My Yoga Teacher Training with Zuna Yoga
It has taken me forever to pull together my blog post on my experience at Zuna Yoga Teacher Training in Bali simply because there is just so much that I want to say. I feel like completing my 200 hour teaching training with Zuna in Ubud is going to be one of those “mountain top experiences” that I will always remember, and in the three weeks or so that I have been back home it has been amazing to see the ripple effects of what I learned in my daily life, to feel out my teaching style on friends and family, and to keep learning as much as I can. I tried not to have this be a novel, but it was such a huge experience I didn’t want to leave anything out! Looking back I realized how few photos I took (compared to when I usually travel) because I was so focused on learning and experiencing the training.
How I chose my teacher training:
When I decided to use the free time before our move to do a yoga teacher training I knew I wanted it to be immersive— to dive in and do the whole thing in one fell swoop rather than on nights and weekends simply so that I could stay focused. And while I was researching immersive YTT, it also became clear to me that I wanted to go somewhere international and with a traditional grounding for the yoga teaching. As far as I can tell from the high double digits of yoga schools that I looked into, there tends to be three main kinds of yoga teacher trainings; the yoga as a religious practice trainings, the yoga as a physical practice teacher training, and then trainings that fall somewhere in the middle. It was (and is now even more so) incredibly important to me that if I was going to go learn to teach yoga that I was also going to learn what it means; to understand the religion and philosophy and history that yoga came from rather than just how to teach pretty poses.
In the end, I decided to find a training in Bali. As a largely Hindu country, Bali is also home to many different yoga schools, offering the opportunity to experience the religion and culture that yoga comes from first hand. While researching trainings in Bali I came across Zuna Yoga and after communicating with Head Trainer Katherine about their training and philosophy I was convinced that this was the right choice for me.
A quick note on affordability and feasibility: I was very lucky to have a month to be able to jet off to Bali, due in part to our upcoming move to Seattle- I left my previous job before the move and decided to to yoga teacher training in the interim. I'll be doing a general "Bali on a Budget" travel guide soon, but between using miles and points for flights, strategic budgeting and freelance work I was able to pay for this trip completely out of pocket without dipping into savings or breaking the bank. Many of my classmates and peers were there in between jobs or before life transitions, but more than a few had saved vacation days and PTO in order to attend. It takes planning, flexibility and commitment, but it can be manageable to do!
About Zuna Yoga:
Zuna is a Hatha Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training, focused on bringing a modern view to the ancient yogic tradition. There is a strong emphasis on history and philosophy, breath and muscular engagement, anatomy and body alignment, as well as the link between yoga and meditation.
Teacher Training was held at the Azadi Retreat Center in Ubud (but they have upcoming trainings in Canggu and are in the process of building out their own training center in Bali!!!!)
Length of time: 21 Days (including 2 full days off).
Yogi “Homework”; required reading before training (Yoga and Ayurveda + The Heart of Yoga + The Trail Guide to the Body anatomy book) as well as written assignments after training in order to receive your certification— short reports on each required reading as well as completion of quizzes for each section of the workbook.
Training Structure + Schedule:
A 200 hour yoga teacher training in 21ish days amounts to days that are pretty packed with learning. Our daily schedule looked something like this:
6:00 AM to 8:45 AM : morning yoga practice + meditation
8:45 AM to 9:45 AM: breakfast and reflection
9:45 AM to 12:30 PM: morning lecture (includes a coffee break!)
12:30 PM to 1:45 PM: LUNCH
1:45 PM to 3:45 PM: afternoon lecture / practicum / anatomy
3:45 PM to 4:15 PM: fruitbreak (THE BEST)
4:15 PM to 6:15 PM: posture workshop and practicum
6:15 PM to 6:45 PM: meditation
6:45 PM to 8:00 PM: Dinner + down time
A big part of the training (and something that I struggled with because I love planning and structure) was that in order to encourage being present and not focusing on what is coming next there wasn’t actually a syllabus of when we were learning what provided to students; something that looking back makes complete sense but at the time made me a litttttle bit crazy 😂. Now, I really appreciate the opportunity (for ONCE) to really try to be focused and *present* in what I was there to learn and experience, without the heavy pressure of mentally psyching myself out for what was next. So, I won’t give you too many specifics on when we learned what so as to not ruin the experience.
But generally the structure is: learn about yoga, learn how to teach yoga, teach yoga 🙏🏼
Physically, the training was demanding, but in a different way than I expected. We did A LOT of yoga— I think it was the first time I closed all my circles on my watch activity tracker everyday for a full month— but it didn’t feel unmanageable. Two hour and 45 minute yoga classes sounded like they would take an eternity, but I was always surprised how quickly savasana came around (and how SHORT a 60 minute flow class feels now!) . You don’t need to be a yogi practicing for hours and hours every day in order to do this training, but I would recommend you are moderately active and have a good knowledge of yoga and consistent personal practice including intermediate backbends and inversions. This is not a training just to learn the fundamentals of yoga, and it would be a lot to try!
Emotionally/Mentally the training was also pretty demanding, but so so rewarding. Being in a new place with a lot of new people, learning A LOT OF STUFF was so so rewarding. I personally found I had a hard time with my own expectation for myself— for my physical abilities in classes, for my ability to meditate (or not), for how I responded to incorporating different teachings and understandings. Especially in terms of the philosophical teachings about the purpose of yoga to clear the mind of samskara (emotional residue) in order to see the world as it is, and as you are, we discussed a lot about the lenses through which we interpret the world, the stories we tell about ourselves and our lives, which don’t always reflect reality but rather our judgement or emotional experience of it. Thinking back, I can’t tell you what a gift it is to have had a month to reflect on my life’s purpose, the lenses through which I understand the world and my role in it, and the work I need to do in order to clarify those lenses to better align my life and my choices. It is a gift, but as someone with a lot of feelings, it was also tough! Yoga teacher training involves a lot of self reflection (in one of those you won’t understand until you’re IN IT kind of ways), but I can’t tell you how worth it and rewarding it is. Even weeks later I find myself relating a concept from training to a conversation about anxiety management, or Christian philosophy with a friend, feeling so grateful to have added an entire new framework of understanding to how I can process and understand the world.
The Zuna Yoga training I participated in (June 2018) took place at Azadi Retreat, just outside of Ubud, Bali. I paid room and board for a triple room (Shared with the lovely Kim and Nichola!!!) but there are also options for doubles and singles. Everything at the training took place at Azadi, so we would sleep, go to yoga, eat, relax and learn all on the same property. It was a little outside the city center (see; in the middle of a rice field!) so it was a little bit isolated, but I liked it that way. It was easy to focus, and on the days we went into town getting a taxi was super easy.
Our rooms were small but clean, functional and cozy. Each bed had a mosquito net, a place to store your clothes, and we shared one bathroom. We quickly fell into a rhythm, and it was honestly like we had known each other forever. Nichola and I even had a system during morning silence where one of us would go get us both coffee in the morning so we both didn’t have to brave the line bleary eyed at 5:00 am. Our room looked over the rice terraces, with a beautiful view of the jungle.
Azadi Retreat (and most other places I visited/ stayed in Bali) is rustic and designed for outdoor living; the yoga shala is 100% outside, complete with bugs , snakes, lizards and geckos. It’s humid. Our bedroom had a gecko we’d hear at night (lovingly nicknamed “Gary”) who I imagined to be a few inches long; on the last night I saw him with the lights on and was SHOCKED to discover he was actually about a foot long 😂. There are a good amount of mosquitos, and before out meditations every evening my classmates and I would dutifully lather on bug repellent and cover up with shawls from the market. All that said, I have never experienced beauty like practicing yoga in the middle of a jungle as the sun rises— the light streaming through the palm trees, the only music the sounds of the jungle around us. It wasn’t super fancy (a midsize retreat center), however everything was clean and well cared for. It was strikingly, unmistakably beautiful, and I miss it every day.
Room and board also also included meals for every day of the training. The food provided during training was strictly vegetarian (with eggs and a small amount of dairy), and a significant number of vegan/ gluten free options were available. Meals were buffet style, and while I was honestly terrified I wasn’t going to make it through training only eating plants, the food was so. good.
Breakfast always included the making for dragon fruit smoothie bowls (coconut yogurt, dragon fruit smoothie, grain free granola and a heap of fresh tropical fruits), some kind of oatmeal/ porridge option, nut butters, as well as eggs, veggies and bread. Lunch and dinners always had salad and homemade dressing, hot and cold veggie options, protein (tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, beans, eggs, etc) and fruit or gluten free cake. There was unlimited tea and coffee, and in the afternoon we always had “fruit break”. (I had brought little packets of Justin’s nut butters which was the perfect late afternoon snack with fresh tropical fruit.) In general, I have never felt better than when chowing down on the food at Azadi. I was always satisfied, never “stuffed”, loved the diversity of options and felt super clear headed, strong and digestively happy. I have been vegetarian since I arrived in Bali June 3rd, and have no plans to go back — big thanks to Zuna Yoga for kick starting that for me!
One of the most enjoyable and rewarding parts of the training was hands down the PEOPLE I met:
I went into this training not knowing anyone— I honestly wanted it that way, to be open to meeting new people, and to give myself the freedom and flexibility to focus on myself during the training. This made flying across the world for a full month of people I didn’t know slightly terrifying, especially because I made a snap decision to sign up for a triple room. I haven’t actually shared a room with anyone I wasn’t married to since I was a freshman in college, so this might indicate questionable judgement on my part. But since this is a 3 week training with 32 people I didn’t know, I figured I could get a head start on having people to hang out with, and at worst it would be over in three weeks 😂
What I was not prepared for was what happened, which was just about the best case outcome possible. First, my training class was just about the sweetest group of people on the planet. Coming from 10 different countries around the world, different experience levels, different backgrounds and reasons for joining, but an overarching understanding that we were all looking to learn about yoga and ourselves. And then I don’t know if I have accumulated a lot of good karma up until now, or if the Zuna instructors intuited it from the universe during a particularly excellent meditation, but I almost can’t put into words how much of a positive impact my roommates had on my experience. I didn’t think it was possible to meet two people that similar to me, in everything from reasons for coming to Bali to very specific ways of thinking about careers, friends, the future. Time after time, one of us would say something and the other two would just be floored at hearing someone else speak to an experience you felt alone in having. I was so happy with how genuinely kind and supportive our entire group was— for a bunch of people who truly didn’t have that much in common, our cohort was such a great bunch and I feel so lucky to know them.
The instruction team (Katherine, Everett, Ting, Becca, and Franzi for my training) were absolutely wonderful and such a joy to learn from across the various disciplines and subject areas. From answering my overly specific scientific questions about anatomy and neuroscience to providing incredible demonstrations, to leading the best/ hardest/ most fun yoga classes I have ever taken, to getting me to actually sit down and meditate to taking care of me when I had food poisoning, I couldn’t be more grateful to the team for the way they lead us through training.
Learning was fun, challenging, enjoyable, interesting, and I cannot emphasize enough HOW MUCH I learned. I knew walking out of training that I had learned a lot, but in the month and change since I left Zuna it has become readily apparent I had no idea— that I learned so much about yoga, about philosophy, about intelligent sequencing, about posture alignment, about myself. I feel like every time I step on my mat and somehow direct myself through a 90+ minute flow, every time I take a class with a new instructor and make informed decisions about how to participate in their class based on education and my knowledge of how to keep my body safe, I am overcome with gratitude with how much wisdom this team bestowed on us, and how far reaching the effects have already been in my life.
Actual Yoga Teaching: At YTT and Beyond:
In order to “graduate” from Zuna, we were required to teach to our classmates during the last week. We were divided up into groups of 4, and our group co-taught one of the sequences we had all done as a group. My section was the sun salutation and standing series for a complex twist class and took about 50 minutes to teach. I was a little perfectionistic about it, so afraid to stray from the careful script I had written out lest I lose my place or forget a Sanskrit phrase that I think I sounded a little robotic. But for my first time teaching I think it was great, Actually teaching, and watching my classmates teach and see their personalities shine through was such a seriously cool experience. I am still working on finding my teacher voice, but felt so supported and encouraged by how much I learned about how to teach safely and effectively. Now all I have to do is practice!
In addition to the teaching practice, in order to be “certified” and to subsequently register with Yoga Alliance (to be a “registered yoga teacher”), Zuna also has written assignments covering the readings and materials covered in the lecture and textbooks. I am a little bit of a delinquent yogi because of our move and haven’t submitted them yet, but have really enjoyed reviewing all the material I learned (#nerdstatus).
One of our last lectures covered all the good stuff like how to actually start teaching, liability waivers, continuing education, and all the good stuff you don’t even think to ask about. And even better, after our graduation we were added to a group of Zuna Yogi graduates from around the world, which has already felt like an incredible network and resource moving forward. (Need yoga teachers in Scotland? Singapore? Australia? I got you!)
I am not currently teaching at a studio (*yet*!), but have been sharing downloadable flows so you can practice with me anywhere! And, if you’re interested in private lessons or hosting an event together, please reach out via my contact page!
I can’t tell you how much I recommend Zuna Yoga for a teacher training or retreat. Truly, I could go on for days, but I won’t. It was an investment in time and money. It was out of my comfort zone. And it exceeded all expectations. If you have any questions, if you need convincing, if there is something I didn’t cover about the experience that you are wondering about, please let me know. I would be so happy to answer for you, and to have you experience Zuna Yoga the way that I did. 💛 🙏🏼