The Heart of Yoga

“The principle means of yoga is relationship.” (Whitwell, p.82)

Imagine the perfectionist trying to find the perfect place to do the perfect yoga teacher training? Yup, that was me. Deliberating over the perfect type of training but also trying to find a moment of stillness from doing a PhD to make doing yoga teacher training possible. “Just go do it!” was the advice of many, however, with the limited amount of time, it wasn’t that easy. Fortunately, I had built up a great amount of experience teaching yoga and had a wonderful mentor, Lou. She empowered me, believed in me, and provided me with opportunity to teach before I was actually a “yoga teacher”. Fortunately, I was encouraged and supported financially by Lou which made the step to becoming qualified a little easier.

Once I handed in my PhD, I waited to find out the date of my PhD Viva. I would love to say I used the principles of yoga and practiced patience but I didn’t. I called numerous people at the university demanding to know the date so I knew when I could “go away to India and do my teacher training”. Finally, with much persistence, I was presented with a date which gave me a short window of three weeks between conferences and presentations where I could fit in teacher training. I found one in Costa Rica which fit the bill: Yoga Revolution Academy with Anabel Miranda. At that point, I had less than 2 weeks to book the course, book flights, and get cover for my regular classes.

Fast forward two weeks:

I land in Costa Rica, spend an evening in the big city, San Jose, at a quirky hostel after being conned in a taxi as the driver charged me about 10 times the going rate. The next day I ran around San Jose to take in the “sights” (i.e., I bought all sorts of yoga inspired jewellery from local artists and did handstands in any park I could find). Then my large backpack, yoga mat and I embarked on the public bus to Jaco, the surf town. I had a day before everyone arrived for the course so I got acquainted with the area (stumbled across a surf competition, and spent time doing yoga by the pool.) I had dinner at a local restaurant and ate the local cuisine. Bliss.

Yoga Revolution Academy 2019

I don’t really know how or where to start to describe my experience. It is difficult to explain what this training gave me, but as I think of my experience as a whole, I feel my eyes well up and my heart grow bigger and lighter. What it gave me was a place to be myself, love myself, and be loved by eight beautiful women. To me, this experience was not really about the yoga but about letting go, becoming lighter, and learning to be okay with being me.

The course leader, Anabel, is a wonderful spirit, who held a space for us to share, cry, learn, and grow. My goal at the beginning was to learn all the Sanskrit names for poses. By the end, I realised this was my ego, and that, although it may make me a better teacher, many “normal people” doing yoga do not need the teacher to introduce poses using the Sanskrit name. For some, it actually puts them off. My goal at the end was to continue to be me and reflect this in my approach to yoga.  

Of course, two weeks away, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. The first day I got really bad sunburn (I am Scottish) and couldn’t sit in lotus at the start of the course because the tops of my thighs were red raw. I got ill (verging on the flu), but instead of taking my usual route (i.e., ploughing on and trying to fight it), I rested while the girls went into town. Also, I didn’t realise that Senna tea was a laxative so after a couple of days, I had…well…issues. The most amazing part of these “not so pleasant” experiences was that I let my yogi sisters care for me when I needed it and cared for them when they needed it. Whether it was my room-mate Sydney sitting in her underwear playing the ukulele to me, or Laura providing me with charcoal tablets and collecting aloe vera plants to soothe my sunburn. The experience was one in which eight women from different areas of the world came together and cared for each other. Emotionally, there were many tears, and many stories shared.

There were many highs. Most mornings I would get up to do my own practice at the studio and be greeted by monkeys in the trees or brightly coloured toucans. Alternatively, I would go a run with the lovely Mary and do handstands on the beach. As a group, we hiked in the hills, saw macaws flying together in the sky, and practiced yoga overlooking the beach and ocean. We watched surf competitions, practiced yoga on the beach, and watched the sun set. We ate the most incredible vegan food. Emphasis: the food was AMAZING. Meal time was when I would be silent (yes I know, it does happen), enjoying every bite, and then by the end of the course, I was Trashcan Tracy scooping up any leftovers! We went for half-price sushi, ate a quirky vegan café, and learned how to make dosas. We learned about different postures, adjustments, body alignment and anatomy. We each had to teach breathing techniques, part of a class, and a full class. We chanted, sang, and I experienced my first “ommmmmmm” while teaching. We learned about principles of yoga, the Gods, and chakras. We read, we wrote, and we reflected. We learned to love ourselves, be ourselves, and love each other. I can pretty much guarantee that every person left this training feeling lighter and fuller of love with a sisterhood for life.

This was an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life.