There is no other way to start this without saying I adore Yoga, it has greatly enhanced my life. I have practiced it for more than twelve years but only intensively recently. I remember my first ever class, I was eighteen and struggling with Leaving Cert exam stress. My mother Deirdre suggested that we try yoga together in an attempt to lessen the pressure I was feeling and to provide an outlet. My relationship with yoga was love at first sight. Within the first five minutes, I had an overwhelming feeling of amazement at the practice. Its ability to quieten my mind and the awareness it brought to my body was something I had never experienced. I knew Yoga was something wonderful and meaningful but I didn’t engage with it fully at this time.
Throughout my twenties, I intermittently went to yoga classes whenever I felt I needed a break from my regular intense training in the gym or when experiencing anxiety in life. Last year in 2016, my local yoga studio instructor announced an upcoming yoga retreat in Crete and I asked Deirdre if she would come with me given it was she who first introduced me to yoga. Following a difficult year in which Deirdre successfully battled breast cancer, I thought it would be a nice treat for us both and a chance to spend quality time together. We had an absolute ball and met some really lovely people. Molly Mc Keever (Yoga Teacher) is one of the kindest people you will meet. There is an upcoming retreat in October 2018 with a few spaces remaining. Following this experience, I promised I would deepen my practice when I returned home and this was the real beginning of my yoga journey.
At the start of this year, as explained in a recent previous post I craved an escape from the humdrum routine of daily life. An appetite to come out of my comfort zone and do something different burned within. Following a recommendation from a close friend and not really knowing what I was getting myself into, I decided to go to India to do a 200 hour yoga teacher training course in Sampoorna. Having never traveled on my own, I was both excited and petrified. The night before leaving, I nearly decided not to. The reality of leaving Ian and the doggies for a month was overwhelming and I questioned my ability to go through with it. Using my own advice that I frequently give to others, I told myself to just take the next step that was needed; ‘Just go to the airport Lia and come home if you need to when you get there’. This continued the whole way to Goa ‘Just get on the plane Lia, when you land at the next airport you can get a return flight home’. I cried for most of the journey but the minute I walked through the gates of Sampoorna, I felt an overwhelming sense of security and calmness. I knew it would become a home away from home. In this moment, while knowing, I had made the right decision, the life changes that would occur during the four weeks spent there were unimaginable at this point.
The style of yoga teacher training is Ashtanga and Vinyasa. Anyone who has practiced Ashtanga yoga will know how intense it is. During our first class, while sweating like never before, I thought to myself ‘Oh god what have I gotten myself into. I am way out of my depth here’. Other class members were standing on their heads and easily getting into very advanced poses. I really questioned if I had made a mistake in coming. As I increased my knowledge on yoga’s philosophy and origins, I quickly realised that the asanas (poses) are only one aspect of the practice and everyone is at their own level. As the weeks progressed, once my ego subsided and my mindset shifted from focusing on my limitations to my abilities, I stopped comparing myself to everyone else. In doing so, I quickly began to see slight advancements in my body’s ability to get into poses that were not in my practice before this intensive training. While this was physically rewarding, more importantly it positively impacted my emotional connection to my body. I had a new appreciation for the work my body does day in day out, without ever even having to be asked.
For anyone thinking of going, it is important to know that the course itself is intense. The day starts at 6.30 Am and classes continue until 7.00 Pm every day. Within that time, you are physically practicing yoga for at least three to four hours a day. Outside of Asana practice there are classes in philosophy, anatomy, meditation, posture clinics and teaching practice. These are all very interesting and assist in the overall understanding of yoga. Without the added knowledge that these classes provide, insight into yoga is only at surface level. There are also exams at the end of the course however, I can only describe them as a ‘none event’ so don’t let them cause anxiety and disrupt the overall learning and experience while there. The exams consist of; teaching one half hour class, a practical exam and a written exam. Students begin teaching in the first week of the course so by the last week, teaching for half an hour is easily achievable. The teachers in Sampoorna are very supportive. I have every confidence that they would go above and beyond to assist your learning in any way they can throughout the four weeks.
Philosophy was my favourite aspect of the course and its teachings have had the most life changing impact. This is mainly as a result of the dedication of the teacher Sudhir Rishi who is the leader of the school. He is one of the kindest and most knowledgeable humans I have ever met and the quality of the school’s teaching is evidence of this. Sudhir has dedicated his life to understanding the totality of the universe and the many different philosophies and religions of life. Sudhir’s knowledge on nearly all topics is extensive and he shares this throughout the course during both philosophy classes and Satsangs (sacred gatherings) which are voluntary evening discussions about a range of topics. The subjects we covered were the afterlife, issues of control, reincarnation, Buddhism and food. Sudhir is also available to have one on one discussions with anyone who may need guidance on particular aspects of their life. Each of us described how we would love to share his knowledge with family and friends at home. Since then, he has started a podcast which you can listen to here:
I am delighted that his teachings will now be available around the world.
Food and Facilities
Yes, I am giving the food in Sampoorna its own section because it was amazing! Since returning from India, I am a vegetarian. This decision is as a result of a shift in mindset from learning about the philosophy of yoga but also because I witnessed firsthand how tasty a vegetarian diet can be thanks to the wonderful chefs in Sampoorna. Sampoorna’s kitchen has a very high standard of hygiene and I did not experience any sickness while there. The food is vegetarian with vegan options. Breakfast is served at 10.00 Am every day followed by lunch at 1.00 Pm and dinner at 7.00 Pm. There are snacks of bananas (the nicest banana’s you will ever taste they just aren’t the same here). There is a large variety in the foods offered and everything is very tasty. Most importantly, the desserts are delicious, in particular the vegan banoffee pie and chocolate balls. I continue to fail at my attempts to replicate them since returning home. There is safe water available on tap at all times. I really encourage you to increase your water intake while there. Usually I consume three litres a day but in the Indian heat five litres were necessary. Sampoorna offers clothes washing facilities for as little as the equivalent of €3. You can also buy good quality yoga mats for €30.
Sampoorna is based in Agonda a picturesque little town with the most magnificent and clean beach. The beach will become your second home while there. The beach is about a three-minute walk from Sampoorna and you can hear the waves as you fall asleep. The waves are very strong and not what we are used to on this side of the world so be cautious. There are lifeguards along the beach and it is cleaned daily. Agonda’s village has lovely little stalls, shops and really tasty restaurants. My two favourite were Zest and Mandala which both have vegan and vegetarian options. The people of the village are also very kind, helpful and welcoming. By the end of the four weeks you will know a lot of the villagers by their first name.
A Few Things I Wish I Had Known Before Going
Sampoorna’s website is really informative however there are a few things they don’t mention.
- Tub a wear – If like me, you love snacks from home and tea bags make sure to bring sealable lunch boxes to store them in. I didn’t and had to throw them away because ants get into everything and are everywhere.
- Clothes – I changed my clothes three times a day because it gets very sweaty doing yoga in 35 degree heat. Be mindful to bring enough sports attire to allow for this. As highlighted, there is access to washing facilities nonetheless, a lot of sports clothes are useful. Specifically shorts appropriate for yoga.
- Family members who may be accompanying you on your travels or joining you after the course are allowed visit, stay over and eat the food provided in Sampoorna. This is because of the generosity of the school and I am sure this act of kindness is not to be taken advantage of. A few of the classes’ family members stayed with them for one or two nights and were welcomed into the Sampoorna family.
- WiFi -The website says that WiFi isn’t great however it was much better than I anticipated. It may not be as fast as we are used to here but it enabled clear communication with family members and friends at home. Nonetheless, to fully benefit from the experience and engage in the tranquility of Sampoorna an occasional digital detox is recommended.
- Safety- As it was my first time travelling alone I was apprehensive about my safety. The minute I arrived in Sampoorna I felt secure and questioned why I was nervous at all. The staff are so welcoming and friendly. There is twenty-four hour security at the gates. The villagers are also very kind and there was never a time that I felt vulnerable or in a dangerous situation. Obviously, it is important to take the usual precautions and be wise nonetheless.
If anyone is considering yoga teacher training all I can say is ‘JUST GO’. You don’t have to be an expert in yoga asanas or be able to stand on your head. I couldn’t recommend Sampoorna more highly to embark on this adventure. It was one of the most life changing experiences I have ever had. This is mainly as a result of the impact it had on my understanding of acceptance, growth and Suidir’s teaching that ‘our true nature is uninterrupted joy’ Having always had a tendency to try to control everything that is controllable in life this new awareness has enabled me to let go of living a life of rigidity and self –criticism. Being present and extending gratitude for life’s experiences and adventures is a much more frequent state of being for me now. I have learnt that acceptance occurs when we simply acknowledge ourselves or situations as they are without any critique or justification. It takes practice and patience however the rewards are very valuable. I recognise that non-acceptance depletes energy sources and leaves feelings of regret, guilt and shame. These feelings can quickly present themselves as a pattern in our daily life, if we don’t intervene. Acceptance must happen before growth can occur. This is because with acceptance a sense of peace is achieved. Always wanting to progress prevents us from appreciating what we have in the here and now and ultimately prevents us from experiencing joy. Once acceptance occurs there is a lot more room for growth. My yoga practice has also been influenced positively. I now accept and appreciate where I am in my practice, in my own body in this moment in time, equipped with the knowledge that through acceptance and practice, all is coming. Last but not least, I met the loveliest people and will forever carry a little piece of each of them with me on my way.
If anyone has any further questions about my experience or needs more details just contact me below. I have attached the link to the Sampoorna website for further information.