Becoming a yogi in Ecuador

In November last year we travelled to Ecuador where we stayed for a month while I took part in the 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training hosted at Casa Del Sol in Montañita. YTT has been on my list of goals for a long time and when a window of opportunity opened up at the end of last year I knew it was my chance. This blog is not so much about the spiritual growth I experienced, though that was certainly a by-product of becoming a teacher, but a guide for what to expect and a review of the school I chose.

The course is delivered by Cheryl Oliver who owns and operates Authentic Yoga Teacher Training based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Cherly was supported by Scott Pope, another Arizona based teacher and Tamara, an experienced yoga teacher who manages Yoga Montañita and Casa Del Sol. Both Cheryl and Scott are seasoned yogis having been practising and teaching for some 20 years. For those familiar with yoga lineage, both are just four steps removed from the renowned Indian yoga teacher and Sanskrit scholar, Pattabhi Jois who developed and popularized the vinyāsa style of yoga referred to as Ashtanga Yoga.  It was great to have three really experienced teachers each with very different styles.

Cheryl is also qualified in vedic chanting so the first hour of each day is filled with chanting a selection of the yoga sutras followed by unpacking and discussing the philosophy behind each one. I found these discussions particularly interesting and helpful. Most people assume yoga is about the physical classes of asanas (postures) but there is so much more to the practise, which you come to learn as the weeks progress.

The course was an intensive which meant six days a week for four weeks. Typically the days ran from 9am until 4:30pm Monday to Friday, then 9am to 1pm on Saturdays. That said, by week two you begin preparing to teach your group classes and eventually your solo class so the evenings are quickly consumed with practising and supporting your fellow yogis in training.

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The elation after teaching my first solo class

If you’re considering YTT you must go with an open mind and be prepared to receive constructive feedback and not take it personally. Four weeks goes by really quickly and the objective of the teachers is to provide you with as much information as possible in a really a short period of time so that you walk away with the ability to teach a safe and effective class. I love feedback as I see it as an opportunity to learn and grow, but I’m an HR practitioner so that comes with the territory. If you’re someone who is quite sensitive and finds constructive criticism uncomfortable then you may find it challenging at times but if you simply shift your mindset and take the feedback as guidance ultimately you will become a more effective teacher.

Be prepared to be practising no less than two to three classes per day in between theory and pose clinics. It can be exhausting and most people experienced aches and pains at some point throughout the course. I recommend that you go into the course having practised regularly in the months/years leading up to it (by regularly I mean four to six times a week ideally, but certainly more than once a week). It will certainly benefit your experience but there is no requirement. Yoga is inclusive and therefore anyone is capable. I myself had not been practising for a year prior to the course due to living in rural Uganda.

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Casa Del Sol

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the yoga shala

Casa Del Sol closes to the public for the duration of the YTT course and the whole place turns into a little yoga community of like minded people. I had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful people from all over the world. Casa Del Sol is on the point and therefore far enough away from the riff raff and noise of Montañita but close enough that you can walk in to town along the beach. It’s also a great surf spot.

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Breakfast and lunch is included and is vegetarian or vegan. The breakfasts varied each morning and for lunches they had a Canadian chef who flew in for the month and prepared a variety of delicious meals each day. Dinners at Casa Del Sol are optional but general pretty good and reasonably priced. Alternatively there’s a restaurant opposite called Shanka which does great sushi, Thai food and some burgers (watch out for the sand flies that appear around dusk). Montañita town is also full of plenty of restaurants.

YTT is an individual experience, each aspiring yogi will undergo a transformation in their own unique way. I thoroughly enjoyed my YTT experience, everything from the teachers and the shala, to the accommodation and food and of course my inspiring fellow students. I highly recommend anyone who is interested in an intensive YTT course consider Yoga Montañita at Casa Del Sol.

Like most things we undertake in life, the key to yoga is consistent and sustained practise. One thing Cheryl said that will stay with me was “There will be days when you don’t feel like practising. Do it anyway.”

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