If you have an interest in the world of holistic living, then you are no stranger to the topic of yoga. In fact, this ancient practice has been gaining steady momentum in the West attracting a wide variety of everyday practitioners. Increased interest led to an increase in yoga students, and thus to an increase in studios, teachers and teacher training programs. Whether for personal or professional reasons, many yoga students consider a teacher training program at one time or another. In this essay I will share with you about the Yandara Yoga Institute teacher training program and my experience with it.
A study released by the Yoga Journal in 2012 found that over 20 million Americans currently practice yoga. This is an increase of 29% since 2008. Add to that a couple million Canadians and one can quickly see that yoga is attracting an increasing multitude of Westerners. What was once seen as a reserved practice for serious adepts of the East, has today become an attainable experience for anyone interested in the West. Yoga’s movement into the mainstream has it operating today as anything from a fitness exercise to a healing modality, to a stress outlet and more, attracting many new practitioners daily. Our left brain oriented, stress-filled and materialistically-aligned society is in desperate need of some balance, and it appears that yoga is able to offer some of this balance exceptionally well.
The increased surge in yoga’s popularity brought a need for more yoga teachers and training programs. Up until a few years ago, yoga was mainly passed on by studying with a guru, with some self-taught instructors emerging as well. However as yoga continued to attract more in the West, an increased emphasis began to be placed on standardization and regulation. Registry boards like the Yoga Alliance came about, as did a surge in yoga teacher training programs. Research is showing that yoga teaching is one of the fastest growing professions in North America. According to NAMASTA, the organization for mind-body professionals, there were 70,000 yoga teachers in North America as of 2005.
A Yoga Teacher Training Experience
When it comes to yoga teacher training programs however, they are much more than just schools for aspiring teachers. Many yogis commit themselves to such training to deepen their own practice, gain a broader understanding of the asanas, the anatomy and physiology involved, as well as the history of yoga. This is how I first became attracted to pursuing a yoga teacher training program. I fell in love with yoga since my first official yoga class back in the fall of 2009. It felt like such a welcome and natural addition to my holistic lifestyle. Though while it has been easy for me to commit to classes in a studio when I am in the vicinity of one, committing to a regular home practice as I learned over the past few years, has been much tougher.
Early on in 2013 I began to seriously consider a yoga teacher training program to enhance my personal practice and commit myself more deeply to yoga. As the year went on my interest in doing some kind of a long, deeply integrative retreat grew exponentially. And so I began to research yoga teacher training programs. I knew what my main deciding factors were for my choice of programs. I wanted to do a program in the winter, somewhere in the south, within my personal budget and I wanted the program to be more friendly, than rigorous. I was open to the certification I would get and where that would lead me, though taking this program as a means of becoming a yoga teacher was the least of my priorities.
A yoga teacher training program is a serious investment of both your time and finances. Therefore it is essential that you take the time to research and align the right program with your personal needs and preferences. A 200 hour yoga teacher training typically costs anywhere from $3000 to $5000. This does not include transportation to the program, which may require a plane ticket, some also do not include all meals and/or accommodation options.
After doing some research on trainings in several of the warm countries like Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua and Brazil, everything had me coming back to the Yandara Yoga Institute. Everything about the program from the setting, to the fees, the structure and schedule seemed to be in alignment with me. It also helped that I knew someone who had gone through the program a year before, and whose positive feedback about Yandara made my decision that much easier. And so I enrolled myself for the February 2014 yoga teacher training at Yandara.
About Yandara Yoga Institute
The Yandara Yoga Institute is located in Baja California, Mexico. It resides on the west coast of the renowned Cabo area, south of the town of Todos Santos. It was founded in 2003 by Craig Perkins, E-RYT 5000 and his son Christopher Perkins, E-RYT 200. Craig is the director of the institute and both him and Christopher facilitate as teachers for the yoga teacher training programs, along with several other teachers.
The Yandara Yoga Institute offers several yoga teacher training programs. There is a 16-day and 26-day 200 hour teacher training program offered at their main location in Baja Sur Mexico. There are also 16-day 200 hour teacher trainings offered in Bali and Hawaii. Yandara also offers yin yoga teacher training, as well as certification in other holistic practices, like Reiki.
Yandara’s philosophy includes a heart-centered approach to the practice of yoga, for both students and teachers. It places emphasis on the importance of community, personal well-being, and the role of nature. It strikes a good balance between structured alignment and intuitive flow. It is more practice, rather than theory oriented, but participants receive a good foundation in everything needed for their continued yoga path.
My Yandara Teacher Training Experience
Since I was looking for a long and deeply integrative retreat, I chose Yandara’s 26-day program. I greatly appreciated its more relaxed pace, versus their 16-day teacher training program. I came into the nearly month long experience with both excitement and hesitation. I found the evening of the arrival to be the toughest as the realization sank in that I was going to be here for 26 days, pretty much whether I liked it or not. However the next morning erased most of these hesitations as I greeted the new day and discovered the beautiful surroundings and warm atmosphere that was created by the sun and the people I was surrounded with.
I found the Yandara routine quick to ease into, and greatly appreciated not having to plan or think about anything, aside from what the present moment called for. This was also one of my commitments to myself for this journey—to be fully present to each experience just as it was, and immerse myself in a deep state of being. These 26 days were in many ways a gift to myself to nourish my spirit through yoga’s many facets, amidst nature’s powerful elements. The nature of my work is rooted in giving to others, and so it was very balancing to focus on giving to myself.
And so here I was, along with 22 other participants ready, willing, and open to what lay ahead. One of the most vital components that made my Yandara experience exceptionally positive was the group that I was a part of. The group dynamics were outstanding and it was beautiful to see how perfectly the Universe aligned each of our energies to merge on this journey together. Our group included mainly women, along with 2 men. The majority were in their 20’s, though the ages ranged from 18 through 70. Most were either from the US or Canada, with a few coming from other parts of the world. It was incredible to be together for 26 days with a group of strangers who quickly felt very familiar and were always full of love, care, kindness and smiles.
Overall, the days at Yandara tended to pass by quite quickly. We had full, engaging days as we moved from one class segment to the next. By the time we finished Satsang at night, rest and sleep were desired commodities. The amount of free time allotted to each day was very good however. It gave us the opportunity to enjoy a blend of personal time, social group time, reading time, or time to take care of any needed chores or personal grooming. Naturally the appeal to have even more free time was there, whether to enjoy more of the beach or simply relax in a hammock. Of course then we would need even more days to fulfill all of the teacher training requirements.
I have to share that I really appreciated pretty much everything that my yoga teacher training at Yandara included. I tried to walk in with minimal expectations and I was considerately grateful for all of my experiences. I will share below in more detail about the main ones.
Setting & Surroundings
Yandara is nestled between the ocean and mountains of the Baja Sur west coast. Its surroundings include dessert landscapes full of various cacti and dessert shrubs, amidst hills and valleys. The Yandara facilities are almost directly on the beach, separated by a few minute walk through some flat dessert dunes. The access to the beach is simple and allows participants to enjoy the beach quickly and easily during any free time. The beach is very wide, and long. One can literally walk for hours in either the south or north direction. There is a rocky hillside that needs to be crossed over though, to walk south down the beach.
The beach is very clean and private. There are no resorts or hotel chains in this area, and the few residential beach homes are few and far between. It is rare to see any other tourists or local inhabitants on the beach. The sand is yellow and fairly soft. The water is tourquoise-blue and clean. However, like many parts of the Cabo area, it is not ideal for swimming due to the strong waves and currents. The water is also quite cold during the winter months. The intensity of the waves varies however, and it is possible to swim off the beach around Yandara. Many participants in our group enjoyed some swimming time, and I encouraged myself to go in at least once to enjoy the wonderful ocean waters.
The surroundings seemed very safe and quiet. The most noise came from the crashing of the waves and some neighboring farm animals, like cows and roosters. Yandara did a beautiful job at landscaping the area. It felt like being in a tropical dessert oasis with some palm trees, lots of greenery and some flowers. There was always an abundance of butterflies, hummingbirds and many other birds that made the setting feel very magical. The daily view from our main class pavilion was breathtaking, regardless of which direction one looked out into—the ocean, the gardens or the mountains.
One of the highlights of the training at Yandara for me was the time allotted to be in nature. We had a chance to experience some classes on the beach, some of which included some quiet meditation on the beach. We had a chance to hike once a week as a class into the hills and valleys of the dessert. This was one of my most favorite experiences at Yandara. That, along with the culminating Vision Quest, which was really a secluded, silent meditation out in nature, in a spot of our choosing. It began after Satsang on our last Friday night, where we even had the option to sleep under the stars, and continued until the afternoon of the next day. It was one of the most blissful and personally meaningful experiences for me that made my experience with Yandara that much more pleasantly exceptional.
The main accommodations provided to all Yandara participants are their on-site tents. These are private, roomy tents that are equipped with a wooden, twin size bed, and an excellent mattress, along with a small 3-drawer plastic organizational unit and night lamp. Yandara also has a small selection of cabins for rent (at an extra cost), or participants can choose to bring their own tent (and receive a discount). The tents are spread out throughout the property with some being very close to bathroom facilities, others to the yoga pavilions, kitchen, beach, etc. Depending on the time of arrival, one is usually able to choose the tent site most desired.
I have to share that as much as I love the outdoors and all things nature, I am not an avid camper. However the Yandara tent experience is fantastic and nothing short of a luxury and very comfortable type of camping, which I greatly enjoyed. The bed was very comfortable (better than what many hotels offer), and the tent large enough for me to comfortably stand in. The tents are quite new, and very clean. Participants can bring their own sleeping bag (which I did) or use the bedding provided. Having been to the Baja Sur area before during the winter, I knew that the nights can get very cold and so I greatly appreciated having my thermal sleeping bag.
Next to the tents, the bathroom facilities also deserve their own mention. There are 3 bathroom areas on the property. Two of them include sinks, toilets and showers, and one simply offers a sink and two toilet stalls. The bathrooms are very conveniently located. I found them to be very clean and a pleasure to use. Even though they are mainly outdoor facilities, they are nicely decorated and operate as typical modern facilities. The shower pressure was also excellent, as was the abundance of hot water. It is important to note here that Yandara does operate in an eco-conscious manner, using solar and having their own well, etc. Therefore it is possible, though rare, that a toilet can become clogged, or water may run out during a shower. In any such event, the situations are quickly fixed and become part of the adventurous outdoor experience.
The food that Yandara participants get to enjoy as part of their all inclusive package during their teacher training, is also one of the top highlights of this experience. In our world today, where health and healthy mean so many things, and come masked in so many ways, it is not easy to find something that accurately describes what truly healthy food is. As a holistic nutritionist and optimal health expert, my standards are high both personally and professionally. Therefore I was very pleasantly surprised by the excellent standards when it came to the quality and variety of food, and dedication to optimal nutrition at Yandara. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for even more improvement, but in general Yandara scores excellent in my books.
The dietary regimen at Yandara reflects whole food, plant-based meals, which also take into consideration the acid-alkaline pH balance, cleansing and detox. There is also an emphasis on fresh, local and organic food. The meals are mainly vegan, with a few being vegetarian and/or pescetarian. Participants get to choose if they want to consume any animal products, which can include eggs, minimal dairy and/or fish.
The meals are served buffet style, at practical intervals, so it is rare to go hungry. Even though participants are engaged in a lot of physical activity most days, aside from breakfast time, I found it next to impossible to experience any hunger. The food was all prepared freshly and so delicious, filling and plentiful. The dilemma was never about not eating enough, but rather too much. Additionally, if one was ever seeking snacks, fresh fruits such as apples, pears and some citrus fruits were always available.
Breakfast was simple and straightforward, and the same option repeated daily for the duration of the program. This being: oatmeal, fresh papaya, fresh banana, homemade granola topping (grains, nuts, seeds, coconut, raisins), and occasionally hard boiled eggs. Despite its repetitive nature I, as most other participants, found the breakfast to be very desirable. The mornings tend to be cold and so a nice, warm bowl of oatmeal was very welcome. Likewise the granola mix and fresh fruit were a delicious addition. It was hardy and very filling in nature, and I thoroughly enjoyed it from day 1 through day 26.
Lunches and dinners both, always included an abundance of some kind of a leafy green salad. This was outstanding to see as the foundation of optimal nutrition is to consume a variety of greens daily, with at least 2 of our 3 main meals. This provides us with a rich amount of the most vital nutrients, and is also the most alkalizing component to balance our body’s internal state of pH, not to mention is optimal for healing, prevention and healthy weight maintenance. The added bonus was that most greens were locally grown in the Yandara garden and picked fresh for our meals.
Aside from the salads, each lunch and dinner included various other meal components. These were not only unique in their composition daily, but also throughout our entire stay. We never had a lunch or dinner meal repeat! The meals included all types of flavors from around the world, including Mexican, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Thai! We enjoyed an amazing selection of soups, stir-fries, grain, bean and veggie dishes. The kitchen also provided a great assortment of various healthy condiments such as extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, nutritional yeast, and some spices, which participants could use to further enhance any meal.
In terms of drinks, unlimited filtered/spring water containers are provided around the kitchen and at each bathroom facility where participants can fill their water bottles. There is also a tea station near the kitchen featuring a selection of herbal teas that can be enjoyed anytime of the day. Yandara also offers its own homemade Komucha for sale.
Schedule & Class Structure
The 26-day program begins at 7:30am each morning. (The 16-day program a bit earlier.) I considered this a very reasonable start time compared to some other programs I encountered while researching teacher training options. It became natural for me almost instantly to wake up with the sun, birds and animals, feeling ready and refreshed for the first class, without feeling like one is lacking sleep.
Participants in the 26-day program have 5 learning blocks each day (outside of the day-off on Sundays). The first block (before breakfast) is dedicated to a yoga class for the participants. The second block (between breakfast and lunch) and the third block (after lunch) are usually dedicated to learning about some aspect of yoga and practice teaching in a workshop style. The fourth block (before dinner) includes a combination of communication and teaching exercises. The fifth block (after dinner) was mainly dedicated to Satsang, and based on Kirtan, music, playing instruments, singing, dancing, and meditation. Many evenings feature Yandara’s in-house band named, Jaya.
Yandara’s teacher training approach is committed to “making great yoga teachers.” This is emphasized throughout the program and classes through the combination of confidence building exercises, and teaching others on an almost daily basis from the start. While there is a little lecture style and writing of notes in classes, most of the class time in the 2nd and 3rd segments of each day, is dedicated to hands-on practice with lots of teaching opportunities. How one experiences the classes will greatly depend on personal learning preferences and comfort levels, as well as group dynamics.
Most of the classes take place in the main yoga pavilion for the 26-day groups. Some classes also take place on the beach, or in surrounding spaces. Participants also get to experience different teachers and teaching styles throughout the program.
Generally speaking, the classes are well laid out and organized. One feels that there is a good balance between structure, and variety, amidst a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. The overall teaching and learning atmosphere at Yandara is something that I know most participants greatly appreciated about the whole Yandara experience. The teachers and staff are all very friendly and supportive. The teachers regularly provide students with feedback that is both constructive and empowering.
At the end of the program, there is a final teach-out, where each participant teaches to the entire group, including the Yandara teachers for a certain segment of time. Like a final exam, it may sound intimidating and scary at first, but is actually not that big of a deal due to the great preparation that Yandara promotes throughout the whole program. By the time of the final teach-out, participants have had lots of teaching practice in front of small and large groups, including the entire class.
The 26-day program runs from Monday through Saturday, where Sundays are a day off. Participants are given the choice to spend the majority of the day at the neighboring town of Todos Santos, or village of Pescadero, or Cerritos surf colony and beach. Taxi shuttles are arranged and provided at a nominal fee.
The days off are very welcome, as despite the wonderful atmosphere at Yandara, it is nice to have some time off from the structure and routine of the classes. The town of Todos Santos is small and quaint, with some local shops of sorts, a market, and some restaurants. Most of the town can easily be experienced in under an hour. Its main highlights for many yogis or anyone health conscious, will be a small vegan restaurant named El Brote, as well as Pura Vida, a natural health food store and cafe.
Since Yandara provides a deeply immersive experience with no wifi and very limited communication with the outside world, the days off can be very welcome simply to connect with family and/or friends. Wifi, of varying strength, is offered at most food and drink establishments for free, provided that something is purchased.
Upon a return to Yandara on the days off, we had movie night, which featured various inspiring and educational documentaries for participants to enjoy.
Each of my 4 weeks spent at Yandara held its own meaning and purpose for me and my journey. Each experience and each person was divinely placed in my path, as each moment unravelled itself. Yes, I learned a lot about yoga and how to be a great yoga teacher. Yes, I deepened my practice and benefitted my body. Yes, I experienced a rejuvenating retreat that was nourishing on a mind, body and spirit level. But above all these things I walked away with an experience that was just right for me, aligned with my values and philosophies when it comes to living from a heart-centered space, with a deep reverence for nature and personal well-being.
I did not pursue this program to become a yoga teacher, but simply a more committed yoga student. Yet the irony of how life works is such that we are always guided in ways that are more perfect than we can often grasp or imagine. We just have to let go of any resistance, connect with our heart and be open. And so my current path does not have me seeking yoga teaching, but simply saying yes to the opportunities that are presenting themselves to share this amazing gift with others. For that I am humbly grateful.
I hope that by sharing all that I have above it helps you learn about Yandara’s yoga teacher training program to decide if it may be right for you. Whether you want to teach professionally or just immerse yourself into the practice of yoga, the benefits of the Yandara yoga teacher training program are numerous and I have no doubt that if you choose to go, the experiences you walk away with will be perfectly aligned for you.