If you’re considering doing a yoga teacher training course it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the vast number of courses available. These courses are big business, and without doing proper research it can be difficult to ensure that you’re choosing the right one for you.
I’ve recently completed my 200 hour yoga teacher training course at Sampoorna Yoga in Goa, India. I had a life changing experience there and couldn’t be happier that I chose Sampoorna out of the thousands of options. While I was there and since I’ve come back I’ve had quite a few questions from people considering doing a similar course there or elsewhere. I’ve tried to make this post as practical as possible by answering all the questions I’ve had and have thought about all the things I wanted to know before I started. It’s quite lengthy so may be pretty boring for anyone not interested in yoga teacher training, but for those of you that are, I hope you find this useful! I’ve split the information into the following sections:
- The Course (style, schedule, teachers, students, exam)
The course: style
One of the most important things to consider is the style of yoga that you want to train in. Ashtanga and vinyasa flow are my favourite styles, and Sampoorna’s course is a blend of the two so this was one of the main reasons I was initially attracted to it. In my opinion, any vinyasa flow teacher should have a good understanding of ashtanga as that is what it originated from. Yes, ashtanga is traditional, restrictive and physically challenging (non-stop chatturangas!) but it is a great foundation upon which to build your practice.
I was also attracted to Sampoorna because there was a good amount of physical asana practice compared to some schools which focus a lot more on the theory side (though there was still enough theory at Sampoorna). While I wanted to learn everything about being a yoga teacher, theory included, I also really wanted to advance my physical yoga practice so the amount of ashtanga, vinyasa flow classes and posture clinics were perfect for me.
Another thing that was important to me was the style of school. Although I wanted to train in India I wanted it to be in a fairly Western environment (I definitely wasn’t ready for an ashram style setting) and Sampoorna had the perfect balance for me.
The course: schedule
If anyone says how lucky you are to be having a month’s holiday in India you can politely tell them where to go! Just to be clear, a yoga teacher training course is NOT a yoga retreat, and definitely not a holiday. You will be worked hard, you will have early mornings, long days and 9pm bedtimes will become a daily occurrence because you are just too tired to keep your eyes open any longer. But I wouldn’t have changed it – for me I really enjoyed the intensity of it and every lesson was incredible so I looked forward to each day. To be learning so intensely about something you really love is a blessing and I was so grateful for that opportunity. And yes, you have to fit in homework and studying around the long course hours, but you can also take a 1 minute stroll and do it by the beach so it’s not all bad
Here is a rough daily schedule:
6:30am – 7:30am: Meditation
Around half of the time is spent doing pranayama exercises (kapalabhati, alternate nostril breathing, yogic breathing etc) and the rest of the time on meditation. We explored different meditation techniques over the course, including mantra meditation, sound meditation and dancing meditation (you’re in for a real treat with that one!). And if you’re lucky, Sudhir may take you here for meditation one morning:
7:30am – 8:00am: Tea break
Tea, bananas and biscuits to fuel us through a 2 hour yoga class.
8:00am – 10:00am: Ashtanga or Vinyasa Flow class
Always challenging but in the best possible way!
The course starts with most mornings being ashtanga, but by the end it alternates between the two. Ashtanga is a led class at the beginning and some Mysore sessions are introduced later on.
10:00am – 11:00: Breakfast
My favourite part of the day! The porridge, papaya, pineapple and homemade gluten free museli always got me far too excited
11:00am – 1:00pm: Anatomy or Philosophy (alternated each day)
In anatomy we learnt about how the human body works with yoga asana in mind. It constantly reminded us that all bodies are anatomically different and this can have a massive impact on how different postures are performed.
Philosophy was for learning about all the non-asana aspects of yoga, the true meaning of yoga and its history. Lots of this was new information for me, and it was so nice to finally properly learn what yoga is really about (yep, it’s not just about looking pretty in a headstand).
1:00pm – 3:00pm: Lunch break
Relaxing by the beach at the beginning, and then homework and study time towards the end.
3:00pm – 4:45pm: Alignment & Adjustment or Student Teaching
The alignment and adjustment classes were so useful. We learnt the correct alignment and technique for each posture in the Ashtanga Primary Series and how to safely adjust each one.
The student teaching classes were where we learnt how to sequence vinyasa flow classes, starting by teaching very short sequences to each other at the beginning and building up to slightly longer ones at the end. A big emphasis was placed on giving each other feedback so we had something to work on.
4:45pm – 5:00pm: Tea break
More tea, bananas and biscuits
5:00pm – 6:00pm: Vinyasa Flow class or Student Teaching
6:15pm – 7:00pm: Posture clinic (approx. twice a week)
Workshops where we worked on a particular asana, such as headstands, inversions, arm balances or back bends.
7:45pm: 9:00pm – Satsang (twice a week – compulsory for one week, then optional)
An open discussion with our philosophy teacher Sudhir on different life issues.
Towards the end of the course some of the evening vinyasa flow classes are subbed for yin classes, which was just what we needed when our bodies were exhausted. Marta also gave a class on the business of teaching yoga in the last week which was really useful.
The course: teachers
The teachers were so knowledgeable and passionate about all aspects of yoga, which really gave yoga a new dimension for me. Sudhir in particular, our meditation and philosophy teacher, was so inspirational and touched upon philosophical life issues with such wisdom and understanding. I will carry his teachings with me forever, and for that I am so grateful. Eli, the anatomy and alignment teacher, teaches about the human body with such passion and made us all fall in love with anatomy, who would have thought it!
The others teachers; Marta, Jenna, Chrissie and Michaela, were equally wonderful and I am so grateful for their knowledgeable teachings. The course is extremely well run and feels so well organised and I think having excellent teachers who really care about their students was one of the main reasons for this.
The course: fellow students
Everyone was so lovely! When I was there they split us into group A and B, with about 20 students in each group, so we were separated for the asana classes, alignment classes and student teaching. Then for meditation, anatomy and philosophy we were all together. We all got on so well and it was wonderful to be surrounded by such a supportive group of people. Students come from all over the world to take the course, but lots of fellow course mates were also from the UK when I was there.
The course: exam
First of all, do not stress too much about the exam. They want everyone to pass, so don’t waste time worrying about it.
In the final week we had to teach a 25 minute vinyasa flow sequence which we received 1:1 feedback on. On the last day, there was a written exam with questions on philosophy, anatomy and asana. There was also a practical test where we had to pick an asana from a pot, recognise it from its Sanskrit name and explain the alignment, modifications, benefits, some adjustments and contraindications. And after all of that, you have your graduation…
There are different accommodation options, and I stayed in one of the new air-conditioned cottages. I was so happy with where I was staying – they were brand new, spacious, and for me air-conditioning is pretty important in the Goa heat so sometimes it was nice to just come back to your room for 5 minutes to lie in the cold! If AC isn’t that important to you though, you could stay in one of the non-AC cottages that have fans. There is also the option to share a room but I knew I wanted my own; the course is pretty full on and you are surrounded with people the whole time so sometimes it is nice to have somewhere you can be alone. There is also the option to stay off site which some people did and is cheaper. Personally, I was happy I was on site as it was closer to all the classes and meant you could shower and take a break in your room more quickly whenever you wanted. The only thing that was difficult was the wifi connection wasn’t very good.
So delicious! Meal times became my favourite part of the day. It was served buffet style, but there was always something different every day and we couldn’t believe how wonderfully creative the chefs were. For anyone thinking you may lose weight at Sampoorna as you’ll be doing yoga all day and eating healthy vegetarian food think again… the healthy vegetarian food is so good that you’ll eat double the amount you would back home because you just can’t help yourself!
Breakfast was porridge, homemade gluten free granola, tropical fruit and then a different Indian option each day. Lunch was normally salad, soup, rice and a lighter curry or vegetables. Dinner included things like salads, curries (tofu, soy, paneer, aubergine…), lentil soup, vegetables and rice. The variety was incredible, it was always a different salad, a different curry, a different soup. And sometimes we were treated to dessert too
Lots of the food was vegan and gluten free, but if the main dish wasn’t they had options for those that are on vegan/gluten free diets.
Sampoorna is on its own campus, so the accommodation, restaurant area and yoga shalas are all close by which is really convenient. The best thing about the location is that the beach is a 1 minute walk away on the other side of the road so it’s so easy to spend your lunch times and weekends by the ocean. There are lots of little shops along the main road, where you can buy souvenirs, gifts, or the obligatory hippie trousers (no idea what I’m going to do with them all now I’m back in London…). Sampoorna is located in Agonda in South Goa. It’s a peaceful little holiday town, and I much preferred it to the neighbouring town Palolem, where shopkeepers constantly hassle you and on the beach in the space of 2 minutes people tried to sell me a dolphin trip at least 4 times! In Agonda though, the shopkeepers are really friendly and there is no selling on the beach so you can peacefully relax by the sea without anyone bothering you.
I couldn’t be happier that I chose Sampoorna; it fit all the criteria that was necessary for me: it is somewhere tropical right by the beach, it has great reviews online, it is the style of yoga I wanted to train in, the food is amazing, the accommodation is good and the teachers are wonderful. I would 100% recommend Sampoorna to anyone considering doing a 200 hour teacher training course. You will have the experience of a lifetime.
A few more photos to finish…