Where we’re at: I’m recapping my summer of 2018, starting with June in New York City. In other news: sign ups are rolling in for the latest Wander Women Retreats. Egypt is waiting list only, but you can still join us in Florida!
It’s official — I’m a yoga teacher!
Graduating from my 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training at Y7 Studio last June felt like an incredibly transformative moment, something I’d been planting the seeds of for years. Making it work in my crazy schedule, committing to the financial investment, finding the right program… it took a lot of manifesting. Sitting down on my mat the first day, I couldn’t believe it was finally happening. And laying there on the final savasana of the last day, I couldn’t believe it was over.
For those that are unfamiliar, the introductory course to become a yoga teacher is often referred to as the “200HR-RYT” — two hundred hours of instruction from a trainer and with a curriculum approved by the Yoga Alliance, to become a Registered Yoga Teacher. These programs are sometimes broken into a series of weekend trainings and sometimes done in a one month immersion. In my circumstances at the time, an immersion was the only option.
I can’t remember the last time I learned so hungrily, worked my physical body so hard and so consistently, or self-reflected so thoroughly. I have so much to say about this experience after an immersive thirty days focused on my practice, my training, and learning everything from anatomy to asanas and chakras to chaturangas — buckle up for a big post!
Why I Became A Yoga Teacher
I began practicing yoga in high school and practiced on and off through college and moving to Thailand. It was when I traveled through Central America in 2015 though, that my practice really bloomed and became an important part of my daily life. Returning to Thailand that fall, I found an instructor that really became like a mentor for me and frequently attended her workshops, starting to deepen my understanding and study of the practice.
I started thinking about teacher trainings around that time. However, with a travel schedule that made my head spin, it was often hard for me to imagine how I’d carve out a full month just to focus on yoga.
It was when I first began dreaming about Wander Women Retreats that the idea of doing the training felt more practical and less self-indulgent (as if personal development, mental and physical well being, and pursuing passions weren’t reason enough – facepalm!) Why pay to bring in outside teachers to my dive retreats when I could lead classes on my own?
Somehow, 2018 became this year of investing in me and making big things happen for myself, things I’d been wanting to make happen for years and years. I launched Wander Women Retreats and my Wanderland Guide to Koh Tao. I finally got the laser vision correction I’d been talking about for a decade.
And I signed up for my yoga teacher training.
How I Chose Y7
I first attended a Y7 Studio class in August of 2016 and was instantly hooked. I loved the vibe, the unique flow structure, the sequences the confident instructors created, and of course, the signature hip hop playlists.
After visiting a friend in late 2017 at her own yoga teacher training in Koh Samui, I felt even more determined than ever to do my own. She was radiating with happiness and strength! While wonderful, a few things about her program didn’t 100% appeal to me and I realized that it was very important to me to do my training at a studio that I knew aligned with me personally.
I started seeking them out. Y7 was in the back of my mind. The teacher who was like a mentor to me recommended her own teacher trainer, who did occasional trainings also in Koh Samui, but the dates never seemed to align. I had been following the Hawaii Yoga Institute on social media for a while and loved the look of their multi-discipline trainings, which incorporated a lot of practices I loved, like SUP yoga and partner yoga. When another teacher I’d studied with and loved in Nicaragua recommended to me to look at Y7’s program, and I saw they were having a fundraising event where I’d be able to meet some of the instructor trainers, I took it as a sign from the universe.
I don’t even really remember how I finally decided between doing my training with the Hawaii Yoga Institute in Honolulu and Y7 Studio in New York (I also briefly considered doing Y7’s training in LA, though a friend’s bachelorette party ruled that out and I’m grateful, considering that training was later cancelled – the universe really guided me in the right direction, there!)
I think in the end, eager as I was to fulfill my dream of seeing what it might be like to call Hawaii home for a while, I felt reticent to sign on for a training with a school I only knew from social media and the internet – I’d never met or practiced with any of the instructors, nor visited the host studio. I had to follow the same advice that I give over and over again for those pursuing their divemaster certification, essentially the scuba world’s equivalent of the 200 hour YTT – go pick a school in person, if you can. If you can’t — well, start here.
I did get some raised eyebrows in choosing Y7. I have been blogging and sharing my life long enough to understand that doing so opens you up to other people’s opinions — and people have a lot of opinions about yoga. I respect that others may feel differently, but I believe yoga, after thriving for thousands of years and spreading to millions of followers, does not have to adhere to any one style or sensibility. Originally, women were not even allowed to practice yoga and it was restricted to men! Imagine if we didn’t allow for adaptation and change there.
I love practicing yoga in different studios and styles across the world, and am ever grateful to the founders and the culture it originated in for sparking this huge force of joy in my life — even if I chose to practice it differently than they originally did. And while Y7 might not appear to be a very spiritual practice on its face, the instructors I’ve studied under there drop a lot of dharma, are deeply knowledgeable in the roots and schools of yoga, and are yogis in every facet of their lives, in the truest sense of the word.
How I Prepared for my Yoga Teacher Training
I guess my answer is, “I didn’t,” which is kind of funny. Ha ha.
I mean, I prepared a lot logistically — clearing my work schedule and finding a place to live were no easy feats. Otherwise I kind of just kept up with my regular yoga practice, and tried to do everything in my power to heal from pulling my anterior deltoid when I jumped off a stupidly high dock in Indonesia four months earlier. Oops.
In retrospect, I do wish I’d prepared more with work (written blog posts ahead of time, etc.) and given myself more time to practice teach and write sequences during the training itself. I was trying to balance a lot of energies – I cleared travel off my plate, and largely work as well, but I still had many outside responsibilities, and was heart-eye-emoji distracted by my love for the city I was in, too. My advice to anyone looking to do an immersion is to remove as many distractions from that month as possible. I love yoga like crazy and even I was getting a little rattled at times by how demanding it was on my time, energy, and physical body.
A lot of you asked if you need a certain experience level or to be able to achieve certain poses in order to start your yoga teacher training. Not from my experience. I often hear people talk about not being “good” at yoga, which I think is a misunderstanding of the practice. Physically, yoga can be about building strength and flexibility and balance, but it’s more about the journey of getting there than reaching any arbitrary milestone. As long as you have a regular, conscious practice, you’re physically ready to do a yoga teacher training, regardless of what shapes your body makes while you’re doing it.
How Much My Yoga Teacher Training Cost
My biggest expense, of course, was the training itself at $3,285. I was given a small media discount in order to write this comprehensive review.
My next largest expense was accommodation, also unsurprising for New York City. I spent $1,750 on my first apartment, a tiny loft within walking distance of the studio, found on Airbnb, and $1,100 on the second apartment, a spacious, modern apartment that a friend of a friend rented to me while they were on their honeymoon.
I didn’t buy any new yoga clothes at all for this training. Funny enough, I went on a huge athletic wear buying binge after I graduated (which actually is logical since so many big fitness companies give teacher discounts), but I didn’t really think of stocking up beforehand.
What I did stock up on was yoga supplies. After using a cheap Target mat for years I decided for this training to finally invest in a really nice mat from the brand I’d fallen in love with at my studio in Thailand.
I spent $120 total on a Manduka Prolite mat (I’m obsessed, still!), a hot yoga mat towel (didn’t really need this for the training, but it’s amazing for Y7 studio classes), a mat cleaner, and a yoga mat carrier. One of my best friends from Thailand also bought me the beautifully generous gift of an ultralight Lululemon travel mat that I love to take on the go, so I am super hooked up in the yoga mat department these days!
I spent $30 on books required for the course — Eastern Body, Western Mind and Yoga Anatomy. I also purchased the books Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sequencing, The Anatomy Coloring Book, and Light On Yoga as recommended but in light of trying to keep my possessions light, I decided to return those (thanks, Amazon Prime!) Browsing these in the library before deciding which you want to keep forever could also be a great choice.
I also spent just under $1,000 on food and drinks, so little on entertainment it’s basically nothing, $300 on transportation, and $135 on other fitness outside my training — $75 on my ClassPass monthly membership, $50 on a two week intro to B MVMNT, and $10 on hand wraps at Overthrow New York. One amazing perk of training at Y7 is you can drop into classes with open space completely for free! I took advantage of that as often as possible to try out different teachers and try to reflect on what we’d learned in training. I was like the Energizer Bunny during my training, leaving the studio and several times a week hopping straight to another class. I found the city so stimulating!
Upon graduation I spent $115 to register with The Yoga Alliance and $117 to get an annual yoga teacher insurance policy.
$2,850 on accommodation
$3,285 on training
$120 yoga supplies
$30 on books
$1000 on food
$300 on tranport
$135 on fitness
$232 on Yoga Alliance registration and insurance
Could I have done my yoga teacher training for far less than almost $8,000? Yes. Could I have spent an incredible month in NYC for less than $8,000? Also yes. But I got to do both, and it was the way I dreamed of doing it.
What I Ate During my Yoga Teacher Training
Apparently, this is one of the top things people search for regarding yoga teacher trainings. So behold, my eating plan! I knew that this training was going to require more physical energy than anything in my life ever has, and so I decided to eat in a way I thought would provide that during the week — which I classified as no sweets, low wheat, and no alcohol — and then do as I wished from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon.
My weekdays looked like this:
• Breakfast: Infused green tea (I’m an addict!) and a veggie scramble. If I didn’t have time to cook, egg white bites and pineapple-infused black tea from Starbucks.
• Mid-morning snack: Protein bar or a banana or apple or fancy nuts. They have a very strong “protein-y” taste, but I like thinkThin protein bars and ONE protein bars. I am also really into KIND bars, the blueberry RX bar, the banana almond butter GoMacro bars, and the “chocolate chip cookie dough” Lara Bars.
• Lunch: Sweet Green or Chop’t salad, a healthy mix from the Whole Foods bar, a homemade vegetarian chili or occasionally a microwave meal. As we weren’t allowed to use the refrigerator at the studio, we had to get creative with little coolers.
• Afternoon snack: Protein bar or a banana or apple or nuts.
• Dinner: Same as lunch, or occasionally delivery from somewhere healthy (stir fries with no rice, meatballs and veggies, etc.) I also sometimes met family or friends for dinner, where I just tried to make the most energy-giving choices based on whatever was on the menu.
As you can see, I wasn’t super strict but did my best! I drank a lot of unsweetened black and green tea, seltzer, and water — in fact, I drank so much water that I was googling how often is too often to pee.
On the weekends I literally ate whatever I wanted. In an ideal world it would have been nice to try to do a full month with no sugar, wheat, or alcohol, but no way was I spending a whole month in New York City without eating some fun stuff! I did try to be physically active every single day of the month — I think I missed just one day.
Of course, as I expect most do, our training group got into some really deep discussions about ahimsa, the yogic yama of non-violence, and how that translates to our diets. I personally chose to eat meat during my training as I normally do, and respect those who use their training as a time to experiment with or continue a plant-based lifestyle. I found out from private conversations with the training instructors that most are vegetarian, and I appreciated that they led these discussions very neutrally regardless.
What We Learned At My Yoga Teacher Training
We were in the Y7 Lab from 8:30AM-5:30PM Monday through Friday for four weeks. Sometimes we got let out early on Fridays, but only after it was thoroughly cleared that none of us had anything else we wanted to go over. We started every day with a ninety minute practice, then would have a brief journal and break time.
I expected the morning classes to be the standard unique Y7 sequencing style but they were typically fiery vinyasa flows (with a Y7 soundtrack, of course). We also experimented with partner yoga, yin yoga, the ashtanga primary series, bikram, and a 108 sun salutations practice. I love, love, loved these practices.
At 10:30AM, we’d be back in the studio for a two hour asana clinic or lecture before breaking for lunch for an hour. Asana clinic involved very detailed breakdowns of asana, or yoga poses, from how to cue into the pose to how it looks and feels in different bodies to what the strengthening and stretching properties of each were. I also really loved this time of diving in and geeking out on the minutiae of the yoga practice.
After lunch, we’d have a mix of lectures, afternoon practices, practice teaching exercises and more. Here’s some of what we learned:
I. The History of Yoga
I loved this. I’ve always been wide open to different yoga methods, classes, studios and teachers and so learning about the different schools of yoga and their historical origins was my jam. We also spent a significant amount of time on the yamas and niyamas, two of the eight limbs of yoga that can be described as somewhat of an ethical living guide.
II. Pranayama, Mantra and Meditation
I’ll be honest — this is probably the aspect of the training I struggled most to engage myself in, though our lead instructor Hillary opened my eyed a lot. I did really enjoy the discussions into the healing properties of meditation and the concept of it, though I still grapple with it in practice. Pranayama and mantra just don’t resonate with me, still, though I did enjoy the discussion behind “om-ing” at the end of a practice, and the idea that it’s a universal sound shared by yogis all over the world, connecting us by vibration and sound.
Good ‘ol asana — teaching this was my primary reason for coming to this training, so this is what I was there for! I tried to soak up every second of learning sequencing, language, cueing, and adjustment, as well as practicalities of business and ethics. I learned so much about teaching and about my own practice!
We talked a lot about the question, why do we put our body in these shapes? I loved so many of the answers we discussed: to become stable and resilient physically, mentally and emotionally. To learn to engage fully with body and with mind in the world, and to create a compassionate relationship with the self and with the world.
This was another tough one for me! I really enjoyed the deep dive into the chakras, which was a bit like a personal development mini-course rolled right into the teacher training.
I did struggle again with the memorization and naming of the bones, skeletal and muscular systems. I know this is so important to every part of being a yoga teacher, but I still had trouble absorbing it and applying it to practice — as these frantic texts to my physician’s assistant best friend show, ha.
At the end of the training, we had to complete a test, and demonstrate teaching via a twenty minute practicum teaching demonstration of a sequence we prepared. The test was no big deal — it was timed, but it was open book and at home, so if you had been paying attention and focused, it was nothing to sweat. The practicum, on the other hand, was very nerve-wracking for me! Finally, we had a very sweet graduation event and party on the last day of training that our family and friends were invited to.
My Experience and Impressions of My Yoga Teacher Training
I loved this training, I couldn’t have more respect or love for my teacher trainers, and I am thrilled with the decision I made that brought me there. I loved the passion and diverse knowledge and love our teacher trainers brought to the table, I loved the morning practices, I loved the asana clinics and being introduced to the chakra system and so, so much more. It means a lot to me that Y7 has a scholarship program for their teacher training, and that they require you to commit to teach a certain number of volunteer classes to communities that might not have access to yoga. I also appreciated, on a personal level, that the teacher trainers were very understanding and compassionate to what was a confusing time for me as my mother’s health mysteriously deteriorated.
The teacher trainers really make the training what it is, and ours were wonderful — their love for the practice and their confidence in us to teach it just radiated. Hillary brought incredible anatomical knowledge and a deep understanding of the foundations of yoga, Casey brought a huge energy and an infectious sense of confidence, Molly brought a sweetness and calmness and a unique gift for adjustments, Kristen brought an incredible knowledge of the chakra system and this wonderful gift for sequencing that felt better in my body than any other practice I’ve ever tried, and Johanna brought this sense of wonder and whole-hearted appreciation for the history and foundations of the yoga practice.
Of course, there were some aspects of the training I had to adjust to or accept. It’s important to note that I came into a city training with a very island mindset, and it took me a minute to calibrate to where I was.
In Thailand, where I have spent the majority of my twenties, it wouldn’t be unusual to take a long yoga class or workshop, spend half an hour chatting to someone in the class after, and then spontaneously go out for brunch or to the beach with the instructor and a few other students. No one is in a rush.
But New York is New York! Everyone has their New York friends, their New York jobs, their New York lives, their New York hustle. So did I. Everyone is doing their own things. It’s definitely a different experience than you’re going to get at a destination immersion in say, India, where everyone has traveled to be there — at my training I was one of two who had come from elsewhere for the training; everyone else lived in the city. In fact, the only person at my training who I spent time with outside the studio prior to graduation day was the other person who had traveled for the training. That is not to say we didn’t build deep friendships or bonds — we just didn’t really take them outside the studio.
I wrote in my journal after week one of the training that I was surprised that there was so little interaction outside the classroom with instructors. Now that I’m back in the western world, in which being protective of your personal time is seen as a virtue and an element of self-care, I get this a lot more but I remember at the time, fresh from an expat culture in which making connections is so precious and time is so abundant, I was surprised by how quickly the teachers exited the room after a lesson. They felt somewhat unavailable outside strict curriculum hours, though they did seem to become more available as the training went on — perhaps my shifting perception influenced that feeling. This really isn’t a criticism of the training, just a commentary on what is valued in different cultures and making sure your expectations are set for your training.
The only real negative I found of the training itself again isn’t really a fault so much as something that wasn’t the best fit for me — the size. There were, I believe, twenty six of us in my training.
Everyone will see a training like this through the lens of the strengths and weaknesses they walked in with. I came into the training with a lot of anxiety around cueing and sequencing. Given the size of our group, I think one idea would be to have smaller groups throughout the training, where we checked in about where we were with the material. We did a lot of emotional check-ins, satsong circles, etc., which I truly enjoyed, but I also would have loved the chance to sit down and talk practically about how my fear of jumbling my sequences or getting tongue tied was keeping me up at night.
My biggest issue with the size of the training though, was just a numbers one — twenty minute practicums by twenty six people?Essentially, the last week of our training was largely practicums. While I absolutely see the merit in participating in and learning from other students practicums, I’m not sure I needed thirteen hours of them. In a smaller training, many of those hours could be dedicated to further learning or practice.
And finally, as a longtime fan of Y7’s brand and admirer of their success in the business world, I was a bit disappointed and surprised that we really didn’t discuss this at all — in fact, when one of the other students in my training tried to dig into this during the business module, the instructor trainers flat out said they weren’t sure they were allowed to discuss it. We were sharing walls with the founders’ offices and saw them come and go every day but the training felt very separate from all that — I think it would be such a cool bonus to the training to spend an hour hearing from them about their vision for the brand and how they found success in the yoga industry!
Speaking of business, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth over just one thing. I debated whether or not to include this in this post, because it isn’t in the control of those running the teacher training, but I found it very frustrating and it does reflect on the fact that Y7 is a corporation with rigid policies and so you might come up against some walls related to that. When I first enrolled in the training, I got over-excited and ordered some Y7 apparel right away, even though I was still living in Thailand. When I got to the US, I tried it all on and one of the sports bras was way too big.
As soon as I got to the training I asked if I could exchange it for a smaller size — it was still for sale in their retail stores and on their website, after all. I was told I could not since the order was more than sixty days old. I tried explaining my situation and kept asking to speak to someone else — after all, it was a $65 sports bra, so not a casual purchase — and just kept getting a curt “it’s against policy.” After spending thousands and thousands of dollars with Y7 over the years on training, retail, workshops and classes, it really stung that they couldn’t make an exception and exchange sizes on a product that they still had on shelves — it would have literally cost them nothing. I am a very conscious consumer (and also found myself in a tight financial situation not long after the training, when I took a hiatus from work due to my mom’s health) and so it frustrates me so much that their arbitrary corporate policies were so rigid that an easy exception could not be made. It just kind of made me feel like a cog in a wheel, you know?
How My Body Reacted to My Yoga Teacher Training
Wow guys. Two to three hours of yoga per day, miles of walking per day, and extra fitness classes every week because I’m a crazy person — my body was sore on a level I never knew possible!
Needless to say, between eating the way I was and expending all the energy I was, I ended the month in the best shape of my life. I didn’t have or use a scale, and don’t believe pounds are a very accurate reflection of fitness anyway, but I felt great and friends were constantly remarking on how ripped I looked.
Was getting in shape my primary motivation for doing my yoga teacher training? Absolutely not. Was it nice to have a bootcamp of sorts to shake myself out of some bad routines and habits and weight gain that had crept on through my twenties? Absolutely yes.
We were often asked to set an intention at the beginning of our morning practices, and I pretty much had the same word every time: strong. Longtime readers may know that I’ve often struggled with weight fluctuations and body image and feeling out of control of my eating habits and being uncomfortable in my own skin. I was worried that my yoga teacher training might trigger some of my worst impulses to obsess over my body, but to my great surprise, the opposite happened.
It was such a physically and mentally exhausting progress, the only thing that mattered was if my body had the strength and energy to get through the next practice. After the training was over, I tried to remind myself to be gentle with myself and remain unattached to my physical body as I re-entered a regular routine — after all, it’s certainly not realistic to work out five hours a day and drink nothing but water and eat nothing but protein for the entirety of my life. That said, I brought a lot of what I learned along with me and I do believe I live more healthily, physically and mentally, than I did before my training. Our lead instructor Hillary spent a lot of time delving into the science behind the mental benefits of meditation and exercise, and I believe that really resonated with me as its something I’ve known to be true for myself for a long time.
I will mention that I came into the training with a healing injury — my anterior deltoid injury that I mentioned earlier, and I left with a new one — a repetitive use injury in my right wrist. While I was frustrated in some ways that these both forced me to take it easier than I had expected in week four of the training, they also taught me a lot about modifying and listening to my body. In the months since my training I’ve becoming more consistently physically active than I’ve ever been in my life, and I’ve had to learn to accept and cope with brief minor strains regularly, so it was good training for that too.
Was Yoga Teacher Training Worth It?
For me? Absolutely. However, I know that it’s a question a lot of aspiring YTT students ask themselves — I did too! Justifying the cost and time investment, especially if you don’t think you’ll teach full-time, can be a roadblock. However, I feel that it’s an extraordinary experience for personal growth and to deepen your own practice as well. I already had a lot of emotional tools for the enormous challenges that were coming in my life, but my yoga teacher training really sharpened them.
Do I recommend Y7’s teacher training specifically? Absolutely, if it’s the right fit for you. It was for me. I hope this post helped you figure out if it might be.
Regardless of where you do it, the YTT 200HR is just the baseline. It’s laying a foundation. Then comes practice, self study, continuing education, and beyond. I left the training still not fully comfortable with verbal cuing, with spontaneous sequencing, or with commanding a class. For me, that only comes from doing. I had a very unique situation in that my life was turned upside down by family crisis within days of my graduation, which put a pause on many of my plans for teaching — however now that I’m getting back on my feet, my teacher trainers have been incredible cheerleaders from afar as I’ve started up again.
I can’t wait to continue my education — I love being a student. Since my graduation I’ve already taken one weekend continuing education training at another studio, am currently taking on online sequencing course, am reading a book penned for new yoga teachers, am taking classes (if I lived in New York, my bum would be on a Y7 Studio mat five days a week), and am meeting with local yoga teachers I respect to get their advice and mentorship. I look forward to the day when sharing my love of yoga feels like second nature, and no longer incites butterflies. But as long as they’re here, I’ll try to embrace them as part of the process.
I am equal parts thrilled and humbled at the thought of teaching at my upcoming retreats in Florida, Egypt, and coming soon, the Dominican Republic and Thailand! Hope to have the privilege of practicing with many of you soon.
• If you’re totally new to this whole concept of yoga teacher training, this post from The Journey Junkie does a great job breaking down the basic options and the process of becoming a yoga teacher.
• Want to look at yoga teacher trainings but don’t know where to start? Lose a few hours browsing on Book Yoga Teacher Trainings, where you can filter by length, month, location, and more.
• If you’re serious about becoming a working teacher and not just taking the training for personal growth (not that there’s a dang thing wrong with that!) I recommend this piece from Elephant Journal, which has a lot of realistic advice.
Lots of love from my mat to yours!