How This Yoga Teacher Training Transformed My Life

Mei Chung
How This Yoga Teacher Training Transformed My Life

Hi there, I’m Mei, a yoga-lover and working mom! I recently completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training in Vietnam and it was absolutely transformational. In this 3-part diary series, I want to share with you my experience, as well as the growth and emotions I felt—on and off the mat. If you’re considering taking yoga teacher training, I’m hoping my experience will help you get an idea of what it’s really like, as well as tips on how and where to start.

How it All Began

I’ve been practicing yoga for over 5 years and I’ve always toyed with the idea of doing a yoga teacher training (YTT). Back then I thought YTTs were for those who are fit, can do impressive inversions, are fluent in Sanskrit, and for people who have decided to become professional yoga teachers. But me, a working mom? No chance!

I knew I wanted to learn the yoga basics, deepen my practice, and enrich my life by learning more about the spiritual side of yoga. I realized I was constantly making excuses as to why I couldn’t do it in a YTT.

Finally, one day, as I was lying in Savasana after a sweaty practice, I was having an internal dialogue with myself. I shut down that little voice of discouragement and decided it was time! I needed to carve the time to look after myself and do something for ME.

And I know now, yoga teacher training is open for all.

How I Found My School

I began doing research and casually started asking yogis and teachers about the best options for what I was looking for. I knew it was very important to find a school that would align with my own yoga philosophy and connect with me on a personal level.

I live in Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon), so I looked for trainings that were not more than a two-hour flight away from here. I looked at trainings in Thailand, Bali, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

I came across a 200-hour Yoga Alliance-certified training that focused on the foundations of yoga, and included a 20-hour anatomy course with one-on-one coaching sessions.

And guess what? The school was just a 10-minute drive from my home. Perfect!

The First Day at My Yoga Teacher Training in Vietnam

At 5:30 a.m., my alarm went off. I got ready, drank a cup of coffee, rolled up my mat, packed my water bottle, two journals, and walked out the door to my scooter. Riding through the streets of Saigon around 6:30 in the morning was interestingly calm. After zipping through some alleyways, I arrived at Jiva Studio Saigon, nestled in a quiet nook off the street away from the busy areas.

When I walked into the studio, the first thing I noticed was the nice, open space decorated with cylindrical candle vases, and the yoga rope walls on all sides of the room. The studio was equipped with bolsters, mats, straps, bean bag eye masks, and fold out chairs. I thought, wow...this will be my yoga sanctuary for the next three weeks.

I was greeted by Suzanne Vian, the owner and teacher trainer, and was welcomed with a hug. “I’m so happy you are here,” she said with warm eyes. When I met the rest of the bunch, I realized we are a small group of seven people from all walks of life, living in different parts of the world, and a fun mix of different nationalities: American, Canadian, Korean, and Danish.

Suzanne explained how we are all soul brothers and sisters, working together to learn and grow during the course, and supporting each other through the process and personal growth. She also said that we would become close, like family, in the days to come—cultivating great bonds before and after the training.

Suzanne said the training would challenge us not just physically—we would also be learning and experiencing emotions that we may have kept buried deep inside for many years. She also told us that she’s been using yoga, pranayama, self-inquiry, and philosophy since the early 90’s to help her find healing.

I felt safe with her. I could immediately see her sincerity and feel her warmth. She explained that we may have emotional breakthroughs on our mat; we may cry, feel strong, frustrated, weak, elated, and that there would be good days and bad days. She instructed us to get on our mats, close our eyes, and share a little bit about ourselves and why we decided to take this yoga teacher training in Vietnam with her.

To be honest I felt nervous when it was my turn to speak, but it felt good to open up in a free and safe environment. I have never felt more ready for this physical and emotional journey.

What Our Day-to-Day Looked Like

Suzanne handed us each a goodie bag of all our course books, homemade body scrub, journals, pens, and an eye mask. So sweet! The training manual laid out the program and the very structured schedule. It includes teaching sessions and lectures from instructors of various expertise, such as Ayurveda therapy, meditation and healing techniques, and osteopathic therapy.

Here is a sample schedule: 

● 07:00am - 10:00am: Asana, Pranayama & Meditation Practice 
● 10:00 - 12:00pm: Asana Breakdowns - Alignment, Cueing & Teaching Skills, Anatomy, Ayurveda or Meditation Class 
● 12:00 - 01:00pm: Lunch & Lectures 
● 01:00 - 04:00pm: Adjustments, Philosophy, Self Inquiry, Wellness & Yogic Lifestyle Topics, Meditation 

Diving Deep Into Meditation

We started off with a meditation practice called the Kelee Meditation, a practice used to calm the mind and was developed by a man named Ron Rathbun in California. It’s a short but extremely powerful practice which helped us learn more about ourselves by recognizing and acknowledging the emotions that rise to the surface, ones that we may have buried inside. We learned about focusing on a still point in our mind, to start to free our minds from all the chatter and triggers in the brain.

We practiced meditation two to three times a day and then we’d write in our journals about what came up mentally and emotionally while trying to reach stillness. How can we let go and find stillness? How do we process triggers throughout the day? What does it mean to loop through compartments (issues), and how do we detach from them? There is still so much to learn about this, and at that time, little did I know how valuable this would be for my personal growth and for finding contentment in my life.

Building a Foundation With Asana Breakdowns

After the Kelee Meditation, we had a nice, sweaty vinyasa practice. I was blown away—finally learning safe alignment for the most basic poses, and how bringing my arms up with an external rotation can help save my shoulder joints from wear and tear. It’s humbling and enlightening to realize I’ve never learned nor been taught these things in the five years I’ve been practicing yoga.

I learned how to feel my body deeply, and how to engage certain muscles while relaxing others. I learned how to move and transition my body safely from one pose to another and how to stack the bones properly to keep my body (and my future students) safe.

I also realized that yoga is a beautiful practice for holistic wellness that can touch all parts of the body, mind, and spirit...and is not just about learning to do fancy poses. Everyone’s body is different and unique. Suzanne would often say that there is no “one size fits all” approach—that we need to respect our bodies where they are each day, and understand that some poses, or the way poses are offered in group classes, are not always suitable for everyone. Yoga poses can be modified or substituted out as needed!

The Asana Breakdowns taught us a great deal about yoga poses; their benefits and contraindications, how to observe and gently assist or adjust each other’s alignment, and how to build our own sequences through different styles; hatha, yin yoga, restorative, vinyasa, and Iyengar.

To finish off each practice, we performed different pranayama techniques. To realize the profound effects of pranayama (and daily practice of yoga and meditation), she told us to take a picture of ourselves at the beginning and end of the training, and we would be able to see the difference.

This is because pranayama helps purify the blood and increases the supply of oxygen, which can lead to glowing skin. Sounds good to me! When the session was over we couldn’t wait to eat the homemade vegan / vegetarian meal that was in store for us!

How This Yoga Teacher Training Changed My Life Within 1 Week 

During our first week, we got to know a great deal about each other, our bodies, and ourselves. After the first couple of days, I was seriously hooked! I knew I needed this in my life and almost immediately realized this was the best decision I have ever made. Week one left me feeling content and beaming with happiness. I was excited about what was to come in our teacher training, and already feeling sad that there would only be two more weeks left.

After just one week of the yoga teacher training, I started to notice its transformative power. My way of looking at life, relationships, and the world began to change. I was finally seeing the patterns in my life, especially the unhealthy ones, and I wanted to take deliberate action to be my best self. As my body became stronger, I accomplished poses I thought I would never be able to do well. I’m now living life more mindfully and I’ve become more confident in my own skin.

I never imagined how big of an impact this yoga teacher training would have on me, and I definitely recommend it to everyone.

Stay tuned as I share the next two weeks of the training; the bond and connections we made in and out of the studio, the mind-blowing things we learned in our anatomy class, and how the training helped us build the confidence to lead and teach a class!