Travel and Study | Sandi Louise Ross

Travel and Study

China Studies 2010

In January 2010, I set off for four months to discover more about this ancient medicine I had just spent the past four years of my life studying. I needed to go to the motherland of where it all began and get a feel for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in its origin. My best friend (who was into fitness and martial arts), decided to join me on my adventure. I had been studying alongside some Chinese students who had told me about the Chinese medicine and martial art academies in the mountains of China. After researching some recommended places, we booked tickets and set off.

When arriving in China, just two 21-year-old girls, with no Lonely Planet or English-Chinese phrase book, we soon felt like we where on Mars. We were fast to discover what freezing cold (minus) temperatures and vast winds felt like. After a 24-hour straight-seated train ride (with no toilet paper), and endless pointless “do you speak English?” questions, we soon made it to our destination.

Chinese Temple of the Academy I studied at 2010
view at temple


Kunyu Shan Martial Arts Academy, Shandong, China

Many students at the academy came for the Kung Fu. About a third were there for the Tai Chi, and about ten students had an interest in TCM. As I was there mostly for the TCM, I was offered two extra acupuncture classes a week with the TCM master.

Shaolin Temple, China


Mornings were early with a rise at 5.30am for Tai chi. Breakfast was at 7.00am and the first Kung Fu class at 8.30am. Before every lesson was a 2km run followed by stretching. There was a 30-minute break at 10am and then another Kung Fu class practicing forms until noon, when we would then break for lunch. Lunch was rice and some form of Chinese cuisine. At 2pm class was back for a more aggressive Kung Fu session. This was Sanda (Chinese boxing), power class running up the mountains, pad work or on Friday afternoon, running the steps of the temple five times.  At 4pm till 5.30pm was Qi Gong or Tai Chi. Dinner was at 6pm. Following dinner was optional classes of acupuncture, Chinese massage, Buddhism, Chinese language or calligraphy. The bed never felt so good by about 9pm! Weekends were for resting, going to town and eating, or practicing for the motivated students.

Myself with my master Qu, and fellow students now life long friends


I practiced mantis Fung Fu under master Qu Hai, who now has opened his own academy. Master Qu was a massive part of my stay in China, as he had also taught me great skills with my acupuncture.

His new school, Shengjing Shan Traditional Kung Fu Academy  can be found at:

The Kunyu Shan Martials Arts Academy details (where I studied) can be found at:

The 10-week stay including all meals and training was around $1900 US.


Beijing Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, China

After my once in a lifetime experience at the Kunyu Shan martial arts academy, I didn’t expect this next. A doctor of Chinese medicine took me on for private lessons in the hospital, for almost a whole month. The main topics I asked to learn more in detail were tongue and pulse diagnosis.

The first weeks were spent in a classroom style setting, going through textbooks and making sure I understood the philosophy and original content of Chinese Medicine. I then got to wear the white coat and get my hands on some patients in the hospital. The points we used there were almost the same as to what I was taught at university in Australia, beside the odd tongue point!

The whole experience helped me to understand that qi is not just an energy we treat with acupuncture. Its an energy that all the martial arts including Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Kung Fu, Tai Kwon Do, Karate and Yoga affect.  It’s about how your body can control the flow and tune of its own energy. What makes it stronger, and what makes it weaker can be affected by diet and lifestyle, but a lot can be changed with martial arts.

To finish up my trip, I spent a month in Phuket, Thailand doing an Ashtanga yoga course to unwind before returning to Australia to practice again. Additionally, after I finished my trip to China, it left me wanting to learn even more about this ancient medicine, leading me to further study my masters of Traditional Chinese medicine.

This course cost me around $1,500 for almost one month of private training with a doctor of Chinese Medicine. The doctor is now greatly involved in research and doesn’t give private training. The hospital however runs 3-month-long classes in the hospital for both new students to TCM, and an advanced course for those already trained.

Yoga Teacher Trainer Course, Rishikesh India 2012

In January 2012 I set off to the foothills of the Himalayas in India to further study yoga and meditation. My boyfriend and I were both physically fit, but did not expect the intensity of a 200-hour yoga course in one month.

We arrived to Delhi late one evening, waking to the fog and noise Delhi was known for. The first thing I saw when I looked out the window was the people all walking to the empty river of just rocks and pigs, where they would have their morning bowel movements. Welcome to India!

After several trips around tour agencies quoting us high prices, we soon realised there was a loop of agencies all working together to just book our tickets! We spent a week seeing the Golden Triangle and then headed north to Rishikesh.

My Guru in India Yogi Mahesh


After the week of being hustled and being the “ripped offed” tourist many times, we finally arrived in Rishikesh. The vibe was completely different. It seemed so quiet and peaceful to compare to where we had just come from (Delhi). The town was full of ashrams (including The Beetles’ ashram). Yoga, meditation and Ayurveda centres filled the quiet town. No egg on any restaurant menus, as the town is pure vegetarian. Every restaurant had a pillow for chairs and we all sat and ate on the floor. We arrived at our ashram and were settled in with some chai to our rooms. Our view over looked the holy Ghanga and above us was the yoga room.

We had a traditional opening ceremony with fire, prayer and Indian food. Every morning we would start with detoxifications, such as neti pot. We would then have chai before our Ashtanga class. Following Ashtanga we would have breakfast (normally oatmeal). We would then have a philosophy class and afterward enjoy lunch (dhal and roti). We had a two-hour lunch break and normally I would read, have a wonder around town, or give acupuncture to the other students. We then had another philosophy class, a hatha yoga class and an hour of meditation.  Bedtime was around 9pm. This was our routine for six days of the week and Sundays were our rest day.


The main teacher was guru yogi Chetan Mahesh, who had won the international yoga championship award. His inspiration filled the room, and every answer he gave felt so pure and philosophical. At the end of the course we had to teach our first yoga class, followed by a traditional closing ceremony.

After this yoga course I had to stick around in town to complete a short Ayurveda course.  For me, Ayurvedic medicine compared to Chinese medicine is similar but also slightly conflicting, so I practice TCM only now (you can’t do it all). After Rishikesh I headed to Nepal to see more Buddhism, beauty and nature.

The 200-hour yoga alliance certified course was around $750 US plus $350 for all meals and a double room for one month.

Jesse and I just completing 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training
Graduation Ceremony in India


The Yoga Farm, Costa Rica 2014


After working abroad as a full time naturopath and acupuncturist in Thailand for 3 years, and doing my masters of traditional Chinese medicine, I decided I needed a break. I was constantly asking my clients why they put themselves through so much physical and emotional stress, without any down time to regenerate. With every second client having adrenal fatigue, I knew my body being young and healthy won’t stay this way if I don’t “practice what I preach”.


I have practiced yoga and meditation for many years and come from a ‘surfy’ town back in Australia. I remember a friend who had told me during my yoga teacher training, about this place she stayed at for yoga, doing farming and surfing in Costa Rica. I knew this was where I had to go for my break.

The owner of the clinic I run was more than happy to let me go and rejuvenate myself after committing to the team in Thailand for so long. So after booking, just two weeks later, I was off.

Yoga farm friends


yoga deck at the yoga farm

When I arrived to San Jose, Costa Rica, I had to take either an 8-hour bus ride or a 45-minute plane. It had taken me almost 3 days (due to a cancelled flight in El Salvador) to reach, so I took the flight! And well worth it, as it was a 14-seated plane and I had the front seat. What a view that plane ride was!

From the airport you then need to take a bus or a taxi for 2 hours to Punta Banco. When arriving at the bottom of the hill, the taxi driver told me to walk 15 minutes up and I will see the farm. It was a clay road that was half washed away. When I reached the farm, (literally out of breath and sweating) as I had a massive backpack to pull up, I was blown away by the beauty. Meeting everyone and seeing how calm the entire place was instantly relaxed me.


We would wake between 5-6am to have a tea, read or meditate before starting the 6.30 am yoga class. The teacher that month was Katie from Florida and gave the perfect first class for me. We would then have breakfast and have the rest of the day to enjoy freely. There was only one optional class per day. Lunch at noon and dinner at 6pm. Surfing and trekking to waterfalls was the main activity I did during my stay. There was a local guy called Harley who would rent us boards and take us to the local hot spots to surf.

10347543_10152568508654791_1496597597733717992_n10513424_10152567693878739_8095544506262081382_nAt the farm there is an array of super foods, herbs, fruits and vegetables all being grown organically.  A local man who makes chocolate from scratch came to the farm to give us a lesson. I also had the pleasure to pick, eat, ferment, dry, grind, make and eat cacao AKA chocolate! The abundance of health at this place made me feel like I could easily stay forever. While there, I read two massive books, surfed, slept (a lot), ate, cooked, farmed, treated the locals and those staying at the farm with acupuncture, and absorbed all the local Costa Rican culture. The owners Pat and Christy were so chilled and humble; just a couple that love to live simple, healthy lives and surf.

day trip to the waterfalls


I understand it is far from Australia, and even Asia for that matter. But if you have done the Indian yoga stay already, and want an adventure, you should really consider this place.

If you volunteer you do 10 hours per week of simple jobs such as gardening, cooking or transporting the horse down the hill and up to the local market to await a truck with some produce.

10300425_10152567690988739_8304126714940334583_nThe volunteer stay for one month includes all meals and your bed for USD $550

You can stay in a dorm for $43 per night including all meals and they offer private rooms for around $50 per person per night.

If you are a certified yoga teacher you can volunteer and you receive all your meals and a beautiful room. All you need to do is teach one class per day.