Yoga Teacher Training in Costa Rica

Here is a little interview I did for gorgeous sports wear brand Cope Active on doing your YTT in Costa Rica. I wanted to share it to give you a little insight into doing your training abroad and some of my favourite bits of my time in Central America. 

It is said that that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. While it can often feel like a gigantic leap to stray outside of what we know, it is through challenges and new experiences that we really grow. Wellness expert and creator of The Herb Diaries - Serena Louth, recently spent time training to be a Vinyasa yoga instructor in the Costa Rican jungle. Here, she shares with Copé Active some of the personal lessons that transformed her sense of self, plus advice for anyone who is considering yoga teacher training overseas.

YTT in Costa Rica | The Herb Diaries

What inspired you to do your Yoga Teacher Training in Costa Rica? 

"I knew I wanted to do my training abroad. I think the total immersion of an intensive one month course in a foreign country takes the experience to a whole new level - the disconnection from your normal life ensures you are totally focused on what you are doing. I have always loved travelling, meeting new people, and discovering new places- Central America was unchartered territory for me. I can’t quite explain it, but something drew me to Costa Rica and when I did more research it seemed like a real hub for like minded-people. I suppose yogis and health-nuts love it because as a country, Costa Rica is doing amazing things with renewable energy and it's an incredible place for wildlife and nature. Once I had Costa Rica in my head my decision was made!"

Where did you train and what was it about this program that stood out from others? 

"I trained at Anamaya Resort in Montezuma, where I actually worked for a month either side of my training. The resort is perched on top of a cliff with panoramic ocean views, which made it the most magical place to practice. It is so close to beautiful beaches and surrounded by lush rainforest and waterfalls, that as soon as I saw it I knew it was going to be a very special place. My teacher was a wonderful Danish man called Peter Kaaberbol, who offers Thai Yoga Massage as part of his YTT, so that was definitely one of the things that drew me to his course. He was the kindest and most patient instructor I could ever have hoped for and I feel eternally grateful to him for everything he taught me."

YTT in Costa Rica | The Herb Diaries

What experiences or attractions in Costa Rica you would recommend? 

"My favourite places were Montezuma, Samara, and Nosara - all three are small towns along the west coast, each with a big yoga and health food community. Three things you need to do while travelling Costa Rica? Wake up early, roll out your mat and practice your sun salutations listening to the howler monkeys and watching the sunrise. Finish a long day at the beach with a fresh coconut (or a chilled beer!) with your toes in the ocean, your best friend at your side and the sky turning pink as the sun dips below the horizon. Finally, find a secluded waterfall in the middle of the rainforest, strip off your sundress, and jump in, in your birthday suit. There is nothing more freeing or refreshing after a sweaty hike!" 

What types of healthy food options are available in Costa Rica? 

"The food in Costa Rica is very basic - lots of rice and beans, fresh veggies and fish, amazing tropical fruits, and the best avocados I have ever eaten. I eat about 90% vegan and never eat any meat so I was really lucky that the chef and his team at Anamaya were so talented. They make the most amazing meals from simple, fresh, local ingredients, lots of which is grown at the resort's organic farm up the road."

YTT in Costa Rica | The Herb Diaries

What are 3 things someone should take into consideration if they are looking at studying yoga overseas? 

"If you aim to teach, it's very important to check that your qualification will be recognised by the Yoga Alliance, as I’m not sure all YTTs are, you should also do some research on the resort and the teacher. Ask around and talk to your current yoga teacher, it’s always nice if you can go on personal recommendation. Location and cost are often deciding factors as well. I guess the most important thing is to follow your gut instinct."

What is one of the best personal lessons you learned from your experience in Costa Rica? 

"YTT is a huge journey of self-discovery, you learn so much more than how to teach yoga. The people you meet on your YTT impact so much on your experience and the 29 beautiful souls I studied with at Anamaya all taught me so much in their own individual ways. They are your support network during a time when you are at your most vulnerable, and by sharing their pasts and stories with you they unintentionally teach you invaluable life lessons. The lessons that have stuck with me the most are the importance of being true to yourself and being authentic in your actions, realising (and never forgetting) your self-worth, accepting that there are things out of your control and that it is best to go with the flow, and making sure everything you do is done with great love."

Since this interview I have actually gone totally vegan apart from the odd bit of honey, so head over to my Instagram to see what I am eating on a day to day basis!

YTT in Costa Rica | The Herb Diaries





Yoga and Depression

This is a little something I wrote as part of my Yoga Teacher Training back in October. We could write about anything we wanted to do with yoga and this seemed like the obvious choice. Its so important that people talk about these things so we can slowly remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and hopefully that will help people to speak out when they are struggling, rather than suffering in silence.

Yoga and Depression | The Herb Diaries

If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present || Lao Tzu

    The mind and the body are intrinsically linked, and as such, negative processes in either one can have repercussions for the other. Practicing yoga is a great way to maintain a healthy mind-body balance, using constructive physical practices to manifest favourable positive mindsets. Despite the well-known mental and physical benefits of yoga, it is only fairly recently that research has begun into using yoga as a prevention and treatment mechanism for depression and anxiety. I am not simply referring to the physical practice of the asanas, which make up only one of the eight limbs of yoga. The use of breathing and meditation techniques cultivates mental awareness and a greater sense of presence. For many suffering from depression or anxiety, worries and negative thoughts often arise when dwelling on the past or worrying about future. You can break your mind’s connection with these time-related concerns by bringing your attention back to the present moment, through meditation or Pranayama. The physical practice of yoga is traditionally seen as a means to better the body as a vehicle for the soul. Whilst asana practice is a fun and rewarding form of exercise, it is the emotional progression that accompanies it that is key. 

    Meditation cultivates awareness of the present moment and is one of the approaches already used by Cognitive Behavioural Therapists to treat patients with depression. In CBT meditation is usually referred to as‘mindfulness’ so as to avoid the spiritual connotations of meditation. From meditation arises mental balance and clarity which are crucial for keeping level-headed when faced with life’s everyday difficulties. The yamas and niyamas, or ethical precepts on which yoga is based, can offer reassurance and strength to any sufferers of depression. By advocating a life free from judgement, violence and material gains, they encourage appreciation of the simple things; the belief that your life and body are a blessing, and compassion in all thoughts and actions, towards both yourself and others.

    Anyone questioning the ability of yoga to alleviate the difficulties of living with depression should compare a list of common symptoms of depression with the apparent benefits experienced through the regular practice of yoga. By improving sleep, increasing mental clarity and reducing stress levels through your practice, you are directly targeting some of depression’s most widespread side effects. If not curing the illness, you can at least ease your symptoms enough to give yourself the strength to deal with depression other ways. Exercise has long been known to release feel-good endorphins and yoga does this and more.

    It is commonly thought that emotions and past traumas are stored in our physical bodies and yoga is a great release for these imprinted experiences. Some people burst into tears for no apparent reason midway through their practice, most often when holding certain deep poses, and this emotional release this is an essential part of overcoming depression. Past events that have left their mark need to be worked through, and sometimes it takes this involuntary raising of issues to bring them to our attention. The yoga mat is a safe place for these emotional breakthroughs to occur, so they should not be feared. They are an important part of your personal progression.

    Of course, we can’t cure years of mental illness by attending one 90 minute flow class. It is called yoga practicefor a reason, and it is only with a regular practice that we begin to reap the benefits. With dedication and time, yoga can actually change the fundamental biochemistry of the body. According to Amy Weintraub, author of Yoga for Depression, “Yoga helps raise levels of oxcytocin, a hormone that reduces blood pressure and cortisol levels and relaxes the whole body. With regular practice, yoga also improves the levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that tends to be low in people who suffer from depression and anxiety.” In no way am I shunning modern medicine or classic therapy techniques, both of which have helped me enormously with my own battles with depression, but when mood affecting disorders continue to be so prevalent in today’s society, I believe it is vital we try some more natural alternatives before handing out yet another prescription. I am not claiming that introducing yoga to your life is a sure way to “beat the blues”, but having found yoga through my own personal struggles, I can agree with the studies promoting yoga as an amazing coping mechanism. On a mental level, the mind control, discipline and focus on the present moment are incredible tools for dealing with negative thoughts, and the physical movement is amazingly soothing. Asana practice creates a lightness in the body, a freedom for energy to flow and a heightened bodily awareness. Through yoga you can learn to unconditionally love yourself, a step you have to take before you can ever truly love another. Maintaining a healthy relationship with your body is invaluable for a happiness. Depressed or not, yoga will teach you so much about compassion, about yourself and about the greater picture. Writing this as the positive, body confident and happy person that I am today, I feel eternally grateful for my practice and the wonders it has done for my outlook on life. 

Yoga and Depression | The Herb Diaries