Ashtanga Yoga

Discover the Ugly Truths of Yoga Teacher Trainings

Coming to a yoga teacher training can be a life transforming experience. Beneath the facade of expensive yoga wear and props, you're stripped emotionally bare where going within is the only way to seek the true-self.

In a 200hr yoga teacher training, there is no sauntering for a skinny latte after a "feel-good" yoga session. A typical schedule at the teacher training starts at 7am and ends at 7:30pm. Racking up two to three practices and numerous hours of lectures a day, most of us left muttering in Sanskrit as our new common language by the end of the day.

I signed up for an Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga teacher training in Thailand when I was still living in Canada. At 27, I broke up with my long-term boyfriend (again) and just quitted my job. Life at the time seemed like fragments of devastation and frustration. Feeling defeated and emotionally drained, I was in need for some serious soul searching. Hence after a week of extensive Google search, I sent off half of my life savings and flew over the Pacific Ocean to embark on this spiritual journey.

In the first week of training, I couldn’t believe half of the postures I had to endure.  What? You want me to put my leg behind my neck… oh both legs? Hm… Oh I knew it…had I practice more power yoga back home and less Hatha…

Nothing was easy. It certainly felt like I was training for Cirque du Soleil’s latest production-Ash-Tan-Ga. 

After series of postures that somewhat resemble the Olympic gymnastic stunts, I was dying to get into child's pose. Wait -the teacher trainer is near me now.  Dang it! There goes my child’s pose… As she continuously urges us on, holding 5-breaths in a pose suddenly seems like an eternity.

In 24 days, I was pushed to the limits and then some more.

Under the hot sun in an untouched jungle, I lived, breathed, stretched, cried, and laughed with 20 other yogis who were just like me.

Foremost, a yoga teacher training is a costly investment. Unless your wealthy and generous parents have paid for the course, air flights and accommodations-you simply just don't walk out and quit.

Moreover, there seems to be a greater moral lesson when one quits a yoga teacher training. Come to think of it, it reminds me of my university days when I failed my morality paper in a social psych course. (Never did my parents find out and I intend it to stay that way.)

After all, I thought I was ready for a better me- a more honest, spiritual, accepting, enduring and loving person. Yet the ugly truth is-and we all hate to admit- it's easier to lounge back and read the latest edition by Echkart Tolle while sipping tea then to buckle up that yogi strap and walk the talk.

Could it be my high-strung Scorpio personality combined with the years of militant ballet training and the need to own up to my Asian ethnicity and all that are expected of from my Asian parents?  Quitting just isn’t an option.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against people who do quit. There are many legitimate reasons to do so. I understand and acknowledge them all. However, I would only hope that one would not overestimate the legitimacy of these reasons and under evaluate their own shortcomings.

Bottom line is-be truthful to yourself.

Alright…so I sucked it up and kept going. I reached further pass my toes and twisted deeper down my spine.

Let's get this done.

As I lay in Savasanna one morning, I found tears tumbling down my trembling cheeks. In a split second, I was shriveled back into that insecure, vulnerable self.

What? I thought I was doing great?

Wrapped in emotional turmoil, my fogged up and restless mind was in complete overdrive. Failure, shame, vulnerability, guilt and all other uninvited negative emotions I tried so hard to suppress quickly sipped right back to the top of my consciousness.

So what happens now?

Well... after resisting the temptation to sob in my lonely room until my pillow is soaked with salty tears. I chose a more spiritual healing method.

Photo by Monashee Photography

Photo by Monashee Photography

On my knees and hands, I crawled onto my yoga mat-my salvation and solitude. There I positioned in padmasana, closed my dampened and swollen eyes...and had a nice long talk with myself. 

An internal dialogue is the first step of introspection. How do you speak to yourself? Blame, guilt, victimizes? Who is talking other than the over-ridden ego? Recognize that nobody other than yourself can trap your free will- to make you feel small, insecure and invaluable.

I took a deep breathe in, held it briefly and let it all out.

Tomorrow is another day.

As a yoga teacher, I’m my first and ever-lasting student. Aside from the technicality of yoga postures and philosophies, a yoga teacher training taught me self-discipline, forgiveness, patience, and most importantly being present. 

All the guilt one possesses is burdens from the past and all the worries one beholds are projections of the future. While the past is gone and the future hasn't arrived yet, neither guilt nor worries will make the present any better.

The true self signifies the person without past and future.

Loving for the sake of loving; being for the sake of being.

One of my favorite quotes:

"Be here now."~ Ram Dass.

Who is living in the present, if not you?

Cherish each moment because there are no replicates of it.

On the day of graduation, as I walked up to retrieve my 200hr yoga teacher certification I couldn’t resist to smirk a little. For the truth is, at that moment, I knew I was receiving something much-much more. 


This article is written by Annie Au, RYT 500, yoga teacher, vegan & traveler.