Phew! After a whirlwind six weeks of travel I am finally back in the UK and able to reflect back on my month training to become a vinyasa yoga teacher with Green Lotus Yoga. It is something that I’ve wanted to do since I first stepped onto a mat, so being qualified feels surreal. I started tentatively looking at courses way back in Easter time 2016 and Green Lotus got bookmarked straight away. However, it wasn’t until a couple of months later that I accidentally came across the school again, and it still stood out a mile.
If you are looking at teacher training, I highly recommend that you purchase one of the YTT special editions of Om Yoga Magazine (back issues available at a discount here). As well as featuring many potential schools to train with, there is always a checklist for when you search for a course. Look for things like how practice, anatomy, teaching practice/methodology and philosophy are split in terms of hours; has it got a certification, ideally by US or UK Yoga Alliance; the student to teacher ratio.
Green Lotus definitely scored high on these checklists, and upon arrival I realised it was even better than I thought. We were teaching right from day one, the course had a really strong anatomy focus (essential for keeping students safe!), and I was blown away by our lead teacher, Carol’s level of expertise. She started the first ten years of her practice in the Iyengar style, before moving to Ashtanga, which saw Carol studying in India under Ashtanga founder Sri K Pattabhi Jois for three months of the year for several years. Carol eventually moved towards a Vinyasa practice and has been leading teacher trainings for an impressive ten years.
Being in Suryalila (which translates roughly as Sun Play in Sanskrit) feels like a million years ago now as we were in a little yoga bubble. Roughly halfway between Seville and Malaga in Spain, we were tucked out of the way of the world in a quiet haven. Whilst many would-be teachers prefer to do their training in India for a more authentic experience, I honestly thought Suryalila was perfect. Suryalila is a semi-luxury eco yoga centre so the atmosphere was geared exactly towards us. There were plenty of places to work in groups, or alone, and with everything available on site, there were no distractions from studying. I could go on for an entire post about Suryalila, so if you’d like to know more, let me know in the comments below or message me.
Our routine varied day to day, especially in the last week where our second morning and first afternoon slot were taken up by our teaching exams. This is a general overview of a typical day in Suryalila:
As you can see, we had a packed schedule and I was grateful for the longer mealtimes to rest, eat and work, even if they did fly past. I made a point of going in the salt water pool nearly every day and when the temperatures neared 40’C I wanted to stay there all day! We also had Saturdays off, which allowed for some much needed (poolside) relaxation and a longer period of time to work on our classes or anatomy exams.
We were taught mainly by Carol, the founder of Green Lotus Yoga. She led our morning classes, anatomy philosophy, and, in the first week, teaching methodology. As well as her impressive background in yoga, Carol also has a Master’s in philosophy, which really shined through her teaching. Gary O’Toole is an experienced yoga teacher and Ayurvedic practitioner, who led our Ayurveda classes. I really enjoyed his classes, and hearing about his own yoga journey. Gary was with us for just the first week though, so we were sad to say goodbye! We were then joined by Dan, who specialises in inversions. He took over the teaching methodology and led inversion and Instagram workshops, both of which were really good additions to the course.
We had two hour of yoga practice “proper” typically, along with a couple of hours doing teaching methodology, where we were teaching one another individual poses and short flows, so in all we could be practicing for four hours a day. During assessment week, we each taught half of a 90 minute class, along with a partner who taught the other half. We had two of these each day so for the three days of assessments we had three ninety minute classes per day!
For our morning class, we started with half an hour of lead meditation or pranayama (breath work), before moving on to two hour of physical practice. Carol was really good at pushing us -especially as we were supposedly a strong group. I learnt so many new poses and threads that really deepened my practice. Being taught at a more advanced level and receiving some really good adjustments also meant that I could go much deeper into more familiar poses and take binds where I couldn’t before.
We also had the opportunity to experience inversion workshops with Dan, which replaced our morning practice on occasion. I hadn’t appreciated until the teacher training just how much arm balancing is my “thing” so I absolutely loved it. After exams we also got to do some yin yoga and yoga nidra, which was heavenly.
A good proportion of our time was given to theory, which is such an important part of becoming a physical instructor of any kind. I found the anatomy really useful, if sometimes hard to remember! Although we had just one essential anatomy book to read and bring with us, I found having access to three more really helped as the alternative perspectives on muscular skeletal systems really improved my understanding. Anatomy was the only subject where we had on-paper assessments, and as it is such a crucial part of teaching I was very glad for it.
We spent our first week focusing on Ayurveda with Gary. I found it useful to dip our toes into the “sister science” of yoga as they work hand-in-hand so often. This section was largely designed to get us thinking about the different doshas that our students may have (similar to the ecto/meso/endomorph body types mentioned by some PT’s) and therefore understand how different types of yoga poses, or styles of yoga, will affect them differently.
In philosophy, we looked at the wider concepts of yoga, as physical yoga (asana) and meditation are just two parts of Ashtanga’s eight-fold path of yoga. The western practice of yoga that we know today is a relatively recent development, only really getting momentum in the last hundred years of a practice that is thousands of years old. Yoga came about as a spiritual practice, with the asana movement being added in to help still the mind.
I think it is important that yoga teachers have at least an understanding over the philosophy behind yoga, even if it doesn’t feature in the average class. I came to my teacher training promising myself to keep an open mind in the anatomy and Ayurveda classes, as they don’t necessarily fit alongside my upbringing or scientific background. It was really interesting to hear the other students opinions in the classes, offering a different insight into differing beliefs.
Ah, the food. Lead by head chef Gemma, we were served three generous and delicious vegetarian meals each day. Breakfast offered sheep’s yoghurt, muesli and an array of nuts and seeds; bircher muesli and amaranth porridge; fresh fruit; tradition Spanish garlic toast with olive oil and tomatoes; eggs; a wide range of spreads and sometimes peanut cookies or banana bread. Heaven!
Lunch and dinner both offered main meal-sized offerings, so it was hard to not overeat at midday and risk lethargy or discomfort in afternoon classes! Luckily, there was always a salad on offer at every meal so I tended to load my plate first with that, and then add whatever cooked meal was on offer. It felt like every day we would look at the menu and see our favourite; there were so many good meals on offer. From moussaka to sushi to bean chilli, we were always well catered for. Oh! And the mountain of smoothed avocado or guacamole that featured on a near-daily basis. Every other day or so we were treated to a raw vegan dessert, which I’m dying to get my hands on the recipes for. The lemon and lime cheesecake won me over, but there was espresso mousses, raw chocolate cake, berry cheesecake and so much more.
There was also free access to fruit, hot drinks and make-your-own infusions -we all were making hot turmeric drinks on the daily! If you needed something extra, a fridge was stocked with raw chocolate, kombucha and coconut water with an honesty list for later payment.
I can hands down say that taking my yoga teacher training was hands down the best thing I have ever done. I’m now qualified to teach one of the subjects I am most passionate about. As a student, it was much more convenient to me to do my training as an intensive rather than spread out over a year, and I found the immersion and daily practice really beneficial for my own growth. I feel as though I really struck gold with the training; we were equipped to become teachers in the modern world. It really ticked all the boxes. As well as amazing teachers, I couldn’t have asked for a better group to have trained with. I know it’s cliche, but we really did feel like a family by the end of it. Some of the group have already managed to reunite in Europe and beyond, with many more visits planned.
I couldn’t have hoped for a better teaching experience, and am just sad that it is over! It was tough, but that what was made it so worthwhile. Working with international teachers has inspired me to think about my own teaching path in a new light. I’m starting to teach from next week and can’t wait. A teaching page will be launching soon on the site so stay tuned! If you have any further questions, let me know!