Over the decades of my fitness hobby, I've taken hundreds of hours of training. In yoga alone I've counted over 250 hours from conferences, workshops and master classes. I've always loved a variety of styles - especially the power and hot yoga classes. In addition, I've always considered getting a RYT (registered yoga teacher) 200 hour credential but could never decide on the format I wanted to specialize in. Many of the world-renowned instructors I loved didn't offer the training and nearby studio offerings didn't fit my needs.
I occasionally visit yoga studios in midtown/downtown for a class and ended up on the mailing list of Black Swan Yoga. Earlier this year they advertised a weekend of workshops with Benjamin Sears. I researched him and found he had an amazing background of several 500 hour certifications in a variety of yoga formats I've practiced in and loved as well as being one of the top master instructors in the world to take training from. I decided to check out his workshops on Easter Sunday. By the following Wednesday I was signed up for his advanced 200 hour teacher training in the South of France - Sacred Geometry Vinyasa.
The day I arrived at the Villa of our master instructor for the yoga training, I stepped out onto the balcony to see the view. I broke down and cried. It was SO beautiful. I could not believe that I was going to get to experience my training in this place - up in the French Alps with a view of the Mediterranean Sea in the distance.
Soon though - I was wrapped up into a daily ritual of early rising, heading to the yoga room by 7:30, warm up exercises and class starting sharply at 8:00 every day. Most days class went until 11:00 or later and we were released for lunch - and study time. (My few precious moments of pool and sun time to renew my soul.) Back at it at 1:00 until 5:00-7:45 in the evening for more yoga, strength training and workshops, an amazing meal, more hours of study, quiet time at 9:00 and early to bed (by my standards) with lights out and shutters down by 10:00.
I jokingly coined it "Yoga Prison" because of the schedule, no alcohol, chocolate, bread, sugar or processed food and that we were not allowed to leave - but I actually loved all of it. It was definitely more like "Yoga Heaven". I'd like to share some of the lessons I learned in "Yoga Prison" for work and life!
Stay curious - We get ourselves in trouble through assumptions. Assumptions lead us to believe we are right. This closes down our desire to be open and hear the other side and other people's opinions. It leads us to believe we already have the best answer so we do not explore other options. Our creativity, progress and innovation are stifled. I've taken training from countless instructors and yoga masters, yet, I promised to approach this adventure with a beginner mind. Even though I've been teaching for close to thirty years, I showed up ready to learn whatever I could and to put aside for the time being some of the practices and opinions I'd picked up over the years. Always remain curious - we don't know what we don't know.
Intention - When you set your mind to something it is easier to stay committed and focused. I was determined to succeed in this training. Whatever they threw at me I was all in. I decided when I signed up without any doubts. Another attendee was surprised with the intensity of the training and was wavering for quite a few days in the beginning. This makes it hard to go all in. Think back to the "burn the boats" story. A commander had his soldiers burn the boats when they arrived on the shore of the enemy. There was no retreating. They were all in. Reflect on the past when you stepped out to take a risk. Were you all in? What happened when you weren't? Decide and go all in!
Age doesn't matter - It is all in your head. We tell ourselves we are too old or it's too late or we are unqualified in some way and our mindset prevents us from even attempting so many things we could be successful at. Another instructor at the training was the same age as me. We took great pride in doing everything those 20, 30 or even 40 years younger than us were performing in training. Don't limit yourself with your thoughts.
Technology Trap - No phones were allowed at our meals. When I was growing up, we sat down to dinner as a family every night at the same time, enjoying each other's company and the conversation. It was so wonderful to experience this in training. There were over twenty of us enjoying each other, conversations and the amazing food cooked by the private chef. Are you fully present at your meals at home? - or your lunches with co-workers at work? Set some boundaries around phone use. It does take courage to be the one to ask for it. Try it - you will like it.
Silence - We escaped "yoga prison" for one morning for a hike midway through the 16 days of training. The night before, after an evening of self-exploration and singing, we went into complete silence. It was slightly challenging with two roommates - but we found we were able to communicate quite well with hand signals. Everyone walked about the villa with a knowing nod and a smile on their face, enjoying the beauty of our surroundings in quiet reflection. It was such a delicious experience the next morning, to hike in silence too. Without talking you reflected more on what you saw and heard and were able to enjoy the experience at a much deeper level. We really thought about what would be the first thing we said once we could talk again. Our silence was broken at lunch after the hike. We all wished it had lasted longer. What a great reminder to stay focused on the present moment instead of hurrying to get to the next thing and missing where you are completely - at work or home.
I encourage you to reflect on lessons you learn from encounters with others, experiences and places you visit. Everything and everyone has a life lesson for us if we only take the time to savor it and make changes moving forward.