How to scream out ‘YES’ when it hurts … and other things you need to know about doing yoga teacher training in Bali
By Kalianna Dean
So you’ve decided to become a yoga teacher, and realized that your yoga teacher training needs can only be fulfilled by taking at least a month out of ‘life’ and coming to Bali, or somewhere equally divine, to salute the sun, get down with your downward dog, sweat from dawn ‘til dusk (and all through the night if the aircon plays up), devour endless glasses of fresh juice, raw chocolates and emotional release. In fact, I’ve heard of this pretty interesting sounding course, called Radiantly Live – might want to check that one out? Hmmm…
Firstly let me say congratulations! You’ve taken a huge life decision and you are guaranteed to leave feeling differently about yoga, the world, your place in it, the people you see, and that six foot long, two foot wide colourful piece of rubber that somehow became your sacred yoga mat.
Next, let me talk about what you’ll experience. You’ll experience a lot together with your mat, and to make the most out of the whole deal, here are 8 things you ‘must know’ about the time you will be spending plastered together for a good 5+ hours each day.
1) There are six (6) different ways that the hip opens. You will at least feel all of them by the end, whether or not they all open up for you. Secretly fuming on the inside at fellow trainees who slide perfectly into lotus, or the videos featuring the 15 year old ‘bendy’ Indian boys who are descended from gurus will not make them open any faster (sorry). As your hips start to open more, you will cry either during class or afterwards, so best to just accept this now and not make too much of a fuss about it – someone will be there to hold you if you need it.
2) You will fall out of a pose, whether or not someone sees you. This is when you chuckle quietly at first, and if you feel like it scream out ‘YES’. This is really the only appropriate response when anything hurts too. You need the pain, you need the frustration and the discomfort in order to find your ‘edge’ – just approach it gently, calmly and consciously but with a steady gaze. Don’t leap right off without looking because that’s how injury happens.
3) You can do a headstand or handstand away from the wall, you really can! It’s actually safer to practice it that way, even if it makes you feel like your progress is slower. You will get there, just don’t psych yourself out by getting jealous of others, stick with your practice and it will unfold.
4) Constant ujjayi breathing does not feel ‘victorious’ during week one (I don’t care if you think you’ve already mastered it). By week four, when you’re doing it in sync with 49 other people and moving together at the same time, it certainly does.
5) Trying to remember the correct Sanskrit words, and learn pronunciation, for the yogic terms like liberation, truthfulness, chariot to god and ‘one with the highest self’ won’t feel very enlightening all of the time, but it is worthwhile. Start early, practice remembering the terms, write them down and play mind games until they roll off your tongue. It will feel like ‘study’ and stressful at times, but then living with and understanding the philosophies will help you move so far beyond that you’ll forget you never knew it all.
6) You won’t be available for work. Not even a little bit…unless work involves downward dog, eating mango for breakfast, or studying anatomy, so don’t promise your employers anything while you are away.
7) However many massages, treatments and swims you had planned, or think you will need, add on at least one more. You can thank me later.
8) The people who come to this experience not knowing what they will do next are the ones who have the most fun, and the ones who end up teaching soonest. Luckily the logistics of extending your stay in Bali are quite easy to deal with ☺
So, there you have it. Best to surrender to these home truths before you begin your journey if you can. It will make the whole experience a lot less of a ‘culture shock’ when you can do as you’re asked without expectation or favour, and without ‘needing’ anything to be any particular way (because trust me it won’t be that way anyway). This is true because no matter what, yoga is still not something that we ‘do’. Yoga is what we live and who we are, and will always remain a way of simply being.
That really is all you need to know. Everything else just comes in its own sweet, divinely perfect time as you let the experience unfold. Let it unfold with lots of spare yoga clothes though, and remember that the answer to pretty much any question you get as a trainee or teacher will consist of one of these two responses: “cut back on the cashews” or “breathe”.
It will be amazing, nerve-wracking, uplifting, lonely, suffocating, joyous, emotional, life-affirming, comforting, humbling, painful, awe-inspiring, heart opening, energizing, spiritual, funny and surreal from one day to the next. I hope you’ve strapped yourself in tight, you’re in for one awesome ride!