Top 13 Tips for New Yoga Teachers

It’s been over a year since I taught my first-ever yoga class, and while I don’t consider myself a tenured teacher by any means, I have learned A LOT in my first year of teaching. When I went into training, I had so many fears and concerns, along with an infinite amount of questions… What do I expect? What do I do if XXX happens? How do I create a sequence? When do the nerves go away? What type of style will I teach? Will people come to my classes?

I was absolutely terrified to teach, and I spent the first few months just getting comfortable leading an hour long class (I only taught 1 class a week, so more time spent teaching = the faster you will become comfortable). With all of this being said, yes, I still get nervous, but my mindset has transformed so much with experience. I now teach 3 classes/week, and my style of teaching has even changed along the way.

new yoga teachers

For the past year, I have spent hours and hours and days and weeks consuming so much more information, learning, taking workshops, and gaining a lot more experience & confidence teaching. With everything I have learned, I wanted to share with others who may be in the position I was 1-2 years ago: new, scared, and needing advice on being a beginner yoga teacher (or any type of fitness instructor)! So, below is a list of the top things I have learned in the past year!

Tips for New Yoga Teachers

1. Preparing your sequence/classes

At first, this was one of the hardest part of teaching a class (at least for me!). I memorized every single one of my classes every week, and was always worried about making the perfect sequence. I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I was always looking for ways to make my classes creative. As the months went by, if I ever felt uninspired, I would look on instagram, pinterest, take a yoga class, travel to other cities & take classes from new yoga teachers/fitness instructors, take workshops, or go through a yoga pose book (check the end of this post for more yoga book recommendations!) to get the creative juices flowing (and I still do this!).

It also helps to have a format for your class – I normally set 20 minutes for warmup/Sun salutations, 20 minutes for my main sequence, and 20 minutes for core/backbends/stretching. I’m a planner, so structure for me is key. I do go off the cuff almost every class now & am starting to plan my classes a little differently, but starting out, this was so incredibly helpful in remembering my classes.

creating yoga classes new yoga teacher

How I prep for my classes: thoughts on paper, ideas written throughout the day… then written in my yoga class journal book!

Some people can just walk into a class & teach an entire class, with little to no planning. Personally, that is NOT me. I make sure I am prepared, not only because I am still learning & becoming comfortable with teaching, but also because it helps me relay more info to my students.

My main goal is to have every student walk out of class having  learned/heard/understood something new – and by doing my own research before class + studying the anatomy & benefits of poses, I can accomplish this.

With that being said, every person is different – I like structure, so that is how I plan my classes! I would say I spend anywhere from 20 minutes to 4 hours planning my classes, depending on what I’m teaching – this includes research (on something new I’m learning), memorizing new sanskrit, putting together a sequence, practicing the class at my house, and creating something for social media to promote my classes.
***One last thing about planning classes – I bought a journal when I first started teaching to write my final sequence/class in for every.single.class. I carry this with me EVERYWHERE. I can reflect back on old classes, and write down ideas when I get them. Make sure to invest in a good one! I bought mine from Target for $6.

2. Teach it how you feel it

A few months ago, someone said to me, “You teach how you feel it in your body” – and ever since then, I’ve spent less time in my head, and more time in my body. I’ll throw on some music, and get on my mat. My most creative sequences have been created after a long day of work, and my body will just move in a way that feels good to me. I take that time to observe myself & write down yoga poses/shapes/connections/sequences, which makes teaching class more authentic to me AND more fun!

Feel it in your body, and teach what feels right to you. It is you and your practice that makes you unique!

If this is all still new to you, perfect. You are a blank slate and can learn & grow the more you progress in your own practice. No one else could ever mirror that, even if they tried. Allow yourself to think outside the box, add in your favorite poses, anything that speaks to you!


This includes mentally, emotionally, spiritually – read a passage from a book that you really like, a quote that you love, your life mantra, a life experience, or even giving adjustments that that you love getting in your own practice. Start realizing there is so much inside of you that needs to be shared – everything you know & have experienced in your life can help someone else!

Nina Elise yoga

3. Mood/energy of teacher

Personally, I think this is the most important part of the practice – there is no other option but to be positive & present for your students. They are taking time out of their day to spend it with you, and it is your job to make it the best experience for them! The last thing they want is to take a class from a low-energy, negative person.
I meditate for 20 minutes before every class – and if I don’t have time for 20 minutes, I spend 5 minutes doing some sort of pranayama breath (box breathing is my favorite!). This calms me down & centers me, putting me in a better place to be more receptive & intuitive to my students. If I’m feeling REALLY tired (hello, I teach 5:30 & 8 am classes!), I’ll put on pump-up music during my drive to class in order to get my energy up. Or, just listening to your class playlist will get you in the right mindset/vibe for your class. Regardless of how you do it, find any way to get yourself ready for class!

4. Be personal

Some of my favorite teachers are the ones who are personal. You know, the ones that take the time to chat with you before & after class, seem to genuinely care about you, and remember small details.

Be compassionate & caring towards your students – everyone likes to feel good, and the best way to do that is to make them feel special.

Make an effort to remember all of your students names, their injuries, goals, lives. Learn more about them so you can be accommodating -are they sensitive to scents? do they like to be adjusted? are they nursing an injury? – this will make them more comfortable during class & feel understood! Look for the traits you admire in your favorite yoga teacher, and bring those to your own class.

5. Cuing

This is something that will come with time. Finding the correct words to move people’s bodies, as well as the actual yoga pose names can’t exactly learned overnight. When I first started teaching, I would practice on my friend beforehand, and she would give me feedback on what cues she liked or didn’t think made sense. I also started paying more attention to the words other teachers used while I took their classes, then practiced speaking them out loud when practicing my sequences so I felt comfortable saying them in class.
When I first got my certification, I knew basic cues & spit them out regardless of what my students looked like. With practice, I now look to my students for cues. After teaching for a while, you learn what to look for, so you don’t need to say every single alignment cue every time. Constant studying & attending workshops to learn more about anatomy, alignment, etc is key in giving you the knowledge & confidence to cue better. As a new teacher, be patient with yourself… this gets A LOT easier over time!

yoga handstand workshop

6. Music

Music is something personal that took me a while to really connect with my classes. Some people don’t like music in their classes, and that is ok! However, I love a good playlist while taking a class and teaching – it adds to the energy & mood of the class, and you can sync up movements to each song. At first, I thought I needed high-energy, popular music in my classes. Over time, I realized that my style of teaching was much, much more chill AND slow – so my music has changed over time to match.


I personally recommend using Spotify – it’s $9.99/month for unlimited songs, and you can create an unlimited amount of playlists. I find playlists from other yoga teachers, or browse through different playlists/radio stations & listen to them all day. When I hear a song that I like, I add it to my playlist for the week.
Once I reach 1 hour on the playlist, I go in and move songs around based on my sequence (slow in the beginning, a little faster in the middle, and slower/chill at the end). Some people just have a bunch of playlists they use over & over, but I prefer to make a brand new one every week. If you are looking for any ideas, you can follow me on Spotify – search for Nina Hunt 🙂

7. Space

Lighting may or may not be something you can control, but lighting can make a huge difference. It can set the mood, change your focus… I teach in a dark room, which gives the practice a more relaxed feel – it also allows students to move with more confidence, as no one else can see you!

Smells – this might sound a little weird, but the smell of your class can make a class really great or really bad. People tend to associate smells with experiences, so by having a pleasant-smelling place to teach is critical (no one wants to come back to a sweaty, stinky place!). I burn incense during my class (sets the tone, relaxes students), and the studio gives out cold towels with eucalyptus oil on them during savasana (relaxes students, opens up sinuses, smells amazing). Some of my friends actually put essential oils on their students during class, so test out a few ways to incorporate scents into your class and see what works best for you!

brewery yoga class

8. Challenging

Don’t be afraid to try harder/challenging poses in classes! I prep my students for each “difficult” pose & encourage them to try, no matter how much they think they can’t do the pose.

Believe in your students, build them up, and allow them to explore an unfamiliar space.

Just make sure you are able to do the pose to some degree before you teach it – your students will take you more seriously, because you don’t just know the cues – you also know exactly how it feels in the body.

9. Have FUN

Crack a joke. If you don’t know one, then look one up & tell it during class! People respond to humor, and it makes them feel more relaxed. I like to tell a joke every once in a while to break the tension/seriousness of class – best done when brows are furrowed, and breathing gets heavy, which are all cues that students need to get out of their heads!
Also – mess up. I think it took me over a month before I finally messed up – I cued the wrong leg and was mortified – except, guess what – no one cared. Now, I freely mess up, say oops, laugh, and move on. Don’t be afraid to mess up, that is when you learn the most & appear more human to your students 🙂

yoga teacher training ohio

10. Continuous education

At least once a month, I take a workshop from a traveling yoga teacher, go to a meditation/self improvement seminar, or travel somewhere to add to my yoga brain bank. It can get expensive, but I consider it all an investment not just for my personal development or career, but for my students. I want to continue learning in order to produce new & creative classes for my students! If I don’t learn, how will my students ever improve? Life is about learning, growing, ingenuity, and constantly seeking out ways to get out of your comfort zone. If you won’t do this for yourself, who will?

Be passionate about what you do, it will show up not just in your classes, but in all areas of your life.

dharma mittra yoga nyc

11. Authenticity

Be yourself. This is was hardest for me, as i was so focused on not messing up in the beginning. I’m naturally an introvert AND a perfectionist, which means I am pretty closed off & hate failing… meaning, I’ve had to work HARD to let go & be vulnerable while teaching. All of my teachers/mentors gave me a LOT of tough love – while they meant well, it was something I had to process and develop in my own time, which I’m STILL doing now!
This is your journey, and you are the only one that can control how you present yourself. People can try to help you, give you advice, tell you how to teach, give you tough love.. but ultimately, you are the only one that knows who you are. So take your time, and allow yourself to unfold.

Regardless, you are doing the best you can with what you know.

So just breathe, and know that coming out of your shell will take time. The more you teach, the more your personality will begin to come out. Being authentic means something different to each person, so spend the time making sure the best “you” comes through.

12. the WHY

At the end of the day, when teaching becomes a bore, or training gets hard, or you just feel like you need a break from ALL THINGS YOGA (yes, it happens to me!!), you must always have your “Why” in the back of your pocket to keep you motivated. Why do you teach? Why yoga? The answer to this is what will determine your mindset. It can be a person, it can be a goal, a life purpose.. it doesn’t even have to be something that can be put into words! But before you go any farther in this journey – ask yourself WHY.
Check out the 3rd question on Brian Drury’s Questionnaire here if you need a little help coming up with your Why.

13. Patience

Be patient with yourself! Everyone learns differently, teaches differently, thinks differently.. Some are busy with a family and a have full time job, while others might devote their entire lives to teaching yoga. Go at your own pace, and know that you will progress & grow over time. No one ever became an expert in their field overnight, right? It would be impossible.

When I began teaching, I wrote out every cue, every pose, every transition for every.single.class.

I was so nervous I would forget something and mess up! Now, while I still plan my sequence, it’s more of a general idea, and I deviate from what I write down. It takes time & experience teaching a lot of classes in order to feel more comfortable. So go slow, go fast, go at whatever speed works for you at this point in your life. But most of all, be patient <3

the class nyc

If this all seems overwhelming… welcome to the club! The best thing you can do is focus on one thing at a time, or even just integrating a few things here & there the more you teach. I can’t even tell you how nervous I was when I first began teaching – I had nightmares the first month (no joke – and I only taught 1 class a week!), and it was such a relief when my class was over. Now… I sleep well, and only have a small amount of nerves 😉
We’ve all started from scratch, having to learn & grow. Give yourself time, and enjoy the process. Use this as a time to not only help others, but also to grow & learn more about yourself.

Put yourself out there, and don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. Because, you will be.

You’ll want to rush through it all, but, I’m here to tell you – don’t. Soak up every single moment and enjoy every bit of the learning process. You’ll look back and be so incredibly proud of your progress, realizing that you needed to go through the scary stuff to get exactly where you needed to be.

y7 nyc

I hope this VERY LONG blog post has been very helpful for anyone starting on their yoga teaching journey. If you are just starting out, what are some of your concerns/fears about becoming a yoga teacher? And if you are already a teacher/fitness instructor, what are a few things that you would add to the list? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!


Below are a few of my favorite books/resources I’ve purchased & used for creating classes & workshops since my Yoga Teacher training:

Check out a list of my favorite books & current reads here – i use a lot of philosophy & concepts from these books & integrate them into my dharma talks at the beginning of my yoga classes.

Yoga Teacher Training Recap: Officially a certified 200 RYT!

After getting my 100 hour yoga teacher certification back in May, the plan was to complete the next 100 hours locally over the course of 4 months. From August through November, I completed a total of six,  10-14 hour weekends, put on a 1.5 hour workshop, attended a few trainee workshops, and completed 20 hours of additional workshops (think backbends, handstands, ashtanga, twists, etc). For anyone who doesn’t think it takes a lot in order to get certified.. well, it does. You can read all about it here, in 9 different blog posts, which barely even brushes the surface of what I learned in just the past 6 months alone!

Anyways… I finally finished off the last of my 20 required hours of workshops, and I am officially a certified 200 hr RYT! So what does this mean? In some ways, not much. I mean, it IS huge – I have way more knowledge, and some studios require teachers to have their 200 hour certification in order to even teach. I can also officially register with the yoga alliance, which means people can look me up to make sure I am legit and certified. It can also mean a bit more pay, since you have more experience, and you can charge more if you offer one-on-one services. For me, personally, I feel like I can officially call myself certified – not that I wasn’t before, but the amount of work I put into this certification + amount of knowledge I have accumulated makes me feel even more prepared to teach.

go yoga YTT

So what’s next?

Continuous education – a workshop with Tamara Levinson-Campos in NYC in December, and then headed to San Francisco in January for an entire weekend event with The Yoga Journal. Teaching 1-2 more classes AND putting on workshops on the weekend (more teaching of inversions!). Maybe in a few years I will eventually get started on my 500 hour certification….

Starting up my Youtube Channel – I am creating a wide variety of videos, anywhere from stretching, 10 minute flows, 30 minute flows, to inversions! If there are any requests on what types of videos YOU would love to see, let me know!

Everyone always says “Yoga is a lifelong journey”… well, sure, but isn’t everything? We are constantly growing and evolving as human beings – things change, and there will always be more  information to learn. Same goes for teaching, doctors, etc. The learning never ends… which might seem a bit daunting and overwhelming at first. And it can be. It can get boring. However – a change of context always, always brings renewed energy. So constantly learning from others, seeking out new ways to make teaching exciting, and honing on the things that you feel most drawn to are what we should strive towards. Your excitement and passion is what makes a difference in others lives – if you aren’t bettering yourself for your own personal satisfaction/goals – why not do it for others?

And this is where I find myself – learning not just because I am curious & passionate about moving forward in life, but also being able to make some sort of difference… whether I am impacting a million people, or 1 just  person 🙂

So for those who have received their yoga certification – what are your thoughts on 100 vs 200 hours and continued education?

For those who take yoga classes... what type of education/experience in a yoga teacher makes you feel comfortable enough to take their class? Or is this something you even think about??

Yoga Teacher Training Recap: Philosophy & Anatomy

Since I have been incredibly busy the past few weeks (New job, etc – more to come on this!), I have not been able to really sit down and type up a summary of part 3 of 6 of the last 100 hours of my yoga teacher training (200 total)… And now, I just finished up part 4, so I am going to combine the 2 weekends in 1 post! I have been learning so much – it can be overwhelming, especially as a perfectionist… I want to be the most knowledgeable teacher for my students/clients so they can get the most out of class, but there is just.so.much. to learn. But, it will all come with time, and this is all just a journey… so for the time being, I am soaking it in, growing, and enjoying it all 🙂

Module 3: Source – Gain a Deeper Understanding of Yoga as a Science, Philosophy and the History Behind It (10 hours)

  • 8-9:20 am: Hot Yoga Class
  • learned history & background of yoga
  • learned about different types of yoga (hatha, bikram, ashtanga, hatha, etc)
  • taught part of a class
  • watched a movie called Enlighten Up!

We learned about different yoga philosophies & religion, popular yoga texts, the sutras, mudras, the 8 limbs of classical yoga, etc. While the Sutras are basically my yoga, or how I try to live my life (TRY is a key word here ;)), the rest of the information is not something I would normally gravitate towards. It’s all interesting to learn for sure, but not something I feel knowledgeable about or comfortable with teaching to anyone.

I’ve been reading Do your Om Thing, which breaks everything down (all of the above) so it is easy to understand, but only a page here and there. I don’t know if I fully buy into the whole mudras, chakras, etc thing, but maybe just because it’s not something I am ready to dive into/explore/experience at this point in my life. And that’s ok! I love the physical part of practice, and I love throwing in bits and pieces of what I am learning in my classes. Eventually, over time, it will all evolve – which is why I love yoga! No 2 classes are ever alike, or will ever be the same.
Module 4: Body – An Exploration of Anatomy, Physiology & Subtle Energies (14 hours)

Day 1:

  • 8-9:20 am: heated yoga class
  • learned about skeletal system
  • learned about muscles
  • taught part of a class, incorporating anatomy in the sequence
  • set dates for workshops (If anyone is interested in attending mine.. it is November 13 @ 6:30-8 pm… “Journey to Handstand” – and its FREE! Shoot me a note for more details)
Nina Elise Yoga Lotus Handstand

Come handstand with me! November 13, 2015 6:30-8 pm

Day 2:

  • 8 am: taught part of a class, on the fly (one of my biggest fears – how can you not plan a class?!)
  • learned more about the muscles
  • learned about the glands (endocrine system)
  • adjusting in poses – for specific muscles
  • went over homework for module # 5: plan a 30 minute class + incorporate a daily kindness practice

This class was broken down into 2 days – which, it most likely could have been made into a month or year long class. Anatomy is no joke – learning all the muscles, ligaments, tendons, tissues, the glands, the bones – that’s a lot of learning in itself, but how do they work together? Which muscles are used in what poses? What adducts/abducts? what is flexion vs extension? internal vs external rotation? The body is amazing. And no 2 bodies are the same – even our bone structures are different, meaning it is physically impossible for some people to do a pose. It’s so.much.information.

Luckily, it’s incredibly interesting to me, and it will be something I will be pursuing continuous education in following my training (Jason Crandall, anyone??). I could seriously lock myself in a room and study this stuff for hours (Just bought The Key Muscles of Yoga by Ray Long – can’t wait to read it, I feel like such a nerd!). I tried to go down the route of personal training a few years ago, but I couldn’t get into it. Yoga is more of a physical/mental/spiritual journey – not that you can’t connect with people while doing personal training – but for whatever reason, Yoga resonates with me more (possibly due to my gymnastics background). It makes me want to learn as much information as possible, even if it seems overwhelming!

nerd yoga

Joining my 2 jobs: yoga teaching & eCommerce! #nerdyoga

So what’s next? Still teaching my 8 am heated power class on Sundays, plus possibly adding a second class later this year… I will also be picking up a workout/yoga class at my apartment gym – think interval/circuit training OR running, followed by yoga. Goal of this class is to help people understand how to stretch after a workout and the importance of stretching afterwards (using yoga, of course)! Also, to meet people. Because, I haven’t had much time for that lately, and my social life needs help 😉

So for all of you yoga teachers out there – what are your thoughts on yoga philosophy and anatomy? Does it interest you? And for all you yogis/anyone who goes to yoga classes – what are your favorite yoga classes to go to? I would love to hear what draws you to class!

Post-Yoga Teacher Training: First Ever Yoga Class!

Hi all!

As some of you may already know, I landed my first teaching job at Melt Hot Fitness here in Columbus. I have been going to this studio for almost the past year, mainly taking the yoga bosu ball classes (I swear by this class and credit it to drastically improving my handstands! Holy shoulder workout!). There are also barre classes, workout classes, and spinning classes, all taken in 85-99 degree heat. Let me tell you – you sweat. A lot. And if you are looking for an amazing workout, this is the place to go. MHF is expanding the classes, adding in Budokon and fast-paced heated yoga classes to the schedule.

Lucky for me, I was able to snag the Sunday morning yoga class – exciting, but also super terrifying! You see, ever since I got back from my yoga teacher training, I felt a little bit lost. A sense of feeling of, what’s next? I practiced teaching friends and family yoga classes at my apartment, but never an entire class to more than 2 people. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go the route of private yoga lessons, or begin auditioning at studios to teach. Insert: MHF. It only made sense to teach at this studio, since I practice there about once a week already. And normally, when you vibe with a studio, that’s the place you should be!

Nina Elise Yoga

While I was taught a very specific power yoga flow in my training, I am now actually creating my own classes now, catering to what feels right to me and putting together my own flows. Don’t get me wrong – I use what I learned as a base, and it is extremely handy in falling back on when putting together my classes. However, being able to teach my own class has taught me to be more creative and to think outside of the box. It’s so incredibly different and a bit scary, but I already feel like I have been able to grow in my own practice by trusting myself to create powerful and unique classes.

Unfortunately, when you start teaching, there is always that awkward phase – uncertainty, nervousness, lack of confidence, fear of messing up, etc. Until you really begin to teach classes, there are a lot of emotions that come up. For me, I know that I can always fall back on my basic yoga sequence learned at my training in case I forget in the middle of a class. However, I am terrified of speaking in front of people. And when I say people. I mean 5 or more people. So, showing up to my first ever yoga class on Sunday, I stood in front of 35+ people, all ready for me to start leading them in class. So. to say the least, I was a bit nervous. This is nothing I have ever done before. I’ve given speeches, presentations, etc in college. But never to this many people, and never for longer than 15 minutes.

I think my biggest fear is the dharma talk at the beginning. I feel like I have a lot of things to say, but I never know how to say it right, or at least on the spot. And this is one thing that I know will come with time – learning to speak from my heart. It’s easy for me to sit down when emotions come up and write a quick blurb or a poem, but never on the fly, and never, ever while standing wide-eyed in front of a crowd of people. Fortunately, I was able to say a few quick words at the beginning of class – nothing life changing, nothing super deep – but I did it. It was intimidating and scary… but I.did.it. And I know when something scares me, it is something that I need to do. It’s always an opportunity for growth – and if I never face a fear – I will continue to let it fester in me, (the thought that I CREATED, and is really nothing to even be afraid of!!) filling my mind with unnecessary anxiety and stressing me out.

This has been a huge step for me – facing a fear – and even though I still have my concerns and residual fears about teaching again, I know it is slowly fading away. I already feel a sense of confidence replacing that old doubt, erasing worries that now seem so silly.

So for all you yoga teachers out there – how did YOU feel teaching your first class? What were your biggest fears? And how long did it take for you to feel comfortable teaching a class?

If you have reached the end of this loooong blog post, thank you. Thank you for reading, thank you for taking the time out of your day, and thank you for caring. Life can be a long, scary ride, but I love that there are people out there (AKA YOU!) that genuinely care. This journey has been a bit of a roller coaster, and I am so incredibly grateful to be able to share this with even just 1 person!

Lots of love,

Nina

Nina Elise Yoga 2

Yoga Teacher Training in Belize

Hi Loves!

I just got back from Belize this past Saturday, slowly recuperating and trying to catch up on life. A week full of learning to teach yoga is EXHAUSTING, mentally and physically, and I feel like I am still processing the entire experience. 2+ hours of yoga a day + 4+ hours of classroom learning everyday for a week straight can take a lot out of a person! I kept track of my schedule for the week, and I wanted to share with those who are interested and/or curious about what REALLY happens and what one learns in order to become a certified yoga teacher.

YTT_Belize

I decided to get my 100 hour certification in Belize through Go Yoga, and finish off the rest of my 200 certificate back in Ohio in August (anyone can take the teacher training through go yoga, no matter where you live – they offer 100 hour training in Belize in May + the 200 hour certificate completion in Sedona in July every year). The total cost of the trip, including my flight, was around $2,000. Most studios offer 200 hour teacher training over the course of 9 months, and it can be pretty intense – and expensive. I decided to take a vacation at the same time I got my certification + I wanted to get half of the training done in 1 shot. It was actually LESS expensive to take the trip, including the cost of my flight + finish off my 200 hour training locally at the end of the year through Go Yoga! Total no-brainer decision for me.

I did go to a few informational sessions at local studios to see what their training was like, and Go Yoga just felt better and seemed less daunting/stressful. I went with my gut – I would encourage everyone to look at all options until you find a good fit for YOU. The time commitment with the other studios was way too much for me, and I would of had to drive 20-30 minutes to the studio for training. Add in teaching practice hours + minimum hours of classes that needed to be taken in order to get certified – no thanks. I would have been overwhelmed and really sick of yoga by the end of my training!

Below is a recap of my week at Ak’Bol Yoga Resort in Belize – with pictures, of course! 🙂

***I am so, so incredibly grateful for being able to do the training at Ak’bol Yoga Retreat – the owners are such AMAZING people, and they took care of every single need for every person there. I highly recommend staying here, or at the very least, stopping in at their little resort for a bite to eat (Brandon, one of their cooks, makes the most delicious food!) or a yoga class if you are ever traveling to San Pedro Island Belize.

Saturday:
7 am – 7 pm(?) : Fly from Columbus, OH –> Houston, TX –> Belize City –> 1.5 hours water taxi to San Pedro Island –> 15 minute taxi to Ak’Bol Yoga Resort

AkbolYogaRetreatBelize

When I arrived, my luggage was taken to my room. I shared a room with 1 other person – the rooms were a little small, with 1 ceiling fan and no AC – but it didn’t matter, since I really only went to my room to change and sleep.

AkbolRoom

The bathrooms were absolutely ADORABLE – just look at those sinks!!

AkbolBathroom

Maya,the Ak'Bol Guard dog :)

Maya,the Ak’Bol Guard dog 🙂

There were 14 of us total for the week of training + 2 teachers leading the training. Most of us met at the airport or at the water taxi, and when we arrived at the resort, we were able to settle in a little and chat more. We were all given a little more instruction as to how the week would go, since no one knew what exactly the schedule would be like. I didn’t really have any expectations, although I did think we were starting the training on Monday – but surprise! our week was going to start bright and early Sunday morning! Our days were jam-packed:

7 am: 1 hour meditation walk along the beach
8 am: breakfast – usually fresh fruit + yogurt made from a woman in the mountains (ah-mazing!) + eggs/coconut french toast/baked oatmeal
9 am-10 am: Power Yoga class #1
10 am-12 pm: class room yoga learnings
12 pm: lunch – usually something light, like salad, with a fish/vegetarian option
12:30 pm-2 pm: free time!
2 pm-4 pm: class room yoga learnings
4 pm-5 pm: Power Yoga class #2
5 pm: shower/get changed
6 pm-8 pm: dinner + more yoga teacher learnings + journaling
8 pm: bed time!

RetreatSchedule

I was exhausted from traveling all day, but had a very hard time sleeping that first night – it was SO hot! However, I was able to adjust as the week went on, and I survived without AC 🙂

Sunday – Day 1
Hot, Sticky and jam-packed. We spent about 6-8 hours of our day practicing and learning Yoga in a Palapa everyday! But it was PERFECT. The ocean underneath us, a perfect breeze the entire time… I would not have wanted to practice anywhere else. However, the yoga classes were intense, and we began to learn the power yoga sequence for teaching a basic class. By the end of the day, I was ready for bed!

First Morning Sunrise, Ready for some Yoga!

First Morning Sunrise, Ready for some Yoga!

YogaPracticeAkbolRetreat

Bmat

Dinner Menu! Carrots Cake was the BEST

Dinner Menu! Carrots Cake was the BEST

Monday – Day 2
Woke up at 5 am and ran 1-2 miles along the beach. By the afternoon, I was wondering how the hell I was going to make it to the end of the day, let alone the rest of the week! I also had no appetite and didn’t eat that much the first few days due to the heat. By dinner, I wanted someone to spoon-feed me. I definitely slept well Monday night!

AkbolYogaRetreatPalapa

Tuesday – Day 3
My Body. Is. So. Sore. Luckily, the yoga classes today weren’t as demanding. However, the amount of exercise going on every day was around 4 hours – it takes a toll on a person! I was drinking electrolyte powder with creatine in it, which really, really helped with the soreness and recovery. It rained a little bit this day, which helped with the heat. Day 3 was also a mental overload – we learned the rest of the power yoga sequence, and each student taught part of a class for the 4 pm yoga class. It was really nerve wracking, at least for me – being a perfectionist, I don’t like to mess up!

Cuddled up in a Blanket after the rain!

Cuddled up in a Blanket after the rain!

I will say at this point that I needed some alone time. I was always rushing from one thing to the next, with no time to absorb anything, let alone reflect on the experience. By the time it was ready for bed, I was too tired to write or journal. I wish I had a little more time to myself or a longer break in between classes. It was hard enough finding time to fit in a shower everyday!

Wednesday – Day 4
I think my body finally started to adjust to the heat, and I wasn’t as sore on Day 4. During our classroom learning time, our group was split in half – one instructor took half the group , the other instructor took the other half. We were all assigned a part of the yoga sequence and taught half the group. What I loved about this was that our instructor was able to give feedback while we were teaching – more one-on-one attention in a smaller setting, which was great.

Thursday – Day 5
Today was the best day, since we got the afternoon off. I woke up at 4 am and ran 2-3 miles along the beach this morning, getting some AMAZING sunrise pictures. I went to the Palapa immediately after my run and did some self-awareness meditation. There were some emotions coming up during the week that I felt like I needed to deal with, and it was the perfect time and setting to just let it all go in meditation. I even had a nice little visitor hanging out on the pier with me that morning 🙂

MorningMeditationBelize

AkbolYogaRetreatMeditate

After our morning practice, we split off into 2 groups and each taught a different section of a power yoga class. It was amazing to see how much everyone had improved from the day before! Practice, Repetition and Confidence all seemed to be the secret to success here. Afterwards, most of the group got together to go snorkeling. And let me tell you – I had a very incorrect idea of what snorkeling was. I thought we would go off the coast and maybe snorkel around some coral. NOPE. We took a boat all the way out to Hol Chan – jumping out the boat, snorkeling in 4-5 feet deep water… then swimming to the drop-off near the reef. It was. breakthtaking. I felt like one of those divers you see on TV! I couldn’t believe what was going on under the water! All the fish, stingrays, sharks, coral… just totally unreal.

Nina Elise Snorkeling

Afterwards, we went to shark ray alley – our guides threw chum in the water to attract the sharks and big fish… then we all jumped in! It was terrifying, but at the end, I didn’t want to get out. It was so fun!

SnorkelingBelize

Afterwards, we went back and showered, getting ready for the night. Half of our group went to a resort for dinner, but I went with the other half to explore town. I shopped at the local vendors, bought some Belize chocolate and ate at a local restaurant. After dinner, we all got a drink and walked around town, ending up at the chicken drop. The world-famous chicken drop is basically chicken-shit bingo: 1 person bets on a number, a chicken is placed in a pen on a large bingo board, and whatever number the chicken shits on, that person wins a small amount of money. There is a DJ with loud music, and everyone crowds around the bingo pen. This alone was worth coming into town for!

CD

Friday – Day 6
Today was the final day of teacher training! We learned about assisting others on poses, practicing them with a partner, working with the elderly, and modifications for new yoga students. At 4, we all taught part of the class – the instructors moved our mats in the order we were supposed to go, giving us each 4 minutes to teach. It was the most entertaining and fun class I have ever taken! Everyone has such a different teaching style, and I loved being able to share such a beautiful practice with such beautiful souls (even if we all strayed a little bit from the sequence we were supposed to teach ;)).
Immediately after, we had dinner an hour early, and did final journaling afterwards. We all had to answer the questions What Does Yoga Mean to Me? and How Will I Share My Yoga Practice? When we were done, we all gathered at the Palapa for one last mini-yoga class, sharing our responses to the questions with each other. At the end, it was extremely emotinal for me, knowing that I have 13 yoga sisters for my life. I love each and every one of them so much, for so many different reasons.

After the final “ceremony”, champagne was opened and we all celebrated on being officially certified yoga teachers! We then headed to bar down the beach to continue our celebrations… still in our sweaty yoga clothes from earlier that day, but no one cared. We were all so happy to have completed our certification and have such an amazing experience! We just wanted to spend time with each other and celebrate 🙂 On the way back , a few of us went for a late-night swim off the dock – yoga clothes and all! We swam with the baracudas and sting rays in the night, with just a little dock light shining in our swim area. It was the perfect ending to the week 🙂

Saturday – Day 7
Back to the states! I took a 9 am taxi to the San Pedro Airport and a 15-minute flight back to Belize in a 13-seater plane. It was such a perfect, peaceful ride, and I couldn’t stop looking at the view beneath me. Flying into houston, then to Columbus – I finally arrived at 11 pm at night, so, so, SO happy to be home. Back to air conditioning, back to hot, clean water, back to my bed and my bug-free apartment.

“Expect Nothing, and Accept Everything.”
I went into this Yoga Teacher Training with no idea on what was to happen. I didn’t know what I was going to learn, what the schedule was going to be like, the people I would meet, how physically demanding the week would be… I just went with an open mind, open to all possibilities. My heart cracked open just a little bit more, I learned to let go of things/people that I had been holding onto, learned how to teach an entire yoga class, got pushed to be myself, ate AMAZING fresh food everyday, and gained 13 new friends. It’s amazing how your perspective, your life can change in just one week.

Nina Elise yoga

So what’s next? Refining and practicing teaching on my friends and family, eventually teaching private lessons for beginners… who knows. I am still processing this whole experience, and am open to whatever comes next! I’ll be finishing up my 200 hour certification beginning in August, traveling to Europe for a few weeks in September, and in the meantime, loving on my new lop-eared bunny, Stumps <3

Stumps, my little lop-eared bunny

Stumps, my little lop-eared bunny

I hope this was helpful to anyone deciding on whether to get yoga-teacher certified, where to go, what to expect… Every experience is so unique and different for every person, but I love being able to share in the hopes that it might inspire or give even just one person some insight. Is there anyone else out there thinking of becoming a yoga teacher? or who IS certified  – what was your experience like? I would love to hear from you all!

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