Journey Of A Lifetime: My 300-Hour YTT With Exhale Yoga Retreats In Sri Lanka

From the first time I saw photos of the swaying coconut palms, colorful spices and world class yoga resorts, I knew I had to visit Sri Lanka.

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I decided to take a retreat group to Talalla Yoga & Surf, famed for their beautiful private beach, amazing food and of course, epic surf & yoga programs.

At the same time as I was planning the retreat, I was starting to very seriously consider a 300-hour advanced yoga teacher training, and knew I wanted to go immerse myself somewhere tropical and beautiful to do it. As fate would have it, about 3 months before my trip, I stumbled across the most perfect training program just 20 minutes away from Talalla where I had planned the retreat, and the dates matched up (almost) perfectly.

I took it as a very clear sign, and committed to the training.

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Exhale Yoga Retreats


I completed my 6-week, 300-hour training through Exhale Yoga Retreats with the elite team of teachers Mathieu Bouldron, Annie Au and Dr. Ganesh Rao. I cannot recommend this training enough to any yoga teacher who is looking to dive deeper into the history, philosophy, energetics and anatomy of the practice. I learned SO MUCH during this time that I’ve spent the rest of my year digesting and integrating the experience.

Everything was organized by the owner of Exhale, Rachel, and her husband Jules, who are really, really good at what they do and such fun-loving people. Our training program was hosted at Underneath The Mango Tree, or as it is locally known, UTMT.

UTMT is an Ayurveda resort and spa, and we were the very first group to use the brand new yoga shala they built on the grounds to host Exhale Yoga Retreats & Trainings.

We were a group of 30+ from all over the world, but by the first few days of training everyone started feeling like family.

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sri lanka

Tapas - It’s What’s For Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner: Our Daily Schedule In YTT

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Our mornings began at 7am sharp with 1 hour of pranayama and meditation followed by 2 hours of asana practice, led by Mathieu. To some this might seem crazy, but this tapas or self-imposed discipline was exactly what I needed to advance mentally and physically at this time. Mathieu’s classes are technical and intelligently designed, and his style has had a huge influence in the way I teach. I really love his no bullshit, just do it approach. It’s not for everyone, but it worked for me when it came to getting strong and flexible in my practice. Thank you, Mathieu!

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sri lanka
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sri lanka

After morning practice, we got a 1.5 hour break, where I would usually go for a swim and eat enough breakfast for 2-3 people. PS- you wouldn’t be judging if you took Mathieu’s class, you’d be right there with me.

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After breakfast, we’d return for 2.5 hours of lecture on philosophy or anatomy. Dr. Ganesh Rao, who is a yoga professor based in Mumbai, is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to both classic texts and modern day yogic living, and learning from him was the gift of a lifetime. I filled two entire notebooks during his lectures, hanging onto his every word about the koshas, kleshas, sutras, kriyas, chakras, pranayama, and so much more.

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I also really enjoyed learning from Annie Au. She not only knows human anatomy extremely well, she knows how to teach it effectively so that it makes sense and students remember it. I was grateful for her hands on style of teaching, and that as a close knit group we got experience examining limitations in different body types.

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After lecture we broke for lunch, and when we were at our best, my closest friends and I would crush core work and handstands for 15 minutes before going to grub. If you know me in California you might be saying, who dat? And… I agree. Sri Lanka Alice was awesome. Can I have her back?

Afternoons were dedicated to 2 hours of teaching methodology and hands on practicum. We learned a master Yinyasa sequence which is dynamic, well-rounded and easily mutable. I come back to the Yinyasa format in my practice and teaching a lot. We also had interactive workshops on class theming, the business of yoga, hands on adjustments, and one on one coaching.

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sri lanka

Our final session of the day was 90 minutes of Yin Yoga with Annie. In our 50 cumulative hours of yin training, we learned about the yin yang theory and Taoism, Traditional Chinese Medicine and the meridians, and even created our own yin yoga workshops in groups. Annie totally made me fall in love with Yin and truly understand its value in my personal practice.

Of course we had a few days off to explore around us, but this was my life for 6 weeks. And when I say I wish this could be my schedule everyday, I am not kidding even a little bit!

Underneath The Mango Tree (UTMT)

Our training was hosted at UTMT, a high end Ayurveda spa. I really enjoyed the facilities here, and if you are looking for a healing holiday, you should consider one of their many packages, including options for short and long term stays.

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We ate 3 meals per day here, all served buffet style. I was grateful for the variety at every meal, and the friendliness of all of the staff in the kitchen and dining room. The food was delicious. I still dream about some of the curries and salads and all of the fresh fruit at every meal. Everything is served according to dosha, so you can easily combine what you are learning in your sessions in your diet. The menu is mostly vegetarian with a chicken / fish option at most meals.

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The yoga shala they built specially for Exhale Yoga Retreats is breathtakingly beautiful. We were the first group to break it in, and I’d like to think we left it more beautiful than we found it with the all of the sweat, love, and curiosity we poured in.

With our training, we got an Ayurvedic consultation with an onsite doctor, which I really enjoyed. I learned that my dosha is Vata, and becoming more Vata everyday. The doctor recommended mostly my favorite foods (root veggies, starchy grains, fruits, nuts). She was also easily able to access things about my personality based on looking at my eyes and tongue. My appointment felt very authentic, accurate, and empowering.

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sri lanka
sri lanka

The Magic Is In The Details

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I didn’t get to stay at UTMT since I was one of the last to sign up for training. Instead I stayed with 7 others at Verse Collective, a nearby coworking space and hostel, and we commuted by tuk tuk every morning to UTMT to spend the day at training.

Initially I was a bit anxious about this part. It didn’t seem ideal to me, as I knew mornings would be early and I thought I just wanted to be there ready to go. To my surprise, Verse ended up being one of the details that made my entire experience. {{Thank you Universe}}

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Per usual, of all of the amazing things about this training, the most memorable are the little  details and moments with the people I shared this time and space with.

Every morning, as soon as I woke up I would walk to Farah’s Coffee Shop. Which, of course, was just my friend Farah’s room 4 doors down at Verse, because she randomly had a tea kettle when the rest of us didn’t. We were the most serious addicts of the bunch and quickly bonded over needing a cup before getting in the tuk tuk.

We sat our mats down in the shala and joined with our bigger coffee crew to watch sunrise behind the jungle. Mornings were supposed to be silent before practice, but we liked each other too much for that.

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I came into this training wanting to become a better teacher, and while I do believe I got that out of it, I know I definitely learned a lot more about myself and became a more mindful and better human. I gained so many tools that have pushed me deeper into my journey of self exploration than ever, and since this training I have changed many things in my life in pursuit of aligning with my highest truth.

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sri lanka

The throat chakra workshop my friends Kate, Sophia and Anastasia shared healed a part of me I didn’t know was broken. Chanting and reading from the Bhagavad Gita on the beach at sunset was the most free and accepted I have ever felt.

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Then there was the time we got all cute to explore on our day off, and bought fresh coconuts in the sun only to be walking barefoot with our coconuts in pouring rain 10 minutes later.

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The memories and connections and personal wisdom I gained during my 300-hr YTT are forever ingrained in my heart. If you are looking for a program that will push you and add layers of depth to your practice, you can trust the team at Exhale to deliver. I would do it again in a heartbeat!!

Exhale’s Next 300 Hour YTT with the same dream team is April 26 - June 4, 2019!

(Be sure to mention you heard of the training through me, Alice!)

Check out my full Guide To Yoga, Wellness & Adventure in Southern Sri Lanka.