This year in July it will be 8 years since I qualified as a vet, and I’m pretty sure that is the BVA’s cut-off for considering us to be ‘young’ vets. Ouch! At the risk of sounding cliched, I have no idea where the time has gone, and in the same way that I can’t quite believe how long ago vet school was, it seems simultaneously ages ago- yet only yesterday- that I qualified as a yoga teacher.
It has been just over two years since I did my 200 hour yoga teacher training in Bali, and during that time I have been honoured and overwhelmed by how the veterinary community has responded to my VetYogi mission; to teach and utilise yoga and meditation to improve veterinary wellbeing. It has been so exciting to spread the yoga love at national events such as WellVet Weekend and the London Vet Show, and I’ve really enjoyed collaborating with some friends I’ve met along the way, (such as Nat from ThisVetRuns, and the team from VetFit), teaching small group classes at various practices, and delivering VetYogi wellbeing workshops to veterinary teams. It was a milestone for me to host my first veterinary yoga and meditation retreat, ‘Surgery to Sanctuary‘, when still back in NZ last year, and this is definitely on the cards for the UK, so watch this space!
I’ve been so encouraged that needless to say I was pretty motivated to take my yoga teaching to the next level. I always knew I wanted to spend time experiencing yoga in its birthplace, India, so last month I spent several weeks undertaking my 300 hour certification in Goa. I am proud to say I am now a 500 hour registered yoga teacher (RYT 500), and aligned with Yoga Alliance Professionals.
For those of you thinking that a month doing yoga sounds like a blissful holiday, you would be sorely mistaken when it comes to teacher training! Trying to fit 300 hours into few weeks is a challenge, and therefore the programme is 12 hour days, 6 days a week. However, I do admit that a 12 hour yoga day is nowhere near as taxing for me as a 12 hour vet shift! It’s also nice to end a busy day feeling relaxed rather than drained, though there was definitely some days during the course which were physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging. It’s an intense but amazing process.
The course I chose was at Trimurti Yoga, in-between Palolem and Agonda beaches. The campus is in its own little world off a road in the jungle, short tuk tuk rides away from several beaches, and it has a lovely vibe. I picked a course that focussed on the 5 elements, yin and yang, and Aryuveda (the “knowledge/science of life”), enabling me to delve deeper into my existing yoga practices, and explore new ones. One of the key factors for me was that for the 300 hour course the student numbers are limited to 12 people (and we finished with 10 in my group), so there is plenty of individual teaching time, but you also have enough people around you to seek inspiration from. We had 4 teachers so a really good student:teacher ratio, meaning they are able to get more out of you, and no-one is left behind.
Unsurprisingly as a surgeon, anatomy and alignment-based yoga teaching is really important to me, and the way I most enjoy teaching. The quality of anatomy teaching on yoga courses can be really variable, and I am really pleased that the Anatomy, Alignment, and Adjustment modules far exceeded my expectations. A huge thank you to Evy and Victor for applying anatomy and alignment to yoga teaching in interesting and fun ways, and for teaching me new approaches to helping humans! We are all a lot more complicated than cats and dogs in many ways… Myofascial release techniques will stay with me forever, and will be worked in to my classes on a regular basis.
Being part of a small group of 10 students for 300 hours over 4 weeks can go one of several ways, and I feel so lucky to have met some wonderful women (because like veterinary, yoga teacher training tends to be more female-dominated), and came away with new friends. We came together from the UK, Germany, India, Croatia, Lithuania, and Australia, and journeyed through Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space, energising with yang practices in the morning, and relaxing with yin practices in the evening, with Aryuveda and theory lectures in-between. Being predominantly a Hatha/Hatha Flow teacher, I loved being taught by, and learning from, fellow teachers who are passionate about Vinyasa, Yin, and Restorative yoga, and if I’m honest I was also pretty pleased nobody was overly in to Ashtanga, as it is not my favourite! Fire week was definitely a mood…
It’s telling that for most of our days off many of us chose to still hang out together; lunches, dinners, drinks, ocean swims, sunbathing, (weirdly no yoga), and lots of shopping! I blame all the wonderful vegan food options (plus Goan cashew nuts are the best cashews I’ve ever eaten, and I did not hold back) for why I didn’t come back ripped despite doing 4 hours plus of yoga per day. It’s all relative, and body acceptance is key haha! Having being surrounded by the same faces for the past month, it felt a bit strange getting back on my yoga mat alone for the first time. Also, some of the ladies had awesome yoga playlists, so as much as I love practicing in silence, I will definitely be sequencing to music in many of my future classes.
Coming back to a cold, wintery, and stormy, UK February was a bit of a shock to the system after a month of no rain, blue skies, and hot days. This weather makes me glad my mixed practice days are long behind me as I remember what it was like to trot up a horse in sideways rain! I am already back to work at one of my regular practices swapping Sanskrit for surgery, and actually after a break away from vetting I always feel ready, and look forward to, coming back. There are definitely not enough dogs in my life away from work. Having said that, after doing yoga so much during the course, being back to work reminds me just how hard it can be to try and fit in a regular yoga and meditation practice. I have returned full of ideas and new ways in which to hopefully inspire myself and fellow veterinary professionals to keep trying to get on the mat, as the benefits can genuinely be monumental.
Please get in touch if there is anything that you would like to see from VetYogi to encourage you or help you, or if you would like any further information on my classes or wellbeing workshops. If you can’t make it to a class there is always the VetYogi YouTube channel offering short practices, and there will be more on the way. Time you spend on your mat is never wasted time, so even fitting in 5-10 mins can be beneficial. I am teaching my first class back next week and am raring to put into practice all that I have recently learned. Namaste!