One Year as a Yoga Teacher

One year ago today, I completed my 200-hour yoga teacher training (YTT) in the beautiful country of Costa Rica. I cannot say exactly what drew me to my training beyond simply wanting to deepen my own practice. I had no desire, or perhaps no confidence, to ever teach yoga. I had practiced on and off for a few years, but it wasn’t until I went through a painful heartbreak that I found myself devoted to my practice and desiring the deeper meaning behind the physical yoga asanas.

So, after two intensive weeks of training, which were not only physically and mentally draining, but also very emotionally taxing, I became certified as a yoga teacher.

Now what?

I didn’t think I would be able to find a job teaching, nor did I think I was good enough to teach. I compared myself to others, looking at the Instagram yogis who lacked any body fat and could bend like pretzels, and I allowed this to fill my mind as proof I would never be worthy. Thankfully, one of the trainers at my YTT took me aside toward the end of the two weeks and instilled hope and confidence in me with his belief I could and should be a teacher.

So, I left the training with his voice in my mind, while attempting to push aside my many doubts, and I wasted no time before practicing my newly learned skills.

I still had many months of traveling ahead, so I began teaching yoga in a hostel on the island of Ometepe in Nicaragua. I found the teaching difficult and I was dreading it more than enjoying it. I had a taste of “yoga politics,” in which other, more experienced teachers made me feel very incompetent. However, I used this as a lesson and tool to help push me forward, and I continued on. I then made my way back to Costa Rica where I taught informally at another hostel I worked in.

When I arrived back in Canada, I assumed the chances of being hired as a yoga teacher were next to none, as yoga studios expect two or more years’ experience, and usually a recommendation from another teacher.

I was very lucky to find a job rather quickly though, and I began teaching a few classes a week. At first, I felt resentment and frustration because I took over for a teacher who had taught the same class for over 15 years, and her students were not happy to see her go. I was met with a lot of resistance and found it difficult to find my own way of teaching these students.

It took a few months to finally feel confident with my own teaching style, and I could see the students noticed my new found confidence, meeting me with enthusiasm and willingness.

I have now been teaching yoga for one year, and I have learned so much in this time. Being a new teacher is one of the most challenging and emotionally vulnerable things I have ever done. I am constantly met with people who either love my style or who want it to be quite different. It seems that there is not one way to please everyone – which is obviously true in more than just a yoga class.

I have begun to feel more confident in my abilities, in who I am as a person, and I am opening up and allowing others to view my vulnerabilities.

It is truly a challenge to show up, no matter what is going on in my personal life, and lead a meaningful practice. It takes a lot of courage to stand in front of a group of strangers and speak, move, and guide them. I find teaching now to be immensely rewarding, and often find that after a class I feel I just experienced a transformative therapy session. To be so vulnerable, to be willing to make mistakes in front of groups of people, and to welcome criticism is such a difficult, yet humbling experience.

I am so grateful to call myself a yoga teacher, and I am eternally grateful for all those who have led me to this point in my life. Teaching will never come without challenges, doubts, and fears, but it is a beautiful path to be on.

A Travel Guide to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Head on an unfamiliar pillow. Eyes flutter open to the first peaks of the morning sun. Ears fill with exotic sounds of howler monkeys roaring in distant trees and tropical birds singing their morning melodies. The world is calm and slow to wake. The mind is clear and relaxed. The days are unhurried and laid-back, incorporating Latin, Caribbean, Indigenous and Hippie vibes at the core of the culture. The lush rainforest meets the vast and unforgiving sea – providing both grounding and free-flowing energy. This is where the beautiful surfer town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca lives.

This is where magic lives.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is located along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, in Limón Province. This small reggae surfer hippie town neighbours the area inhabited by BriBri, a large indigenous population, as well as a few other beach towns that span across the main road.

Getting There

Puerto Viejo is accessible by local bus for about $10 USD or by shuttle, which costs around $55 USD; both of which drive directly from San José to Puerto Viejo in about five hours.

As the bus drives across the small bridge and into the town of Puerto Viejo you can immediately feel that this is a special place. From the reggae music that fills the streets, colourful shops, Pura Vida vibes, excited tourist, local surfers lounging on the beach, veggie carts selling local produce, cyclists dodging motor bikes, and stray dogs looking for scraps to eat, this place has room for everyone.

Getting Around

To get around the small town of Puerto Viejo many people choose to rent bikes for the cost of about $4 USD a day, though it is certainly easy to walk the town in a few minutes.

For the Beach Dweller – Local Beach Spots

As the main road of Puerto Viejo runs along the sea, there are many beaches to choose from if a beach day or a surf lesson is calling your name. Playa Grande, or Black Sand Beach, is known for its dark sand and picturesque sunset views. Salsa Brava is the main beach in town and features an abandoned ship and beach bars. Playa Cocles is farther from town and a popular beach to spend the day laying in the sun, grabbing a surf lesson, or playing some beach volleyball. Outside of Puerto Viejo lies Playa Chiquita, Playa Punta Uva, and Playa Manzanillo, which are easily accessible by bike and provide beautiful and relaxing beaches to swim, tan, and snorkel.

For the Spiritual Seekers and Healers – Yoga, Kirtan, Reiki, and More

Beyond the world-famous waves and relaxing beaches, Puerto Viejo has a wide variety to offer travelers. Yoga classes are available throughout town, many of which are free or donation based. Kirtan, a form of chanting, is organized occasionally, and it is not difficult to find different healers providing Reiki, Thai Massage, and other therapeutic services.

For the Adventurer – National Parks, Waterfalls and Jungle Hikes

For the adventurous type, Cahuita and Manzanillo both offer national parks which are accessible by local bus and offer an array of tropical animals, beautiful beaches, and easy walking trails. Bribri, located in the mountains behind Puerto Viejo, is rich with beautiful waterfalls, both touristic and secret ones that range from a short bus ride and walk to a few hours of hiking into the jungle.

For the Party Animal – Puerto Viejo Nightlife

If you are one to party, the nightlife in Puerto Viejo is always vibrant and thrilling. A mix of reggae, Top 40, Latin and rap emerge from the speakers in the various bars around town. Monday to Thursday the bars feature “ladies’ night” where ladies drink for free and men flock because, well, the ladies are there. Locals battle it out in beer pong against tourists and the dance floors fill with drunk girls . Fire shows featuring talented performers provide alluring and mesmerizing entertainment, and a walk along the beach is never far from reach.

For the Animal Lover – Sloths, Sloths and More Sloths

A close bike ride from Puerto Viejo lies the Jaguar Rescue Center. The center is the home to orphaned and injured animals until they can be released back into their habitat. There haven’t been any jaguars in many years, so not to worry – you won’t run into any newly released jungle cats on your way there. For those who specifically want to see Costa Rica’s favourite (and my favourite) animal, a short bus ride to Cahuita will take you to the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica – and this time the residents of the center are true to its name!

Of course, it is not necessary to visit a center to see the best of Puerto Viejo’s wildlife – you are in the jungle after all! A simple bike ride to the beach is usually accompanied by the appearance of several sloths hanging upside down as they lazily munch on leaves, howler monkeys as they gaze below looking for their next target practice, lizards, birds and many other creatures.

This all sounds great, right? But what about this magic that was mentioned?

The magic of Puerto Viejo goes beyond the activities you can do and the places that you can see. This magic is found in the beautiful souls who inhabit this land, as well as those who are attracted to the area. It is a place where open-minded, spiritual, kind, intelligent people flock together to create an environment of acceptance and love. Whether your country of origin, ethnicity, education, sexuality, religion, purpose and experiences, you are accepted, appreciated and loved.

The magic of Puerto Viejo lies in the warm Caribbean air and the nourishing rains that keep the jungle green and abundant. The magic lies in the salty cleansing sea, and the soft warm sand.

The magic lies in the powerful vortex of Puerto Viejo that sucks travelers in for months at a time, fills them with love, and gives them a second home to come back to time and time again.

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