Five days after I graduated college, I flew to Indonesia to become certified to be a yoga instructor. It was not easy traveling to that side of the world during COVID — a 36 hour flight and six-day quarantine later, I had finally made it to Bali, where I spent 200 hours training to become a yoga teacher certified in Hatha and Vinayasa practice.

I’ve always loved yoga. Ever since I was a kid, my mother and I would go to our local studio on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and practice various forms of yoga, from Ashtanga to Hatha to Vinyasa. My love for the practice grew throughout middle school, high school, and even college. Friends would joke that my obsession and love for yoga almost became like a personality trait, but as I grew older, I felt even more thankful that I had found yoga early on in my life. It unconsciously shaped the way I viewed my surroundings, provided the foundations for my emotional toolkit, and brought me strength and flexibility in my body.

So, it was a no-brainer that I was determined to become a certified instructor at some point in my future. I knew one day I wanted to gain the credentials that would allow me to teach a practice I grew to love and cherish, with the hopes of bringing that same joy to others.

I had very minimal expectations for the yoga teacher training program. All I knew was that I felt excited and lucky to travel solo post-college, especially during COVID times, and was proud of myself for accomplishing something I’d set out to do for a while.

Four months later, I can now say I gained much more than a simple certification. My time during the teacher training granted me incredible lessons on compassion and what it means to take care of yourself and brought some of the most spirited and wise people into my life.

1. Yoga is a practice that regulates the nervous system. The practice is centered around linking breath with movement, and by doing so, we learn how to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Through breathing and learning techniques to quiet the mind, we train ourselves how self-regulate and move away from the fight-or-flight responses, or sympathetic nervous system, towards a more relaxed and stable parasympathetic system.

2. Tantra Yoga is not equated to sex. While mainstream media focuses on tantra as a practice of sex, tantra really is a spiritual practice that emphasizes our centers of energy. Tantra means to “weave” in Sanskrit, so tantra focuses on achieving enlightenment through the use of different types of energy (which can, yes, also include sexual energy).

3. Yoga is personal. Yes, you may show up to an hour vinyasa class looking to get in a great workout, but what makes this practice unique is that it is deeply personal and customizable. There are no “rules” in yoga, and you have the power to bring whatever you may need to the mat. Achieving certain poses is not a competition or “rite of passage,” and that’s the beauty of yoga — you get to control what you want to get out of it.

4. Incorporating yoga into your daily routine is easier than you think. You don’t necessarily have to practice an hour a day to be a yogi. Simple practices you can do to fully embody the yogic lifestyle and philosophy include daily stretches, finding time to journal and create space for a “brain dump,” practicing a few minutes of meditation or pranayama (breathing exercises) a day or even taking time to express gratitude for a loved one. Yoga is a philosophy, and the physical practice (a.k.a the poses, or “asanas”) are only a small portion of the Yoga Sutras, which outline all the different practices of yoga.

If you find this content interesting, check out the #BaliSeries for my podcast Everyday Endorphins, which discusses health, wellbeing, happiness, and purposeful living.