This past March, Yoga District, for the first time ever, offered a 200-hour intensive teacher training in Jaco, Costa Rica! Eight students (including yours truly) attended the training, which was led by Yoga District founder Jasmine. While there they studied, practiced, and learned more than they ever could have expected. In the piece below, Yoga District teacher training graduate Micah Simon reflects on her life-changing experience with Yoga District in Costa Rica.
My Yoga District Costa Rica Teaching Training
By Micah Simon
I began practicing yoga in the summer of 2010 after I was looking for a new workout routine different from the gym life. At that time, teaching yoga had never come to mind, although I began to build a strong connection with my Bikram Yoga studio in Columbia, Maryland, making new friends and living a healthier lifestyle. My inspiration for becoming a yoga teacher came from a Bikram Yoga retreat in 2011, and since then, I’ve always wanted to teach yoga because of the physical, mental and spiritual transformation. Not to mention the great community and connection yoga offers to all kinds of people. Though most of my yoga experience was through Bikram Yoga, I’d always wanted to teach a variety of disciplines.
I came across the Yoga District 200-hour teacher training when my Bikram Yoga instructor sent me information about their studios and training. Although I’d never heard of Yoga District or attended any of their classes, I admired the organization’s emphasis on service and community and thought it would be the perfect training for me. However, I wasn’t sure of which training I wanted to attend. I live about an hour from Washington, D.C., so I didn’t want to drive every day for an intensive, and I didn’t know anyone who lived near the city. I also didn’t think I’d have time to commit to the extended session. The Yoga District training in Costa Rica seemed to be the best fit since all the accommodations were in one place, it was a two week intensive, and as an avid overseas traveler, I’d be going to a beautiful place I’d never been.
My training consisted of seven other trainees. Most of us were from the Washington, D.C. area, and one from Boston, Massachusetts and another from Portland, Oregon. Jasmine, the founder of Yoga District, was our lead instructor, but we also had several guest teachers who had completed a Yoga District 200-hour teacher training. I found it unique beforehand that we would be maintaining a vegan diet throughout the training. Costa Rica did not strike as a place with a natural vegan cuisine, but I was really impressed with the food we ate, from sushi and vegetable tempura to mushroom risotto and strawberry crepes. The cuisine was very healthful and there was always enough to eat.
Every day we had a thirty-minute meditation, which involved breathing exercises, chanting and concentration. We also spent a considerable amount of time practicing and teaching the asanas or postures from the Dharma Mittra series. Jasmine also introduced us to several other yoga practices, including Power, Ashtanga and Restorative Yoga. It was beneficial this training also improved our postures and yoga practice, not just how to teach. I saw a lot of improvement in my inversions such as headstand, as well as my plank and wheel poses.
Teaching-wise, learning to cue postures and adjust was emphasized and very useful. There can be different ways to cue a posture, but Jasmine’s knowledge and tips on what was most important to say was helpful. In the group we partnered up to cue and adjust each other, which was a great way to get used to assisting people properly. The peer feedback also helped our teaching knowledge and learning.
We had two opportunities to teach “full” classes to our peers. The first class was a Dharma-inspired class, and the second was a Power Yoga class. We could use notes and charts to guide us through our classes, but we were under a time limit and had to assist the other students throughout the class. Jasmine and another peer gave us feedback after we taught. It was the best and most valuable experience to get used to teaching a real class, including presence, command, diction, cues and adjusting postures. For me, it was a lesson on dealing with nerves and believing in my abilities to lead a class, while at the same time, not feeling the need to be perfect. As a group I think we all did well with the full classes, considering the time we had to learn everything, and were very supportive of each other.
Through such a training also comes growth in different and often unexpected ways. The practice of being unattached to feelings emotions, situations, material things, etc. was a new concept I learned from the Yoga District teacher training. What I realized is that in practice, it can be difficult to be unattached to certain things such as money, food, relationships and other important aspects of life. But at the same time, being unattached to such things helps us maintain clarity in our life, and we learn not to be dependent on those things to make us content. Instead, I think we become content for the sake of being content, not because of a particular thing that in reality is temporary. Other philosophical concepts were introduced in books such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Sutras by Patanjali. These texts discussed the importance living our life’s purpose for the sake of duty, as well performing service work or karma yoga not for a particular outcome, but because it’s the right thing to do and it must be done.
My Costa Rica experience didn’t just include practice, meditation and reading. We also went to the beach several times, visited the Manuel Antonio Park and had some time to relax at the pool at the hotel where we stayed. The nature in Costa Rica was beautiful, from the beaches and sunsets to the variety of animals. I saw parrots, sloths, bats, a toucan and several lizards. At night and most of the day, we heard the sound of cicadas at the hotel. They were incredibly loud, and at first annoying enough for me to feel like my ears were bleeding. Yet even towards the end of the training I could appreciate their presence. Although it’s something I don’t entirely miss now.
Leaving the training was weird to me because I’d spent so much time immersed in yoga and with the other trainees. It was almost like I’d made a second home. Fortunately, the group has kept in touch as far as how we’re doing with our training homework and what our lives have been since going home. Having the personal practice and meditation has been helpful in keeping the lifestyle concepts from training, such as unattachment and service work at the forefront of my life. I had read on Yoga District’s website before the training that this experience can really change your life. I’ve found it’s made a difference in my life, and I look forward to where my yoga journey goes from here.
If you’re someone looking to teach yoga not just for teaching postures or meditation, but changing how you look at yourself and the life around you, attend the Yoga District teacher training. There’s much more I can say than I’ve already said, but this is a training where you’ll receive more than what you’re looking for and do more than you thought you could with some wonderful people along the way.
Bio: Micah Simon attended the Yoga District teacher training in Costa Rica in March 2014. You can read more about Micah, including her travels, writing and photo gallery on her website: www.thesailswithin.com.