Tomorrow is Day Thirteen of my Yoga Teacher Training – exactly halfway! Though we don’t have reliable internet here (nor should we, really), I wanted to make sure to get down some of my thoughts about this experience so far. It’s been challenging, unexpectedly revelatory, and replenishing. I am using my brain, my body and my heart every day.
To recap, I’m at Wise Living Yoga Academy in Doi Saket, which is about 30 minutes outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand. WLYA is affiliated with The Yoga Institute of Santacruz, Mumbai, which is the world’s oldest organized Yoga Institution. Our teachers, Daniel and Jeenal Fonseca, each trained at the Yoga Institute for many years. Though (I think) they are each in their thirties, their wisdom, compassion, and articulate nature defy their age. I am floored after every class. Daniel and Jeenal are the living embodiment of what it means to truly practice Yoga.
We stick to a tight schedule. The 21 of us get up around 5:45 a.m., which this time of year is right before the sunrise. I’ve always been a morning person, but often a reticent one, and this is the first time I find myself honestly and fully embracing this quality. So I get up just 30 minutes before the roosters, birds, and bugs start moving and chirping and heralding the new day. We do meditation and asana (yoga posture) practice from 6:30-8:30 a.m. It’s simply magic to walk into meditation in the gray-blue pre-dawn light, and walk out after the sun has risen.
We are eating all vegan food and it feels wonderful to get back to what I was eating in Colorado – organic fruit and veggies, locally grown and harvested grains and beans, chickpeas and lentils galore – cooked by beautiful Thai women who know their way around a spice cabinet. No animal products, processed foods, caffeine, alcohol, or chocolate here. But we are not lacking for anything – for example, tonight’s dinner was barley, black bean soup, a yellow tofu / veggie curry, and a cabbage/sprout/bell pepper salad that was divine. So so good. Breakfast is homemade muesli, always with a brazenly colorful group of tropical fruit: dragonfruit, papaya, pineapple, passionfruit, melon, oranges. The list goes on.
But the food is not why I am here. I’m here to study and learn to teach. And it is a serious pursuit, this Classical Yoga.
Like many of us, I started yoga because I thought of it as a good, balanced, physical practice for my body. But I came here because I saw a glimmer of something much greater than the fitness of my body: a calming of my mind, and a feeling of lightness, confidence, and ease. I am grateful, as it was those benefits of asana practice that led me to Yoga, with a capital Y, of which the asanas are just a small part.
So, though we are learning yoga postures, we spend much more of our time in classes that are teaching us to be true yoga practitioners, teaching us how to live Yoga. That includes studying and practicing meditation, learning and chanting the Yoga Sutras, diving into philosophy and metaphysics in the Vedas and Upanishads, learning anatomy and proper diet and nutrition, doing breathing exercises (pranayams), learning and teaching relaxation techniques, practicing teaching yoga to our fellow students, as well as creating group-specific lesson plans for kids (fun!) and seniors (also fun!).
There is also a lot of Sanskrit. It’s beautiful, and… long. I’ll probably feel better about it when I’ve fully memorized The Yoga Sutras for our exam next week. Wish me luck!
Right now I’m sitting in my little bungalow, that I share with my vibrant new friend and yogini, Catherine. Outside the sounds of crickets, cicadas, geckos (they chirp!) drift in through my window, along with the cool evening breeze. Beyond that, there is singing and the gentle strumming of a guitar. But it’s 9:25 pm, so lights will be out soon. Mine is. Good night, all! More to come in a few weeks.
Oh, and an early Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the U.S. of A.!