by Erica Turck, Cambodia 300 hour yoga teacher training student
So here I am in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I made the 30 hour journey across land and ocean from New York to get here. With only three days left until the 300 hour teacher training journey begins, I am happy to relax here in the capital and finish up some pre-course reading until we head to the Vine Retreat in Kep. One of the first things people asked me when I told them that I am going to Cambodia for my yoga teacher training is “Do you have to go all the way to Cambodia to study?” Usually I smile and say “Why shouldn’t I go Cambodia!?” Then I tell them that I am going to reunite with my teachers from Zuna Yoga.
To be honest, I found Zuna Yoga completely by accident about a year and a half ago. I was originally signed up with another yoga teacher training course on the coast of Bali and I didn’t pay my deposit on time, so I was booted from the course. In a panic, I began to research more courses around Bali, and there popped up Zuna Yoga. It’s true what Steve Maraboli said, that sometimes when we think we are being rejected from something good, we are actually being re-directed to something better. I can say with 100% certainty, that I would not be evolving into the wonderful yoga student and teacher I am today without the guidance of Zuna Yoga.
Zuna is a Sanskrit word meaning “to thrive” and as students of Zuna Yoga that is exactly what we are taught to do. In my opinion, during a Zuna Yoga teacher training course we are given all the tools we need to thrive, not only in the practice of yoga, but in everyday life as well. The intense focus on the breath and bandhas during asana training completely transformed my yoga practice. During training we are taught how to artfully and systematically create yoga sequences to benefit those we teach after our training. When I became a 200 hour yoga teacher training grad last year in Bali, I felt as though I was let in on one of yoga training's best kept secrets. As a Zuna Yoga grad you become part of an elite group that can go out into the world as teachers who know how to mindfully, safely, and passionately lead others during the practice of Yoga. And that’s exactly what I did this past year.
When I first returned back to New York from Bali last October, I began teaching on our local military base Fort Drum. Teaching in a huge and noisy gym on an Army base definitely presented its challenges, but the students were always present and thankful to practice. I was so nervous my first class. All these thoughts kept going through my head, “Am I going to forget what leg they should be lifting during Adho Mukha Svanasana?” “Are they going to like me?” “ I hope they can’t see how nervous I am!” About halfway through, my mind chatter began to slow down as I realized: there I was, leading my first class. I assured myself that things don’t have to be perfect; I am here to grow with the students. My favorite part of teaching is the bond you create with those who are learning from you and with you. I find that teaching brings me great calmness. I can forget about anything that’s going on outside of class and focus solely on leading people through a wonderful yogic experience. Having a fear of public speaking, yes I still get nervous when I step in front of a new class, but that’s ok. Yoga teaches us not cling to our thoughts and emotions, just let them come and go freely. So that is what I do with my fear when I begin teaching a new class. I honor the feeling and then after a few sun salutations, I find that the fear has dissipated and I’m caught up in the joyous experience of teaching.
So to answer the question “Do you have to go to Cambodia to study?” Yes, I do have to go to Cambodia. I have to travel all the way across the world and leave behind everything I know. By entering into this vulnerable state, I’m more open and receptive to the change that must take place within you during training. An excerpt from “Kundalini Tantra” by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, one of the required readings for the Zuna Yoga 300 hour course, resonated with me and proves this point on why we have to travel and explore during our yoga training. “Today we are living in a world where everyone is more or less satisfied. We have all the comforts and everything we need and do not need. There will come a time, however, when man will be prepared to throw off these comforts. Luxury and comfort weaken the will and keep one under constant hypnosis.” By studying in the unique settings which Zuna Yoga offer, you are given the opportunity to release the comforts of home and fully immerse yourself into a magical intensive yoga program.
I am eternally grateful to my teachers and to the peaceful warriors who study beside me. I can’t wait to board that bus and head down to Kep tomorrow to begin this next journey.