so much information to absorb, all of it interesting and will surely help me in my Yoga practise and my life off the mat! Looking forward to tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep.
DAY 2: Friday (His)
As it happens, we woke up fine. My cold shower was considerably less unpleasant than I feared (give me a few days and I’m sure I’ll be raving about the pros of a freezing cold shower taken before the sun comes up. I’m still not at that stage yet, but perhaps not too far off). We left the house 20 minutes ahead of time. All was going stunningly well up until we tried to start our scooter. It sputtered away and showed no signs of getting going. It was Nikki who heroically brought about a kick start, in her flip flops. After 5 minutes of panic, we were on our way and made it in time to be the 3rd and 4th in the room.
I’ve never started exercise at 7am, let alone 2 hours before breakfast. They were very enjoyable, though there were some postures that caused me to regret the cup of coffee I’d thought it was only sensible to consume some caffeine before leaving the house. However, a sloshy belly and plough posture don’t mix it appears…
As the day progressed, we got to know a bit more about each other, as we gave fresh presentations in each class we had with a teacher we’d not had before. I must confess, the form these introductions took in our Art of Teaching lesson was a bit uncomfortable for me. We’d started the class with a magnificent meditation, quite different in style than any I’d done before. However, when we started acting out our vision of something we identified with, I couldn’t help but wish the floor would swallow me up. I was definitely in the minority. I was suddenly surrounded by Thespians living the experience of “being a dragon” in a way I couldn’t possibly have expected from any mammal. I know the value of such exercises, I almost certainly felt more at one with my classmates afterwards, but I wasn’t able to enjoy it while it was happening, I spent most of the time wishing it would come to an end.
After that came my first experience of Yin yoga. Right up my street, staying completely still in a stretch for extended periods of time. I finished the day feeling serene.
Day 3: Saturday (Hers)
Wow. What an amazing day! I’m still feeling a little emotional from the Buddhist ‘heart’ meditation, in which we were asked to send love to various people in our lives. First, we had to picture someone that we love in an intimate way and send them love. Then we had to extend that love to friends and family. Thirdly, and perhaps the most difficult part of the meditation, we had to send love out to our enemies, or to anyone that had hurt us in the past. Finally, we had to send love to ourselves, something that maybe we forget to do!
It was an incredible one-hour session which concluded with more than one person in the class in tears. Sitting with a partner and sharing our experience during the meditation whilst looking at them deep in the eyes was an intense experience and I really felt by the end of the day that my heart had truly been opened. I felt warm and fuzzy leaving the class that, felt in love with India, and love towards all of my classmates. Powerful stuff!
The rest of the day before the meditation was fantastic. I think it’s obvious to say I am thoroughly enjoying every single class and every teacher inspires me in a different way. The energising morning asana class, the technical anatomy class, the fascinating Yoga philosophy class (perhaps my favourite of all!) and our first mantra chanting class.
Lokha samastha sukino bavantu.
May all sentient beings be in peace.
Reciting some of the ancient Sanskrit mantras, including one that is printed on the school diary of Indian children, I felt that I was gaining an insight into Indian and Hindu culture, not just Yoga. The mantras are intended to focus the mind and quieten the thoughts. Trying to remember the complicated Sanskrit words and breathe in the right place, so as to be able to sing, I began to understand how chanting could be a meditative activity and an important part of Yoga. As we are discovering, more and more each day, Yoga is so much more than movement, it can encompass everything that you do. It’s an entire way of life.
My intrigue in the course is enhanced by the fact that two of our teachers are native Indian and have a deep and fascinating knowledge about their country and its spirituality, which they clearly love. Their passion is infectious and I could sit for hours listening after the class has ended.
Tomorrow it’s our one day off, and I really think we’re going to need it to rest our bodies and take heed before starting our first six-day week tomorrow!
Day 3: Saturday (His)
Morning Asanas appeared at first to be quite a relaxing affair. We were to move very slowly, in time to a 5 second (ideally, but whatever was comfortable for each of us) breath. What seemed light at first soon turned into very hard work. Frustratingly early on I could hear my tummy rumbling. I was exhausted by the end of class, and desperate to eat my breakfast.
In meditation class I was delighted to find out we’d be doing our practice in a seated position. I normally meditate sat in a chair, but I thought I’d challenge myself to sit it out cross-legged. I layered up 2 bolsters, assuming this would help me out with my usual knee pain. Unfortunately, it turns out there’s a further obstacle for me to deal with, pins and needles in my feet. Twenty minutes in, I was in agony. Rather than projecting love out to the universe, I was trying to decide how easily I could change to laying down without causing too much of a disturbance. I was rather disappointed with myself. I had long looked forward being part of a group meditation and so far, I’d been thinking during our sessions more than an average bad day on my own.
When we got to the end of our private meditation, we were invited to walk around the room sharing the love we had generated with those around us. I wasn’t comfortable for the next five minutes, I must admit. I’m not much of a hugger at the best of times. Nikki gets them, reasonably regularly and generally very much heartfelt, but not many other people do. I found myself feeling a bit fake as I tried to share the warmth I hadn’t really brought about with my classmates. That said, I certainly did feel touched by a couple of the moments we had. The session finished with sharing our experience in pairs. One very telling thing must be that after we were told the class had finished and it was time to go home, every one of those chats continued as though nothing had been said.
DAY 4: Monday (Hers)
We spent a wonderful Sunday exploring the neighbouring state of Maharashtra, which is only half an hour motorbike ride, north from Arambol. The state is huge compared to Goa and the south is largely unexplored by tourists, with deserted beaches, endless rice fields and very pot-holed roads.
Getting up on Monday at 6am for morning yoga was a struggle as I felt I could already do with another day’s rest! Nevertheless, I felt excited about the day to come, certain that I would enjoy it. The morning class taught by Bhavini was tough, mainly because of how I was personally feeling. After trying some knee bending poses in the class I realised that my knee felt stiff and swollen. What had I done? I decided to power through, but by the end of the class, it was clear to me that I’d injured my knee, probably from using my very thin yoga mat on the hard floor of the Yoga shala. I decided to use two mats and a towel in future to cushion my knee.
One of the most interesting parts of the day for me, happened in alignment class where we got the chance to actually teach our first sequence of asanas. In small groups we took turns to teach Suriya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) a series of 12 moves co-ordinated with the breath. It dawned on me that it was the first time that I’d ever used my voice to try to get somebody to move their body in a certain way and it was trickier than I thought! Usually in a yoga class my role is to listen while someone tells me how to move, when to breathe and even what to think (or what not to think!). I wasn’t used to being on the other side of things!
The rest of the classes that we had today, anatomy, philosophy, meditation and a further asana class, were great as usual, and as always, I left the school with new knowledge to digest and an inspired feeling to take me into the next day. I just hope that my knee feels better tomorrow so that I can partake in the morning asana class!
DAY 4: Monday (His)
Day 4 followed our first day of rest, Sunday, which was hampered by sleepiness and a headache on my part. Day 4 started painfully. My cold shower at 6:20 was the most difficult one yet. I didn’t hold much hope for the day as we set off. However, our first Asanas class was like magic for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and felt pretty much 100% when we got to the end. I particularly enjoyed getting adjusted in the postures.
In alignment, we had our first experience of teaching yoga. We broke off into groups of four and led each other through the sun salutation. This was another very positive experience. My first teaching practise went very smoothly.
Our second Asanas class of the day was a chakra yoga class. Though I can’t claim to have had any snakes rising up my spine (just a couple of ants and maybe a spider or two), I definitely did feel very good at the end of the session.
I’m very much enjoying working with the variety of teachers we have on the course. Each one has a unique style. The value of each of these styles is unquestionable. At this stage I’m enthused at the idea that I will be able to work on something distinctively mine (a message that has been made very clear to us since the beginning).
DAY 5: Tuesday (Hers)
I spent the first class of the day observing, as my knee was still not feeling great. Who would have thought an injury would blight me so early on! Frustrated and annoyed with myself, I tried to take the advice of the teachers and listen to my body. Rest and patience would lead to a quicker recovery and have me back on the mat soon I hoped.
The rest of the morning, anatomy and alignment class, which I was able to partake fully in, passed smoothly, followed by a healthy lunch. Then it was time for my favourite of all the classes, philosophy. Today we discussed the ‘yamas’ of Patanjali, which are a set of five values suggested by Patanjali, in order to live an enlightened yogic lifestyle. The yamas are: not stealing, non-violence, non possessiveness, non lust, and truthfulness. The discussion of the yamas inevitably gave rise to our own personal ideas about the morals and values that we have been brought up in within our own cultures, the state of the world today and how such yamas may be useful in a corporate, capitalist society, with many problems. I could sit there and discuss philosophy all day, especially with such an interesting teacher who loves to tell stories about life in India and her unique take on things, having grown up in the Osho commune.
The most challenging part of the day for me was the Art of Teaching Class. We all had to give a 5-minute introduction to a yoga class that we might teach in the future. Each person’s introduction was so different, from one opening with drumming on his body (Dave!) to another explaining the story of the Bhagavad Gita. They were all great to watch and soak up different people’s ideas.
I decided to do my class on the concept of ‘home’. As a person who has been a traveller for the past 10 years, the concept of home is something that I have thought a lot about. I wanted to share that with the other students, who were also far away from their home countries today, and to introduce the idea to them that you can always find a home on the yoga mat.
Despite my heart beating so loud I thought people might hear, the introduction went well and everybody said that I seemed confident and spoke clearly. It occurred to me how differently you can feel, compared to how others perceive you. Eager for feedback about my class, I wondered, are we really who we think we are?
One student was rather negative about my class saying that it was not a class he would like to go to. He said that with my enthusiasm and assertive instructions, perhaps my class would be better suited to 12-14-year-old children! (Well perhaps I had found my niche!) I must admit, I couldn’t help but feel upset by the comment and wonder if my Mrs Motivator style was suited to yoga at all.
During the restorative yoga class at the end of the day, my mind flipped back and forth questioning myself. Were the other students just being nice when they praised my class? Did they all think the same as my outspoken critic and secretly found my class off-putting? Bent over in a rag doll pose, head resting on the pillow, I had a little silent cry and it felt good. I began to watch as my mind found new ways to try to criticise me and fuel the self doubt. By the end of the one-hour restorative class, I was able to put things in perspective and remember all of the positive comments that my mind had been trying to block out in favour of the one criticism. A very interesting day of self-growth.
DAY 5: Tuesday (His)
In teaching techniques today we were told that on Thursday morning we would have our first morning Asana teaching class. The contents of the class was distributed into 10 minute chunks. I was hoping to lead the meditation segment, but was allocated “seating poses”. It’s a slightly daunting task, in front of the whole group as well as one (or potentially more than one) of our tutors, However, 10 minutes isn’t long, so hopefully all will go well.
Restorative Yoga, last thing, was a very relaxing session. I welcomed the opportunity to relax completely in a few poses at the end of the day. I think it may have effected my social skills afterwards though, I felt very slow in conversation…
DAY 6: Wednesday (Hers)
Thoroughly enjoyed the day! Inge taught a class based on the concept of ‘play’ and it was really fun! She told us to get into various poses and then let us do what we wanted with our bodies in each pose. It was a great mix between structure and improvisation. My body was feeling really warm and good compared to the day before and I was pleased to be feeling so much better.
Apart from the afternoon asana class, I really enjoyed Rory’s meditation at the end of the day. We first spoke about what meditation means to you, and I really appreciated this sharing session. I have the idea that everyone, apart from me, enjoys and can ‘do’ meditation. It was interesting to hear people’s different interpretations of meditation, what works and doesn’t work for them and what they find a struggle. Then, we did three guided meditations. One where we followed the breath, a walking meditation and a meditation with our eyes open. I found the ‘eyes open’ meditation really interesting and we were encouraged to look at the room as if it was one picture, rather than look at separate objects within the room. Perhaps I could find a form of meditation that would suit me better.
Tomorrow, I would be opening the class with a ten minute warm up!
DAY 6: Wednesday (His)
Today was a mixture of success and failure. On one hand I was delighted to notice a few changes in my body. My heals are now getting much closer to the floor in Downward Dog. Not only that, but I’m almost able to keep my legs straight when I raise them to 90º when laying on the floor. On the other hand, sleepiness had me drifting off and losing my concentration in some of the theory classes. I made several mistakes in anatomy, even though I’m sure I’ve learnt the lingo pretty well.
Meditation class was very enjoyable. We started with a chat, which revealed some interesting insights into my classmates’ experiences, then had a series of three guided meditations. I enjoyed receiving more guidance and the variety in the activities kept me more focussed than I had been in previous meditation classes.
Our second Asanas class of the day was taken by Inge. I really enjoy her teaching style (even though she is perhaps the most likely to ask us to do things I feel uncomfortable about, she was responsible for the dragon incident on day 2). She’s extremely likeable and it is clear that she’s put a lot of thought into each class, which is reliably very different from the last. She also provides a great balance between guided practice and personal exploration, where she puts us in a starting position then encourages us to explore the possibilities from there, giving a couple of suggestions of directions we might move in. This style gives the opportunity to work on the bits that feel best whilst maintaining a sense of structure. I trained as a jazz musician and find I can relate her classes to playing a gig. You go through a few tunes in a variety of keys, you play the head of each tune at the beginning and the end, with a big space for improvisation in the middle. So yeah… she’s struck a chord with me. All the same, I think it’s safe to say, nobody will be acting like an animal (mythical or otherwise) in any of the classes I end up teaching!
DAY 7: Thursday (Hers)
We started the day with a 10-minute teaching practise, where I had to teach the ‘opening and warm up’. It went really well and I received some positive comments. I felt confident in front of the class and felt really proud of all the people around me, people I’d only known for a week, yet felt a genuine desire for them to achieve and feel proud of themselves. Each person had to do 10 minutes of a different part of the class; sitting, standing, inversions, twists etc…. It wasn’t such a rounded class (as no-one knew what the other person would do), and our bodies didn’t real great afterwards, but it was great practise for all of us!
Overall though, today was a bit of a funny day. It has been one full week since we started the course and it seemed that everybody was in a weird mood. (Inge reckoned it was because of the Full Moon.) Our bodies were really starting to feel the effects from an intense week of exercise and people were talking about their aches and pains. Not only physically, but emotionally the course was tiring. The meditations and visualisations bring up so much emotional baggage; memories, feelings, trauma – it is such an intense experience, one that cannot be underestimated before taking the course. I actually hadn’t realised it would be so emotionally powerful.
The most intense part of the day for me was the yoga ‘nidra’, roughly translating as ‘dream yoga’. Inge was to lead the class and guide us to a relaxed state where we could access our subconscious mind. Her class was based on a type of shamanic journey.
We were to awake up in a strange room, before the sun had risen, and set off alone on a pilgrimage of some sorts. Along the way we would meet a spirit animal who would guide us along the dark path, through caves, underground passed the roots of trees and towards our destination. After a while, the animal disappeared and we began to follow a person up to the top of a mountain. I can only speak for myself, but I found the whole experience bizarrely traumatic! I felt scared, panicky, alone and anxious. My dad died four years ago now, and I have very painful memories from the experience. The person in my dream was, of course my dad, and I hated the way Inge kept saying ‘you can never catch up to this person’ ‘you cannot see their face’. At the end the person (my dad) jumped off the mountain and disappeared forever and my heart broke all over again. I was alone. Again.
I have a recurring dream about my dad in which I am talking to him and everything is normal, except I am trying to work out why I haven’t seen him for so long. Then, I realise that the reason I have not seen him so long is that he is dead, and I at once realise that I am dreaming. It’s an awful dream and I wake up missing him more than ever. The yoga nidra reminded me of that dream. I was left wondering if it was indeed a good thing to bring up past trauma in order to get it out, or if bringing up painful memories of the past is unnecessary. I’m going to speak to Inge about it the next time I get chance.
DAY 7: Thursday (His)
We started our day today teaching the whole Asanas class for the first time. I’d come up with some good ideas last night, so it was quite distressing watch several of the postures I’d planned to do come up earlier in the class in the segments taught by my classmates. Given the situation, I decided to improvise, which went surprisingly well. I felt comfortable in front of the group, who appeared to appreciate the postures I asked them to do. I even got a couple of laughs, which helped me feel at ease. At the end of the session my body felt far less satisfied than it had on previous mornings, not surprising given that each of us had prepared 10 minutes, not knowing the content of each other’s segment. The result was far less balanced than that of a class given by only one teacher.
When I saw spoke with fellow students at lunch time I described today as “slump day”. My body, after yesterday’s success, now felt rather sorry for itself. From what I could tell, I wasn’t the only one in that position. What’s more, the short nights seemed to be catching up on us. Both Nikki and I were finding it hard to concentrate in theory classes, on top of the physical pain.
The day ended with Yoga Nidra, which I rather enjoyed. There were times we were asked to focus on the area behind our eyes and forehead, which is one of my favoured meditation techniques already. In other parts we listened to a story, which I found harder to stick with. I don’t visualise easily and found that after the class, when people were asking each other for details of what they’d seen, I didn’t have any concrete answers to give.
Day 8: Friday (Hers)
We started the day as usual with 7am asana class, but one thing was missing. The teacher! At first, I thought that it was a challenge that had been set for us in teaching improvisation, with the teachers all hiding behind the cushions or filming us, seeing what we would do. It turned out that Bhavini’s motorbike wouldn’t start and so she was going to be late for class. Sophie, one of the other teachers at Parimukti decided to take her place, and boy did she make us work! I don’t know whether it was a particularly difficult class, or it was just that we are all so tired after one week of yoga every day, but many of us really struggled through the two hours. There were groans and cries of pain and a few people pulled out all together reclining in child’s pose waiting for the class to finish. I regretted not doing this earlier as my knee really hurt afterwards. Listen to your body. Listen to your body.
We continued learning the muscles in anatomy class, and what to do with them in alignment class. Then after lunch, we learnt about the different techniques of pranayama (breathing), about which breathing techniques can calm you down or energise you. We ended the day with a restorative yoga practise, which are relaxing poses meant to heal your body and help you emotionally. It was well needed after such a week when everybody’s bodies are really feeling it.
Day 8: Friday (His)
Day 8 was my least favourite day so far. My body is really starting to feel the weight of the course and this morning’s Asanas class was a real struggle for me. My mind remained sluggish throughout the theory classes, easily distracted and slow off the mark when trying to find answers to questions or clearly guide a student through a posture.
The highlight of the day was restorative yoga, last thing, which probably reflects my body’s desire just to collapse over a bolster and my brain’s desire not to think. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be on better form before Sunday, which I imagine will be spent in bed from start to finish.
Day 9: Saturday (Hers)
Last day before day off tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to it! Don’t get me wrong, the course and the teachers are absolutely fantastic, it’s just that so much is crammed into such a short space of time, you get exhausted. One girl fell asleep during philosophy class today and many others were saying they felt a bit spaced out due to tiredness. It’s not only the physical exercise that gets you, like I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of emotional stuff involved. Without time to really ‘come down’ from one intense experience, you are thrown headfirst into another one. The content and sheer information that is provided is wonderful, I guess you just have to detach your emotions from it sometimes, and go deeper when you have more time in the future.
I spoke to Inge about my yoga nidra experience and she said that perhaps I needed to think about what I felt I had lost when I lost my dad. What part of me did I feel was missing when he jumped off the cliff in my ‘dream’ and what could I work on in myself. It’s true that I miss having my dad as a ‘guide’ in my life, but I also knew that his wisdom and love is inside of me. I appreciated Inge’s honesty and felt like there was some truth in it.
Today, we were also told about our first teaching practicum. On Wednesday we would be dividing into small groups and teaching a whole class, each person doing 25 minutes each. We were to come up for a theme for the class and include pranayama, asana and meditation, some of the aspects of yoga that we had been learning on the course. I felt nervous already!
Day 9: Saturday (His)
Today was the last day before our day off. Instead of Asanas, we started the day with a session of Kryas (cleansing processes). These varied from mildly unpleasant (scraping your tongue with a piece of metal or swishing a spoonful of sesame oil round your mouth for 5 minutes) to outright excruciating (passing a rubber string up your nostril and down the back of your throat, where you should collect it with your fingers, trying as hard as you can to suppress the gag reflex, before engaging in a lovely bit of sinus flossing). It was fun (at times) to try these techniques, but considerably less so than a nice 2 hour yoga session. I must admit, I did feel mildly cleansed by the end of the class, though I may have been confusing the sensation with that of the torture having come to an end. I won’t be adding these rituals to my morning routine!
My highlight of the day was our philosophy lesson. We talked about Samadhi (I doubt I could give a good definition of that word in this setting, so I won’t try). I asked a question about an experience I’d had, which then became the topic of conversation for a good few minutes. I enjoyed sharing the experience with the others (it remains one of the major experiences of my life so far). Not only was Meera’s advice useful, I also hope to speak more with my classmates about their similar experiences, if they’ve had them. And of course… my illusory self was delighted with all the attention.
In Art of Teaching, we were told we’d be teaching a longer class this coming Wednesday. My slot is at the end of the day, which means it’ll probably be based quite heavily on meditation (though it is mandatory to use at least one Asana). I’m looking forward to it, but slightly nervous. The opportunity to lead a reasonably long mediation session is something I’ve long looked forward to doing. I hope to lead it well!
What with the day off tomorrow, there’s only one thing we can sensibly be considering right now. So off for a pizza we go!
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