Yoga Teacher Training in Mexico with SOYA Yoga

Yoga teacher training in Melaque, Mexico.

When I got back from my 200-hour yoga teacher training in Mexico, I was so excited about teaching yoga that I got started right away. Now that I have gotten adjusted to teaching three classes a week for a month, I want to go back and take a minute to write about the amazing experience I had at my yoga teacher training in Mexico. 

The yoga training intensive was offered by South Okanagan Yoga Academy, a school in British Columbia, Canada, that's been training teachers for more than 15 years. The school offers many options for 200- and 500-hour trainings, including onsite programs, distance learning and Mexico retreats. Of course, of course, I chose Mexico!

The two-week intensive took place in Melaque, Mexico, a beautiful beachside pueblo that is still unspoiled by tourism.

"Two weeks?"

Yeah, that's a question I get asked a lot, usually followed by, "My friend did a yoga teacher training, but it was for a month," or "I know someone who studied every weekend for over a year."

Yes, it was just two weeks at the retreat, but so much more. The prerequisites for the program included 30 hours of asana work with an approved teacher, an anatomy course and CPR certification. Then, we were required to complete 14 philosophy exercises that took about 2-4 hours each to complete, including reading the Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. So just getting to the retreat took months of independent weekly study. The two-week intensive delivered as promised, it was intense. There was a lot to learn in a short amount of time and we spent from 6am until 7pm in training everyday, often with homework to complete in the evenings. 

The experience was incredible and unforgettable. I was the first to arrive at La Mansion in Melaque, the beach house where I would live and train with other students --strangers at first who became wonderful friends-- all attending for their 200- or 500-hour certification. I shared a room with two women who had been teaching for a while and were working toward their 500-hour certification. This worked out perfectly because they, along with the other 500-hour trainees in the house, became my mentors. 

The daily routine was rigorous, but very rewarding. As a group, we woke each morning at 6am to start our Kriyas, yogic cleansing rituals such as jala neti, using a neti pot to cleanse the sinuses; jivha, tongue scraping; nauli, stomach pumping and churning exercises for the intestines; and trataka, candle/flame gazing to cleanse the tear ducts. We had to learn about all of the kriyas, but I was thankful we were not required to try gauze swallowing or enemas during the retreat! 

Practicing pranayama (breathing exercises) on the beach.After morning kriyas, we gathered for meditation and kirtan, or chanting. We'd learn a different sanskrit chant each day and repeated the mantra 108 times with our mala beads before heading up to the roof top for a 90-minute morning asana session overlooking the ocean. After our yoga practice, we spent 30 minutes doing pranayama (breathing exercises), usually anuloma viloma, which is alternate nostril breathing. Finally at about 10:30am we had a few minutes to shove some food in before getting started with our philosophy lessons, which took us to lunchtime, when we had 45 minutes to enjoy the beach, pool, and oh yeah, eat.

Afternoons were spent learning various asanas, or yoga poses, and their various precautions and modifications. We also spent time practice teaching with each other. At 5:00pm, we had another 90-minute yoga practice, followed by more pranayama and evening meditation and kirtan. We closed each day with a beautiful candlelight ceremony. We had a few free hours in the evening to enjoy dinner, catch up with family and friends back home, pick up groceries for the daytime and complete written assignments and lesson plans for the next day. Exhausted, my roommates and I were fast asleep each night by 10:00pm.

In short, we worked hard! The training was only two short weeks, but we crammed a lot into that time. In addition to yoga practice and philosophy, we covered Sanskrit writing and pronunciation and eastern and western anatomy. After our practical and written exams, which I crammed like crazy for, I felt fully prepared to start teaching yoga.

The best part of the immersion was sharing the beach house with my fellow yoga students. This really helped us all to live our yoga 24/7. We learned from each other during our free time and really worked together to get each one of us through the program. We laughed, we cried and we were sore! We also got to spend a lot of time getting to know our teachers, including Marion "Mugs" McConnell and Carla Wainwright, who were incredibly knowledgable, inspiring and supportive.

Age is no excuse. This is 80-year-old Joy practicing partner yoga with 70-year-old Pierrette, one of our instructors.During our morning and evening yoga practice sessions, we had students not training to be teachers join us as well. One of the highlights of my trip was meeting a yoga student from that group, Joy, who was 80-years-old and full of light. Joy is a widower from Seattle who lives by herself in Mexico during the winters, living it up with many friends she's met traveling. At 80-years-old, she's living her life to the fullest with no fear. She's exactly who I want to be now as well as when I am 80. 

As intense as the training was, we still had two afternoons off during the retreat to explore Melaque and Barre de Navidad, two fun and beautiful beach towns with a lot of old-world Mexican charm. We really lived it up, enjoying the beach, shopping, dining out and even indulging in a few drinks by the sea. 

I left the Mexico yoga teacher training with a whole new perspective on life and really grateful that I gave myself the gift of living yoga in an immersion setting. Since I've been home, I've practiced yoga asanas, pranayama and meditation, but not to the extent that I got to do while in Mexico. It's not really possible to do that when you have to focus on work, chores, relationships and everyday life. The time I gave to myself to practice and learn in Mexico was truly special. I returned with so much knowledge and enthusiasm for teaching. I started teaching right away, and I've really enjoyed the challenge. A two-week immersion and a 200-hour program certainly can't teach you everything there is to know about yoga, but it put me on the path of yoga with a solid foundation of knowledge and inspiration to continue my own personal yoga journey while teaching others.

Thanks to everyone at SOYA and to my fellow students for an amazing experience!