Friday, April 6, 2018

An Unexpected Take-Away from My Yoga Course

My 200-hour yoga teacher training with Siddi Yoga is complete!

I finished!

I knew I wanted to do an intensive yoga teacher training -- taking a month-long course rather than spreading the training over multiple months of weekend and evening classes. And I knew I wanted to do the training in India, near the Himalayas, where trees and mountain views are abundant. When I saw that Siddhi Yoga offered a course near Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan government, and when I saw that Siddi Yoga had a fantastic reputation, the decision of where to do my training had been made!

The course was held in Hotel Aryan, in the small village of Dadh (pronounced Daad), about 25 kilometers outside of Dharamsala. Siddi Yoga had the entire hotel to itself. We each had our own room on the first, second, or third floor of the building. The dining hall was at the rear of the building, on the second floor, and the yoga studio took up the entire fourth floor.

Hotel Aryan, in Dadh.

There was a delicious view of the snowy Himalayas out the back side of the hotel.

Hubba, hubba Himalayas!

The course was taught by three instructors. Tara taught us yoga postures (asanas), alignments, and adjustments. Dr. Amrita taught yoga anatomy, physiology, and philosophy. Prem led our morning meditation and evening flow yoga (vinyasa) classes.

My graduation photo with my instructors.
From left to right: Tara, me, Dr. Amrita, Prem

Our daily schedule looked like this:

6:00 - 6:45amMeditation
7:00 - 9:00amAsana Practice
9:00 - 10:30amBreakfast
11:00am - 12:30pmAsana Alignment & Adjustment
1:00 - 2:00pmLunch
2:30 - 3:30pmYoga Anatomy & Physiology 
3:30 - 3:45pmTea Break
3:45 - 4:45pmYoga Philosophy 
5:15 - 6:45pmVinyasa & Hatha
7:00 - 8:00pmDinner

Dr. Amrita teaches anatomy and physiology,
with the help of bone-thin Henry.

The course was twenty-five days long. We followed the above schedule every day of the week except for Saturdays (which were a half-day of classes) and Sundays (which were our day off). We were an inquisitive group, and so many of our classes lasted longer than the scheduled times. As such, it seemed as though the Siddhi course was more like 250-hour yoga teacher training rather than 200-hour training.

The asana and flow courses had us up-and-about, moving our blood. But every afternoon, we had a more formal classroom session that had us sitting still for nearly two and a half hours. The photo below shows us sitting for one of the classes. It's clear as can be that this was a photo taken early-on in the course. How do I know?

Us students learning attentively, early on in the course.

Because sitting like this for two and half hours is rough on the body. After a few days, we wised up and realized that we could use our yoga props -- bolsters, cushions, blankets -- to help us sit more comfortably. I wish I had a photo of the chaise lounge that Gustavo created for himself. That man was comfier than a king!

There were eighteen students in the class -- 16 women and 2 men. We were quite a worldly bunch, from the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, the UK, Italy, Russia, Malaysia, and Australia.

Back row: Jen (UK), Vanessa (Australia), Amelie (Caribbean), Maria (Germany), Dr. Amrita (instrutor), Katrina (Malaysia), Erika (Italy), Andrew (UK), Sarah (USA), Paula (Argentina), Elsa (Canada);
Front row: Gustavo (Brazil), Andrea (Germany), Jana (Germany), Tara (instructor), Prem (instructor), Megan (USA), Brigid (Australia), Jacinta (Australia);
Not shown: Coco (Canada) and Katerina (Russia)

The first day of class, we went around the room and took turns introducing ourselves. We explained why we practice yoga and our reason for taking the course. Each and every student had a deeply personal reason for practicing yoga. For most of the students, yoga provided an outlet for healing -- from stress, anxiety, an abusive relationship, divorce, a broken family, the death of a loved one. It was very touching to hear everyone's reasons and to learn more about everyone's personal stories as the weeks progressed. It was a good reminder that each and every one of us has experienced pain, and that we are all in search of healing.

English was not the first language for many of the students and all of the instructors. We got a kick out of Tara's instructions to "squire your hips to the front of the mat." I can't imagine how difficult it would be to take a yoga teacher training class in a non-native language. The anatomy and physiology classes had me dizzy, and I'm about as fluent as you can get in the English language.

When I first envisioned writing this post, I thought I'd write about the crazy things I came across taking a yoga course in India. The marijuana plants growing outside the dining room window. The crazy-loud mariachi-like bands and Indian pop music that blared from a neighboring home late into the first few nights of the course. (It was hard to get upset about the music knowing it was for a wedding celebration.)

While I've included some of these crazy things at the end of this post, they certainly aren't the main take-aways from my time at Siddhi. What was most valuable from the course was the deep connection I made with each and every one of my classmates. This was a connection that was entirely unexpected, but very much valued.

My teaching group -- Go Team #2!
Left to right: Andrew, Katrina, Coco, Tara, Me, Elsa, and Jen.

With all the biking, camping, and backpacking I do, I'm used to hanging around masculine types. I'll be honest: dealing with all the feminine energy for the first few days of the course was rough. There was so much chit-chat at the dining table; chit-chat is the bane of my existence! On shopping: "Oh, cute booties. Did you buy those in McLeod Ganj?" On menstruation: "I just started my period. I'm gonna rip my ovaries out." Grin it and bear it, ladies. You've been menstruating for how many years now? Everyone was so emotional; tears were flying freely left and right. And, oh my god, my classmates smelled like a walking garden. They were doused in oils and fragrances -- lemongrass, jasmine, rosewood. Silly, neutral-smelling me! I was indoctrinated into the anti-fragrance policies of the corporate world many moons ago: do not wear overbearing fragrances; not everyone cares for them. Oy vey!  

I excused myself from the table after meals and headed back to my room as soon as I could. I wasn't necessarily attending the course to make friends, and I desperately needed my alone time to recharge my batteries.

But at some point, a few days into the course, I started to appreciate the feminine energy. While I was never quite able to relate to the shopping conversations, I was able to sense that there was an incredible amount of mutual-support, understanding, and love that radiated amongst my classmates.  It felt warm, fuzzy, and incredibly contagious. Soon I found myself radiating that same feminine energy back to my classmates. 

In those few short weeks, I made friendships with people that will last a lifetime. We shared so much together -- the joys in our lives, the pains in our lives, and the day-to-day ups-and-downs of a month-long intensive class. And there were hugs, too. So many wonderful, feel-good hugs.

We had a graduation ceremony at the end of the course. I figured I'd be all teary-eyed. Instead, I smiled this gigantic smile the whole time. I was so grateful for having been able to spend the last few weeks with such a wonderful group of people. At the completion of the ceremony, we all lay on the ground in a circle, around the mandala of petals that the instructors had created for us. 

The mandala of petals at the closing ceremony.

We held hands, and Katrina led us in a round of "May the Long Time Sun Shine Upon You." A brief video of the singing is below (thank you for the video, Elsa!):

After the song, we all stood up and showered each other with flower petals. It was great fun! Such a wonderful way to celebrate our time together.

And now, a few of my more favorite memories from the course:


Bindis are the decorative marks worn by Indian women in the middle of their foreheads. Brigid and many of the other girls loved to wear bindis. One night, we were having dinner when I heard Brigid say, "Shit, I lost my bindi in my dinner!" I couldn't stop laughing! 

Brigid gave me a bindi to wear on the day of our graduation ceremony. 

My bindi. I kinda like it.

At some point in the day, I lost the bindi. I was surprised by what escaped from my mouth: "Dammit, where's my bindi?"

The Meals

Two days before the course started, my body rebelled. Big time! For a 24-hour period, I was spewing out both ends. It was not a pretty picture. I couldn't keep anything down -- not even water. I was so incredibly dehydrated that I went to the hospital.

Some tests were run, which indicated that I had earned myself a parasite. Woohoo!

The "sterile" hospital bathroom in which I produced my test samples.
Yup, hospital bathrooms look a wee bit different in India.

The nurses set me up in one of two beds in the labor room (a place I definitely would not want to have a child) and administered an IV.

It took me about two weeks to regain my full appetite. While my stomach was recovering, spicy and oily Indian food was the last thing I wanted to eat -- and certainly not for three meals a day. Fortunately, I resumed my appetite near the end of the course and was able to appreciate the yummy dishes.

We ate from divisioned metal trays. We all laughed when Coco said that the dinging of our spoons against the trays made it sound as though we were eating meals in prison.

A typical meal at Siddhi.
(Photo: Elsa's Instagram)

The Indian Way

It's always a shocker to travel to other countries -- particularly developing countries -- and to see how things are done differently compared to back home.

The course kicked off with a nearly two-hour opening ceremony, during which prayers were chanted, various foods and monies were offered for good fortune, and colorful powders were smudged onto our foreheads.

Near the end of the ceremony, a metal firepit was brought into the room. A match was lit and thrown into the pit, bringing to blaze a pile of wood and other burnables. As the room filled with smoke and we took turns coughing, each and every one of us students glanced up to search for the smoke detectors. Silly us, this is India! There are no smoke detectors!

The fire pit at the opening ceremony.

Bollywood Blockbusters

On our off-nights, we watched two bollywood blockbusters. One was 3 Idiots, about friends who reminisced of their college days and their buddy, Rancho, who inspired them to think differently. The second film, PK, was about a stranger from another planet who explored life and religion on earth with a childlike curiosity. Both films starred Aamir Khan, an extremely talented actor. 

I was a little apprehensive about watching these bollywood films; I have such a low tolerance for movies. I was shocked, however, to find myself enjoying these flicks. They were colorful, clever, and full of beautiful insight.

The opening song to 3 Idiots grabbed me right away. Not only is it a beautiful melody, but the words are touching.

Immature Yogis-in-Training

Just because we were yoginis-in-training doesn't mean we didn't have fun!

On the morning of the final teaching exam, I got up to the yoga studio a bit early to make sure everything was ready for class. It looked as though a tornado had whipped through the studio. As I was organizing the randoms bags, textbooks, and writing utensils strewn about the room, I came across a tiny piece of curled-up paper. I uncurled the paper and read the words: "Props are for pussies." Ha! Brigid!

And here's me and some of the other gals on the morning of our kriya class, described in Kriya: Going Above & Beyond Downward Dog.

Brigid, Jen, me, and Paula pose with our neti pots.

I, for the record, was not the one to start this. But I sure as heck did join in!

Attractive Tara

After our teaching exam, a group of us were filling out our online reviews for Siddhi. One of the girls, who will remain nameless, was talking out-loud as she was typing her review: "Tara is a great instructor...blah, blah, blah...and he's kind on the eyes, too."

I busted out laughing. I couldn't disagree. Tara is indeed a good-looking yogi. He's made even more attractive by his patience and gentle mannerisms. As another student, who will also remain nameless, said, "Tara was sent from heaven to teach us yoga."

Attractive Yogi Tara...
(Photo: Tara's Facebook)

...made even more irresistible by his gentle nature
(Photo: Tara's Facebook)

In summary, I'm so grateful for my experience at Siddhi Yoga. Sure, I learned a lot about yoga during the course. And yes, I left the course with the knowledge and confidence necessary to teach yoga classes. In the end, though, the yoga seemed somewhat inconsequential. What was most important were the eighteen new friendships that I made -- friendships that have been incredibly valuable in this, My Year of Self-Love.

More on my yoga course in the next post...


  1. Wow Sarah. What an amazing experience! Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  2. I love your story telling and your approach to all the new things you encounter. It seems like you were able to grow in a number of ways. Congratulations Ms. 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Course Completer!

    1. Thank you, Curtis. Yup, lots of growing going on!

      I'm so glad you posted a comment, as I now know that you, too, have a digital presence on the interwebs. I look forward to following you! :)

      Hope to see you this summer!

  3. Sarah I am so proud of you! Well done on everything.

    The one thing that resonates from this post with me though is this: With all you learned, you also got more in touch with your feminine side!

    I am so happy you fulfilled your desire to do this.

    1. Thanks, Tony. While this course allowed me to get more in touch with my feminine side, I haven't given over completely to the dark side -- I still hate shopping, it's rare to find me sporting make-up, and I'm still a fan of sports bras for everyday wear. 😁

  4. I love that you explored your feminine side more during the experience and enjoyed some good girly giggles ;)

    1. Thanks, Josey. It was all great fun -- especially the giggles! There's nothing better than laughter! 😁

  5. The section starting "With all the biking, camping, and backpacking I do, I'm used to hanging around masculine types." had me cracking up. Sounds like a blast!

    1. Something I wrote made Mr. Brownson crack up? !!! 😁


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