By Bailey Urso
I started doing yoga in my last year of my undergraduate degree when I was struggling with weight and anxiety issues. A close friend had been bugging me to try hot yoga. I had never been one to enjoy exercising but I decided to give it a go. We accidentally ended up at a 90 minute advanced hot yoga class and I spent a good 75% of the class lying in savasana (corpse pose) while sweat was pouring out of places I didn’t even know possible. Though this would be considered a disastrous first experience, the amazing thing was, the minute I stepped out of that studio, I felt incredible. I felt lighter, happier, and more in tune with myself than I have ever felt before. The next day I was back at that studio, making sure to take a 60 minute beginner course this time. That year, there was hardly a day I missed a class. I gained control over my weight and it helped me deal with my anxiety. Since then, there has yet to be a problem that yoga has not been able to help with. Which makes sense that, just under a year ago, when I was unhappy with where I was in my life – job, relationships, etc., I again turned to yoga. Since I have always been one to say “go big or go home,” I decided to look into Teacher Training Programs in India. I found a few that intrigued me and after careful consideration and a lot of research, I decided to apply to the Himalaya Yoga Valley for their Ashtanga teacher training course in Goa. I had a lot to do to prepare for this, as I was just getting over some issues with my back, but between my physiotherapist and the amazing staff at Balanced Motion, I was able to prepare myself for the month long intensive training program.
Every day in India I woke up in my hut at 6am. I would jump in the ice cold shower, and head to the shala. The shala was a beautiful place. It consisted of 8 stone pillars and a roof. Different coloured bug nets wrapped around the outside, and curtains were available to help shelter ourselves from some of the sun. The floor was a soft bamboo, and all around us was the sounds of cows, pigs, birds, men at work and the Indian Ocean. We began our day at 6:30, with chanting, meditation and pranyama (breathing exercises). Afterwards, we were served tea and fruit. From 8-10 was our morning Ashtanga yoga practice, and then we had breakfast. Each morning, we were in silence until 11am, which meant that, unless we had a question for our teachers, we were not to talk, but to be mindful of our movements and our thoughts. At first this was hard, but near the end, it was a blessing. It is actually still weird for me now to talk over breakfast. After breakfast, we would have a lecture on any number of topics – anatomy, philosophy, ayurveda, sequencing, ethics, business, etc. We would get a two hour break for lunch, to either catch up on studies, or go to the beach. At 3pm would have another lecture, and then a final yoga class, ending our day between 6:30 and 7pm. We would all go to our respective huts to shower. Then we would meet up for dinner and tell stories, ask questions, and just enjoy each others’ presence. I have never in my life met a group of people that were so accepting and so loving. This was our schedule every day. Saturdays we generally finished early and Sunday we had a day to ourselves, though most of us would beg our teacher, Lalit, to teach us another class anyways.
Every day felt like a week, but not in a bad way. I was just learning and experiencing so much, that the days felt so long, and yet it all ended so quickly. We started to teach each other well into the second week of our training, so by the end of the month, we were all very confident and talented teachers. My body and mind was challenged in ways I never thought possible, and I have come out stronger because of it. I am appreciative of every moment, be it good or bad, that I have had on this journey and know I am a better person for it.
We graduated on Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. There were celebrations and fireworks everywhere we went. It was the perfect ending to an amazing month. Once I landed back in Canada, I realized that a new journey had started. Now I get to pass my knowledge and experience of Ashtanga yoga to the people I meet, and inspire them, the way my yoga teachers have inspired me. I am grateful to all the people who have helped me get here: my parents and the rest of my family, my friends, as well as the lovely ladies of Balanced Motion. You have all given me so much support and love and I am forever grateful.
Mandrem Beach, North Goa, India