• maylmarsden

A journey before the journey – Yoga Teacher Training in India

Inhale, Exhale & Repeat...

The proudest moment of my life was the day I paid for my Yoga teacher training course.

I had spent most of my life thinking I would not accomplish much. To be honest, since leaving school all I did was go to college and work two jobs because of my decision to leave home at 17. Living away from home was exciting at first. But what soon became my reality was a feeling of living in a vicious circle. College, work, get paid, spend money on rent and food. Repeat. I had nothing to call my own and I wasn't able to do anything for myself. For me, this was numbing. The first thing I ever bought myself (other than food, clothes) was a baby blue vintage bike. I was 22 at this point.

When I made the decision to teach yoga, I just knew I had to do my training in India. There was no place for me than the birthplace of this life-changing practice. I also knew I was going to have to be patient. I was going to do this alone! It was going to take quite some time to save up for not only the course itself but also the visa, the flights, and extra money I would need while I was out there. So I set a realistic date and saved HARD! I dedicated a year (maybe more) to the twin pursuits of saving money and practicing yoga. Finally, the day came when I was able to pay for everything! WOW! For many people, this may not seem like a big deal, but for someone who’d not even had money to spend on a weekend holiday, it was HUGE.

Fast forward to the day I left for the airport… I had only been on a handful of holidays and only one in my adult life, so the idea of traveling alone – and especially somewhere as far as India – made me feel a little nervous to say the least. Luckily, I'm not too shy to ask for help from strangers (and so I did, often). Leaving my boyfriend at the airport was much harder than I thought it would be; I was going to be away for a month, and it only really hit me at the “farewell” moment. Doubts were starting to creep in.

In any case, I took my first flight from Manchester to Dubai – SO comfortable. And I only had one strange encounter (strange encounters appear to be a theme for me!). I was sat next to a man who seemed very excited – perhaps down to me being petite, blond and covered in tattoos, I guessed. After a lot of staring, he finally asked if he could take a photo of me, gesturing to my tattoos. I politely agreed. Little did I know that he planned on a full-body shot! Watching him spend time zooming in for the details (all whilst sharing the seat next to me) was… odd. Add to that his invitation to take me to China to “show off” to his friends… Well, I spent the rest of the flight pretending to be asleep!

A couple more flights – Dubai to Mumbai, Mumbai to Goa (uneventful, apart from general craziness at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport) – I was almost where I needed to be!

I was already aware that my appearance would likely attract attention, and it really did!

The weather was incredible! So when I stepped out of the airport to see a young man with my name on a board I didn't mind waiting 30 minutes for my taxi. It was January, and so back in the UK it was cold and damp; glorious sun was a very welcome change!

And then, at the very beginning of my trip I had my worst encounter…

Being a very nervous and wary person, I put myself in the back of the taxi, and somehow got a lovely sense of relief as soon as we were on our way to the yoga village of Sampoorna.

After some time on the road, I noticed the driver slowing down. He began to pull into a field at the side of the road… SHIT!... Obviously, I started to wonder what was going on. Next, without a word, he started to get out of the car. I started to go over possible reasons in my head. Until he began to take off his trousers… YUP, that’s right. I started to panic, as anyone would. I began rummaging through my bag to find anything useful to protect myself. Nothing!

Suddenly, he got back into the driver’s seat and rejoined the road. ERM?! He then turned round, apologised, and said: “Sorry, I was getting too hot… Are you excited for your trip?” HA! Little did he know that I thought I was never going to survive my trip. For the rest of the journey, my driver was very chatty. He made sure I got where I needed to be, and even double checked I was in the right place before saying goodbye.

Something I can laugh about now, but at the time…

The next four weeks were life changing. I met so many amazing people from around the world that all shared the same love for yoga. It was hard but so rewarding. We worked 12 hour days, 6 days a week. We started the day at 6am for a one hour guided pranayama/meditation and then a 1.5 hour Ashtanga practice – always followed by the most beautiful breakfast (by that time I was always ravenous!). Lunch and dinner were also included –  oh how I miss the food! On our breaks from classes, we would go to the beach, which was just one minute away to study, swim and or simply rest. And in the evening we would all go to watch the sunsets – the most beautiful ones I have ever seen. Photos never did them justice. Just, WOW!


Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (alternate nostril breathing)

Close your right hand in a gentle fist in front of your nose, then extend your thumb and ring finger. Gently close your right nostril with your thumb. Inhale through your left nostril, then close it with your ring finger. Open your right nostril and exhale slowly through it. Inhale through the right nostril then close it. Open your left nostril and exhale slowly through it. That completes one cycle. Repeat 3–5 times.


Throughout the course, I had no problem with the physical aspects, but there was one thing that I was really nervous about: the written exam. Exams were never good for me. I’m not what you would consider an “academic” person, so I never seemed to do very well. But because of my love of yoga, I’d studied hard and paid attention in class, and so I thought I would pass, though not with high marks.The day of the exam arrived – and I knew all I could do was my best. I finished in good time, and joined everyone on the beach with a sense of relief, if nothing else! To my suprise, I was half a mark from getting 100%. HALF A MARK! The half mark lost was down to missing a question, to which I knew the answer. I like to tell myself I got 100%. Ha! Another proud moment for me!

The reality of leaving was upon me. I thought I would be so ready to get home, but instead, I was desperate to stay. I even asked my then boyfriend (now husband) to join me out there. I just didn't feel finished with India. It felt like home – something that most people who visit seem to say. India is my second home. The food, the smells, the people, the way of life! It's so refreshing! In India, if you go and sit on a rock at the beach to breath in the air and meditate – you can almost guarantee there will be someone else doing the same close by.

The hardest part of my trip was not the physical activity, it wasn't the many moments of crying when emotions flooded out, it wasn't the long travel time. It was getting home to the people you left behind – the reality that India has changed you, but everything and everyone back home are exactly the same. I felt so disconnected from everyone for a while. I had just spent a very intense month with 34 other souls, seeing them every day, all day long; how strange it seemed walking around where I lived not seeing their faces. I felt like I was in a dream.

The hardest part of teacher training is leaving your teacher training...

Of course, over time, everything felt more and more like home. And I began teaching – crafting my own business out of something I loved! I had made my dream come true.


Ever fancy deepening your yoga practice, whether you want to teach or just for your own knowledge and experience? I highly recommend Sampoorna!

Here is their website: If you decide to go on the trip of a lifetime don't forget to drop my name in the recommended section (you'll get a discount off your booking)


Inhale, Exhale & Repeat...


Yoga May <3

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