I’d like to think of myself as a spontaneous thrill-seeker, who jumps at the first opportunity to try something new. No questions asked. But somehow, this was not who I was before my Yoga Teacher Training. Sure, I signed up on a whim without really thinking it through – yeah that was sporadic. But when I was actually about to go, holy sh*t, it got real.
I completed my 200-hour Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga teacher training in Koh Phangan, Thailand with All Yoga in May 2018. It was a challenging, exhilarating, eye-opening experience that I’ll never forget and always be proud of.
In the weeks leading up to the training, I started to realize I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I’d never travelled abroad; and going for over a month right off the bat seemed AMAZING, but also a bit crazy. Not to mention I didn’t feel like I did enough yoga to be qualified to teach it; I used to attend classes at the gym but eventually switched to at-home practice via YouTube.
A million questions ran through my head, and I spent way too much time Googling everything from, “Am I qualified to even GO to a training?” to, “Exactly HOW big are spiders in Thailand?” Seriously. How. Big.
There were times I overthought EVERYTHING. I mean I freaking got on Google Maps and tracked down exactly where the training was, all the surrounding bars, hostels, and beaches.
Something I couldn’t figure out: Do I need a VISA? How about what shots you’re supposed to get?! There is just so much sh*t you can’t even imagine until it’s too late and suddenly you’re already on the plane without WIFI, and you can’t remember exactly how to get a SIM card when you get off.
I asked some of All Yoga’s graduates what questions ran through their minds before they went to their trainings; and combined them with some that I had. Here are 10 Questions You Have Before Going to Yoga Teacher Training.
1. Do I need to be certified to teach yoga?
This is probably the first question I asked myself before signing up for the training. The answer is actually, NO. Not technically. But it’s a hell of a lot easier to get a job if you are – TRUST ME. Most yoga jobs that you look up require at least a 200-RYT (200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher). Because there are so many people who are certified they could hire, why would they hire someone who’s not? Even now with my certification, I wonder if I should go for my 500-RYT just to have more of an advantage. It never hurts to have more experience under your belt in the ever-growing world of yoga. If you want to know more about the Yoga Alliance’s certificates, here’s the link.
2. Should I get a travel visa?
It depends. If you are flying to Koh Phangan, Thailand for the 23-day training and then flying back you should be fine (check the laws for your country specifically). For U.S. citizens, you can get up to 90-days visa-exempt. However, after 30 days you have to get it renewed. This isn’t a problem if you’re flying in the day before the 200-hour training in Thailand and flying out immediately after. But if you’re like me and stay in Thailand for travel, it’s NOT a good idea.
You’ll have to go to an immigration office to get it renewed. There are none on Koh Phangan so you must go to Koh Samui. This means you need to take a boat to Haad Rin, a ferry to Samui, and a taxi across the island in order to fill out an extension form, have a photo of you taken and printed, pay a fee and wait in a dismal waiting room, basically like the American DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). The process can be relatively easy, or a drawn-out nightmare like it was for me. It just depends on how much time and money you’re willing to spend.
Personally, I wish I would’ve just dealt with it at home instead of wasting a full day messing with it there. (Not to mention the fees you have to pay for every day you go over the 30-day limit!) I could go on forever, but here’s a site that really helped me out.
3. Am I going to be the worst person there and end up looking like an amateur?
Probably not. People from all different backgrounds of yoga attend teacher trainings. My group was far from perfect, and we all supported each other regardless. On the first day when we were asked how long we had been doing yoga, most of us replied, “on-and-off again for a while”. No one’s practice was perfect, and we were certainly far off from being pros. Like I said before, I had been doing yoga for years, but I couldn’t hit every pose, I couldn’t even go half-way down in a Chaturanga, and I didn’t even know what exactly an “asana” was. It’s OKAY, you’re not alone, and you are still good enough to attend YTT!
4. Where would I be sleeping?
In Thailand, most people end up staying in the free “dorm” above the Beam Restaurant, which is what I did. The first 10 people to sign up for training are offered the free dorm. There’re also bungalows on the property, but if you’re on a tight budget like me, I’d recommend the dorms.
My group and I passed out on the Shala floor after our morning practice
Once you find your way to the Beam, there is a staircase that leads you up to a large room with 20 mattresses on the floor with mosquito nets over them. You keep your luggage on the floor beside your mattress (corner spots are prime real-estate) and get the full-on jungle living experience. It’s also a really nice way to bond with everyone else at the training. When I left, I was actually sad to be sleeping in a room without all those people!
5. What food will I be eating?
The Beam restaurant that you’re most likely sleeping above is where you will eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner most of the time. Though it seems like the food is cheap compared to a meal you might get in your home country, do NOT underestimate how much you will eat while you are there. You will be doing tons of yoga and sweating like crazy; trust me you’ll need a lot to keep you alive. The food there is honestly the best food I had in all of Thailand – no lie. Take advantage of having by far the most delish coconuts and Pad Thai you’ll find anywhere, but make sure you take enough cash to cover it all, that bill will sneak up on you! I found that the average spent by my peers on food at the Beam was roughly 2500 Baht/week. It’s easy to lose track of what you spend when it’s foreign currency, so I recommend keeping a small book record. Savings tip: Pack protein bars and protein powder 😉
Pro Tip: Take a reusable water bottle, a sponge, and a small thing of dish soap. The only two ways you can get safe water are by buying water bottles at the Beam, or walking down to the Sanctuary by the beach and refilling. You won’t always have time to make it down to a refill station, and sometimes the water will stop running if they need to change the filter. Not to mention – you don’t want to contribute to Thailand’s trash problems (recycling is not exactly an easy thing to come by on an island).
Pad Thai at the Beam Restaurant before I devoured it
6. Am I in shape enough for this?
Yes. It sucks that people sometimes think this, but honestly, sometimes you just do. I know I felt a little self-conscious to be in a sports bra in front of everyone who I imagined were these super toned goddesses, which was obviously just a generalization. Nobody there cares what you look like. You aren’t going to be wearing makeup, your hair won’t be pretty, you’ll be covered in sweat and no one will even be thinking about how you look in yoga pants because everyone is so busy doing their own thing. Go ahead and rock that super cute sports bra you only wear without a shirt at home – no one’s judging.
7. Should I take a blanket and towels?
Go ahead and take a beach towel, the only towel you’re going to have is for the shower, which you can exchange every other day. You don’t want to be laying in the sand with the same towels you’re drying off with. As for the blanket, I took a small travel sized blanket and it was magical. You should take that or a sheet to sleep with because the only thing you’re provided are a pillow and a fitted sheet.
P.S. They don’t really tell you but you can get a new sheet every weekend, which you will desperately need by Saturday!
8. What kind of shots/immunizations should I get?
Ask your doctor because it really depends on what makes you comfortable. I decided to take live bacteria pills to prevent Typhoid, get the Hepatitis A shot, and already had the Hepatitis B shot when I was young. Koh Phangan is not in an active malaria zone, so it is your choice if you want to pay crazy amounts of money (at least in the U.S.) to take the malaria pills. If you end up traveling to other parts of Thailand (such as the middle area from Koh Samui to Phuket), you should probably get a script for them.
Another recommended immunization is for Rabies. The monkeys, dogs, and cats in Thailand are possible carriers of rabies, so you should be very careful when approaching any of them. I recommend staying as far from monkeys as possible because if you get scratched, All Yoga will immediately take you to the hospital if you don’t have your shots. The only reason I didn’t get this was because like the malaria pills, they were really expensive in the U.S. Like I said, talk to your doctor and decide what is most important to you.
9. What kind of yoga mat should I take?
This one’s a little tricky. Obviously, we all have that favorite mat that we prefer over the rest. Something to keep in mind is that you will be doing more yoga than you normally do, and the rigorous practice WILL wear your mat down. If you have an expensive mat it might be able to withstand it. However, if you take a super cheap one, it will PEEL all over the place. Mine was a 15$ mat and it had some minor shedding, but one of the girls I was with hardly had a mat left by the end and we were stuck sweeping up pieces of mat after each practice.
How thick you want your mat is up to you. The thinner the mat, the easier it is to pack. But of course, it’s harder on your knees and head when you’re doing headstands, etc.
Which yoga mat to bring?
You should also be aware of the amount of sweat that will be pooling beneath you. Even if you think you don’t sweat much, YOU WILL. I am not someone who sweats normally, but best believe I had sweat dripping down my face onto my mat halfway through the practice. Some guys were sweating so much they could have probably swum in it. The cheaper the mat, the more likely you are to slip around, but the stickier the mat, the harder it is to slide your feet into different poses. I recommend taking a mat towel or two to prevent slipping. Whatever you choose, keep all these things in mind when shopping for your mat. And remember, at the end of the day a mat is a mat, it’s all about the experience you have on it.
10. Should I stay after training ends?
Yes! Thailand is an amazing country to explore from beaches to jungles, and mostly everywhere you go you can make friends. However, I don’t necessarily recommend staying at the Beam immediately after the training ends. The last day after we got our certificates everyone felt so happy, accomplished, and strong; but then we all realized we’d be saying goodbye to the little family we had formed over the weeks.
There were four of us that decided to stay at the Beam after everyone else left. We stood at the edge of the water and waved goodbye to the rest of the group as they left us behind on what now seemed like a deserted island. To say we were sad is an understatement. That night, we were surrounded by empty mattresses in the dorm and felt SO alone. The Beam felt different without the familiar faces and the laughs we’d grown used to, so we all quickly decided to leave the island and go elsewhere.
It’s hard to plan ahead with people you have yet to meet, even with the Facebook Group they provide ahead of time. I figured I would wait to see where everyone else was going after, but found that most people were headed home. I ended up traveling for two weeks with a girl I met at training and we had a blast, so the more of you that decide to stay after training, the better!
May 2018 graduates, my amazing group who stuck together through it all!
Still Have Questions?
There are SO many questions that might run through your mind before going to training, these are just a few. The important thing to remember is that it will all work out, and there’s no need to sweat the details. Take a chance and do something you’ve never done and trust that you’re good enough to do it. Once you get there, you will be glad you went and didn’t overthink everything.
No matter what it is, believe that everything will fall into place. You are exactly where you need to be, doing exactly what you need to be doing. And the answer to all your questions are a comment below, or an e-mail to All Yoga away! Oh and the spiders. . . well, I’ll let you Google that.