So as we come toward the last few days of the decade I've decided to write a blog, though I may be ten years too late in that I don't know if anyone reads blogs anymore?!
Recently I have been sending more newsletters to my email list and been getting some great feedback so I thought it might be an idea to share some ideas, lessons and stories in this written blog format and see where it go's.
Today I thought I'd share a little bit about my most recent experience completing 200 hours of yoga teacher training (Vinyasa and Hatha) to become a certified yoga teacher on Koh Phangan, Thailand.
As I write this I'm on the bus back to Galway, after 20 hours of travel....So if the writings rough around the edges I'll use that as my excuse ;)
Hopefully this provide a little motivation or information for those considering doing their own teacher training, and maybe a little entertainment and life lessons for anyone else....
I decided earlier this year to book in an 18 day intensive 200 hour yoga teacher training thinking it would be a 'nice' way to round out the year and a good chance to press reset before heading into a busy January with talks and workshops.
Most people who attend a YTT (yoga teacher training) have a consistent personal yoga practice for a few years before jumping into something like this.....
I, on the other hand had only been to 3-4 classes in my life.
Why sign up?
In the few yoga classes that I have attended I've looked around and thought "yup, I'm definitely the least flexible person here". I speak to a lot of people who say the same but I legitimately find myself incredibly and increasingly tight and very muscle bound after lifting weights from age 14-24 and picking up lots of injuries throughout my teens.
I was ten years working in the fitness industry but always skipped over or dismissed the stretch and cool down, instead favouring protein shakes and bicep curls!
Now, as I've gotten a bit older (32) and gotten heavily into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and also taken up rock climbing and surfing I want my body to stay healthy and functional for as long as possible.
After completing our course we were given t-shirts with the phrase "I bend so I don't break...."
I'm still working on improving the ability to bend and that'll be a long path but my mantra of 1% better every day now becomes .1% more flexible every day!
On top of the physical benefits associated with yoga I'd met mentor after mentor who'd advised I look to it as a way of training the body and mind.
It's said life will give you the same experience time and time again until you take the lesson it was sent to teach you. With that in mind I figured it was time I listened to life and gave yoga a proper go....
How and Where?
I decided to do my teacher training at 'La Casa Shambala' on Koh Phangan in Thailand. In the spirit of jumping in with two feet I booked it spontaneously after deciding this was something I needed to commit to. I didn't do much research (in fact embarrassingly when people asked what style of yoga I'd be doing I didn't know) but knew it would all work out...
The course consisted of 200 hours of yoga and teaching classes, meditation and chanting as well as history, philosophy and anatomy sessions. We had classes Monday to Saturday and Sunday's off to relax and check out the island.
The course I choose was just 18 days, a little quicker than the usual 29 days and so we were quickly thrown in to teaching our first classes and had a lot to cover in a short few weeks together.
I paid around €2,000 for the 18 days course which included accommodation in a private bungalow, the course and course materials, all meals Monday though Saturday, ferry pick up and drop off, a photo shoot to capture a few of your poses and a tshirt and yoga mat.
La Casa is a beautiful venue in the jungle of Koh Phangan. It's a shared community space on a perma culture eco-centre. Back to basics living with areyvedic food shared together at each meal. At the school volunteers and students live and train side by side along with the brilliant teachers.
A typical day started at 7am with chanting followed by a 180 minute yoga session and then breakfast. Our afternoons had teaching clinics, anatomy and philosophy classes and then after lunch we'd have another 180 minute class and some breath work or meditation. We had some brilliant teachers especially our main Asana and practical teachers Karen and Eda and the course we completed was Yoga Alliance Certified.
It was an intense couple of weeks in which I learnt a lot about yoga and remembered a lot about life!
Here are some of the lessons I've extracted...
1. Just Sign Up (You'll never feel ready)
Most people wait for the perfect time, perfect circumstances or until they are 'ready' to go and take on a challenge or have an adventure outside of their day to day lives. The fact and truth is we'll never truly feel ready and if you keep waiting you'll be waiting all your life.
Sometimes you've just got to take out the calendar and block off the time for that trip you've always been planning or thing you've been promising yourself. I've learnt time and time again that you've got to learn to 'jump, and grow your wings on the way down'. We grow in accordance to the amount of resistance we come up against in life and only experience true change when we're challenged consistently beyond our current normal.
I'd told myself for years "I should give yoga a go" or "someday I'll go and do a yoga retreat", but it wasn't until I made a decision and committed by signing up to this course that it actually became real. I believe an ounce of action is worth a tonne of talking or thinking about doing something and so it's worth considering where you could commit and take action, even before you feel ready.
Make a list of all the things you've been telling yourself you'll do 'someday'. Now figure out how you could take 1 little step in the direction of that thing, and take the step....
Or better again jump in with two feet and book the trip, sign up to the course or find a means of committing to the process.
Although you may not feel ready life works in a funny way in that when you truly make a decision and commit to something everything starts slowly falling into place to support you. Convenience and growth don't live in the same place and so you've got to be willing to make yourself a little (or a lot) uncomfortable...
As the old cliche says we regret the things we didn't do a lot more than the things we did. Time go's by quick but you'll never be as young as you are today and so it's worth taking the leap of faith.
2. Hire A Coach And Trust The Process.
The highest performers in music, sport, entertainment and business all have coaches and teams of people who support them- but us mere mortals often expect ourselves to figure it all out, to grow and evolve on our own.
In signing up to the teacher training I was immediately granted access to a number of amazing teachers who have more experience in yoga than I'll ever have.
They could see my blind spots, see my potential and see where I'd potentially stumble, allowing me to get out of my own way and instead trust the process and trust their experience and guidance.
What's an area of life you've been looking to improve on? Is there a person or team, maybe even a course you could sign up to that would help you fast track mistakes and instead move quickly toward your goals.
Sometimes without the support, guidance and accountability of a coach we convince ourselves we're putting in the right amount and quality of work to reach our goals- but we're fooling ourselves. In addition to providing guidance on the journey I think a key skill a great coach or mentor provides is stepping in with words of encouragement when you've convinced yourself you're 'stuck' or 'can't do it'.
Chances are their definition of impossible and yours are two very different things. The instructors at our teacher training had certified over 100 teachers this year alone and so had seen it all before and could ensure we were on the right path.
3. Environment Is Everything.
A lot of people questioned why I'd jump so far in the deep end and go straight to yoga teacher training before building up some experience at home. In truth I don't intend on teaching, not in the next few years at least....However the idea of immersion is really appealing to me.
If you speak to someone who's learnt a language they'll usually tell you their quickest progress came when they were forced to speak the language because they moved somewhere where it had to be spoke!
Back in Ireland my day to day life is pretty full- full with work, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, commuting and catching up with family and friends. I can squeeze some yoga into my calendar but the 200 hours I've done in the last 3 weeks would have taken me AT LEAST 1-2 years to complete without setting my environment up to support me.
Living in a school where all you have to eat is organic vegan food and all you have to do is yoga and meditation makes it easier than being at home and having to rely on willpower!
Taking this idea and applying it to the real world, think about how you could set up your environment at home for success in the areas that are most important to you?
-Maybe it's getting rid of the junk food and alcohol from the house
-Maybe it's putting a vision board or list of goals in your bedroom or office to remind you of what you're working on.
-Or it could be just de-cluttering and creating a warmer and more positive environment to work and live.
We forgot some times how important the environment where we spend time is in relation to our mood, feelings, habits and ability to stay focused on our goals.
4. Just Keep Showing Up...
We were told on day 1 of the training that the experience would be an emotional roller coaster. In my head I though "I've climbed some big mountains, ran some long endurance races and done countless martial arts tournaments. I've been meditating the last couple of years and been through plenty of crazy experiences in life. I think I'll be ok".
Four days later I'm ready to quit! I'm frustrated with my lack of flexibility and being the 'worst in the class'. I feel like my efforts will be futile and my bodies tired.
But I trust the process and weather the storm. (Coming back to the lesson of the importance of environment I don't really have choice! What else am I going to do, I'm living in a yoga school in the jungle!)
And so I keep showing up and after catching up on some sleep, I'm good to go again.
They say 80% of success is just showing up and so I think when you've decided you want to do something you've got to act in spite of your feelings. Irrespective of where you lie on the emotional roller coaster if you keep showing up it'll all come good again.
Sometimes your feelings are liars. We tend to go into a new goal feeling inspired, motivated and energised. We convince ourselves it will be plain sailing and have 'uninformed optimism'. This quickly shifts to 'informed pessimism' when we are met with the hard work and feelings of doubt that inevitably come up.
Once you've decided to commit to something remind yourself that motivation is temporary and at times you're going to have to show up even when you don't want to.
Feelings will come and go, some will feel empowering and others will try to throw you off course. Ride the wave and the disempowering feeling will pass...
5. But Just Showing Up Isn't Enough....
In seminars I often acknowledge the attendees for showing up and investing their time and money in being there....
But I remind them that putting the time in alone isn't enough. We all remember what it was like in school to sit through classes that we hated. We were 'there' but we weren't really there....
There's a big difference between showing up and being there, versus showing up and being there with your energy, attention and focus.
As the body got tired 10 days into training I caught myself in class wondering how long left until the next meal and some downtime. I had to catch myself and come back to the present, ensuring I wasn't living in my head rather than being in the experience.
Where are you showing up but not fully there?
It could be in your relationships, in your work or in the gym.
What could be possible if you put all of your intention, focus and energy into whatever it is that you are doing?
A lot of us live in a gray zone where we are doing one thing or with one person and thinking about something else, rather than being present and engaged..
It's not enough to be there you've got to really be there!
6. Everyone you meet in life is teaching you lessons.
In life we tend to associate mostly with people like ourselves, with common interests and common backgrounds...
Because of this the things we believe about the world tend to be backed up by those around us. It's a bit like our social media news feed. If we're anti-Trump our feed is designed to offer lots of anti-Trump updates and if we're pro-Trump we get more of the same.
In stepping into the teacher training I got to spend 18 days with 20+ very different people from all over the world either going through the training or volunteering at the school. Because of that I met lots of new people but also met new parts of myself....
A tough spiritual lesson for us all is that the things that trigger or annoy us in others are really a reflection of stuff we haven't resolved or healed in ourselves.
However the good we see in others is also a mirror of the traits we might live more to be at our best.
I saw adventure, spontaneity, compassion, kindness, playfulness, warmth and openness in the people I got to hang out with these past 3 weeks and I'll be looking to bring these traits out of myself more and more going forward..
7. Don't expect results for work you haven't done!
Day 10, day 11, day 12 of teacher training....
And I don't know if I'm getting any more flexible.
And I'm frustrated!
Then I remind myself..... I invested 10 years of my life in wanting to have muscles and be strong!
Twelve days of yoga isn't going to 'fix' all that!
You've got to honour the process and recognise that results don't come over night...
Appreciate where you are on the journey, look for your progress no matter how small and don't get frustrated that you haven't got results for the work you haven't yet done!
If I'm a little bit better than I was yesterday, I'm doing ok....
Like when you plant seeds of a plant or tree. You can't get frustrated at the seed the next day because it hasn't grown, you've got to just water and take care of it every day and know it will show it's results in due course....
There's a germination period for everything in life, our goals included and it's not up to us how fast the results will come.
8. If you don't think "WTF am I doing?" every once in a while you might be playing it too safe!
As I sit staring at the class of 15 students I had to teach on the second week of the course I thought in my head "what were you thinking. You 100% shouldn't be here".
After the class I felt alive and grateful to have stepped into the unknown and stepped into the fear.
My friend Gerry Duffy does a great exercise in his workshops where he asks people how they would feel about dancing...sober...at the workshop. Word's like 'mortified, worried, anxious and terrified come up'.
Then Gerry get's them dancing and again asks "how do you feel now?" and the responses usually become "alive, energised and inspired".
Many of the times where I've felt most alive in life have come straight after or whilst doing something that scares me. I've had it before stepping onto TV sets, or big stages to speak, or warming up at Jiu Jitsu competitions, or climbing big mountains.....
And I certainly had it again at the yoga training particularly when having to teach a group far more experienced than me.
9. No one is you and that is your power.....
With the course only being 18 days long we were quickly thrown in to teaching our first 30 minute class. Cue massive impostor syndrome..
"There's no way I can do this...."
I'd only done a handful of yoga classes in my life, how would I teach a class?
Then I thought about what I could offer to the class. I had minimal traditional yoga teacher training but I've been ten years in the fitness industry, four years as a public speaker and two years doing Wim Hof breathing.
Rather than focus on what I couldn't do I started thinking about how I could add different elements from my background to make for an interesting and different class.
10. It's not about being able to touch your toes or do the splits.
In the West we tend to associate yoga with being able to bend in impossible ways, but in reality the movement portion of yoga is just one of the '8 limbs' which also included breath work, meditation and philosophies for living to name just a few.
I had some of the deepest meditations I've had out there with the movement and breath work portions of the training sessions being there to set you up for meditating on a deeper level.
The thing is rarely the thing and there's a million paths to mastery.
When you pick something you want to commit time and effort to you may just see the result as being one thing but in pursuing anything we meet new parts of ourselves and achieve far more than what we actually set out to do.
I think I came to Thailand with the intention of getting really flexible, and that hasn't happened...yet!
-I did come to learn what yoga really is.
-I learnt new breath work and meditation techniques.
-I got new insights from the philosophy lectures.
-I learnt all of the most common poses and what I should be working toward.
-I learnt how to teach and adjust a full class.
-I met an incredible group of people, some of whom I'm sure I'll be in touch with for life.
-I snuck out for the last Full Moon Party of the decade.
In the same way as yoga isn't just about being able to twist your body in crazy ways theres a high probability that any goal you are chasing isn't just about the thing you think it's about!
Consider all the ways and all the areas in which your life will improve if you go and take on a big challenge of goal in life.
A bonus lesson and exercise....
Catch Yourself Telling Lies!
I particularly enjoyed the yoga philosophy classes and 'the yamas' which are a bit like the ten commandments or a philosophy for living well.
One of the yama's is Satya which stands for truthfulness in Sanskrit. Our teacher suggested an exercise of catching your lies every day for 30 days by writing them down in a journal or on your phone.
We all like to see ourselves as truthful and honest people but it's surprising when you really focus on it you see how often you exaggerate or tell white lies...
That could be anything from stretching the truth to make yourself look better to lying by answering 'good' when someone asks how you are and you don't feel your best.
When you start tracking these you'll be amazed at the silly little things you say to make yourself look a certain way....
I'm going to keep this 'Satya' diary for 30 days and see where it go's. I already caught myself and corrected myself after telling a girl at the bar the other night that we had to teach a 60 minute class (it was 45) as part of our yoga exam.
A lie like that doesn't even make sense but they start to add up and before we know it we're out of integrity and disconnected from ourselves....
If we think of relationships with others, lies don't help and lead to a lack of trust. In the same way telling lots of lies ourselves isn't going to allow us to trust ourselves and our word.
I might do a future blog post on lessons learnt from the 30 day Satya (truthfulness) diary. I think there is a feeling we all get when we are out of integrity or living a different life to what we know is right or true. This might be one little way of shining awareness on how we speak versus how we actually live.
I had an amazing experience at La Casa Shambala doing my 200 hour yoga teacher training. I'm really grateful to all of the teachers, volunteers and my classmates who helped, guided and supported me on my 'baptism of fire'!
Now, I look forward to making a daily practice a part of my life going forward as I look to deepen my understanding and experience of yoga for the rest of my life...
Hope you've enjoyed this first blog post!
I always feel my writings are disjointed and a bit all over the place but please do let me know in the comments what you think. I'm not Shakespeare but I do actually enjoying taking some time to write....
I'll try to share future posts on travel, human optimisation, training, mindset and other insights and ideas for those who prefer reading to listening to the podcast.
Keep Moving Forward,
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