My Experience With Yoga Teacher Training: Expectation Vs. Reality

On January 9th, 2016, I started my journey into becoming a yogi with the 200-Hour Registered Yoga Teacher training at Vinyasa Yoga School in Rishikesh, India. The course started off with a hawan on the Saturday night (read more about that here) to get us acquainted with our teachers, fellow classmates, and some Indian culture. We received our class schedules and were told we were starting the next day (Sunday, our scheduled day off) because we had only a short time to fit everything into the month.

Our daily schedule was as follows:

5:30-6:00am Tea and fruit time
6:00-8:30am Vinyasa class
45 minute break
9:15-10:15am – Pranayama (breathing techniques)
10:15am-11:30 Breakfast
11:30-12:30pm Yoga Philosophy
15 minute break
12:45pm-1:45pm Physiology and Anatomy
1:45-5:00pm Lunch break
5:00pm-7:00pm Hatha class
30 minute tea break
7:30-8:30pm Meditation
8:30pm Dinner

(Thursday’s we only had Vinyasa and Hatha classes, and Sunday’s we had off completely.)

The next morning when my alarm went off at 5am, I thought someone was playing a cruel joke. As a rule I’m a morning person but getting up at 5am when you are fighting jet lag isn’t my idea of a good time. I dragged myself upstairs to make it on time for tea, made small talk with my classmates, and laid my mat out in the yogashala in preparation for my very first class. I breezed through my first yoga class with ease, marvelling at how flexible and strong I already was.

Just kidding. I thought I was going to die. I was shocked at how weak and out of shape I was. I try to make exercise a priority at home, but during the last month (okay, maybe two months) I had majorly fallen off the bandwagon of running and yoga, all the while fully indulging in the delicious drinks and eats that come along with the holiday season. During the class I was constantly comparing myself to the others, thinking “all these people are so much better than I am, I’m the fattest one here,  I’m so bad at this”, and all the other things our ego puts in our heads to tell us we aren’t good enough. I left the class feeling defeated and negative. Not a great way to start a month long course.

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Beatles Ashram grafitti.

But, as things always seem to do, it got better. Once I got used to being exhausted most of the time, and with the support of Jeff, my attitude changed and I started enjoying my time. We both had tried to come to India and into the course with no expectations, which as we all know can be harder then you’d think. The following are the expectations vs. the realities that I encountered during my time at Vinyasa Yoga School.

Expectation: I’m going to be so flexible and skinny when I’m done and I’m going to be able to bend my body into a pretzel and do the splits.

Reality: Hell frickin’ no. I’ve noticed a change in the way I look, but can’t say I’m more flexible. After the first two weeks of the course, I found myself less flexible and poses that I used to be able to do before I came (poses that stretch your hips) were really difficult. Our classes focused more on strength then flexibility, so I did notice my strength improved considerably over the month, and I am able to do some poses that I never could (forearm stand). I wish our course would have focused a little bit more time increasing flexibility, but now I have something to work towards! It will come with practice.

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Laxman Jhula street art.

Expectation: I’m going to be so good at teaching after this.

Reality: I feel like I have a lot more self exploration and personal practice and learning to do before I will be ready to teach as a job. That was one of the complaints of the course and a few of us didn’t feel like we had gained enough knowledge of how to actually teach. I can only speak for this course as I don’t know if it is synonymous with teacher training in general, but I know I’ve got some more work to do 😊.

Expectation: Since I’m doing so much yoga and eating vegetarian, I’m going to feel so good all the time and sleep like a baby.

Reality: For the first week I had insomnia. If I was lucky I would get 3 hours of sleep a night, which isn’t near enough for the activities we were doing, and I could only fall asleep during class! That improved and then the second week I got a nasty head cold, and the third week I got the flu. Almost everyone got sick at some point, which is common when you are sharing a small space with so many people. At one point I got a knot in my shoulder blade that was so nasty I couldn’t practice yoga. The course kicks your ass, and during the first couple weeks your body is detoxing and getting used to the four hours of yoga you are putting it through, so getting sick is likely. Homesickness is also inevitable , but luckily Jeff and I had each other and with technology these days keeping in touch with family and friends is easy.

Expectation: I’m going to find my inner peace.

Reality: India isn’t really a peaceful place. With the pollution, poverty, horns and droves of people it can be difficult to focus on anything but. (India is a lot more than those things though!) We’ve realized that inner peace is exactly that. You do not need to fly halfway across the world to find it.

Expectation: I will learn to meditate properly.

Reality: Aside from the fact that during the first couple weeks every time I’d lie down for meditation or for savasana at the end of class, I would fall into a deep sleep, I’ve learned that meditation takes a lot of work and practice, and it isn’t really something can be taught to you. It isn’t a black and white subject and is your own personal journey.

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Expectation:  This experience is going to be challenging and life changing.

Reality: Finally I was right. This experience challenged me in ways I didn’t know were possible. It has helped give me the tools to hopefully become a teacher someday, and has helped put me on the path to healing the issues that we all have but sometimes don’t want to deal with. India as a country ripped my heart wide open and I’m so grateful for Jeff being there to support me through it all, and for the beautiful souls that I’ve met during my time at yoga teacher training in the little yogi town on the banks of the Ganga.

The following are some pictures Jeff snapped during our graduation ceremony.

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If you have any questions more specific to Vinyasa Yoga School in Rishikesh, email me!

Britt 😊

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