Since completing my 200hr YTT (Yoga Teacher Training) in late 2016, I’ve taught in gyms, schools, studios, in my own home, and in the homes of total strangers who became beloved students. I’ve undertaken more speciality training in particular focus fields such as yin yoga, and have spent many hours as a student in weekend masterclasses, advanced teacher trainings, and studying online – all of which have helped me to develop confidence in my teaching, my message, and how to relay this to others in the most accessible way possible. Why, then, did I feel the need to travel to India at the very beginning of the year and undertake an entire month of further intensive training?
For me, it was a combination of things that led to me investing the time, energy, and money (teacher trainings aren’t cheap!) into my most recent 300hr YTT. First of all, I knew that the opportunity to dive deeper into certain aspects of yoga would benefit me hugely, and in terms of my schedule as a freelance creative and yoga teacher, an intensive course is the way to go for me personally (at least when I leave the country for a number of weeks, I know I won’t be distracted by other work!). Secondly, I hadn’t yet popped my India cherry and thought that Goa would make an appropriate ‘soft introduction’ to this incredible, but sometimes intimidating, destination for soul-seekers and wayfarers from the world over. Thirdly and finally, after many hours of research, I found one course in particular that I knew would allow me to dive deeper into several aspects of yoga that I found fascinating, but hadn’t had an opportunity to explore in much detail:
Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine have a few things in common – both are ancient systems based on five elements inspired by nature; the theory being that each of these elements are present within our bodies, and we function best when we are able to achieve a state of balance between each element. When a person in India feels unwell, they might visit an Ayurvedic doctor to get advice on which of their elements is out of balance, and how to bring things back to into equilibrium using herbs, medicines, and specially selected foods. Similarly, in Chinese medicine when a person is unwell they might visit a traditional Chinese medicine doctor for acupuncture, cupping, and herbs to feel better again. Prevention, rather than cure, is one of the main principles of both Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. Instead of waiting for a serious malady to present itself, an individual’s quality of life is examined to provide an insight into what might benefit the person.
The difference between these two systems and Western medicine is that, in the West, we treat the disease, not the patient. In hospitals in the Western world, we’re diagnosed based on our most obvious physical symptoms (heart rate, cholesterol, hormone levels, blood tests) without giving any consideration to the other factors that might be influencing our poor health (mental and emotional challenges, stress, tension, fatigue). Don’t get me wrong, I staunchly believe that we would be nowhere without Western medicine, and that in many cases the provision of medication and antibiotics is essential to providing the first step towards healing for people suffering from physical and mental distress. However, it’s been my belief for a long time now that Eastern therapies are an invaluable counterpart to the way that we manage our health. During my training, this concept of customising yoga classes to the individual culminated in our final assignment: to design a therapeutic yoga program for a particular person, or group of people, and to use a wide range of tools to support the holistic wellness of the body, mind, and spirit.
This training has been incredible, and I can’t believe how much fantastic content has been packed into one huge month! In addition to the elements I’ve already mentioned, there has also been a big focus on yin yoga, functional anatomy, adjusting, and above all the opportunity to share ideas, feedback, and thought-provoking conversations with my peers every day about how we can support our respective communities through the practice of yoga. A group of 19 people from all over the world has so much to teach one another. I’m grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow in my teaching, and I’ll be travelling home on Friday with a new understanding of what yoga can be when we put dogma aside, and approach all things with a curious mind and an open heart.