My Experience at Shades of Yoga Teacher Training
You know how every trip you’ve ever taken has a song? That one jam that seems to be on repeat during your vacation and even years later when you hear it, the memories flood in? Well, I don’t think I’ll ever hear the rain fall again without being taken back to my jungle shala in Ubud, Bali.
I was only a few days into my month-long yoga training when we experienced the first rain. It was during morning meditation and with my eyes firmly shut, I listened to the downpour thudding on the thatched roof, nourishing the jungle foliage that surrounded the 30 ft ceiling yurt I found myself in. And in that moment, I felt so overwhelmed. While it was only the beginning of this transformational experience, I felt the brevity of the journey I was embarking on. I came to Bali looking for some adventure and a yoga certification, but I knew right in that moment that I would leave profoundly changed. I can’t really explain it other than I felt an unwavering affirmation that I was sitting exactly where I was supposed to be in the world, listening to exactly what I was supposed to hear, at exactly the right time.
Shades of Yoga Teacher Training Program, A Review
Every morning my alarm would ring at 6:45 AM and I’d stretch my hands overhead, suppressing a smile. Another day of yoga bliss. By 7:05 AM I was out the door of my ornate bungalow room and strolling the quiet sleepy streets of Ubud. On my seven minute walk, I’d pass more offerings than people, but there’d always be a few shop owners out early, sweeping the sidewalks or polishing the windows. We’d nod and smile and I’d continue silently on, enjoying the peaceful quiet.
At Taksu Spa, I’d wind deep into their jungle oasis until I reached our majestic shala, perched high within the trees. I’d wiggle off my flip flops and slip into the room, usually the first to arrive. I’d grab a bolster and blanket, fill up a cup of water and sit facing the jungle on whichever yoga mat spoke to me on that particular morning. As the room eventually filled, my eyes would flutter shut and meditation would begin with the rhythmic voice of our primary teacher Diana leading us in. Somedays meditation would come easily and I’d slip in and out of serenity with each inhalation. Other times, my mind would wander, but I’d consciously retrieve it, releasing those thoughts that didn’t serve me back out into the world. After some time, Diana would bring us back and take us into pranayama. Here we’d focus on utilizing the full potential of our breath in a variety of different techniques. After a few weeks, we had grown so comfortable with the euphoric practice, that she’d have us turn to our neighbor and guide one another.
Following pranayama, we’d return the bolsters and silently sip fresh ginger tea while the morning sunlight transformed the jungle in front of our eyes. After a few moments, we’d come to stand in tadasana at the front of our mat, ready to take on whatever challenges lie ahead. Some days, we’d work through our sequence – a masterful set of moves that Shades of Yoga drills into their students, a gift we get to take and pass on long after the course has ended. Other days, we’d be taken through a challenging vinyasa flow class leading up to a peak arm balance that had us testing our new found strength, endurance, flexibility and balance.
The asana class would take us right up to a break for brunch. I’d slip back on my flip flops and wind down to Taksu’s outdoor restaurant. Each morning I’d fill up on coconut yogurt, fresh tropical fruit, crunchy granola and a rotating menu of dips, vegetables, local dishes and even American favorites. During my training, I stuck to a strict vegan diet.. but I never found myself missing meat or dairy during our abundant brunch spread, for there were enough healthy and creative options to keep me perfectly satiated. Over coffee and our second (and third) helpings of the delicious and nourishing food, we would chat easily amongst ourselves. Sometimes the conversations were deep and philosophical, other times frivolous and fun… but they were always loving and free of judgment. It wasn’t until I returned home that I realized how fulfilling and rare friendships of this nature are. Maybe it’s the environment… just something to do with the soil in Ubud, or that the days start with meditation, or that the classes are so physically demanding. Or maybe it’s that there’s some magic in the notion that we were all drawn from our corner of the world to the same yoga teacher training in the middle of a little Hindu island – and that this similarity served as the catalyst for the special bond we shared.
One last glass of fresh detox juice and we would return to the shala for a classroom set up. Seated at table and chairs, we’d have a lecture on philosophy or history that typically led to a lively discussion. When we had exhausted the subject, it was time for our two-hour break. Still full from brunch, I always sought to make the most of this sliver of free time. Either wandering the streets of the art market, taking a dip in the pool, indulging in a $10 usd massage, feeding bananas to the monkeys, or visiting a nearby temple.. each lunch break was an adventure in its own right. When we returned, we’d either dive into another lecture – maybe on anatomy or injury prevention – or perhaps a posture clinic on a specific category of poses. And then for the finale, we’d practice teach one another right up until 4:00 PM or so, when we’d return to our mats for another asana class. Sometimes this class was more rigorous than the morning, other times it was restorative and gentle. An hour and a half later and we were dismissed… at which point we’d venture to a new restaurant and work on our homework over raw vegan cacao brownies and coconut based ice cream.
And every day for a month would continue on like this, with Sundays being a free day off, until our graduation. The end was a bittersweet mix of emotions and I find myself still struggling to fully process the experience. What I can say for certain is that I am not the same person who landed in Bali on June 1st… not even close. This month has given me so much more than a yoga certification. I found a home and a family and a foundation for diving further into the history, philosophy, and anatomy of a hobby turned passion turned lifestyle. I’ve learned so much about my body, my thought patterns, my fears, my strengths and weaknesses. This month was a magnifying glass into my soul, and while it wasn’t always easy, it was deeply enriching and insightful.
I feel so grateful that my intuition led me into the arms of Shades of Yoga, for I truly believe that my experience was profoundly enhanced by their program, teachers, and environment. Shades of Yoga isn’t just another yoga teacher training program. It is a mind, body and spirit overhaul, a professional anatomical approach to yoga and the ethics of becoming a teacher. Before booking with them, I inquired with a number of other programs. Some in Greece, others in India, and a few in Bali. I was shocked to find some programs allowed 30, even 40, students per training, and others didn’t seem to focus at all on the responsibility of being a yoga teacher or how to practice safely. Sounds counter-intuitive, but yoga can actually be quite dangerous if practiced incorrectly. Do an updog wrong once, no problem… dump into your back by throwing you neck back 3-5 times a week over the span of years and you’ll likely find yourself with irreversible lumbar spine damage. Being a yoga teacher is so much more than just putting people into poses and curating a playlist. Your students entrust their bodies, and often minds, to you for you to mold and shift as you please. And this responsibility shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are certain ethical, physical and moral standards that you should uphold… and perhaps these are taught at yoga teacher trainings around the world, but I’m glad I didn’t take the chance to find out. I am forever indebted to Shades of Yoga for the incredible amount of dedication to detail in creating a comprehensive program that truly gave me all of the necessary tools to share this sacred practice with the world.