Sally Parkes Yoga Teacher Training at The Hacienda in Spain

Mercedes Aspland
By Mercedes Aspland / June 24, 2014

I told you quite a long time ago now that I was going to be training to be a yoga teacher with Sally Parkes Yoga and the majority of my course was to be taught in Spain, from which I have just got back. I wanted to write a post telling you all about it but realised there was a great chance that it would end up being a random collection of thoughts that made little or no sense. So to make it easier I thought I would split it into sections of The Teachers, The Course, The Other Students, The Venue, Other Bits where I can just tell you about random things that come into my mind.

The Teachers 

In Spain we had 3 teachers and they were Sally Parkes, Paula Hines and Chris Thompson all of which brought something different to our training helping us to get a well rounded yoga education. I thought that the best thing to do was to give you a bit of information about each of them:
Sally & Bonnie
Sally Parkes – the course is obviously run by Sally and having had a baby only 5 months before the course we were also accompanied by her beautiful daughter Bonnie. In terms of the yoga Sally clearly had a lot of knowledge and her morning classes were Vinyasa Flow classes that really woke us up for the morning. Her style of teaching was easy and relaxed and something that was great to learn from and some excellent ideas that we can incorporate into our classes.
Paula
Paula Hines – Paula is a soft spoken teacher who is deeply passionate about yoga and particularly Restorative Yoga and back care. I did not really expect to like restorative yoga as it is very slow and you do not feel like you are working, being an active person I find this difficult. However by the end of the 2 weeks I am a convert and see great value in incorporating it into anyone’s yoga schedule. The other great thing we got from Paula was a daily Yoga Nidra. I did not admit it at the time but near the beginning of the 2 weeks I found this relaxation period very difficult and in fact in the first 2 or 3 days just found it a nuisance. This showed just how on the go I was and by the end of the 2 weeks I think I was asleep as soon as Paula started talking. I now know the value of true relaxation and the benefits everyone can get from it.
Chris
Chris Thompson –  it is hard to find the words to describe Chris but I will give it a go. In some ways my week was made by having Chris as a teacher, he is one of the nicest people I have ever met and his yoga knowledge is in depth and just what we needed. As well as teaching us all the nuts and bolts of yoga Chris also took our afternoon yoga class which meant he had the hardest job, by this time we had been doing yoga since 7.30am and having just had an hour in the sun we were close to delirious. Needless to say there were serious outbreaks of hysterical laughter, although I think it was quite happy to encourage us. While he was teaching us yoga he was also teaching us how to teach, constantly reminding us about mirroring which was a great help. The support we got from Chris in all sorts of ways was fantastic and just what we needed to get through the 2 weeks.

The Course

Lesson Time
I am actually going to keep this section quite short as all of the course details can be found on Sally’s website and I think that the contents are fairly standard to teacher training courses. The only thing really worth saying is I now think my knowledge of yoga is so much great. My head is full of the chakras in a way that it never was before. I am still working my way through one of the recommended books called Opening to Spirit by Caroline Shola Arewa which gives so much more information on the chakras and how to bring them into balance so I have lots of things to be getting on with.
Jala Neti using cups!
One thing it has made me realise is that there is so much to learn and so many different opinions on yoga and surrounding philosophies. The only way to move forward is to continue reading and learning and then to find my way and what fits with me. I see this just as the beginning of my journey and I am looking forward to finding out where it will take me.
Evening Yoga with Chris

The Other Students

This is another area where it is actually difficult to put into words how I felt about the people on the course. It is not at all what I expected, I have a tendency to keep myself to myself and pull away from people so i expected to hate this and to have anxiety attacks while I was away. If I am honest part of the difference was in me but to be able to spend 2 weeks will complete strangers and no way to get away with virtually no problems is fantastic and testament to the amazing people I was training with.
Fred, Rae, Me
There are obviously some people I connected with more than others, that is only to be expected but I can happily say that everyone on the course will hold a special place in my heart. The thing that the other students brought to me was laughter and lots of it. I often think I do not laugh enough but that cannot be said of this training, I laughed so much I think it did more to firm up my abs than the yoga.
Liz, Dani, Suzy
When you are with people that can see the light side of everything it is infectious and we certainly did. Doing something like yoga teacher training can be really intense and if you are serious all of the time it will be very hard to deal with so the laughter was a great release and a massive help in getting through the 2 weeks without too much of a breakdown!
Rae & Liz in Teaching Practise
I am so glad that I went on this 2 week course and met the people that I did. I am hoping that in some I have made life long friends that I will always be able to laugh with, even when times get hard.

The Venue

So here is where I may be having more of a rant then the love in we have been having so far. Let me start with the positives, where we were staying was beautiful and I love the fact it was totally isolated plus the pool was pretty cool. I also need to mention the young girls who did most of the work there as volunteers. It still escapes me why anyone would want volunteer somewhere like that at 19 and just spend time looking after yogis and nowhere to go but they seemed happy and were absolutely lovely.
View from Balcony
Before going on this course I made sure it was known that I was vegan and to be honest I thought that as we were going to a yoga retreat that veganism would be something they were used to. How wrong I was! In the first couple of days I was fine, there were soya yoghurts in the fridge for snacking on and the meals were tasty. However as time went on they just started me serving meals with no protein. When they did eggs for the others they just expected me to eat the same as the others with no eggs. At first I coped but half way through the second week a lack of protein was getting to me as my normal diet is very high in protein. 
Dinner Time
The low point for me was half way through the second weeks when they put cheese in the salad, made soya meat balls which contained eggs and then did some roasted veg with a bit of potato on top. So basically I was expected to eat only the veg and potato. That is in no way a balance meal so I had to give in and have the other dish containing eggs. I was very much left with the feeling during the trip that being vegan was being fussy which needs a very nasty taste in my mouth.
Are we on the Breaking Bad Set?
As you may know I have been vegetarian my whole life but only recently converted to being vegan. When I was a kid and vegetarian I faced the same difficulties that I was being fussy and no one was able to see the moral implications to my life. Fortunately over the last 25-30 years things have changed a lot and being vegetarian is widely accepted however people can only deal with it if you eat eggs and dairy. Being from London I see being vegan and not that unusual and people need to be aware it is a moral decision and not being fussy. I would have expected this would have been known at a yoga retreat more than anywhere else, the problem is the people running the retreat do not care about yoga and are only doing it to make money.
Although I love the course and the people that I met on this trip I really would not recommend the venue, partly for the food but there is another reason. Most of the work done at the venue is done by young girls who are just volunteering which does not sit well with me. Yes they get tips, but they should get them on top of wages. To me it is another example of how the owners of this venue are thinking only about their own pockets and is something I really cannot condone.
Our Wonderful Volunteers

Other Bits

So back on to more positive bits and I have a couple of bits to tell you. The first being that during the training we have the middle Friday off and me and another student decided to walk 10-12km to the nearest town Montefrio. Please do not ask me why, this is not the kid of thing I would normally do but it was fun and a lovely way to spend 2 hours with great conversation all the way there.
Montefrio
The other thing that I just cannot end this post without telling you about is the fact I was bitten by a caterpillar. I can see your faces scrunching up and thinking Do Caterpillars Bite? I can tell you they do and they really hurt. It happened the night before my practical. I was fast asleep and my first thought was it was a really painful mosquito bite, clearly not, then I thought it was a wasp but trust me it was worse than that, plus there was no wasp in my room.
Me Taking a Class
My mind then went mad thinking maybe it was a spider. So I turned my covers over and over but could find nothing. My foot, where I was bitten, was swelling up but I convinced myself whatever it was had gone and I could go to sleep. I lay down and after only a few minutes felt something touch me which brought a very loud scream from me. I tried to leave my room and then remembered that running out in my underwear might not be the best idea.
Chris Teaching us Kundalini
After I had put some clothes on I decided, for some unknown reason, to lift my covers and there is was a caterpillar. That was it I really screamed then waking up my neighbour and having a mad panic as I could not open my bedroom door, my hands were shaking too much! The adrenaline was so high I stayed awake for the rest of the night and actually jumped at my own shadow. I know this is a strange one but at least it gave me a great story to tell about my time in Spain!
About the author

Mercedes Aspland

Mercedes is a Yoga Sports Coach with experiences working with athletes from many disciplines and experience levels. She is keen to spread the word of how valuable yoga is to sport. With additional qualifications in nutrition she also shares a number of recipes and nutritional advice to keep you fuelled while training.

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