My Life Changing YTT Experience

My Name is Cassandra and I did my yoga training at Anamaya in June 2014 with Jackie Chiodo.

Day 1:
Being here seems like such a surreal experience. I don’t think I fully realize that I am really here again. I came for a week long yoga retreat last Fall and now I am sitting here on this deck again committing to a yoga teacher training for the next month. This morning I awoke to howler monkeys outside my window and slowly made my way up to the main house. We had our opening circle and introduced ourselves and learned more about what the next month of our life will be like. As we each began to reveal more about ourselves and describing our intentions for the next month, I realized that even though many of us came from different lives and pasts and countries, we were all here with the same intention: to live, eat and breath yoga for the next month and become teachers. I felt overwhelmed by the feeling of acceptance and realized that the people before me were about to change my life.



Day 2:
We had our first real yoga class this morning and it was very difficult. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that I have been practicing yoga misaligned and putting my body in danger. Jackie looked at all of us and said that if we kept practicing this way, we would all have severe back, shoulder and knee problems by our 40s. That really put it into perspective. So many of us are in our 20s and already have a variety of injuries and pain and on top of that we are using misaligned and misguided yoga to “heal” us. It was pretty powerful. So we are basically learning yoga from the very beginning and beginning to break down the simplest poses. It is very humbling.
I spent some time in the pool this afternoon soaking up the warm Costa Rica sun talking with the girls. There are 29 of us, 27 women and 2 men. The men probably feel pretty outnumbered but they aren’t complaining. 



Day 3:
Today we practiced on the new yoga deck which is absolutely gorgeous. It wasn’t built yet the last time I was at Anamaya, but it’s tall roof and wooden floors and pillars are beautiful. We didn’t get to admire the beauty for long though. Jackie had each of us take turns teaching the class a Sun Salutation. We were a little nervous teaching already on the third day, but our inner teachers came alive and the words flowed out of each of us. While one person was teaching though, the rest of us were flowing through the sun salutation. After 30 sun salutations in a row, we were all exhausted. Our bad alignment or bad habits in yoga really can’t be escaped when you’re doing dozens of sun salutations! Jackie then started breaking down each part of the sun salutation down and we relearned something we all thought we knew how to do! I am so grateful for the emphasis on alignment, especially after I realized my alignment had never been corrected in all the years I had been practicing yoga and had caused injuries for me before.
Dinner was incredible and we all talked excitedly about the upcoming month. We are already close friends and feel like a family.

Day 4:
There was an insane storm last night! I woke up in the night to heavy rain and lightening illuminating my room. The rain continued until our morning practice at 7:30 and then was replaced with huge beautiful clouds and the bright sun peeking over. The view from the main yoga deck is incredible. During our practice I kept finding myself gazing off into the distance at the ocean in awe. I feel so blessed to be here. Jackie asked us during our practice to think of a time we reacted poorly to a situation and then to try and trace the reaction back to an event that caused it. It was very powerful. Jackie explained that this month isn’t just about practicing yoga or teaching yoga but instead about living yoga and truly transforming your life. I felt so excited and nervous all at the same time, but I knew that that was exactly why I had chosen to do my yoga teacher training here. I am ready to be transformed and to become the person I’m meant to be.
Later that evening, my friend Rebecca and I hung out in the pool. Tomorrow is our day off and we are beyond excited. There are so many things to do in Montezuma and tomorrow is the day to go explore!


Day 5:
Today was our day off!! I tried to sleep in, but of course I was up by 6 AM with the light filtering into my room. I love my new habit of waking up early with the sun. I went up to the new yoga deck and did my personal practice. Everyday we have a personal practice moving the way our body wants to for an hour and we’re encouraged to practice on our days off. Then I went up to breakfast and enjoyed some fresh fruit, eggs and veggies. A group of us decided to go surfing so we booked a surfing excursion and headed down to Montezuma. The beach was absolutely gorgeous, and I learned that surfing is definitely not my darma in life.  We went out for some lunch in town at a delicious restaurant and then headed back up to Anamaya. I had an incredible massage with the Massage Therapist Laura and enjoyed a quiet dinner. Exhausted, I crawled into bed, excited for another day of yoga.




Day 6:
Today I was up by 5:45 and finished my reading on the Root Chakra. I enjoyed some fresh fruit and then we all began our morning practice that was focused on the root chakra. It was a very intense class physically with a huge emphasis on the legs so we held poses for a long time. I was dripping sweat and shaking but feeling strong. Jackie began asking us what we fear and asked us to go back to our childhood when the root chakra began to form and see if there’s any pain or disruptions. It was an amazing way to begin to examine why we react and do things the way we do and self reflect. After breakfast, we began to break down a few more poses and practice them.
Later in the evening, we practiced Yoga Nidra which is basically guided meditation in a very relaxed state. At the beginning you’re asked to pick an intention and repeat it throughout the practice as a way to begin manifesting your dreams. I drifted off to somewhere far far away into a deep savasana like relaxation.
After dinner we got in a circle on the new yoga deck and shared our experiences with the root chakra. Some people shared deep things from their past they had never shared before and I felt the circle slowly inch closer and closer together as we began to understand each other deeper than we had before. It was a very transformative and cleansing exercise.



Day 7:
Our circle last night didn’t end until 10:30 PM and I finally got to sleep around 11 PM. I kept having weird dreams all night about my chakras and colors and different experiences.
Our practice this morning was centered on the 2nd chakra and was pretty challenging. We finished with a stress relieving exercise in reclined butterfly where we let our legs just shake. I felt so much of my stress from back home dissipate and allow me to truly be present.
After lunch we were all put in groups of 3 to begin creating a 60 minute yoga class. I got to work with Melanie and Allisone and we each decided on the 20 minute segment we wanted to teach. I’m so excited to begin teaching!



Day 8:
I slept really good last night. This morning I woke up at 6 to begin writing the letters that we will be burning later tonight. This will be our first fire ceremony and Jackie told us we can write letters to anyone. Our parents, an old friend, a lost love, even ourselves. So I hastily began writing the letters with all the words I never said to the people that I needed to. Our morning practice was focused on the 3rd chakra and was core based which I loved! It was great to fire up the core and shake, and I learned some new core exercises.
My personal practice went really good too, and it was exciting to feel my yoga poses begin to take life and make me shake. (Being in good alignment is much harder and your muscles actually have to work!)
After dinner we had our fire circle and burnt our letters. It was a huge release and I felt so freed. Then we each burnt a letter with our dreams and manifestations written on them, sending them out to the universe.




Day 9:
Today is heart chakra day! Our class was so nice this morning and breakfast was delicious with lots of yummy veggies and salad. I love the food here so much. My core is pretty sore from yesterday’s class which is a feeling that I love. I feel so healthy here. Great food with lots of green salads and veggies, 3+ hours of yoga each day, lots of vitamin D and great energy from incredible loving people. (Can I just stay here forever??) I really have fallen in love with the alignment-based yoga. I love the gentle warm ups and cool downs and the nice flows in the middle with the alignment principles. There has yet to be a pose that we break down that I’ve been practicing correctly. It could be really upsetting to know that I’ve been doing many of the yoga poses very wrong, but it’s extremely humbling and a lot of fun to relearn things that I haven’t thought about in years. My body feels great and my soul is shining! Tomorrow we are 1/3 of the way through!



Day 10:
Today is throat chakra day. Class was nice and mellow and very restorative. My personal practice and meditation are getting easier and easier, and I’m starting to get some awesome muscle definition! Best-shape-of-my-life here I come!!
A group of us relaxed in the pool for the afternoon.



Day 11:
Today was a great day off! I spent most of the day in the pool relaxing with some friends and then a group of us went down to Montezuma. We got some delicious coconut milkshakes and went shopping in town in all of the little shops. We bought some handmade jewelry from people on the streets and then ate yummy steak for dinner at a restaurant in town. After we were about to explode with food, we realized that we had to walk up The Hill. The hill back up to Anamaya is no joke and requires pretty strong legs to walk 1 mile up hill. Being tough yogis though, we decided to walk up the giant hill. If you want a good workout… the hill in Montezuma is for you!




Day 12:
This morning we had our last chakra practice for the 6th and 7th chakras. It was a nice sweaty flow. Today seems abnormally hot. At noon we went over to Rancho Delicioso, the organic farm that Anamaya owns for a lot of its produce. Just a few miles down the road, Rancho Delicioso is a gorgeous farm thick with plants of every kind. Part of our requirements for the yoga training is completing 10 hours of karma yoga, or volunteer work. For 2 hours a group of us worked at Rancho Delicioso digging holes for new fruit trees. It was a lot of fun and we got to tour the beautiful farm. Oh! And play with cute baby goats!





Day 13:
Today we’re starting the Ayurvedic portion of the training. Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga, and I’m so glad it’s covered in this training. Our morning practice was Vata, so it was a really nice restorative class with lots of stretching. I’m not really sure what dosha I am yet, but I’m excited to learn more about it. I can’t believe it’s almost week 3.
After breakfast we learned some more restorative poses and practiced those. My personal practice was amazing and full of yin poses, just the way I like it. 
I also started my karma yoga project which is photography! Back home, I’m a professional photographer so I decided that I would give people here free photoshoots. It’s so much fun taking yoga photos here because it’s so beautiful (it’s actually hard to take a bad photo) and everyone is so excited to be getting professional photos. Other people here have been helping with dishes, offering free reiki treatments and picking up trash on the beach. It feels so good to be giving back.



Day 14:
Today is our Pitta day so the morning practice was fiery and intense. It was great though and included some great core work and a long cool down. After breakfast I worked with some friends and practiced my 20 minute yoga sequence. It went really well, and I’m slowly getting less nervous to teach it.



Day 15:
This morning I woke up at 4:45 AM to take sunrise photos with some of the girls. Unfortunately, there was a storm last night so it was rainy and cloudy this morning. But the silhouettes still turned out really nice. Our practice this morning was very intense being the Kapha day. But Jackie made sure there was a nice cool down to balance it. It’s crazy to think that tomorrow is another day off! And then it’ll be just us teaching from there on out! I recorded myself talking through my sequence earlier and then during my personal practice and listened to my recording. It was fun listening to my voice while practicing and I realized my sequence was actually pretty tough!



Day 16:
Today I took photos of people most of the day which was really fun. I think photos are a really great way to boost peoples’ self esteem. I was exhausted by 4 PM though after taking photos all day. Before dinner, my group met and we went through our full 60 minute sequence. I can’t wait to teach!
Then me and two friends walked down to Montezuma and went to dinner. We feasted on delicious coconut milkshakes and sizzling fajitas. It was such a fun night! Then we took a cab back to Anamaya, feasted on some more dessert and then headed off to bed.



Day 17:
I woke up this morning to the light filtering into my room, read my book and then walked up the main house to feast on yummy fruit. My friend braided my hair for part of her karma yoga and then the first group was up to teach their group class. It’s so hard to believe we have learned everything and now are demonstrating our skills. Where has time gone? I love that teaching is such an emphasis in this training. By dinner time, we had completed 4 yoga classes and enjoyed a nice Yoga Nidra. We are all buzzing with excitement knowing that we are almost teachers.



Day 18:
Today was intense! Today we had another 4 classes and of course everyone chose to do a power yoga class, so I’m really tired. But it’s also really exciting knowing that my body is strong enough to do 4 yoga classes and keep going. We finished the day with some Yin Yoga (my favorite!) and Yoga Nidra. During our Yin practice, Jackie asked us what our triggers are and how they control our lives. It wasn’t something I had ever really thought of but as I sat in my deep stretch, I realized I had a few triggers and I could see the times in my life where I had acted upon them. I finished Yin feeling so strong and determined to release my triggers. It may be a life long process, but I’m determined to be free.


Day 19:
My group taught this morning and it went really good! I was really nervous, but we got a lot of positive feedback from Jackie and the rest of the group. Tomorrow solos start. We’re all required to teach a 45 minute solo class with a sequence and theme. I decided that I wanted my solo to focus on letting go and surrendering, so I’m creating a sequence for that. Only one more week here!


Day 20:
There was a huge storm last night, one of the craziest ones I’ve ever seen! It was pouring rain with fast winds and lightening and it was absolutely beautiful. A couple of us rain danced outside and let ourselves be swallowed by the elements.
Today I did 4/6 classes. We take turns rotating by either taking the class, observing and rating the class or doing adjustments and making sure people stay in good alignment. Alignment is essential when you’re doing so many yoga classes. I never thought it would be possible to do this much yoga in one day, but I love it! My body feels so good. Poses like downward dog I feel like I just float in.


Day 21:
Another day off!! Today a group of us walked down to town and visited the Farmer’s Market. We drank from fresh coconuts and met some of the locals. We walked back up the hill for lunch at Anamaya and then sun bathed in the pool. For dinner, we walked back to town and enjoyed gluten free pizza. Then we walked up the hill again (for the second time today!) and ate some of Anamaya’s delicious dessert.


Day 22:
Today I did 5 yoga classes and observed 1. I started working on my solo class this morning, and I’m really excited to teach it. I really hope it’s really powerful like I envision it. I’m really impressed with how beautiful everyone’s classes are and how authentic they are. It’s so incredible to see us all really stepping into our teacher role and becoming the yoga teachers we came here to become.


Day 23:
It’s a miracle that I’m not sore this morning! I went to bed early last night and slept really well. Last night I decided on my playlist for my class and now I’m just deciding how I want to open the class. The morning classes are my favorite as I get to practice yoga while watching the sky illuminate. I’ve been here 23 days and the view off the yoga deck still mesmerizes me. Today I did 6 yoga classes (which I’m sure has to be a record somewhere) and I feel so good! I’m so impressed that my body has gotten this strong and can handle so much yoga.


Day 24:
Today I taught my class! It went really really well. Everyone loved my playlist and really enjoyed the shaking butterfly pose at the very end. I’m really proud of myself for teaching such a deep and different yoga class. The feedback I got was so amazing to hear and I really feel like a teacher. Now all that’s left is the final test in a couple days! After my class, I did 4 more yoga classes and then spend time with all of the beautiful people here with me.


Day 25:
Breakfast was divine this morning! It is all mornings… but today it was exceptionally fantastic. We finished up the classes today and celebrated! The final class was absolutely beautiful and we were all crying and hugging. Tomorrow is our final test which will quiz us on yoga philosophy and anatomy so I studied with a few friends after dinner quizzing each other on the magical science of yoga.

Day 26:
The test is done!! Wow. What an experience. Today we had our final class from Jackie. It was a two hour class after breakfast, and it was utterly incredible. We were sweaty and crying and overwhelmed with love. We then had a delicious breakfast with eggs and gluten free pancakes and veggies and fresh coffee. My favorite breakfast yet! Our test went really well and I felt really confident in all of the information I learned this month.
We took our group pictures, practiced Yoga Nidra, meditated together and then had another fire ceremony on the new yoga deck. It was incredible and very uniting. The energy was much lighter than the first one. We had to state one thing to the group that we were leaving in Costa Rica and one thing we are taking home with us. I said “I am leaving expectations and taking home a free and open mind!” Then everyone yelled “And so it is!” after each person’s declarations. It was so much fun. Up at the main house they started serving champagne for anyone wanted some since we had been alcohol free for a month and then we all headed to our rooms to get ready for our graduation night.
We all met up on the lower deck dressed in our nicest clothes and most people were wearing makeup and had styled hair. (Somehow I missed the memo to bring makeup) It was really fun seeing everyone all dressed up and then Jackie called us up one by one and gave us our Yoga Certificate. We are all teachers now!
Dinner was exquisite pad thai and a wide array of performances began. Fire dancing, an aerial silk dance and beautiful singers left us all laughing and full of excitement. We all piled into the pool and laughed and danced late into the night.







Day 27:
I had a nice personal practice this morning and walked up to breakfast. My friend Rebecca and I hung out together all day and a group of us walked down to Montezuma for drinks to celebrate. I am so grateful for this beautiful experience and my heart is overflowing with love. A few people tried some aerial silk yoga too!
Pura Vida!



Day 28:
This morning I gave so many hugs and shed so many tears and I can’t believe this beautiful experience has come to a close. Driving away in the taxi headed to the airport I can’t help but sit in silence and reflect on the last month and how transformed I feel. I feel a new lighter and brighter part of me surface and shine. It’s hard to believe tomorrow I’ll be back in the U.S. I leave beautiful Anamaya and Costa Rica, but my friendships and love for yoga do not. Pura vida, pura vida, pura vida.



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