This post is also available in: Dutch

Latest update: 9 February 2023

I fly over rice fields and palm trees, where the morning mist slowly passes over. I can hardly imagine what life is like down there. Or what my life will look like soon: I’m flying to Koh Phangan in Thailand for a Yoga Teacher Training. I learn everything about yoga for four weeks, six days a week. This is how I experience it.

Why I’m doing a Yoga Teacher Training

I’ve been playing with the thought of doing more yoga for a year or two, and I’ve finally taken the plunge. I’m just gonna do it. I have been faithfully going to my yoga school in Amsterdam for years, and I love it. But after all these years, I still have no idea why we start a class with AUM, whether I do my poses correctly, and why I actually do them. I do notice that I love to stretch my body, that my thoughts get some rest, and that sometimes I cycle home feeling wonderfully rosy. But I want a little more depth.

I soon conclude that a Yoga Teacher Training is the right choice for me. I don’t want to go on retreat, get a few lessons, and be pampered. It would be lovely, sure. But I don’t learn much from that. If I really want to go into depth, a yoga teacher training is the only way. I can also follow yoga courses in Amsterdam, but they are spread over several weekends, and I want to fully immerse myself in the yoga world for a month. I choose Thailand because of the price and the climate. Yoga in Koh Phangan sounds magical to me. So through Bookyogaretreats, I end up at the 200 HR Yoga Teacher Training of One Yoga Thailand.

A not-so-zen departure

I leave in early 2019. Not without stress, because it’s not just me who’s going to Koh Phangan: tropical storm Pabuk is also coming. It’s all over the news. It is the worst storm in 30 years, and tourists flee to the mainland. I panic completely and can’t help but think about tsunamis and drowning. Should I still go? Via Instagram, I get in touch with a former colleague; she is on the Thai islands at that time and does not flee. It’s not too bad, she says, yes there is a strong wind, and the electricity is cut off now and then. But she doesn’t recognize the horror images portrayed in the media at all. I needed these down-to-earth, honest words. So I travel more relaxed via Bangkok to Koh Phangan.

On the day of arrival, it is still a bit stressful at the songthaews (the shared taxis), but I soon find out that the girl next to me will do exactly the same Teacher Training. And she’s nice. Phew! Another girl in the songthaew says that she goes to Agama Yoga School. The place is known in Koh Phangan for abuse. I don’t dare ask the girl about it; I don’t want to worry her unnecessarily because the perpetrator has already left the island. Later that month, I drink some tea near the Agama yoga school: it is extinct. The news clearly affects the popularity of the yoga school.

A demanding yoga schedule

I opted for private accommodation through One Yoga Thailand. It is nicely hidden in the jungle, along with a handful of other houses on stilts. It is wonderfully quiet, although there is a lot of construction around it. Initially, my plan is to walk every day to the yoga shala. I give up on that idea after two days: it is much too hot, and I lose too much time. So I reluctantly rent a scooter. I am the slowest scooter driver on the island – and proud of it.

The Yoga Teacher Training schedule of One Yoga Thailand is demanding. We have to get to those 200 hours in four weeks, so there is no other way. We start with a meditation at 6.45 am, have a 45-minute break for breakfast, a 2.5-hour lunch break and then finish somewhere between 6 and 8 pm. And we also have homework. I do my homework during lunch break or in the evening. I thought lunch break would give me plenty of time to enjoy the beach, but time flies. And I discover that yoga with sunscreen residue and sand between your toes is not pleasant. So tanning is not a priority anymore.

Tip! Read all practical ins & outs about my Yoga Teacher Training.

Yoga Teacher Training Thailand

Many tears and beautiful words

The first week of the Yoga Teacher Training on Koh Phangan is so special. I get to know my fellow students at breakneck speed. The connections are easily made as everyone has the same goal. People are so sweet and kind to each other. Already at the opening ceremony, the first tears flow because of the beautiful words people share and how open and honest everyone is. The teachers share their wisdom and insights in every class, and I jot them down diligently. I don’t consider myself an airy-fairy type at all, but everything goes straight into my heart in this environment. I take it all in, cry a lot and try to imprint as much of it as I can in my memory.

Opening Ceremony Yoga Teacher Training

A different lifestyle

The first week of training flies by. I really enjoy it. I get to know myself better and my yoga buddies too. In addition, Sri Thanu on Koh Phangan is an amazing setting to experience all of this. Here, I live in my yoga bubble. There is a huge range of yoga schools, vegan and vegetarian restaurants, and all kinds of spiritual sessions. The people who hang out all seem to be involved in soul-searching and mental and physical health in one way or another. If I go somewhere to drink a smoothie, there is a good chance that the people at the table next to me are talking about Ayurveda, and someone at the following table is having his horoscope explained. The hippie vibes are all around, and it’s beautiful.

During the entire yoga training, I am not allowed caffeine, alcohol, meat, fish, or sugar. Smoking is also a no-go, but I don’t do that anyway. I quickly go wrong with the sugar, so I give up trying, as the sugar intake is very minimal anyway. The rest of the ‘sins’ are fine with me. There are more than enough vegetarian restaurants in Koh Phangan. However, I find it hard not to drink cappuccinos. For me, it’s synonymous with a small treat and a moment of rest. Once back in the Netherlands, I am still more conscious about what I eat and drink. Especially with alcohol, I notice a difference: I don’t crave it at all and find the headache the next day a waste of my time. But yes… after being home for a while, that feeling decreases.

Yoga every damn day in Koh Phangan

Meanwhile, the Yoga Teacher Training continues. In the second week, I am crying on my yoga mat. I don’t actually know why. For sure, things are not going well. I have to walk out of class a few times because the tears just keep coming. During the lunch breaks and the sharing circle (in which we sit down with the whole group to share our experiences), it turns out that I am definitely not the only one. Our bodies are tired from more than four hours of yoga a day and the new impressions. I go to bed before ten o’clock every night. My whole day revolves around yoga. Not that I’m complaining, because this is what I want. But I didn’t expect it to be so hard physically and mentally.

I am getting stronger physically every day (although the headstands are still way out of reach for me), but I regret that in the third week, the focus is increasingly on the exams. Personal growth is taking a back seat. Mention the word exam, and I get stressed. Every possible moment I’m writing summaries of the material, studying the practice questions, and panicking because the penny doesn’t seem to drop. It’s soooooo much. Not only do I have to facilitate a yoga class, but we also get anatomy, philosophy, and lessons in teaching. There is a theory and a practical exam, and even though the teachers assure me everything will be fine, I can hardly believe it.

Understanding the yoga philosophy

The teachers of One Yoga Thailand are all passionate yogis, each with their own approach. For example, one views yoga more from the physical aspect, the other from the mental side, and the next focuses more on the spiritual side. For me, that is beautiful and difficult at the same time. It’s great that yoga has so many different sides and facets; it’s just a bit overwhelming.

In addition, it is challenging to understand the more philosophical side because it is incomprehensible. Every answer is a new question, which is difficult for my structured brain, which loves step-by-step plans, facts, and to-do lists. The fact that we also get the weekly schedule super last minute bothers me a lot. How hard can it be to send it well in advance, I think? And secretly, secretly, I think the One Yoga team is doing it on purpose, withholding that information. To force us to live more in the here and now.

Very slowly I’m starting to feel more and more what is meant by the philosophical concepts:

  • Being kind to yourself.
  • Not judging.
  • Our consciousness
  • And the impact I have on myself and everything around me.

They are hazy concepts that I can’t explain very well, but they grab hold of me in Koh Phangan: they make me think, and I can also find peace in them.

Graduation One Yoga Thailand

Exam stress

During the last days of the Yoga Teacher Training, we receive study guides and the exam schedule and set up study groups. I usually pop into a café to study on my own. All those different interpretations of the material confuses me. When we take the theory exam the last week, I have to admit that I studied way too hard. I know so much more than what they ask! I pass. Two people still have to re-exam for anatomy, but they also pass the second time.

The practical exams take place in two yoga shalas. The group is split up because everyone has to teach for an hour, and that’s impossible if we go one by one. I am the very last one to teach. I practice my yoga class with a friend. Is the timing right? Am I giving the right cues? Does it feel good? All my yoga buddies give beautiful classes, and that makes me nervous. On Friday morning, there is one girl before me. An American with a beautiful voice who also sings a mantra flawlessly. It’s not a competition, but how am I supposed to get even close to this?

After each practical exam, the teacher provides extensive feedback. Strict, but with excellent tips. However, this feedback round takes forever for me. With every minute and piece of advice, I feel more insecure, and I can only cry very loudly at a certain point. I. Hate. Exams. But I love my yoga people: hugs and kind words all over the place. Purely intellectually, I know I shouldn’t worry about anything: only once in his career has the yoga teacher seen someone screw up the practical exam. So what does my head say? “Here’s number two!” I take a few minutes to breathe in the fresh air outside, and the time has now really come.

My first yoga teacher experience

I start my first yoga class with some insecure AUMs. My voice skips a few times, and I can’t find the right volume. I only see friendly faces when my eyes scan the room in fear. A smile on the left, a nod on the right. If I’m going to screw this up, then this is the best place to do it, I realize. So I pick myself up and teach. I can’t remember much about it. Except that, at some point, everyone looks in the wrong direction, and I have no idea how those people ended up there. I repeat the same series, and they are still there. Oops! In the end, I get fantastic feedback and compliments on my humor in class. What a relief. I passed. I am a yoga teacher. Blurred Happy Selfie:

I am overjoyed with my certificate. It’s official. But I’m even happier with the yoga bubble full of lovely people who are there for you when you need it, with the connections I’ve made here. With my yoga buddies, and especially the connection with myself. Grateful is the only word that comes to mind. Intensely grateful.

Would you also like to do a Yoga Teacher Training? This is the one I did. I definitely recommend it!

And if you like, you can listen to my yoga nidra sessions on Insight Timer.

More Thailand inspiration

  • Accommodation. All-time favorite: Booking.com. Would you rather stay in a hostel? Check Hostelworld.
  • Activities. You book the best tours and activities with GetYourGuide and Viator. Another good option is WithLocals. There are ‘free’ walking tours available at Freetour.com and GuruWalk, and for bike tours, try Baja Bikes.
  • Attractions and museums. At Tiqets, you’ll find tickets for museums and attractions – and get a 5% discount with coupon code KIMOPREIS22.
  • Car rental. My go-to car rental companies are EasyTerra and Sunny Cars as they have all-inclusive / worry-free offers. Compare even more prices at Discover Cars.
  • Flights. Compare all your options! Definitely check out Momondo, Skyscanner, and Kiwi.
  • Money. Your debit and credit cards may not get accepted everywhere. You could opt for a Revolut card as an additional card when you travel. 
  • Package deals. Rather go on a catered trip? For the Dutch readers, please check out these organizations: ANWB vakanties, Sawadee, Tui, Corendon, Shoestring, and Vakantie Discounter. You can also try D-reizen.
  • SIM card. Beware of unexpectedly high calling and internet costs. Buy a local SIM card when you arrive, or arrange one online via Airalo.
  • Train, bus, and boat. Reserve buses, trains, and boats via Busbud, 12Go (personal favorite in Thailand), or Omio.
  • Travel gear. Buy your gear at Bever or Decathlon, or simply at Bol.com.
  • Travel guides. Excited about your upcoming Thailand trip? I understand! To add to your anticipation, you can order a travel guide, for example at Bol.com or Amazon.
  • Yoga retreat. Or, go on a yoga retreat in Thailand.

Some of the links on this site are affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, I might receive a small commission.

First published: May 2019. The article has been updated since.

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