I’m pretty sure many people thought I was mad to take 7 weeks out of my life and business in February and March this year to live at an ashram and do a full immersion yoga teacher training course. My mum wasn’t shy about vocalising those questions when I told her I was heading off on an extended break. Mothers ask all the right questions. I suspect it’s not only my mother who needed answers, they might be the kind of questions you would ask yourself when trying to make a case for why YOU need to gift yourself an experience of self nurture and self growth. So if you happen to be facing a hostile internal critic, or a ‘this is my way of loving you’ inquisitive parent, partner or friend, here are my answers…
How can you afford to leave work/your business for 7 weeks?
In my case, I’d budgeted to take a few weeks off to travel to India and do a different yoga teacher training over 2 years with periods of immersion each quarter. When I saw the Krishna Village Centre for Yogic Studies course I knew intuitively it was the one for me, and fitted into my existing timeframe for being out of action. I had worked towards having no income for that period, and stacked my consultancy work to all be paid and completed just before I left. I knew my expenses would be minimal while away as everything was included and no spendatunities nearby. Money often comes up as the main and immediate barrier to not doing something like this, but once you push through the initial emotional response, you can strategically plan for saving, for negotiating with work or clients for time out, for making sure you are covered and everyone is happy. It’s not something you can necessarily do reactively, as I mentioned, I had already cleared my calendar and saved some dosh, but that planning probably began six months earlier. Of course if you are planning to change jobs, you can sandwich this type of experience in between. If your work is online or can be done remotely, you can also work while you’re away – everyone wins! The Krishna Village YTT course is incredibly good value as it is subsidised by Karma Yoga activities by participants and is eco luxe to keep costs down, so it works out to be super affordable. And the return on investment is an internationally recognised qualification you can use straight away, and may be tax deductible in some cases. And peace and happiness - priceless!
How can you leave your [insert significant other/pets/children] for 7 weeks
Again, this was situational and for me, no kids to worry about, and an awesome husband who is used to me travelling and doing personal development craziness. He was the first person I consulted with when I thought about undertaking the YTT journey with Krishna Village, and his genuine excitement for my adventure made me feel completely ok. Sure, I TOTALLY missed him, and did feel a little guilty as I waved him goodbye, but knew that feeling was my stuff and our relationship was based on support and growth and this was a drop in our lifetime together bucket. Plus I knew it would grow me as a loving heart centred human, so ultimately the investment in time would keep on giving back to him. I get that this could be much harder with young kids, or kids at school and that for a period of time partners, parents and friends would have to step up for support. That’s why giving yourself time to plan and prep and get everything sorted is part of the pre-work. As for missing pets – nothing takes away that pain, except seeing their sweet furry faces on Skype.
What is the point of all this yoga business?
Sometimes the point is the journey itself. For me, I wanted to strengthen my asana yoga practice – acknowledging that the postures were the weakest part of my yoga practice, and I wanted to incorporate my body more into physical activity. For many peeps in the West yoga is just like another gym class, but it is so much more and the lifestyle of yoga is the goal for my whole life, I figured spending seven weeks immersed in that has to give my neural pathways some deeper direction. Inevitably doing a lot of yoga and living in a spiritual community means that you begin to let go of some of the things that don’t serve you in life. These little lessons, some not so little, come up and demand to be addressed, and can be released into the wild. We don’t always do this when we are at our desks fist pumping to strive ahead in the world glued to our devices. So by removing ourselves from that context, it is easier to do the work we file in our too hard folder, and also often easier to dust off the mirror of the real you, away from all roles and masks we wear every day. It is a little crazy that we really investigate an investment like this in our lives, I suspect (without any basis of fact) that regular time out for spiritual work, rest, cleansing, relaxation, meditation and yoga would significantly improve our health, happiness, effectiveness in all areas of our lives and quantifiably reduce the amount spent on propping up our bodies or self medicating with food and booze, which over time significantly adds up.
But what are you going to learn?
200hr Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) as a certified course means you basically learn and instruct the equivalent of 200 hours of yoga, and can safely teach beginners in and out of about 29 classic asana poses and create and teach vinyasa or linked sequences using these poses in combinations. So you learn the pose, how to get in and out of it, how to say its name correctly in Sanskrit, what the contraindications and alignments are for the pose and how to modify for any injury. You also learn how to hold a room of students for the duration of the class, how to speak confidently, how to allow your personality to shine while instructing safely. You learn anatomy and physiology for yoga specifically, and how to see where it all fits in the body. You learn breathing, and why you need to breathe. You learn about the ancient Sanskrit texts where the idea of yoga came from, and study the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali’s yoga sutras and investigate where they fit in a contemporary practice. You learn about yogic nutrition and Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga and about body type or dosha, how that impacts your personality, and how to get it in balance through food. And they are just the tangibles – you learn about you, and your patterns and triggers, and about team work, you learn about conquering fear and fatigue and pre conceived notions of how things should be. You learn that singing Kirtan is a transcendenal experience that truly connects hearts and souls. You learn about the power of a hug and an honest open conversation, the power of raw chocolate before breakfast, about the beauty of nature in all its simple glory, about the power of your own divinity and others and about a million other things you won’t ever find in a prospectus. However, I know all that with the beauty of hindsight, I think when mum asked me I said ‘yoga and Sanskrit and stuff.'
Why seven weeks?
It’s a long time right? Right! And of course you can search the interwebs and find a stack of 200hr YTT courses that you can do in a mere couple of weeks. All of which are kool, no judgement. I chose the Krishna Village course as I didn’t want to smash through a qualification quickly. I wanted to live like a yogi, savour the learning and really internalise the teachings and the feeling of this life. The design of the course is very conscious in its length, and the teachers all acknowledge that better teaching outcomes happen for students when they have time to really integrate what they are learning, to feel it in their bodies and teach from experience rather than from their textbook. The course is being made a week shorter to six weeks, which is still long enough, but a little less of an impediment for some folks. The length is the strength, its what made it so appealing for me to not do it for the sake of just being a yoga teacher, but for the personal transformations, spiritual insights and embodied wisdom it would give me. And it did, in spades. And not just me, the other eight participants all had a similarly large awakening as they trod their own seven week path alongside mine. The takeout from all this is that it isn’t about the time, or the money, or the impediments, its always about the divine timing in your spiritual and life path, and when that is right, all the other factors become totally manageable. A little planning goes a long way too. But ultimately it is about loving yourself and making time to reconnect with you, and remind yourself why you are here, what that means, and sit in the quiet and remember your own essential enoughness. Unsurprisingly, the world was still there when I got back, and seven weeks seemed barely enough.
Dr Polly McGee is one part writer, and many parts assorted thinker, do-er, talker, eater, chef, explorer, yogi, kirtaneer and dog wrangler. She has worked in kitchens, bars and restaurants from frantic to fancy, managed multi-million dollar innovation grants programs, advised hundreds of start-ups on how to refine their business ideas and source funding, and championed causes from a variety of soapboxes, lecterns and stages. She is currently the Strategic Marketing Lead for Global Edtech Startup Prosper Education. Her new book, The Good Hustle, is coming out in February 2018