I was going to make this as an Instagram post but the character max is annoying and I want to be able to fully express myself and share my experience after spending 3 weeks at a yoga shall on Patnem Beach in Goa, India (apparently there is a 2200 word character max for Instagram captions and I was very surprised. I felt like it was much less than that, but then again, I do talk a lot…). The more I thought about it, I decided I have way too much to say.
Ironically, on the topic of having so much to say, where do I even begin?
For the last 10 years (at least) I have wanted to go to India. I have always felt a calling that I can’t really explain. It was more than just wanting to see temples and eat authentic Indian food. I fell in love with yoga when I was 18 after my mom got diagnosed with stage 4 Lymphoma, and it was a great tool for me while I was coping with stress, anxiety and depression. It was at that point in my life when I decided that when I eventually traveled to India, it would be to study and practice yoga. I’ve gone on many phases where my yoga practice is practically absent, but I have always gone back to it at some point or another (usually when my life starts to fall apart) and it has always been a deep love of mine.
I’m just going to get right to the point of why I needed to do my teacher training now…
Without going too deep into it, the last year of my life has literally been hell. After a long hard year battling cancer and receiving harsh treatments, my mom got extremely sick as cancer spread aggressively throughout her body causing her to be hospitalized again, this time with options for treatment exhausted. It was in March that she had been unconscious for a few days and I knew that my world was soon going to be shattered, that I looked at my boyfriend and said “after this…. I’m going to go to India and do my yoga teacher training…”. I had to think hard about my choice and my money because I’ve barely worked in the last 12 months due to high stress and chaos. I made the choice to take a financial hit because mental health is more important than money and I needed to give myself time to grieve (I feel very grateful I was even able to make that choice). My bestfriends who are AMAZING did a fundraiser so that I didn’t have to worry about paying rent or buy groceries while I wasn’t working, but I couldn’t just blow that on a trip. I had bills to pay, a celebration of life to plan, and a whole bunch of other shit that costs lots of money when there is a death in the family. There was no life insurance or anything like that, but I did end up inheriting $6000, and I decided that this would be how I funded my trip.
This was going to be my last gift from my mom.
This gift was to help me grieve her loss.
This gift was an investment in my health and my healing.
My mom always encouraged me in all of my passions and ventures no matter what they were, and she was always in support of me practicing yoga and my dream of someday teaching it.. and I knew she would have supported my choice 100%.
So I started messaging friends who had done their teacher training in India. Asking them for recommendations, what schools they went to etc. Rishikesh is basically the capital for yoga schools in India and that is where most of them studied; but I kept having this strange gut feeling and I just didn’t feel right about going to Rishikesh. I reached out to one of my friends who back packed all throughout India a few years ago and she told me that she did her teacher training at Kranti Yoga Academy in a province called Goa. It was weird, because before I even did a Google search, before I found out it was on a beautiful beach, before I knew anything about the place, I immediately had a good gut feeling and I knew this was going to be the place.
“The cure for anything is salt water. Sweat, tears, or the sea” -Izak Dinesen
I’m going to fast forward past the many mental breakdowns I had before leaving because I was so damn anxious. Past the intense fear that the plane was going to crash during my flight and that I would die a horrible and painful death, or that I was going to get kidnapped at the airport and raped. Past the worry that I wasn’t going to make friends or I wouldn’t like my roommates, and past the constant negative voice in my head telling me that I was going to be the worst and least flexible person there (ps these are all symptoms of grief)…
After nearly 40 hours of travelling and barely sleeping or eating.. I was in India.
I was alive.
I was safe.
I was in fucking India!
It’s actually pretty difficult to summarize the teacher training. It was an intense and incredibly transformative 21 days. A LOT changed for me, both physically and mentally, and I was able to notice the change that was happening within me that is kind of unexplainable. But, I’ll do the best I can to fully share my experience. First, I specifically chose to do my training in yin & vinyasa flow because of my love for yin and the mental challenge that it brings. The definition of yin is finding peace and stillness in what is uncomfortable. It’s about listening your body. Yin is about sending love and breath into your body and working through tension. Yin is challenging in its own way. Your arms aren’t shaking from being stuck in phalakasana and you’re not crying while you hold on for your dear life in navasana for 8 minutes.. You’re allowing your body to slowly sink deeper into poses like balasana or mandukasana as you hold them for long periods of time (3-8 minutes) and your fascia slowly stretches. While you’re doing yin poses, you listen to chill af music which is super nice and relaxing, but holding poses for that length of time also means that you and your mind have some alone time. And guess what? Being alone with your mind and your thoughts is a whole different level of challenging. It is fairly common for people to cry during yin. It’s said that we store emotions in our hips and chest, and we stretch/open these areas, we can release some of these stored emotions. Sometimes you can feel emotions of sadness or anger, and once these feelings start surfacing, all you’ve got is your mind and you can’t run from that while your body is currently occupied in a pose resembling a pretzel! Everything I just wrote is why I chose to study yin yoga. I basically said “fuck it”, and figured that if I was going to choose study yoga during the saddest point in my life, I might as well go balls to the wall and work through some god damn emotions that need to be released!!! So that’s exactly what I did. I let myself feel all the feels. I cried a lot. But it was to my surprise that I wasn’t the only one who needed to cry. I came to India and to this training on my own journey of healing, and I think other people did too (either intentionally or un-intentionally).
There were many incredible days. But one day I will always remember is the day we all broke down in tears after a super powerful vinyasa and pranayama class. I had already had an emotionally heavy day just 24 hours before so I was really sensitive and I had no idea it was coming. Long story short, we set an intention of strength before the vinyasa class we were about to do. My teacher told us to picture a symbol of strength in our core, and I pictured my mom. It was a powerful and tough class and it definitely whooped our asses. As our bodies began to tire and sweat dripped down onto our mats like a leaky tap, my teacher kept reminding us to picture that symbol as we continued to work towards our peak posture. At the end of the tough class, while we lay in our well deserved shavasana, she read to us some of her own writing… It was about grief, and the pain and unfairness of losing a parent… Yup. I bawled my eyes out. And I was surprised that I wasn’t the only one who cried super hard. I had no idea that I was surrounded by other people who have felt the same pain as I have felt and still feel. Other people in the same classroom as me, have also gone through or are going through the same struggles that I have. It made me feel so much less alone and understood. Then, as a double whammy, our pranayama teacher guided us into a breathing practice and you’ll never guess what happened.. That was about grief too!!! I don’t even think I followed along as he coached our breath and guided us through this meditation because I literally cried for the entire hour. And again, to my surprise, I wasn’t alone. After the class was done, the majority of us were too busy crying to leave and go eat breakfast. We all hugged each other for a looooong time and simply supported each other by allowing ourselves to cry it out. I actually didn’t eat breakfast that day. I had no appetite. I portioned myself some food to eat later on and I ran to the ocean with my journal because I needed to write. I had just released some trauma and serious emotions. I thought and wrote to myself, “This is what I here came for. I came here to work through this. I came here to help myself heal.” and I honestly think it was in that moment that I felt the protective walls that I’ve built up inside me really start to crumble, which allowed me to start working on myself.
It was such an amazing community of humans and I am so grateful to have shared this experience with all of them. I think that it is such a beautiful thing when people let their own light shine, and better yet, when people shine their light on each other. It is truly illuminating. This is exactly what happened at the yoga shala. I felt surrounded by so much love and acceptance. I was so free and able to be my most authentic and true self. Traveling to a place where everyone shares a common love for yoga and the Universe is a super cool thing. Funny enough, just one week earlier I had been nervous about not making any friends….
6 days a week we had alternating 120 minute classes of yin or vinyasa first thing in the morning. That was followed by a tight schedule of different classes including theory, pranayama class, workshops, anatomy, teaching and of course homework. Some days were tougher and felt longer than others. There were some days where I felt super physically and mentally exhausted. The training is so busy that your only goal is to just do your best everyday and keep going. Other days, my biggest goal was trying to stop my asshole from exploding and not shitting myself in front of my peers. (Definitely bring Imodium if you ever travel to India. You will need it). Besides learning about the physical asanas (which is only one out of the eight limbs of yoga), I really loved the philosophy classes. In what other environment can you have an open discussion about the evolution of consciousness, reincarnation or discuss what the soul is? It required you to think deeply about what your beliefs are and ask yourself WHY you believe them. I’m not a religious person, but have always considered myself spiritual and I was actually able to openly discuss my personal beliefs and listen to others; without judgement.
You’re required to teach a 60 minute vinyasa flow to your peers and one of your teachers at the end of the 3 weeks and obviously that is super intimidating and incredibly nerve wracking.. I get so anxious and freak out about everything and despite all the pranayama classes and “zen” time I had had over the last 20 days, this was no different. I gave myself a pep talk, listened to some hype up music that made me feel like a fuckin’ gangsta, added 4 packets of electrolytes to my water because I was super dehydrated after the excessive amount of pooping that had been happening, and then I did it! I taught my first yoga class! And totally crushed it! My intention was “the Universe is unfolding as it should”, which is an excerpt from my favourite poem Desiderata written by Max Ehrmann (those words are so important to me I got them tattooed on my body). Truth is, I wasn’t supposed to come to India right now. My mom wasn’t supposed to pass away. Not now. Not the way that she did.. But I try to remind myself to trust that the Universe unfolds as it should. That is why I chose it as the intention. I never ever would have thought one year ago that I would be here.. Accomplishing one of my dreams and about to graduate from my yoga teacher training in India..
Our yoga shala being only a 2 minute walk to the beach was definitely one of my favourite parts. I am deeply in love with the ocean and her ability to cleanse. I made it an evening ritual to go to the beach after our final class of the day and to go for a swim or at least ground myself by walking barefoot in the sand. I loved writing in my journal, listening to the ocean waves crash into each other and watching the tide. I literally felt joy in its purest form run through my veins and complete bliss in my soul. Doing that, in combination with daily yoga practice and exploration within myself was when I felt myself starting to find acceptance, starting to letting go, and starting to heal. It wasn’t the journey across the world that was so transformative for me, it was the journey I had within myself.
Unfortunate circumstances and heartbreak brought me to India sooner than I had planned, but I can’t express how grateful I am for the experience I had on my trip and the opportunity to do my teacher training. It has been life changing. Grief is not linear and it has no timeline. I can’t just hop on a plane to India, study yoga and some philosophy classes and just like that my grief and hurt is gone… Healing is a long process. But thanks to yoga, my teacher training, and all the magic that India has to offer, I came back to home with the feeling that my shattered heart was starting to come back together again and the tools to rebuild myself. I’m so proud of myself that I was brave enough to go on that journey and really dive inwards. It was an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience and I know that patience and persistence, I will continue to heal. I will continue to grow. I will continue to learn. And the shattered pieces of my heart will continue to slowly come back together again, piece by piece.
Thanks India, you’re amazing and I love you.
Thanks Kranti Yoga Academy, the community you have created is a beautiful space.
Thanks to all the amazing people I met at the shala who quickly became my little yogi family. You all have such beautiful souls and I hope our paths meet again.
Thanks to my boyfriend for being so supportive of me going on this solo journey; you’re the bees knees AND the cats pajamas.
And thank you mom, for having such a beautiful soul and always nourishing me with love and your positive energy. I promise to live one good life for the two of us.