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The Magic of an Intensive Yoga Teacher Training Abroad

by Portia Leigh

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Something magical happens when you chose to leave your day-to-day life behind and immerse yourself in an intensive yoga training in a foreign country. Not only is a space for deep transformation, but you have the added benefit of exploring another culture while exploring the depths of the self.

In early July I packed my bags and left Los Angeles, California and headed halfway around the world to do my first 200 HR Yoga Teacher Training in Crete, Greece. I’d done extensive research on 200 HR YTTs over the years, but it wasn't until I met Tanya Popovich (Founder of Swaha Yoga in Greece) in Bali earlier this year that I found a teacher I could fully get behind; and so I followed her to Greece to join her next 200 HR YTT.

I arrived on Crete where I met the 23 other yogis and a strong connection was formed between us almost instantly. Over the next month, that connection transformed into a strong familial bond; it was incredible, and due in no small part to the fact that we spent day in and day out learning, sharing and overcoming our individual obstacles as members of a group. Shedding the layers of our identity, we learned more about each other on a human level, opened up about our struggles and were met with open hearts full of endless compassion and respect.

With its foundation rooted in the ancient traditions of yoga, Swaha's teacher training is all about bringing those classical systems into the modern age and making them accessible to people in today’s busy world. This was both incredibly valuable for us on our journey towards becoming teachers, as well as crucial to our ability to effectively impart this knowledge to our future students.


Swaha’s trainings take place all over the world, giving students the opportunity to taste the local cultures of places like Bali, Finland, Brazil, Greece, Turkey, India, and others. What’s more, Swaha school gives graduates the rare gift of being able to repeat any of their trainings free of tuition. So, not only are you able to continue growing your practice in a supportive communal environment while exploring other cultures in new locations, but this allows you to form strong bonds with Swaha’s teachers and community.

A brilliant and life-changing bonus of an immersion course in a foreign country (aside from most being hosted in beautiful places) is that you are given an invaluable opportunity to expand your horizons. The enriching insights into other peoples cultures and ways of life is the main reason why people love traveling; and coming together to form a community with people from different parts of the world while developing your yoga practice means you are able to gain those insights and more.

The connections that you will inevitably form with these people not only generates a feeling of overwhelming joy and fulfillment, but the experience helps further the realization that we are all one. Granted, there will be some bumps along the road, they're to be expected when undergoing any kind of powerful transformation; but being immersed in an intensive training means that you are surrounded by others who are going through the very same thing and support you the whole way through.

yoga poses

For anyone who is on the fence about choosing an intensive yoga training or one that is spread out over the course of several months, I strongly recommend doing the intensive and here is why: Yoga is about so much more than contorting the body and getting into wildly complicated poses. It is a way of life, a map for diving deep into the depths of yourself and discovering the common thread that connects you to everyone and everything. Yoga teaches you to accept your strengths and weaknesses without attachment. There is no better way to come into contact with your truest self than by leaving your default life behind and gifting yourself an entire month to journey to a new place, with new people who are all working towards the goal of bettering themselves.

During our Swaha YTT we spent countless hours studying the ancient texts that lay at the heart of yogic philosophy. Helping the transformational effects really take hold, the immersive environment was tantamount to being able to transfer what we studied and apply it in our daily life. There is something rare and special about being surrounded by a community of people who are trying to expand their awareness.

Marrying the ancient tradition with the modern world, Swaha devoted special attention to training us in the practical elements of being a yoga teacher, such as properly sequencing a class so our students receive the maximum benefit, and the various hands-on assists that accompany each pose.

scorpion pose

One of the virtues of a potent yoga teacher is the quality and the way they use their voice. Have you ever noticed how a good teacher just puts you at ease simply by speaking to you and telling you what to do with your body? I had previously assumed that this was an innate quality some people had and others lacked, but I was wrong! During our training we spent an evening doing a workshop to find our own voice; and the results have been unbelievably beneficial. Putting your day-to-day life aside and committing an entire month to learning from another person is a big step, especially when it’s something that has the powerful potential for transformation such as yoga. Over the course of the training it became undeniably clear that I had made the correct decision. Tanya’s authenticity as a human being is overwhelmingly refreshing; and her knowledge and passion for teaching the ancient tradition of yoga made it easy to absorb the information and truly see how the teachings relate to our own lives, to those of our future students, and to everyone around us.

From a good yoga teacher training you can expect to gain a monumental amount of information. Once the training has finished, you have to go out on your own and play around with what you’ve learned until it has become yours, and then you will really be able to begin sharing the magic of yoga with others.

In the practical sense, Swaha has helped me gain a firm foundation to build on as a teacher; and, having now gone on to teach several classes of my own since leaving the training, I've encountered the things I had initially worried would make me a lesser teacher. But I can honestly say that because I've been given the necessary tools, I've been able to meet the challenges confidently -and as it turned out they weren't challenges at all, they were just new opportunities for growth.

Ready to become a yoga teacher? Go to BookYogaTeacherTraining.com to find and compare among hundreds of yoga teacher training courses all over the world. 

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