32 Unusual things I learned at Yoga Teacher Training

I took my yoga teacher training in Ko Samui, a paradise island in Thailand.  In it there is an incredible yoga school and retreat space called Yoga Thailand. Very much worth visiting.

During the training we learned many important things, and then there were the "unusual" things, the off-beat ones, here are 32:

  1. Job might not be there upon return. Taking 5 weeks off from work might result on coming back to no job.  Granted, I went in early 09 or at the beginning of what many coined the biggest recession since the great depression.  I kind of got my first whiff when a co-worker posted on facebook a line that read: "We had our first talk about layoffs today, it feels like a first round of Survivor".  I kind of knew right then. It all materialized later as I was interrupted when going through 1025 e-mails on my first day back and taken to a "meeting" with the boss and the HR person. 
  2. Job not being there might be a good thing.  Matter of fact for me it was a great thing, the best that could have happened.  I know, it sounds like a cliche but it isn't.
  3. How to avoid jet lag.  Paul taught us right before we were leaving his technique for avoiding jet lag, he basically does not eat on the plane at all, and does pranayama on the morning of the overnight flight. It did not work for me, still took me about a day for each 2 hour difference to return to Eastern time, but here is passing the info along anyway.
  4. Infrared sauna is really not that big a deal.  I tried it, I sweat-ed, but could not tell the difference from a regular sauna.
  5. Living by the ocean is magical, it does restore the rythms of the body. True.
  6. You can get bored even of living in paradise.  By the fifth week I was ready for NJ, ready for the snow, and ready for my shala.  Even in paradise sometimes we can get home sick
  7. Singing mantras like the Gayatri is a very powerful practice. Can't elaborate on this one, must be eperienced.
  8. Thinking that one will go deeper in asana practice while at teacher training might be just an illusion.  The practice is what it is, and it takes the time that it will  takes, retreat or not.  It is fabulous though for deconstructing and really learning proper alingment.
  9. I loved the program and cannot wait to go back for their pranayama intensives.  They have Tiwariji for guru, a man that has devoted his life to teaching pranayama and who is about to retire into the woods.
  10. Doing enemas is not so hard and has a purifying effect.  It was part of the program.  Every morning, when we asked other program atendees: "how was your coffee this morning?" the meaning was very different from what you would imagine, we all had to go through vaman (vomiting salty warm water) and coffee enemas in the morning.  And let me tell you, they do purify you to a level I never suspected.
  11. Pranayama in the morning is powerful, especially after using the neti pot and the string to clear the sinuses.
  12. The mysore rug (or fabric mat on top of the sticky mat) is indeed necessary in warm weather
  13. It is hot in Thailand
  14. There is nothing wrong with living like a yogi in a five star hotel type of accomodation like they have at Yoga Thailand. In fact I loved it.
  15. Practicing very early in the morning in order to adjust other students later is very hard.  On the days I was supposed to adjust I would practice at 3:30 or 4:00. This is a real effort, it gave me a whole new appreciation for Mysore teachers.  To you guys out there, thank you!
  16. Adjusting students is all about getting in there, keeping it real, asking for permission, and creating trust.  And of course having a deep understanding of what we are doing to ensure we add value.
  17. Adjusting/teaching other students is a privilege
  18. I can work on backbends for much longer and much harder than I think.
  19. Swimming in the middle of the ocean can indeed be a scary proposition.  One day they took us to another island and we stopped in the open ocean to go for a swim.  I had never felt so vulnerable in such a large and vast body of water. Scary.
  20. The full moon over the ocean is the most beautiful sight I have ever seen
  21. Most yogis are looking for love, the real thing
  22. Three of the women in the teacher training got married after it and within 2 years.
  23. Having a massage and a steam bath is conducive to good vibrations and heals joints.
  24. Paul Dallaghan is a fantastic teacher and yogi, real, down to earth, knowledgable
  25. Sthira Suhakam Asanam is Patanjali's advise on asana, it should be steady and comfortable.  And he does not elaborate, that is pretty much all he says about asanas.
  26. Asteyaway from what does not  belong to you. The third yama is "non-stealing" or "asteya".  We had to memorize them all for a test so I came up with this nemotechnich rule, thought of it as "astey-away" in order to remember it...
  27. Thailand's selection of fake Louis Viton bags is incredible, they sell the exact thing for less than 5 dollars in every street.  However, being a true yogi limits the business options, one cannot steal as per 27 above, so buying them with the idea of re-selling (as I am not interested in these bags at all, never was never will), was not an option.  A yogi is a yogi. May the force be with us
  28. Ko Samui's supermarket is crazy. One day we all pooled our resources, hired a car and went to Tesco's, the only big supermarket in the island. We were craving strong tea, coffee and chocolate, and so off we went!. It was shocking to see how loud and disorienting a supermarket of this proportion (with a mall attached to it) can be after weeks living quietly by the ocean.
  29. In Thailand there is a fruit that is illegal because it stinks so much, so it is not cool to eat it on, say, a bus.  It is known as the "stinky" fruit.  I did not like the taste one bit, although I must admit it was not as bad as I imagine it would be.
  30. The dragon fruit tastes just like a kiwi, and I liked it
  31. Drinking a fruit juice a day makes my heart smile and the body shine
  32. Nutrition is perhaps one of the most important things for a yogi. Eating right helps in all other aspects of life.  I was lucky enough to have a birthday while at the training and a yogini living next to my room bought the book (below) as a present.  Tried many of their recipes and they are delicious.  My favorite ones are those that use coconut milk.  And their chocolate balls are amazing.


    1. Hey Claudia, I love this post!

      What is a coffee enema???

      I like that you say yogis are looking for love... the real thing. I think that's exactly why we all do this...

    2. Same question as Christina: What is the coffee enema?

    3. Christina and Roselil, a coffee Nema is just an enema that it is done with coffee... We used disposable bags that we bought ere very affordably... I put a link here to the ones that are easily accessible in e us.

      So, in the morning we filled the bag with coffee, once it was not so hot, obviously, or I would cool it by mixing it with a bit of cold water... Ann the do the thing... I know is sounds ewwwy, but anyone who hess this thoughts should try it for two reasons, one to notice that every thought we have about it is just an exaggeration, and two to realize how full of it we can be hee

    4. Ok, cannot post the link but searching in amazon under enema kits will show them

    5. Hello Claudia,
      is the stinky fruit in no. 29 durian, by any chance? I actually like it a lot, though it's almost impossible to get it in this country.

      I like dragon fruit too :-)

    6. Hi Nobel, that sounds right, yep I think that was the name, durian. And true I think it is nowhere to be found in America. I also like the dragon fruit, its like a ginourmous kiwi... Pretty to look at too, and it took me a while to figure out how to open it!

    7. I wonder if they have durian in NYC's Chinatown?

    8. Nobel...I believe they do have durian's in NYC Chinatown...I know they do in Brooklyn's Chinatown.

      Coffee enemas are great and very healing to the liver.

    9. A useful list for one, like myself, who's tentatively planning on finally taking the plunge into teacher training next year (most likely residential but probably not quite so far away as Thailand).

      But 3:30-4:00?! That's what I called "very late at night," not "very early in the morning"...but, I guess maybe that's something that could change...

    10. Anon, that is interesting I never saw it in Chinatown and will check the next time I am there...

      YogaforCynics, so many options for tt? right? another possibility I was looking into was Richard Freeman in Boulder Colorado, but it was full already... 3:30 is a late night? oh dear! I don't think I can stay awake pass 8:30 PM...

    11. my raw food friends eat durian and they can find it in Vegas, I think Ive seen it at Whole Foods, so Im sure you can find it in Chinatown.

      Fun post!

    12. Thank you Laura, and I will check Whole Foods... maybe it is less stinky here in the US? nah, that could not possible be right? curious now...

    13. when I saw it at Whole Foods it was wrapped up tight! I believe my friends say it smells like stinky feet.

    14. HA HA HA, that is funny, stinky feet... If I find it I promise to smell it for the good of all of us in the blogosphere...

    15. I related to #6, I live in a version of "paradise" myself and I end up missing NYC a lot of the time!

      Would love an exotic retreat tho, need to keep looking for the right one.

      Great list!

    16. Claudia,
      Allow me to spout a platitude here: That which is not stinky is not durian. Or, to put it another way: A durian by any other name would smell as stinky.

      The thing is, if you actually get over the smell and put it in your mouth for, say, 21 times, it actually starts to taste good.

      Unfortunately, the nearest Whole Foods is more than 3 hours away from where I am (in St. Paul, MN). So yes, Claudia, if you would smell (and maybe even taste) the durian on behalf of all of us, you would be doing us (in particular, me) a great favor!

    17. Thanks Loo, and there are so many options these days, so many paradise places, so little time!

      Nobel, you have me cracking up, 21 times ha? you actually have done experiments on this, I take it... I am on a mission Nobel, I WILL taste it... oh dear!

    18. Thanks Claudia. I hope your mission is successful.

      21 is a number I made up. You know how it's supposed to be a magic number? For example, they say that if you can work out for 21 consecutive days, then you are quite likely to stick to it...

      The thing is, I really don't know what it's like to not like durians: I've been eating durians for as long as I can remember (not so much in the last few years, since it is hard to find in this country), and I have never not liked it.

      But I just looked up "durian" on wikipedia, and found some very colorful descriptions of it. I thought I'd share them with all of you:

      The American chef Anthony Bourdain says of his first encounter with durian:

      "Its taste can only be described as...indescribable, something you will either love or despise. ...Your breath will smell as if you'd been French-kissing your dead grandmother."

      The food writer Richard Sterling says:

      "its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia."

      Are you sure you still want to embark on this mission, Claudia?

    19. Nobel, that is fascinating, the fruit really can awaken some passions in the chefs that come across them... I do indeed think i will keep the mission even after reading all that, I am travelling next week but the next time I am near the Whole Foods after practice I will venture and look for it, that is, if they have it in Columbus Circle... we shall see if Manhattan people offer enough demand that they carry it... stay tunned...

    20. Claudia

      Great that u were able to document all the unusual things your learned in a Teachers Training .Keep it up .

    21. Hi Claudia,
      I just stumble upon your blog today and I love it!!  That's awesome you had a teacher training at Koh Samui in Thailand. (I'm from Trang, Thailand) 

      I am just about to start my teacher training this fall, but  will probably get my training here in Tempe, AZ (how ironic! i want a teacher training in thailand too lol) , since I am still going to grad school here and afraid that I won't have time for yoga teacher training once I started working.  

      Anyway, just want to let you know that your blog is very inspiring and informative! perfect for a new student like me


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