As a busy 30-year old with a full-time job, a dog and a fiance, my yoga practice has varied throughout the years since I picked it up as a hobby towards the end of my time at University in Canada. The frequency at which I practice can range anywhere from once every two to three weeks to several times a week depending on my work, personal schedule, travel, etc. I live what I think is a pretty normal, stable life with a steady routine and a reliable job so some people I meet find it surprising to learn that five years ago I spent over a month in the Costa Rican jungle completing a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) course.
Destination Yoga Teacher Training Course
Unless you complete a destination Yoga Teacher Training course you might not know what that entails.
No, my month in Costa Rica was not a vacation. It also wasn’t relaxing or easy. I wasn’t being lazy and living the beach life for an entire summer. My time completing my yoga teacher training in Costa Rica was one of the most physically and mentally challenging goals I have ever taken on but it was also probably the happiest and most rewarding month of my life.
I learned things I never expected, saw improvements on a mental, physical and spiritual level, and met my tribe of yogis who still remain dear friends to this very day.
This guide was written for anyone with a dedicated yoga practice, those who are passionate about yoga along with travel and are considering whether a Yoga Teacher Training Course (particularly a destination training program) might be right for them. I hope my experience offers some insight into the good, the bad, the easy, the hard and everything in between to completing your yoga teacher training.
Choosing the Right Yoga Teacher Training Course
After graduating from University, I spent almost 3 years teaching English in South Korea. It was during those few years that my interest in yoga grew along with my personal practice, and I began exploring the idea of completing my yoga teacher training.
My mom, who is a retired school teacher living in Canada, was in the process of completing her yoga teacher training at a local studio. She raved about how much yoga had changed her life and how much she had learned from her yoga training course. As my journey in South Korea came to an end, I prepared for my future.
A lot of variables at that time meant that my future was somewhat uncertain, but I did make the decision to enroll in a year-long postgraduate diploma program at Humber College in Toronto that would begin 4 months after my teaching contract in Korea ended.
I knew that if I was going to complete my yoga teacher training course that I’d want to combine it with my love of travel and complete this once in a lifetime experience in a beautiful destination. I wanted to be able to fully immerse myself in the program without worrying about a job or school, and the hassles of day-to-day life. My summer break between teaching in Korea and going back to school in Toronto seemed like the perfect time to take on this new endeavor.
I began researching Yoga Teacher Training Courses and initially thought about completing my 200-hour Certification in Thailand.
I had spent 5 weeks in Thailand a few years prior and was in love with the country – the scenery, the people, the culture. However, after a lot of consideration, I realized that going home to Canada for a month before beginning my Yoga Teacher Training made the most sense. This meant that Thailand was too far geographically and I narrowed my search to destinations in the Caribbean and Central America.
After some serious Google research, I came across Peak Beings Yoga Teacher Training in Costa Rica.
The dates aligned with my timing, the program met the criteria of what I was looking for and the price was right. I registered for the program, put down my deposit, and a few months later I was on a plane to San Jose, Costa Rica.
Yoga Teacher Training Certification Requirements
If you want to become a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) through Yoga Alliance, a non-profit membership trade and professional organization for yoga teachers, there are a number of things you must do.
- An RYT must complete their training with a Registered Yoga School (RYS)
- be confirmed by the RYS, and
- keep up-to-date with continuing education and annual fees.
A program that meets Yoga Alliance’s standards must be taught by teachers who are qualified to train teachers.
The following categories must also be covered in a 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training:
- Techniques, training, and practice
- Teaching methodology
- Anatomy and physiology
- Yoga philosophy, ethics, and lifestyle
The time needed to complete a 200-hour course varies but a destination Yoga Teacher Training program is usually completed in less than a month. If you are taking a Yoga Teacher Training course that is part-time, it will often take between three to five months to complete, sometimes longer.
Many yoga studios require their teachers to be certified as an RYT through Yoga Alliance upon completing their training. Benefits for those teachers registered through Yoga Alliance include
- a credential that is internationally recognized
- marketing on Yoga Alliance’s RYT directory
- free access to online workshops, and
- invitations to community events, among many others.
Yoga Teacher Training Cost
The cost of a yoga teacher training program can vary depending on a number of factors such as location, studio, schedule and so on.
I knew that Yoga Teacher Training programs in Toronto can cost upwards of $3,000 just for the course itself, so I was incredibly happy when I learned that the cost for my Peak Beings Yoga Teacher Training in Costa Rica was only $3,695 USD.
The original price of the course was $4,195, but I registered with the early bird pricing and saved $500 on my tuition. While this number might sound high to some people, I factored in that it not only included my yoga certification but also covered my accommodations for the month (fortunately I was not paying rent in Canada at this time) and 3 meals a day.
Sometimes when I look at my living expenses in NYC, I wish I could go back to my Costa Rican lifestyle. It was a lot cheaper and a much, MUCH more relaxed pace of life.
Our Home for the Month – Samasati Retreat
Located 130 miles from the capital city of San Jose and just 4 miles from the quaint beach town of Puerto Viejo, Samasati is a secluded eco-resort and wellness retreat nestled 1,400 feet above sea level in one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world.
The eco-resort is located in a 250-acre rainforest, yet we were still provided with many of the comforts and conveniences of a modern resort… well, sort of!
The goal of the sanctuary is to reinforce your connection to nature during your stay, so there are no TVs on the property. There are no air conditioners either, however, the rainforest keeps the temperature regulated naturally. Although I read that Samasati now offers free wifi in the restaurant and lounge, during my time there this was not the case… access to wifi meant a 1-mile hike down a large hill to the office at the bottom.
Samasati, along with most eco-retreats that host Yoga Teacher Training, offers a variety of accommodations. These can range from a private room for those willing to spend more, to a double or triple room for those looking to save a little money.
Samasati has ten wooden cottages also known as Casitas, which are made of reclaimed wood and are located within the jungle’s tropical gardens. All feature a spacious veranda that either overlooks the rainforest or the Caribbean sea.
My month at Samasati was probably the happiest of my life and also my healthiest. The diet we followed during our Yoga Teacher Training consisted of healthy, plant-based meals that were prepared directly on site. We would eat each meal as a group, at the same time each day. We were served eggs, bread, fruit and yogurt for breakfast. Lunch would often consist of salad, rice, beans and vegetables. Dinner was similar, with salad, bread, rice, potatoes and vegetables served for most of the meals. We’d have fish for dinner once a week.
We did not drink any alcohol on site and instead enjoyed warm cups of tea after dinner, usually returning to our rooms by 8:30 or 9 pm. The only exception was the final weekend of our training, when we did not have an evening yoga course and our group went out for a night on the town, and also on the night of our Yoga Teacher Training graduation when we celebrated with a party at Samasati.
My diet at Samasati was easy to follow, especially given that healthy delicious meals were being prepared for me three times a day. All I had to do, was to show up at a certain time and eat! A few months after leaving Costa Rica I decided to adopt the pescatarian diet that I followed during my time there and still maintain this diet choice to this day.
If you count the number of hours in one month, you realize that there are only 720 hours, which makes it ever so challenging to fit 200-hours of Yoga Teacher Training into just 30 days. In order to complete our certification requirement, more than half of our waking hours were dedicated to yoga. Skipping or missing class was not an option. We were told on day one that if we missed more than two classes for any reason whatsoever, we would not be able to complete the training. Although it seemed a little daunting, each of the 12 students in my program completed the course without any issues.
The schedule below covers the program hours Monday through Friday. Although we had classes 7 days a week, we had additional free time on the weekend for the beach, relaxation, and tours of the area.
- 6:00 am to 8:00 am – Morning Yoga Practice
- 8:00 am to 10:00 am – Breakfast and Break
- 10:00 am to 1:30 pm – Morning/Afternoon Yoga Session
- 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm – Lunch
- 2:30 pm to 5:00 pm – Free time (beach, hiking, etc.)
- 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm – Evening Yoga Session
- 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm – Dinner
Our mornings began bright and early at 6 am with our first 2-hour yoga class of the day. This meant getting up, dressed and on our mat before this time. Fortunately for me, I had the closest room to the yoga studio so I probably got more sleep than anyone else in the program. Somehow, I was still the one snoozing my alarm until 5:52 on most mornings and then sprinting the 100 meters or so from my room to the studio.
After two hours of what was usually moderate to strenuous yoga practice, we would head off to the restaurant for breakfast. After breakfast, we would re-group back in the studio for another 3 and a half hours of yoga. How can someone do so much yoga, you might wonder?
The next 3.5 hours involved yoga theory and the instructional side of the practice. Rather than participating in a 2-hour vinyasa class, we would be divided into small groups of two or three. One person in each group would be “the teacher” and the other(s) would be “the student” and we would spend an extensive amount of time learning a particular pose or sequence. We would then switch roles so that everyone had the chance to be both the student and the teacher.
After lunch, we’d have a few hours of free time. This could be used to focus on what we had learned in class, to relax and read, go for a hike on the premises, or even go into town for a beach afternoon. Because the town was 4 miles away we had to arrange transportation for the group, but we did do this at least once or twice a week.
Once our break was over, it was back to the studio for the last session of the day. This class was 2.5 hours and consisted of theory, meditation and practice depending on the day and class. By 7:30 pm we were exhausted and ready for dinner. While our group got along really well and often socialized in the evening after dinner, we usually were in our rooms and ready for bed by 9 pm.
What We Learned During Yoga Teacher Training
After almost four weeks of yoga, day in and day out, it was time to teach our first yoga class. Each student was required to plan their own 90-minute yoga class and teach it to a group of 3 or 4 students. This component was a necessary part of the course and was required to complete the training.
Although nervous in the days leading up to it, once I began teaching my first class I realized that I was more prepared than I anticipated. The most interesting part of the whole experience was noticing how each individual personalized their class.
Some students led vigorous ‘power-yoga’ type classes to upbeat soundtracks, while others focused on the importance of community by setting up the mats in a circle rather than facing the front of the studio. Although the skills we learned from Yoga Teacher Training were clearly on display during our first official yoga class, we all learned so much more than could be expressed in any 90-minute yoga class.
Is Yoga Teacher Training Right for You?
Because yoga is such a personal and inward practice there is no right or wrong time when it comes down to registering for a Yoga Teacher Training program. Some people choose to register after practicing yoga for only a few months while others are devoted yogis for years and sometimes even decades before choosing to go down this path. Some people practice yoga their entire lives without feeling the need to complete their yoga teacher training.
On the other hand, just because you may choose to complete your Yoga Teacher Training, does not mean you are necessarily going to choose to teach. While some people choose to make teaching yoga their career and others decide to teach a few classes a week at a local studio, many individuals such as myself and others enrolled in my program, chose to complete our yoga teacher training for personal reasons and to deepen our practice.
Here are some key things to consider before completing a destination YTT program:
Are you confident in your yoga practice?
This doesn’t mean being able to stand on your hands or meditate for hours each day. But you should be confident in the basic and intermediate poses as the schedule for a destination Yoga Teacher Training Course is intense and if you do not frequently practice you may find it hard to devote yourself to such a schedule for an entire month.
Is your reason for completing the training to make a lot of money upon graduating?
If your answer is yes, then maybe reconsider what you are signing up for. While some people do lead successful full-time careers as yoga instructors, many others choose to teach it part-time or even on a volunteer basis. Like the non-profit sector, people generally don’t go into teaching yoga because they want to be financially successful, they do it because they are passionate about yoga and teaching. You should be aware that it may take a year or sometimes much longer to earn back the money you spent on YTT.
Are you able to disconnect and be fully present in the moment?
This is probably the most important question to ask yourself. For me, Yoga Teacher Training was about being completely present in the moment. When I spent my month at Samasati I did not have a smart phone or even internet access 23 of the 24 hours a day. I was not on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
If I wanted to speak with loved ones back home I had to hike 2 miles roundtrip, hoping that the wifi connection on that particular day would be strong enough to connect. If you are someone with a demanding job you may not be able to take 4 weeks off from work and even those with flexible careers may still find themselves stressed out about disconnecting for such an extensive period of time. Of course, it’s worth noting that I did complete my Yoga Teacher Training 5 years ago and am aware that many retreats now probably offer wifi in common areas.
Even so, it is important to note that a full-time intense Yoga Teacher Training Course will take up a lot of time and that completing your training in a foreign country may make you feel distant and lonely at times.
Yoga Teacher Training Retreats
Now that you’ve decided that a destination Yoga Teacher Training Course is right for you, you will have to research the many options that are out there.
As someone who was very happy with my yoga teacher training experience, I highly recommend Peak Beings Yoga. Although Peak Beings is no longer based in Costa Rica, the company now offers similar programs in both Hawaii and Mexico.
If you have another destination in mind, check out the website Book Your Yoga Retreat where you can filter and search for retreats based on location and program.
Another option is to check with studios in your city to see if they are offering a destination Yoga Teacher Training Program. I know one of my old studios offered a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training Program in South America last summer and many other studios do the same.
Before deciding on a particular program, I encourage you to read testimonials from past students and research things such as cost of air travel from your city to the destination, travel from the airport to the retreat, the weather that time of year, how much extra money you will need to bring, and if there are any required readings/materials you will need in advance.
Although it’s already been five years since I completed my Yoga Teacher Training, there hasn’t been a single moment I regretted my decision to spend a month in Costa Rica.
The friendships I made during that time and the many lessons I learned both on and off the mat helped me grow as a person especially in what ended up being a very transitional year of moving from Canada to the United States. Yoga is a big part of my life and who I am, and I don’t know if that would be true had I not embarked on the journey of completing my Yoga Teacher Training with Peak Beings in Costa Rica.