Finding Zen in Italy

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Finding Zen in Italy

The story of two expats living in two different countries coming together for a month of yoga teacher training in Abruzzo, Italy.

By Courtney Sunday   

Originally published in Global Living Magazine – Issue 21 | Nov/Dec 2015

How many expats does it take to teach a yoga teacher training?

Although this sounds like the setup for a joke, in this situation, the answer is two. Specifically, Courtney Sunday and Monica Angelucci, two expats who are joining forces for the first time to do a yoga teacher training in Italy. Monica, an American, lives in Germany. Courtney, a Canadian, lives in the U.S.

NOV_0214-EditThey met over five years ago when Courtney was living in Switzerland. While feeling the kind of loneliness that can come from being away from your home base and your mother tongue, she began to meditate in her apartment overlooking the Alps. Even with all of the markers of success, Courtney felt out of place in her life and more and more at home on her mat. She started looking into the Yoga Alliance teacher trainings that were in her vicinity. She came upon Prague Yoga, a bright website that seemed confident and informative. Without much thought, she signed up for a teacher training session in 2009.

“There was nothing about being in a yoga teacher training that was comfortable for me,” admits Courtney. “I wasn’t a public speaker. I was the kind of kid who skipped gym.” Yet the teacher she met in the Czech Republic challenged her ina way that felt academic, first, and physical, second.

The teacher was Monica Angelucci. Monica has always been interested in being challenged in classes and trainings. Her knowledge comes from her students.

“I want to learn from experience,” she says. Monica has now trained hundreds of teachers and she has a concrete mission.

“My goal has always been to create teachers. I am in communication with a lot of them still.” To prove it, Monica pulls out a Facebook message she received from a student of hers in 2006. It was glowing.

In a yoga world where people can be trained en masse, this Italian training is capped at 11. “I can’t do a teacher training and not make it individual,” claims Monica.

Heavily influenced by her first training as well as over 500 hours of additional trainings, Courtney decided to lead her own  teacher training in Toronto in 2014. A small group of students inspired her as they worked hard to unlearn yoga dogma and enter into a world of discussion. As Courtney shaped her program, Monica encouraged her via Skype sessions to create a program rooted in what she knew for sure.

“How can you know your students’ bodies if you don’t know your own body?” Monica questioned. “That is where the inquiry starts. Then more questions come about by teaching. Even if you don’t have the answer as a teacher, work with your students to find the answer.”

Courtney and Monica reflected on what types of students were realistically attracted to their explorative mode of yoga teaching. They noticed that they had a little bit of everything. Older adults who had a deep interest in yogic philosophy. Physical therapists who wanted to take their anatomical knowledge to a different population. Injured yoga students who wanted to find a different way to move. Both Courtney and Monica found that their graduates often felt compelled to work with a specific population, such as the elderly or pregnant.

READ MORE from this issue of Global Living Magazine

“A lot of them are not into power. They are interested in injuries, modifications and props. Their interest is how to cater to students with challenges. Realistically, that’s all classrooms,” muses Monica.

DSC00877As they began to consider combining forces, they wanted to include individual modules set for specific populations. Whether it was yin, older adults or prenatal, in a short 200 hours they wanted to give the tools to build inclusive teachers. “When you teach, it’s not about you,” emphasizes Courtney. “It’s about your students.”

With personalities that are attracted to change, Monica and Courtney are already anticipating Italy with great excitement. Although September 25-October 16 2016, may sound far away, the verdant landscape of Abruzzo (in central Italy) is close enough to feel anticipatory. Yoga will be practiced on a beautiful terrace overlooking the Conciella valley as well as a stunning indoor yoga room. The vacation center has over 2 acres of land, providing ample space for hikes and relaxation. Every day will be filled with meditation, yoga practice and lectures and, of course, being Italy, spectacular dinners with fresh fruit and vegetables.

The first 100 hours are open for people who want to learn more about yoga without having the agenda to teach. Inspired by a curious student she met on a Spanish yoga retreat, Courtney believes that the first two weeks are the perfect way to understand the yoga world a little more fully. In addition, it will be a way of understanding the body and working with it in order to keep it moving functionally for a lifetime. The second 100 hours are there for those who want to be certified under the Yoga Alliance as teachers. “These hours will not be about teaching you a sequence. This training is about teaching you to be a teacher,” says Monica.

As many of you know, the strength of being an expat is the community. It is why Monica opened a yoga studio. It is why Courtney found it hard to return home. It is how Monica and Courtney have met lifelong friends in new countries. It is how we all learn and forge connections from strangers in new locations. Whether you are an expat who is interested in the ultimate Italian self-exploration or you are a grounded yogi looking for a career change, Yoga Europa and Sunday Om coming together is an opportunity to take an inclusive vacation model and for once, include the spirit.

For more information on Courtney Sunday’s yoga/Pilates classes, Thai massage, meditation classes, teacher training, retreats, events and more at Sunday Om in Toronto, visit www.courtneysunday.com.

To find out more about Monica Angelucci’s workshops, retreats, teacher trainings and more in Prague, visit www.yogaeuropa.com.

[Images courtesy of Courtney Sunday, Monica Angelucci and the Shanti Centre]

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