Deepening My Practice at Nomad’s 200-Hour TTC

 

The lessons I carry with me from my 200-hour teacher training course (TTC) at Nomad Yoga in Hoi An, Vietnam, are priceless. I learned that to have a lifelong practice you must bring yoga into all aspects of your life, honor the teachings, and have gratitude for the lessons. So much of what I learned about philosophy and mindfulness resonated with the way I try to live.

The purpose of yoga is to have control over your mind and be able to disengage from the outside world and release your senses. Yoga is when the mind is quiet, not at all distracted, and fully energized. Once we reach this state of calm we can we can experience union and harmony within ourselves. By reaching this balanced state we’re able to prevent misery, despair, and suffering before it arrives because we’ve reached a total equilibrium inside our inner being. Here’s my reflections on deepening my practice at Nomad Yoga’s 200-hour TTC.

WHY I WANTED TO DO YOGA TEACHER TRAINING

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I’ve been practicing yoga for over a decade and was eager to deepen my discipline and understanding of the sacred yogic wisdom as I truly believe it is a tool to create a healthier and happier life. When I entered the 200-hour TTC at Nomad Yoga I wasn’t sure if I actually wanted to teach or if I simply wanted to work on my own self-practice. About halfway through the course, when we began to train on how to teach a class and create our own routines, I fell in love with the idea of teaching yoga to others.

Sharing my practice gives me a sense of calm and complete gratitude which can’t be replicated. During the 200-hour TTC, I had the chance to practice teaching my fellow classmates as well as lead a class for patrons of Nomad Yoga at sunrise by the beach in which the proceeds went to a local charity. My aspiration is to share my practice with women’s empowerment charities as I travel or host community classes where people make a $5 donation that goes to select local charities.

YES, YOU CAN DO A YOGA TEACHER TRAINING COURSE

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TTC is for everyone. Your flexibility, experience with yoga, and age are irrelevant. All you need is the desire to learn and explore yoga. I truly believe that yoga is a tool for healing and is a medicine we can all benefit from. Whether or not you’re interested in becoming a yoga teacher, a 200-hour TTC will help you delve deeper into mindful living and improve your overall health—especially at Nomad Yoga which is located in the lovely Hoi An, Vietnam, a dream destination for mindful living.

The 200-hour TTC is intense. The days are long, sometimes 10 hours or more, and the coursework challenges you personally to confront your inner demons and cultivate change. A 200-hour TTC goes well beyond the physical aspect of yoga—this is where the value in the course lays. On our continued journey through life, yoga can only increase the quality of our time here on Earth.

WHAT YOU NEED TO BRING TO YOGA TEACHER TRAINING

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Like Nomad Yoga, most TCC are all-inclusive of meals during training days so you don’t need to fret about cooking. As far as what to pack is concerned, you’ll be in the classroom almost constantly and when you’re not, you’ll be self-practicing at home. What you really need are comfortable clothes to practice in and maybe two or three outfits for other activities such as group dinners or outings.

WHY I CHOSE NOMAD YOGA IN HOI AN, VIETNAM

It’s no secret that I’m in love with Hoi An. From the fascinating history, beautiful culture, Vietnamese vegan food, pristine beaches, and a strong sense of community amongst expats and locals it’s felt like my home-away-from-home since I first visited in June of 2017. Many of the lifelong friends I made practiced at Nomad Yoga so when I had the chance to experience and join the community myself, I jumped at the opportunity.

Natalie Prete has been in Vietnam for over a decade and founded the yoga sanctuary in 2016. Her goal was to bring yoga practice to Hoi An while also creating employment opportunities for Indian and Vietnamese yoga teachers. Natalie herself completed yoga teacher training courses in India and in Nepal. Nomad Yoga also offers yoga classes in Vietnamese in order to make sure that the yoga studio is a welcome place for all. Community classes fundraise for local charities that support animals and education projects. I admire Natalie’s dedication to her adopted community and wanted to support her work by participating in her TCC course. Natalie and the Nomad Yoga’s manager, Lanie, are always available for students should they have questions or just want to chat about things that have come up during the training.

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Nomad Yoga offers many TCC throughout the year and keeps groups small, usually less than 12 people. April was the perfect time to do the course as the weather was warm but not scorching and there was hardly any rain. The studio and TCC building are located centrally in Hoi An making it easy to explore in free time by foot or by taking a Grab out to the beach.

At the time of publishing, the 200-hour course fee is $2,700 and includes tuition, materials, accommodation,  three vegan Vietnamese meals 5 days a week, weekly kirtan, and unlimited drop-in classes to other practices such as Yin, Yang, and Vinyasa. Occasionally there are discounts up to $300 off of the TCC so be sure to follow Nomad Yoga on social media to learn about any upcoming promotions. Most of the beautiful wall art at Nomad Yoga were painted by traveling muralist Jodie Subachu.

PHILOSOPHY OF YOGA COURSE

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Vibhu is from Bangalore, India taught our philosophy of yoga course, and the afternoon Hatha practices. I loved learning more about the origin of yoga. I learned a lot from Vibhu and I enjoyed his perception that “you aren’t the content of your mind, you’re the witness.” This is a new train of thought for me as an intellectual conversation is my preferred way of learning. I do not believe that a logical mind isn’t a yogic mind—intellectuals can and should be yogis! We are in need of the practice to help us clear our minds and focus on inner peace, which Vibhu helped me learn how to tap into. He also led our mantra classes where we learned to chant sacred hymns in Sanskrit. Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu is Sanskrit for “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom for all.”

As I shared on Instagram, one of my favorites is the Jyothi Mantra which is said before a Hatha practice:

Asato ma sat gamaya
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya
Mryityor ma amritam gamaya

Lead me from the unreal to the real
Lead me from the darkness towards the light
Lead me from death to immortality

Much of what we learned about the philosophy of yoga aligned with what we learned about Vietnamese Buddhism and meditation through the preaching of Thich Nhat Hanh—but much clashed as well. It’s up to each of us to decide which manifestos align with our personal beliefs and way of living. I did plenty of my own further research beyond the classroom and have kept up with my learning by reading Chant and Be Happy and the Bhagavad Gita As It Is. I’ve also kept the Philosophy of Yoga pamphlet Vibhu created for us which is a wealth of information. What’s shared here is just a small fraction of what I learned about yoga during the Nomad Yoga 200-hour TTC. It’s impossible to summarize the wealth of knowledge and understanding I gained during the month-long course, but I’ve done my best to share the highlights with you here. Yoga is a lifelong education.

THE HISTORY OF YOGA

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Yoga has been practiced for over 5,000 years in India by those who seek a more harmonious and peaceful existence. This lifestyle has been helping individuals be more mindful much longer than most modern religions with the sole purpose of a purer consciousness. According to my yoga 200-hour TTC at Nomad Yoga, yoga transcends any religion or culture. Yoga is for everyone in the universe.

Hindu Vedas state that yoga was revealed by Lord Shiva and his wife Shakti to bright students who weren’t allowed to write down or share the teachings. Lord Shiva represents cosmic creative energy and was the first yogi and guru. Of course, there are many other theories about the origins of yoga such as in the Bhagavad Gita where Lord Krishna reveals yoga.

WHAT IS YOGA?

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Yoga is not about exercise. It isn’t even about the poses. Yoga literally means union. The union occurs between the body, the mind, and the breath. Without breath, yoga is just a workout. With the breath, yoga becomes a path to harmonize the body, mind, and spirit and tap into a deeper understanding of oneself and life itself.

We also studied the yogic philosophy teachings from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. I learned a lot from this part of the training. I struggle with the concept that all pleasure is pain. Is there truly no happiness that is pleasurable from beginning to end? I loved the way of looking at memory as what we can’t let go of. It makes sense to me to try to live a life that is unattached and focuses on letting go, although this is incredibly challenging for me personally.

I actively try to remove the 5 types of kleshas, or suffering, from my life. These are avidya (ignorance), asmita (ego), raga (craving), dwesha (hate), and abhinivesha (fear). Clearly, some of these are easier to remove than others. Many humans suffer from anxiety, the fear of death, focusing on wants not needs, and so on. I’m not immune to these things—it’s likely you, dear reader, aren’t either.

The Bhagavad Gita is the most famous yogic text and was skilfully introduced to our class by Vibhu. We discussed the concept of karma. Previously I thought that karma was ‘what goes around comes around’ but Vihbu taught me karma is the law of cause and effect. We can be released from karma only when we do not react to situations whether they be happy or sad. That’s when we reach Nirvana, the state of blessedness.

HATHA YOGA

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There are five principal kinds of yoga which include hatha (physical), jnana (knowledge) bhakti (love), karma (work), and rajah (mystical experience). The majority of our physical yoga practice during the 200-hour TTC was a Hatha practice taught by Vibhu in the afternoon and by Deep in the morning. Deep came from Rishikesh to share his knowledge with us at Nomad Yoga in Hoi An, Vietnam. Hatha yoga is meant to purify the energy channels.

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Although it was an early start each morning which began with a neti-pot for cleansing I truly looked forward to the mornings with Deep at Nomad Yoga. He is an excellent teacher and often share with us his own path to yoga and the way it’s benefited his life. Deep took time to show us the proper stance for different asanas and challenged us to attempt postures that were new to us—making everything light and joyful along the way. He is truly a light to be around!

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Vibhu’s Hatha yoga classes in the afternoon were shared with public Nomad Yoga students. He did an excellent job of helping us learn the practice while still providing guidance and direction to the public students in the classes. Vibhu’s voice for meditation and kirtan is pure magic—he can turn a cloudy day into a sunny one purely through his chanting. I really enjoyed his classes as throughout the routine he’d remind us not to take it seriously and to move through the practice with a smile on our faces.

With both teachers, we learned how to perfect our sun salutations and warrior poses as well as the meaning and importance of each asana.

ASHTANGA YOGA

The philosophy of yoga coursework with Vibhu also the eight limbs of yoga from the Ashtanga practice which was founded in Mysore, India. The eight limbs of yoga are yama (restraint), niyama (observance), asana (postures), pranayama (regulation of breath), pratyahara (food for the mind), dharma (focus), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (consciousness).

Each is further broken down which makes them easier to understand. To paraphrase, yama is about actions such as being non-violent (vegan/waste-free lifestyle), truthful, never stealing, only having what you need. These are considered restraints, but for me, they’re the natural way of living—except celibacy! Niyamas are also about behavior—being clean, happy, faithful, and studious.

You’re probably already familiar with asanas as they’re the most well-known aspect of yoga outside of India. This beyond the physical posture. It’s more about being steady and uniting the body, mind, and soul. Pranayama is also practiced by many yogis—and should be practiced by all! Prana is energy, and the breathing exercises help energy to flow through the body which enhances your yoga practice. The breathing exercises I learned at Nomad Yoga are absolutely life-changing and I find myself using them on a day to day basis to bring peace and clarity into my life. My favorite pranayamas are alternate nostril breathing and the bumblebee pranayama.

Throughout the week we had Ashtanga practices with the ever-smiling Deep who came from Rishikesh to share his knowledge with us at Nomad Yoga in Hoi An, Vietnam. Ashtanga yoga takes a lot of strength over the course of the 200-hour TCC we moved into more advanced asanas.

MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS COURSE

My absolute favorite part of the Nomad Yoga 200-hour TTC were mindfulness and meditation classes with Victoria. Victoria is the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants who grew up in Canada but returned to her homeland to develop her business, Yoga in Vietnam and expand her own practice. I related to Victoria a lot through many similar shared experiences and was endlessly inspired by her ability to overcome hardships and create a path to peace in her life despite outside circumstances.

Victoria led us through many practical exercises to explore that endless forms of meditation and shared many lessons with us from Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. I was vaguely familiar with his prose prior to my YTT at Nomad Yoga, and now I can’t get enough. I was very moved by the Five Mindfulness Trainings. In a caption on an Instagram post, I shared that I cried as we read them. I’d never seen my morals and the way of life I aspire to achieve written in words. I felt seen, validated, and hopeful that there are other people on Earth who aspire to live in a similar way. I have a lot of work to do, but as Victoria says, yoga teachings are a life-long practice and learning never ends. I’d never before read a manifesto that so deeply aligned with my own way of living—reverence for life, true happiness, true love, loving speech and deep listening, nourishment and healing. I dream of going to Plum Village to take the pledge that I will live according to these trainings.

We also learned about various mudra’s—the placement of the hands during meditation, and what purpose they serve. Our coursework includes discussions about the five remembrances, the five poisons which cause suffering, Buddha’s four noble truths and eightfold path. We discussed collective consciousness and vicarious trauma. As an empathetic person who often takes on work that is triggering, I related to this lesson Victoria shared from Vietnamese Buddhist monk and Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. “What is most important is not to allow your anxiety about what happens in the world to fill your heart. If your heart is filled with anxiety, you will get sick, and you will not be able to help.” We weren’t wired to be exposed to such mass suffering. Technological advancements and social media have allowed us to keep up with world events by the second. Sometimes, it’s all too much. I know, I feel this way often.

I used to think it was incredibly privileged and selfish to filter triggering news and couldn’t stand to be around people who didn’t care about what was happening around the globe. After all, the people who are actually suffering from horrible situations can’t just opt-out. I’ve learned that I can’t be a changemaker if I don’t step away when I feel myself spiraling out and giving up hope on humanity. But, I always come back. Take that breath. Sign off social media for a few days. Know what self-love practices can lift you from the darkness. But don’t stay in La La land. It’s not reality. Ignorance may be bliss but it won’t lead to a fulfilling and meaningful life. I realize this sentiment may not be altogether the most yogi thing to say but first and foremost I’m an impact journalist.

ANATOMY AND ALIGNMENT COURSE

Going into the 200-hour TTC at Nomad Yoga I though anatomy would be my least favorite aspect of the course as I was concerned all the terms would be beyond my understanding. The anatomy and alignment courses were taught my Victor who is French-American and has taught yoga around the globe. While this did feel like the most studious aspect of the course—I surprised myself by actually enjoying what Victor taught us.

Understanding the systems of the body and placement of muscles, bones, ligaments, etc. has helped me to enhance my posture in a way that protects my body while also getting the most benefit from the asanas. Victor was very patient and made the coursework comprehensible. Much of what we learned was very hands-on—either by using a mock skeleton or by using our own bodies of examples. I’m a visual learner and benefited from this greatly.

Victor also taught us about the chakras which I was eager to learn about. From the top of our heads to our pelvis we have 7 chakras which each represent different feelings and elements. The crown chakra is bliss, third eye can be anger or awareness, throat chakra can be grief or gratitude, heart chakra can be hate or love, solar plexus chakra can be jealousy or joy, sacral chakra can be creativity or not, and the root chakra is enthusiasm or indifference.

PRACTICE TEACHING

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Of course, all of these lessons came together in our practice teaching. We worked with all of our teachers throughout the second half of the TCC to develop our own sequences and learn how to share it with others. My sequence included the asana Malasana in Sanskrit or Garland in English. Also known as the Asian Squat, I find this pose incredibly difficult! I used to not even be able to put my feet flat on the ground. In this photo, My booty should be lower and my feet should be more aligned from the heel to the toe. It’s fantastic to be able to recognize my areas of opportunity for growth.

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Deep and Vihbu helped us to understand the importance of each asana, Victoria taught us how to sequence and the importance of transitions, prompts, and peak poses, and Victor helped us to ensure our sequences made sense with the alignment of the body. It was during the practice teaching that I knew I wanted to share my practice with others. I even asked if I could write and lead a meditation for Earth Day which is something I never would have imagined I’d do. Each student taught several of their own full sequences but we also shared teaching with our peers to practice collaboration and learn from each other.

NOTHING BUT LOVE FOR NOMAD YOGA

I completed my TCC at Nomad Yoga will an impossibly full and open heart. Throughout the month I was challenged to face many difficult tasks both emotionally and physically but am a better person because of the lessons that were shared with me. The TCC was about so much more than simply perfecting poses and an experience of pure growth for me personally. My life was transformed during those 4 weeks and I continue to bring more mindfulness into my life each day based on the knowledge which was shared with me during the Nomad Yoga 200-hour TTC.