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I Survived Yoga Prison: What I Loved (and Hated) about Yoga Teacher Training in Bali

It’s so much fun when the Vacay Vans community “chooses my adventure” by voting in my Insta stories. It’s taken me on so many spontaneous adventures– from a full-moon drum circle on the top of a mountain to a nomadic fire pit party deep in the desert. This time you helped me decide between two very different paths: yoga teacher training in Bali or Burning Man?

You overwhelmingly chose Bali: the choice that scared me the most. As one follower put it, “Burning Man is epic, but Bali will forever transform your life!”

Thank you for giving me that extra kick in the butt I needed to do something way outside my comfort zone.

It’s been a month since I finished my 200hr yoga teacher training in Bali with Zuna Yoga. And honestly, I have complicated feelings about the whole thing. I loved it and I hated it. But before I dig into my personal story, here’s what you need to know about yoga teaching training in Bali.

An immersive yoga teacher training will transform you (guaranteed!).

If you’re considering yoga teacher training, I highly suggest traveling abroad to do it. Yes, it’s more expensive than weekend courses close to home, but flying across the globe to be fully immersed in this experience will amplify everything. You will live in yoga-land 100% of the time, and though it might drive you a little nuts, you won’t be alone!

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You will make friends from all over the globe.

You will make intense, deep friendships with your fellow yogis. At Zuna Yoga, there were 27 of us in the program. You might assume that 27 women from 5 different continents in one room doing yoga for over 12 hours a day could potentially lead to some drama, but to quote one of the girls in the group, “27 girls and no bitch fights!” It’s true: everyone was authentic, open, and amazing. It was magical.

My favorite part of the training was connecting with so many amazing humans from all over the world. I can honestly tell you that I fell in love with every single one of our yogi crew.

My lovely friend Trina at @fitnessfoodflowsandviews said it beautifully: I have been so inspired by each and every one of my fellow Zuni’s and on my plane ride home I wrote down a quality I saw and admired in each of these beautiful being over the three weeks that I hope to learn from:  To be…vulnerable, open, trusting, curious, kind, resilient, wild, independent, thoughtful, creative, ambitious, humble, positive, grounded, hilarious, wise, loving, fearless, enthusiastic, graceful, persistent, balanced, intelligent, perceptive, unapologetically yourself, brave.

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It’s totally cool if you don’t want to teach yoga.

I recommend yoga teacher training in Bali even if you don’t actually want to teach yoga. Some people in the group knew they wanted to teach ASAP but most of the girls were just going for a life-changing challenge. Many had recently quit their jobs, packed up their apartments, and were getting ready to move across the world somewhere new. Some of us were healing from significant loss or health issues or heartbreak. Some just wanted a break from their urban day-to-day lives.

All of us were searching for something but we didn’t exactly know what.

If you don’t know what you want to do with your life, you’ll feel right at home at yoga teacher training in Bali. And you’ll likely walk away inspired to go in a whole new direction.

You will learn how to breathe.

I hate to break it to you, but odds are that you’re probably breathing wrong. Most of us breathe into our chest, which increases stress in our bodies and makes us weaker physically and emotionally. Yoga training will teach you how to breathe into your pelvis, which lowers the body’s stress response and will make you happier and healthier.

Breathing right will change your life. To quote one of the women in the program, “Maybe I’m not an anxious person after all, maybe I was just a chest breather.”

Tip- Newbie yoga students have asked me “What’s the most important tip for a beginner just starting yoga?” The most important thing to know is that it’s not about looking good or being super flexible. If you force-stretch your body to try to mimic how others look in yoga poses, your practice won’t improve and you could hurt yourself. In your asanas (poses), focus on keeping your core engaged, your tailbone down, and always remember to breathe.

There are a million rules.

Every school is different, but a big focus of yoga teacher training is mastering your practice through discipline. This was HARD for me because I’ve crafted my entire life to prioritize freedom. That’s what my vanlife is all about!

Suddenly I found myself in a world completely overrun by RULES: no talking, cell phones, alcohol, drugs, stimulants, sex, kissing, and even no masturbating! Show up to everything on time, pay attention in every lecture, pass all the quizzes, do all the poses properly, and commit to the process 110%.

The rules might seem a little extreme, but yoga training is all about learning how to harness our inner energy. When we use our energy intentionally (including our sexual energy), we learn how to harness our power.

Obviously no one is going to be knocking down your door at night, but abstaining from these actions will help you focus fully on your training.

You will cry and you will get angry.

Yoga teacher training in Bali (or anywhere for that matter) will definitely dig up some inner “stuff.” In this way, it really reminded me of vanlife. Everything is amplified in a tiny van similarly to how everything is amplified when you’re studying yoga for over 12 hours a day in a foreign island across the world.

Everyone cried and everyone got angry and everyone did it for completely different reasons (more on that below).

It’s not about getting in shape (but hot damn, you will get in shape)!

I know, I know– it’s not about getting in physical shape. It’s about understanding the universe and detaching from your ego and yada yada yada, but in addition to all that, you will get in shape. (You may also eat your weight in bread and dessert daily, so be aware of that too…)

Zuna Yoga was a lot of physical work: practically 3 hours of actual yoga per day (and sometimes twice that!). It was hard but I am so happy about how my strength improved.

Tip– A few people asked how much yoga someone needs to know before doing a yoga teacher training course. It depends on the program, but if you’ve taken at least 50 yoga classes in your life, you’d probably be fine at most level one yoga training courses.

A Day in the Life as a 200hr Zuna Yoga student

  • 6:00-8:45:        Yoga & meditation (Morning Silence)
  • 8:45-9:45:         Breakfast (Morning Silence)
  • 9:45-11:00:       Philosophy lecture
  • 11:00-11:15:      Break
  • 11:15-12:45:      Philosophy lecture
  • 12:45-14:00      Lunch
  • 14:00-16:00:    Anatomy lecture
  • 16:00-16:30:    Fruit break
  • 16:30-18:30:    Posture workshop
  • 18:30-18:45:    Meditation
  • 18:45-19:30:    Dinner

Why I Chose Zuna Yoga

I chose Zuna Yoga for several reasons: great reviews, the dates were perfect, and the class-size was large (I wanted a social vibe), but what really sold it for me was the Morning Silence aspect of the program. Every day, from the moment we woke up until lunchtime, we had to be absolutely silent. This meant no verbal or non-verbal communication of any kind: no phone, computer, reading, writing, talking, eye contact, gesturing, or smiling!

Imagine 27 young, social women sitting together in silence at breakfast every single morning, not even looking or acknowledging each other. It was bizarre but everyone loved it. It was like a mini-Vipassana every morning (a 10-day silent meditation retreat).


My Experience with Zuna Yoga in Ubud, Bali

My life as a digital nomad in a van is all about freedom. Freedom to work and live anywhere anytime. Freedom to hop in the van and drive somewhere new at a moment’s notice.

But this vanlife freedom had an unexpected result: instead of being forced to face uncomfortable feelings or situations, I was free to jump in the van and drive away. It seemed like I was always on the move and I started wondering if I was really free or if I was just running away from my problems.

Why I Did It

I decided to do yoga teacher training because I wanted a challenge. I wanted to see what it was like to strip away my freedom and work really really hard at something.

At first I loved having restrictions and purpose: starting my day before sunrise and ending it after sunset. Getting in touch with my body for the first time in years. Not having social media or cell phones to distract me.

The Hard Part

But after a few days, I started going insane. The lectures were hard for me. Really, really hard. I stared nonstop at the clock and constantly counted down the remaining days over and over. I’d write notes to myself like, “This is SO SLOWWWW” and “Why the hell did I sign up for yoga prison?? What was I thinking???”

At one point, a teacher pulled me aside and asked how I was doing. “I hate it. I can’t handle not having my freedom. It’s driving me crazy and I want to quit.” (At least I was honest, right?).

His response surprised me (paraphrased), “I can see you overcome with an urge to walk out and quit. But when you feel something so strongly that it’s uncontrollable, ask yourself: are you really in control or are you letting your emotions control you?”

He was right. I’ve quit a lot of things and I’ve often seen quitting as something powerful because it’s within my control. But looking at it differently now, maybe quitting is a defense mechanism to avoid a challenge, to avoid hard work, and to avoid uncomfortable situations.

Getting My Head Into It

We never fully understand a process until it is over. —Zuna Yoga Manual

At one point, the teacher took the clock on the wall down and I waged an internal war against all things yoga. I was furious. If the clock wasn’t there, how was I supposed to count down the remaining minutes of each day??

But something surprising happened: without the clock I started to actually enjoy the moment. Anatomy classes flew by with fun interpretive dances and group activities. I started to like the insanely long yoga classes. Sitting through the long lectures was still really really hard but at least I had my yoga crew with me.

At the beginning of the third week, I talked with a few friends about the program. When we started venting about our various likes/dislikes, we all had completely different perspectives. It was then that I had the cosmic realization:

We do not see or know the world as it is, but as we are. — Zuna Yoga Manual 

My reaction was a mirror into myself.  It was a reflection of how I respond when things don’t go my way or when things get difficult: I quit.

I quit because it’s hard.

I quit because I’m afraid to fail.

I quit because it’s pushing me out of my comfort zone.

Discipline is freedom. —Zuna Yoga Manual

The Aftermath

It’s been four weeks since I completed my training and the effects are just starting to sink in. I stopped meditating (whoops) but I’ve been doing yoga and working out daily,  which has dramatically improved my mental health.

I haven’t drunk alcohol or taken any substances in seven weeks and I feel healthier than ever. I’m starting to understand the importance of listening to my body and what it needs.

I’ve become much more productive and realized that with focused discipline, you can finish your work in half the time. This means there is always time in your day to work out or do yoga (regardless of what you try to tell yourself).

Your Yoga Teacher Training

I don’t know how yoga teacher training in Bali will affect you, but I do know that your reaction will shine a light on who you really are and who you want to be. This process won’t give you what you want, it will give you what you need. And that’s the gift of a lifetime.

Want to join the Zuna Yoga family? Use the code “vacayvans” to get $150 off your yoga teacher training! Thanks for reading and I’ll see y’all on the road!

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