The first thing I ask my students when I see their bright, curious faces for the first time is, “How do you want to change the world?”
A bit of a daunting question for the first day of a residential yoga teacher training, but I am totally sincere.
It’s no easy task to leave your home country for a month, or more, delving deeply into all things yoga. But during a residential training, that’s what we do. I have taught in-studio trainings in major cities, and yes, they are life changing. But a yoga training overseas is a whole other ball game.
When you are forced to leave behind your comforts, culture, relationships, and everything that is familiar, it can be awfully scary. But it is the opportunity of a life time to profoundly change your life. And when you change your life, you change the world.
What makes a residential so different?
Leaving everything behind means you are giving yourself 100% of your attention, deservedly so.
When you have the time to step back and raise consciousness on all levels, you are creating space. And with space, you create choices. Choices on how to change the way you think, process, communicate, behave. These are always areas that students want to improve.
Yoga becomes a 24/7 practice.
The invitation to be mindful, and consequently, the mirror being held up is endless: during asana, living with roommates, acclimating to different food/ bed/cultures, coping with being home sick, etc. You are forced to be (and stay) present and be open to possibility. There is no leaving at the end of the day to resume your normal habits, as you would if you were back at home. You are asked to show up and be different. You are asked to practice yoga in every moment.
Living together means you are fully immersed in your practice, and so is everyone else.
This is powerful because such consistency means there’s no slacking off! You have ample time to wrestle ideas with your peers, teachers are around and available almost 24/7. This kind of focus means personal transformation is hugely profound and goes much deeper than if you came and went. It can be a rude awakening for some and not everyone wants to go so deeply. Not everyone is prepared, willing and able to face their worst demons and use yoga to navigate themselves through. But if you are committed to your practice on all levels then the growth edge you discover is empowering!
Therefore, it’s more than just a teacher training; it’s a life training, a spiritual journey.
Peers instantly become your family and there is an unspoken insistence that each participant do his or her part to make the group circle alive, fluid, supportive and inclusive of everyone. The energy field that is created is the most beautiful illustration of yoga, or “union”. With several countries being represented at a training, there is a powerful sense of Universal connection. Friendships are life-long. The commitment to serve others is one common theme.
Residential trainings also mean time spent constructively in the off time.
Karma yoga through practice teaching in the community becomes a fun and heart felt way to give back to those less privileged, and also allows the opportunity to practice being the teacher in a less threatening environment. Evening meditations and yoga nidra help to balance a day of asana, lectures and labs. Time is also allocated towards silence and being alone to further help absorb and assimilate the material. At home, you would normally go home to your family, computer, job, etc. which are fast and easy distractions.
Residential trainings offer an international experience.
This is an added bonus because it means you are exposed to different perspectives and cultures and different ways of looking at things. This is a good thing, even if it means there is a world view in direct opposition to yours. It forces you to think outside your box, or to even notice that there is a box that exists. Taking you out of your normal and familiar environment means taking you out of your skin, giving you the opportunity to think, act, and be something else. The changes and transformation are endless.
I call it a “yoga training plus” because we don’t learn just how to teach asana, but more importantly, how to be an effective agent of change in the world-as a yoga teacher, partner, parent or friend. Such discovery requires going deeply into stillness and removing personal obstacles to access our greatest gifts.
Yoga teacher trainings are a dime a dozen, and not all are created equally. Choosing the right one should be based on what kind of experience you want out of it. After all, it’s a huge investment of time, energy and money.
What kind of experience are you looking for?
About the Author
Alicia Cheung is a YogaWorks teacher trainer and has taught residential trainings in Thailand, Hawaii and Bali. In addition, she is an acupuncturist, herbalist, cranial sacral therapist and mother. For information about her residential courses, please go to www.yogaworks.com or www.aliciacheung.org.