25 Mar A student perspective on Wise Living Yoga Academy’s 500hr Yoga Teacher Training immersion
It’s quite amazing how perspective works- how time and space from a situation can change how you see it so immensely. But with time and space comes clarity- just as when you step back from a painting, you can see the whole picture fully.
I guess this is my whole-picture view of my time at Wise Living Yoga Academy.
I remember when I first started yoga, walking into a hot flow class and being absolutely blown away by the words the teacher spoke. Somehow she managed to inspire everyone of her students, and afterwards, several people talked outside the room about how great her teachings were. The instructor spoke simple philosophy throughout the class that everyone in the room could connect to. I remember that distinct moment as when I aspired to be a yoga instructor- so that I could inspire other people in that way.
A year before coming to the ashram, I completed my 200 hour training back home in Canada. Learning an incredible amount about the human body, I taught asanas for a few months before coming to a standstill with my teaching, as I found that there was something missing from my practice. I felt like I had a lot of knowledge of the physical practice of yoga, but not enough of the spiritual, and that was what I craved to share so badly. For this reason, I wanted to come to a place where I could learn more about the spiritual side to the practice, and I sought out a school.
One thing that set Wise Living apart right away from the other schools I looked into was its promotion of veganism. Being a vegan myself, it’s sometimes hard to find places that would accommodate my diet, but having veganism being taught within the curriculum itself was something that I had never heard of and it intrigued me. I later learned how my diet can play an important role in living a yogic lifestyle.
This led me to coming to Thailand myself and attending the 500 hour program.
If I could narrow down the first few weeks of my studies here to a couple of words, I would have to go with “overwhelmingly beautiful”. Here’s why:
Overwhelming: The more I studied at the ashram, the more I came to realise that there’s just so much more to learn than I ever could’ve originally anticipated. Our teacher Jeenal did a wonderful job of breaking down concepts that are intricate and weave them into one another so that we have a blanket understanding of philosophy and lifestyle. But underneath this blanket of understanding, lies a whole world of paths to study from so many ancient lineages. It was a lot to take in at first.
Beautiful: I can’t talk about the ashram without mentioning how incredibly beautiful the environment is. Tucked away in rural Thailand, with mountains all around us, we lived in a tropical paradise. The nature we saw all around us helped us to understand how everything is connected. The fresh whole food meals we ate every day helped us appreciate the soil they came from. Being able to actually practice the yogic lifestyle while learning about it allowed us to see for ourselves the benefits, as we got stronger in body and mind.
The Study and Practice:
I also feel like I can’t talk about my experience without talking about Swamiji. About halfway through the course, we got a special month-long visit by Jeenal’s teacher, Swami Abhishek Chaitanya Giri, the head monk of the Vedantic lineage in India, and our whole course changed. Day and night, we studied ancient yogic and Vedantic texts with him. If I learned one thing from his teachings, its to question everything, and to use logic and reason for a bases of your knowledge. This is the part of the course where our study and understanding of the Sanskrit language grew, and I began to really appreciate it as a language of light and understanding.
I am also so appreciative of the inclusiveness of our teachers (both Jeenal and Swamiji) for sharing with us so much of their culture and heritage. Numerous times we gathered together to celebrate Hindu holidays and rituals, watching and participating in chants and practices. I remember distinctly having a feeling of being at home as I watched everyone run around the ashram, helping in the preparations of the celebrations, as if somehow we were some big family sharing the holidays together.
As we continued to follow the diet, we started to reap the benefits. Eating so many fresh cooked meals everyday with such a variety in ingredients and spices, I noticed my nails getting shinier and stronger, my hair became softer and my palate adjusted so I appreciated flavours more. Our diet was not only vegan but Ayurvedic, and during the course we got to participate in making our own food according to our body type. This has carried with me upon my return home, and has helped me now to pick foods that will benefit me the most.
Coming to Wise Living Yoga has benefits that reach far beyond just what we learn on the mat (or cushion for that matter, as we took most of our lessons crossed legged on the floor). The people that come to the ashram all have the same focus of increasing their yogic practice, so by being around them all the time, I found myself growing so much more spiritually. I found that because the people there were dedicated to making the experience they had there a good one, it was a lot easier to appreciate all that we had. We all adapted our behaviour to best serve ourselves in the study and there’s something truly magical about that- each person supporting each other through their dedication to learn.
As the course continued, I also found myself having so many deep and powerful conversations with people. When you get a group of people together from all walks of life, you always have something cool to learn about another person- whether it is just witnessing a cool talent they have, or having them help you with some challenge or hardship.
In the course of two months, I got the privilege of participating in cacao ceremonies, full moon circles, divination card readings, drama therapy workshops, and thai massage, all from the talented and brilliant people who participated in the program with me. I remember countless times losing my breath from laughing so hard, being surrounded by numerous people all doing the same. It’s experiences like these where real connection happens, where the magic of the ashram becomes manifest, and where memories are made.
Overall, my experience at Wise Living Yoga Academy was life-changing to say the least. Coming to this academy has helped me grow my confidence in teaching, and find depth in my practice. Summing up two very important and experience-filled months in one blog is mind-boggling, but sometimes pointing out the meaning behind the most important sections can help build an overall picture of the experience, even if it leaves room for imagination. But I guess leaving room for imagination can create the beauty we seek in art sometimes, so hopefully this does just that.
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Tavia is a 500hr certified Yoga Teacher, an inspiring artist and designer and creator of her very own tarot deck. She is a dedicated student of Yoga and shares her practice in her community with an emphasis on Yoga philosophy and lifestyle.