Teacher Training Student Diary
Vikasa Teacher Training Apr/May 2017
Sunday 16th April 2017 – the night before
It feels very overwhelming to be sitting in my Zen Bungalow, listening to the sounds of the all the little bugs inside my room and out the night before this teacher training, and even more that I’m writing about it with the intention to share it. The last six months of my life have been very challenging for me so when a friend suggested I take some time away from Melbourne and head to Vikasa, this teacher training became the light at the end of the collapsing tunnel.
My intention for this yoga teacher training is to focus on me. It may seem ironic a teacher training for personal development but it’s the truth. Although I call myself a freelance contemporary dance artist, I spend most of my time teaching; dance and Barre (combination ballet, yoga and Pilates). Yoga has been my special treat, time for me to come back to what I want and what I need. Breath. Pause. Presence.
With such an emotional time fuelling my desire to be here I find myself with a few expectations of myself;
- journal everyday
- no social media, unless for work purposes
- limited communication with family and friends
- not get caught up in the physical practice but develop the emotional and theoretical practice
- TO BE GRATEFUL
- TO BE PRESENT
Without a doubt there will be moments where I will ‘fail’ these expectations of myself but to give myself time to practice all of the things. I head into tomorrow with a quiet mind and quiet heart with every intention to listen.
Wednesday 19th April 2017 – evening of day three
I can definitely say I’ve settled here into the life at Vikasa very easily. Vikasa is a place that is everything it says it’s going to be, and more. The sunrises are beautiful the food in incredible and the course so far is everything I came here for. So far my days have consisted of a 7am practice with Kosta, which includes breakdowns and technical overload of information, of breathing techniques – pranayama, asana, meditation and shavasana. The practices have been challenging in the sense that it is an overload of new highly detailed information applied immediately to the practice. The teachers are very aware that they are overloading us with information however are clear that the most important thing they want us to take away from this course is the breath.
After practice feeling sweaty I head to the pool for a swim before heading up to brunch. I’m still a little overwhelmed and greedy with the buffet, loading my bowl with eggs, nuts, seeds, vegan and gluten free pancakes (also can be eaten with chocolate sauce), topped with the daily hummus, and finishing my breakfast off with fresh fruit. We don’t start our next lecture until 1pm so I’ve been spending my time, reading, writing, drawing, chatting, or studying. After that we have our group dynamics session with Alicia. So far we have learnt about the Chakras focusing on the root chakra and spent the time getting to know everyone in the group but sharing our stories and delving into why we are here. After that we have a little snack of fruit or rice parcel and more then lectures. The first day was a big introduction to the course and the last two days lectures with Kosta and Jason of a Yoga overview.
These lectures have been incredible; two people so passionate about yoga and sharing their love of the practice with everyone. I really value the way they deliver the information, it just pours out of them in a way that doesn’t feel like lecturing, they are responsive to us and encourage us to note that there are many teachings, and there is no right or wrong way, just different interpretations. We finish our day off with a slower practice than the morning with Jason. He reiterates and shares his approach to some of the things Kosta has focused on in the morning, giving us time to process and practice the information. Then it’s time for dinner. Again a delicious buffet with an incredible spread of different dishes, including vegetables, curries, bean dishes and so much more. More chats and debriefs with the trainees, assistants and other people staying here at Vikasa. It’s an incredible communal vibe where people are happy to share a table and their day.
So as I mentioned I’ve settled in here quite well. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with all the information, however I just need to keep reminding myself that if I dedicate myself to the practice I will learn. It’s all about the practice and consistency. I’m finding the most challenging part of my day so far to be the meditation. My mind is flying all over the place; Jason described it as a drunken monkey, stung but a scorpion. And that’s what it feels like. But I came here to be still, to heal, to forgive and to discover and if I can continue to do as they encourage with their guidance I feel I can establish a practice for myself that I can then share with others.
Sunday 23rd April 2017
Already tomorrow is the second week. Time is passing so quickly and it’s a challenge to savour every moment. The rest of the week consisted of more practice, group dynamic sessions and lectures. Friday evening included my first trip out of Vikasa to Bo Phut, fisherman’s market. It was little strange to be leaving the Vikasa bubble but incredible to be out in the market exploring the stalls of food and shopping, and to munch away on some coconut ice-cream and a mango juice, an incredible way to spend my Friday night.
Saturday morning we were supervised in a self-practice session. It was amazing to have that time to work through the practice and information by ourselves and we finished off our week with an incredible Yin practice with Alicia. We also had our first little practice of teaching. It was a bit of a shock for me as I felt I’d had so much of my head buried in the theory and self practice I’d almost forgotten that we’d be sharing this knowledge with others. Even though my job back home is mainly teaching dance and fitness it was a little overwhelming and nerve wracking. Without any doubts I feel that this will fade with time and more practice under the guidance of Kosta, Jason and the assistants.
Today’s day off was special. Kosta gave the very clear advice to properly rest and have a day off. I did just that with a breakfast and an incredible massage is Rey that Mikey – teacher training coordinator had recommended. It wasn’t the most relaxing massage experience with her focusing on aiding the detox with an intense stomach massage, however I feel I’m going to reap the benefits throughout the week. Then it was to the beach for swimming, coconuts and sunshine. My day ended with an incredible sunset and dinner back at Vikasa, hearing about everyone’s amazing days off exploring the island. I can see why people come to Koh Samui and find excuses to come back again and again. It’s such a beautiful place and I feel so lucky to have this time here.
Thursday 27th April 2017 – mid week 2
Middle of second week and I’m feeling still quite empowered and alive. We kicked off the week similar to the last, with lectures and group dynamic sessions. Moving up through the chakras, dancing ecstatically like no one is watching for our sacral chakra and defining what we want in our life with drawings, text and colour for our solar plexus. It is so freeing to be open to all these different medians and ways to open us, no longer limited, and just experimenting in all the ways to make ourselves available to possibility. Kosta also shared his journey with us; how he created Vikasa. It’s really inspiring or someone to share that. When I was studying dance the head of the degree spoke to us in our second year about our career and she said that we should decide how long we are willing to dedicate to making our dance career happen, then to hear Kosta speak and share with us his dedication to his dreams. How he shifted and changed with his current situations but saw the signs and manifested Vikasa, he didn’t put a time limit on it he just kept going and made it happen. Working with the universe, not against it.
Sunday 30th April 2017
For the rest of the week we were totally immersed in anatomy. In some ways it was completely exhausting but it was so important. The major breakthrough for me was for my pelvis alignment in my backbends. Allowing my body to work with the full extension of my spine and it’s natural curves allowed to open my chest and reach further back than I ever have before. It has been wonderful to work with the other students and use each other to work with general as well as specific alignments. Friday night signified another trip to Fisherman’s village, this time for me it was all about food. Coconut ice-cream, mango sticky rice and blended mango, the mangos are so different here compared to home. They are sweeter and much more tasty.
Our day off was action packed. Woke up early to have a yummy breakfast off the Vikasa menu, avocado toast, then off to an amazing massage with Phu. She worked on my shoulders and neck like no-one has before. My neck felt so long and my hips and back so open. Back to Vikasa for a second breakfast and adventures to the mummified monk, magic Buddha garden, where we took a handful of silly and fun photos of our little outing group. Then it was over to the other side of the island for a sweaty hike up the most beautiful waterfall, fuelled by some vegan coconut ice-cream and coconut fried bananas. We had the waterfall all to ourselves. You could barely hear each other speak over the rush of the water. We lay on the rocks like lizards soaking in the sun and jumping back into the pool of water when we got too hot. While over that side of the island we scootered to the beach to watch the sunset. It made me realise how many sunsets I’ve taken for granted, and in that moment I was in awe of the magic of nature. On our way back home we stopped for Japanese and then to Lamai night market. By this point I was so exhausted but so grateful to have had such an incredible day shared with my new friends.
Wednesday 3rd May 2017 – mid week 3
They warned us at the beginning that week three would be the most challenging emotionally and physically. That the practises will feel just as challenging as the first week however they will be more difficult in level. That our emotions may feel imbalanced because of the exhaustion. At the beginning I thought I’d manage easily however I certainly came up with a few obstacles. Couldn’t seem to stop the tears this morning during pranayama and meditation. This continued through my morning, something certainly feels as though it’s shifting. Naturally a little bit of suppression of emotion carried me through the first two weeks being distracted by the new environment, focus on the course and people, I guess I cannot hide behind it all anymore. Feeling quite raw and open. The last two days have been our first lectures on Yoga Philosophy. It’s so incredible to learn all about the roots of something I’ve practiced on and off. It fully questions your perspective and the way you’ve been living your life. Opening yourself to other opportunities other than what you know. Allowing yourself to be inspired by others and listening to history. It allows you to be more focused on the practice and make your time on the mat count.
Sunday 7th May 2017 – Shanka Prakshalana
Wednesday was definitely the low point and the rest of the week has been onwards and upwards. My practice feels more focused, my meditations much less convoluted with thought. A few mini breakthroughs for myself, moments that I cannot explain why but fully know why these things have happened but are a product of a change in perspective. An education in knowing that I have more choice, that I can choose to be a product of my environment and just keep going with the flow or I can create change in my life that will change my flow. In the simplest of terms I can become a vegetarian if that’s what I want. I don’t have to justify it to anyone I can just be. Gaining a little/ a lot of independence. Missing out on the family roast lamb dinner, isn’t actually missing out it just can be different, this will make me feel physically better and stronger emotionally to be conscious in my decision making. Just little moments of reflection of things that didn’t actually make me feel good taking pause.
This rest of the week was more practice, more practicum (practise teaching on others) and lectures. I can feel a massive shift in my physical practice. There is a lack of resistance in my body; the barrier of resistance is much further away. Also with the assistance of Carly’s (course participant and friend) determined handstand training and Mikey’s talent and love of being upside down I feel I’ve conquered my fear. Approaching things being much more playful, and not allowing my ego to get in the way, giving something a go and feeling supported and knowing that I will learn from falling and not being fearful in falling.
This leads me to the Sunday of Shanka Prakshalana, a natural cleansing technique, where in which you consume multiple glasses of salt water and complete four movement exercises to encourage bowel movements. The result is purification and a reset of the intensities. A strict diet of Kichdi, with ghee is to be followed for 48 hours, and then a week of no diary, citric or acidic foods. In committing to the cleanse I was fearful; it wouldn’t work or it would be challenging but I’m here to be challenged so why not!? Today resulted in a very calm day. Rest and quiet time with a swim the ocean where a little fish hugged to my body for ten minutes swimming in circles around me. It felt like a truly magical moment. Reports of the results of the cleanse to follow.
Wednesday 10th May 2017 – beginning of final week
Post cleanse Monday I was feeling quite out of sorts. I was tired and emotionally drained, even with a very solid night’s sleep. Practice was more challenging and facing more kichdi and ghee was not an exciting prospect, so Monday was about just staying focused and going with the flow, no complaints from me as it was exactly how Jason explained we would be feeling, with the promise of clarity and lightness to come.
Monday I completed my practicum teaching. It felt like such an achievement to manage my stress levels and lead a practice my group was so supportive and the feedback I received was beyond expectations. It’s incredible to have the opportunity to learn in such a supportive environment. In some respects I was still waiting for the ‘but’ moment from Jason and Kosta and my group during feedback, but they just lifted me up and kept me floating on the high of sharing my love of yoga.
Tuesday was great, I woke naturally at 5am and managed to spend my morning before practice writing and reading. Practice went really well, I feel really clear. I dropped into my meditation and shavasana so easily. There was more teaching practicum’s in our small groups, then group dynamics and yoga philosophy filling the rest of the day. First non-restrictive meal was tonight post cleanse. I noticed I didn’t eat so much and didn’t go all in on the buffet, just picked and chose what I wanted to eat, something I’ve never been great at, normally I just want it all, but I just didn’t feel like pigging out and I wasn’t craving anything for energy.
Today I woke feeling the best I think I’ve ever felt in my life, again an early morning start with writing and reading, then off to a practicum. I felt so energised I headed to a flow class in the white sala with Mikey, where in which I managed full pigeon, something I’ve never done before, which was incredibly exciting. Practice with Kosta this evening was also incredible. I’ve never felt so flexible, strong, clear minded and simply joyful in all my life. I get the sense that something inside me has really shifted, certainly my entire perspective.
Sunday 14th May 2017 – graduation and the end
The last few days everything has been winding down. I had a bit of a come down from Wednesday on Thursday morning. The beginning of the end I think. I’d gone to the tantra talk the night before and I believe that had stirred up a lot of memories about my previous relationship, however with my emotional whirlwind post practice I felt I was in an environment where I was completely supported and I could allow my tears to flow and I could release that build up of emotions. Nikki (guest teacher) lead an incredible class, such a strong feminie, nurturing energy. It seemed just what I need to release and open myself up. She said something that really resonated with me, and that was that I was obviously now ready to deal with these emotions. It astounds me every time that I feel safe enough in this environment that tears and emotions are welcome. People acknowledge that it will pass and that holding space and creating energy of love is all people need. In our last group dynamics session with Alicia was a time to be with everyone and say thankyou to them for being their shining beautiful selves. To have such an open heart and to be so grateful to have shared the journey with this people is beyond what I ever thought this teacher training would gift me.
Post Thursday I could really get the sense of everything winding down. I allowed myself more beach time but also time to complete the final written questionare and assessment. I didn’t feel stressed or rushed, I simply gave myself the time to do it. It’s so unlike my attitude and approach to tasks previously, always rushing and never giving myself the time.
In all the final classes I feel quite sad. Fully understanding that my practice is stronger than ever I feel so excited to continue my yoga journey. The celebration of our graduation on the boat was incredible. Everyone was so happy. I got my camera out and snapped away. Everyone dressed in white and smiles, jumping off the boat and laughing. I couldn’t honestly imagine a better way to finish this incredible four weeks. I sent a video of me receiving my certification to my parents and they couldn’t believe the smiles and happiness on my face!
Sunday 11th June 2017 – four weeks later
It’s been four weeks since I finished the teacher training. In so many ways I cannot believe how quickly the time has passed however I miss Vikasa greatly; the yoga, the food the energy. It is a very special place. I’m already planning my return for the 300hr training next year.
I’ve continued my travels, having a few days extra on Koh Samui exploring and eating and then I flew into Bangkok to visit an old dear friend of mine. She has known me for nearly eight years and she could see such a shift in me, throughout my time in Bangkok she kept exclaiming how happy I was. It was almost as though she kept waiting for me to slip into the Kara she used to know. It was a big shift out of my routine with late nights but most mornings I managed at least a pranayama practice by the pool. It was a busy ten days teaching dance workshops and exploring and eating my way through Bangkok. I was so much more conscious of what I was putting into my body though. I’ve become much more aware and conscious of my behaviours and habits. Having decided to cut meat out of my diet it sometimes caused trouble with my Thai friends’ eating plans but I certainly managed.
I then travelled to Weligama, Sri Lanka on the south coast, to teach yoga at my cousin’s surf and yoga hostel, Hangtime. It’s low season here at the moment so just one yoga practice a day. So far that has suited me perfectly. I wake early to do self-practice before I teach. My days are filled exploring, eating, writing and reading. I feel very lucky to start teaching immediately. It was a learning curve the first class. The feedback was the class was too challenging so I’ve adjusted from the training quickly and reduced the intensity of the class and have been reading the energy of the participants opposed to diving straight in with a class plan.
My self practice intensity has also reduced as I managed to injure my knee when teaching dance in Bangkok and the travel seemed to aggravate it. It was very frustrating to not continue the momentum of the training however it has given me time to settle into life here in Weligama and slow down. I’m still practicing but modifying so as to not aggravate it further. I’ll be teaching here for two months so I have more than enough time to establish a strong self practice and implement yoga into my life away from work and home. Reading back on the previous entries I can see such a massive shift in the eight weeks that have passed. I’m really looking forward to continuing to notice the shifts and learning from my transformation. The divine light in me is shining. Love and light!
About the Author: