I expected to find knowledgable instructors, days filled with yoga practice, studying the ins and outs of every asana, detailed anatomy lessons, and hours of struggling to memorize Sanskrit names and other yoga terminology. I also expected to meet an odd mix of blissed-out hippies and super bendy model-esque yogis/yoginis.
While I did find incredible instructors, lots of valuable lessons, and amazing and unique yoga classes, Yandara Yoga Institute was anything but a typical yoga teacher training, if there even is such a thing. My expectations were exceeded on so many levels, especially in the emotional and spiritual realms.
At Yandara, I found teachers who were not only knowledgable and experienced, but extremely open and loving. I found a desert oasis surrounded by the ocean, mountains, palm trees, and a luscious organic garden.
Our classrooms were beautiful pavilions with ocean views that allowed us to feel fully immersed in nature at all times. Even the showers and bathrooms were outdoors, allowing the sunshine to pour in or a view of the stars twinkling overhead.
Our accommodations were cute, little dome tents large enough to fit a twin size bed, small plastic dresser, and even a lamp with an outlet for charging electronics.
Less than a five minute walk from my tent, I found myself on a pristine stretch of beach free of the typical hotel and tourist scene. Nearly every day we could spot whales spouting and flicking their tales and even the occasional dolphin or stingray.
Everyone on the staff was so kind and accommodating, providing us with homemade organic vegetarian meals straight from the Yandara garden and keeping the grounds in beautiful condition.
I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful the meals were — or how much delicious variety can be created from a few simple ingredients!
The members of the “house” band, Jaya, were also a special gift of talented and loving spirits (two couples!). They were the long-haired, flowy clothed, hippie-yogis I was initially expecting–which was just so perfect and awesome for a kirtan, mantra, and fun-loving, free-flowing band.
They were also a band of many talents. I ended up purchasing artwork from the guitar player, lotion made from a blend of essential oil and shea-butter from his wife, the base guitarist, and the amazing drummer also become my astrologer! Not to mention, the lead singer and harmonium player was the mom of two of our teachers!
The gardener also turned out to be a superb poet, able to create beautiful flows of words to the gentle beats of the band. Several of my fellow students were also quite musically talented, so I spent the month spoiled and wrapped in musical delight nearly every night.
Speaking of my fellow students (and now fellow teachers) — words can hardly begin to describe the love in my heart for this group of beautiful women (and one awesome guy).
It was as if the universe conspired to bring the perfect balance of beautiful souls together for the purpose of helping one another learn and grow –certainly in our physical practice, but mostly in the realms of the heart and spirit.
Through a process of yogic truth sharing called satya, we explored the depths of ourselves, began to drop our barriers, and laid pieces of our naked souls before one another. So many stories, laughs, struggles, hugs, and tears were shared among us.
In this sense, this journey became as much of a transformational and healing experience as it was a learning experience. It became a journey to the heart.
Rather than show us one standard way of teaching or how to emulate someone else’s style, our teachers spent a great amount of time and effort guiding us inward and helping us get in touch with our truest selves.
There were entire exercises dedicated to helping us discover our gifts and to teach from the heart. In this way, we were learning how to not just pass on information that we had gathered — rather, the knowledge must be internalized and then flow through us to our students. This is what true teaching is all about.
What a gift it was to watch each of my fellow students take the “stage” to teach and to feel it become transformed by their energy. Two students could be teaching the same sequence and it would look and feel different each time based on their unique gifts, energy, and heart-based guidance.
Moreover, it was amazing how alike and yet different each of us were — and how supported, empowered, and loved each of us felt. We came to truly understand that yoga can truly be for anyone — any body type at any age.
We had ladies there from their early twenties all the way up to late sixties! Some of us were tall, others short. Some thin and some more round. Some had been practicing yoga for 20 years and some for less than two.
As I mentioned in my previous post, yoga is so much more than just stretching and bending. Yes, there are tremendous physical benefits to the practice of yoga, and these alone are a good enough reason to practice it. But if you haven’t already experienced it for yourself, I want you to know that yoga can be so much more.
In an age of information overload, relentless multitasking, and ever increasing physical and mental diseases/disorders, yoga is the means to much needed relief and relaxation. Rather than create it, yoga is intended to relieve stress.
We spend so much of our lives in a state of competition and judgment, always trying to push through any challenges that come our way. Yoga helps us let go of all that, to allow for greater compassion towards ourselves, and to release into our poses and breath-work.
As one of my beautiful teachers shared with us, yoga is about moving from external stimulation to internal sensation.
I wish it were possible for me to fully convey and to share with you the state of love, bliss, and pure contentment–yes I said it–that I experienced at Yandara. All I can say is that I know that feeling exists, and I know it’s not only possible, but also readily available to you.
Perhaps you can embark on a yoga journey of your own — a yoga teacher training, conference, festival, or retreat. Maybe your journey will be to a local studio or even take place within the comfort of your own home. There are so many free resources out there, including how-to articles and full-length videos to help you start your practice or move it into your home. You don’t need anything fancy to practice yoga. It can even be done sitting at your desk!
Just know, if you are ever feeling stressed, burned out, depressed, filled with anxiety, overwhelmed, physically out of shape, or even injured — there is hope for you in yoga. There is an amazing community of yogis and yoginis ready and willing to support you, including this one.
In Sanskrit, Namaste means “the highest, divine, or light in me recognizes and honors the highest, divine, or light in you.” So to you I say…
P.S. Please feel free to share your own yoga stories and experiences or to ask questions about mine in the comments!
If you know someone else who could benefit from my experience or a greater understanding of yoga, please share this post with them. Thanks!