I leave India with a 200h yoga certificate, new found friends and a heart bursting full of joy, appreciation, and gratitude for this experience, for myself, my body, mother nature and this beautiful earth we live in. Doing my Yoa Teacher Training in India was everything I hoped for and more.
It was like one big summer camp for adults.
It was practicing yoga 3-4 hours a day, 6 days a week.
It was morning neti pots and herbal teas.
It was learning how to breathe and meditate and sit still for an hour.
It was being a sweaty, dirty mess for a month, but not caring how I look.
It was getting weird rashes and allergies all over my body and not knowing what's going on.
It was dancing like no one's watching and singing my lungs out to Indian Bollywood songs and mantras.
It was being surrounded by incredibly inspiring and uplifting people, and both laughing and crying together.
It was getting to know the Indian culture and falling in love with their generosity.
And falling in love with myself again.
It was feeling deflated on days where the yoga flow just didn't seem to happen, and feeling elated when a challenging pose finally seemed in reach.
It was lying in bed at night wondering what my purpose in life is.
It was allowing myself to be more vulnerable than ever before.
It was realizing that everything is OK.
It was realizing that things are coming full circle for me and that I truly feel at peace with myself.
I can't believe that it's already been two weeks since I'm back. There are so so many things that I want to share with you guys, but because a lot of you have shown interest in doing a yoga teacher training yourself and have asked specifically about the school I went to, here is a breakdown of our daily schedule, information about the classes, YTT in general, Rishikesh and an FAQ section at the end of questions I've received. While in India, I also wrote stuff down week by week.
To those who want the short answer to the question "Would you recommend doing a yoga teacher training?", the answer is f*&$%ing yes 100000%! No matter what your intention is, whether you want to become a teacher, get to know yourself better, make new friends, learn about a new culture or just have a new immerse and challenging experience, I'm 99% positive that you won't regret this decision. You've got nothing to lose, and everything to win.
Yoga Teacher Training improved me in a myriad of ways, from my posture to my down dog to how I behave in stressful situations. All in all, it was a humbling experience. I came with the intention of improving my personal practice, and maybe hoping to have a few enlightenment moments along the way. And let me tell you, the experience delivered.
But let's begin with logistics; here is a breakdown of our schedule:
6:00-6:30am – Herbal Tea
6:30-7:00am – Neti Pot
7:00-8:30am – Vinyasa Class
8:30-9:30am – Breakfast
9:30-10:30am – Anatomy Class
12:00-1:00pm – Lunch
2:00-3:00pm – Philosophy Class
3:00-4:00pm – Alignment Class
4:00-5:30pm – Ashtanga Class
6:00-7:00pm – Meditation Class
7:00-8:00pm – Dinner
Let's talk yoga
As you can see, we had daily Vinyasa and Asthanga classes as well as alignment classes where we broke down individual asanas and perfected them to the T. In total that makes about 3 1/2 hours of yoga; it's intense I'm not gonna lie! Racking up two to three practices and numerous hours of lectures a day, most of us crashed hard core in bed at 9pm every night. I've seen the following question pop up a lot: "I regularly do Vinyasa class but have never done Ashtanga before, can I still do this course?" The answer is yes. I never did Ashtanga before this, and, to be frank, hadn't really looked much into it and didn't know what to expect. Would I have known that it would involve putting my legs behind my back, doing a gazillion variations of lotus pose and chaturanga's every 5 breaths, I'm not sure I would have signed up for the course...Just kidding. Seriously though, it was the daily grind of the Ashtanga class that got us all fit AF and saw my abs slowly come out of hiding by week 3. I think the combo of Vinyasa + Ashtanga is absolutely perfect.
The intensity of the classes builds up week by week, and in week 4 you start teaching your own flows to your fellow peers. Towards the end of the month you learn how to align and correct others once you are a teacher, but, to be honest, the majority of focus is on you improving your own practice. You'd actually be surprised at how much you pick as you go along, and teaching my first class felt much easier than expected.
Let's talk lectures
I found this to be the most interesting class. Not only did we learn about the nervous system, the heart, chronic diseases etc, but we also looked at all the important muscles and which specific asanas can help strengthen and lengthen the muscles. Yogesh was an amazing teacher and I looked forward to his classes every day.
Here we learned about all the important Hindu texts and ideologies like the Yoga sutra, the eight limbs of yoga, chakras and the origins and meaning of yoga. We only scratched the surface because there is sooooo much to learn about this topic, but this part is definitely an essential aspect of any YTT. At times, it felt like one big story telling session, which I loved.
We capped off each day with meditation. The longest I had ever meditated prior to this was 45 minutes, and at home I usually only do max 15 minutes a day, so doing one hour each day was definitely a challenge, especially after a physically strenuous day. Alone the sitting-cross-legged-and-not-moving part of it was torturous sometimes. We discovered a whole range of meditation types, like eye meditation, candle meditation, yoga nidra, mantra chanting, journaling meditation, just to name a few. Oh, and if you watched my Insta stories and wondered what all the crazy mantra chanting and dancing was, that was also part of our meditation class. I've never considered myself much of a singer of dancer, but it felt incredibly liberating and healing to sing and dance like a lunatic. In fact, I think this class was probably the most underrated but healing thing I did all month.
Let's talk food
Initially, I really struggled with the breakfast options. Lots of rice, fried noodles, or fried toast with potatoes. Not my cup a tea, as you can imagine. One day the chef made oatmeal, and after lots of begging and convincing, he agreed to make oatmeal for us every day. We then got some nuts, seeds and peanut butter at a local health store, fresh fruits from a fruit stall and mixed it all together with the oats and protein powder that we brought from back home. Tadaaa, we had ourselves a nourishing and filling breakfast. If you are heading to India for YTT, I would definitely also recommend bringing some supplements - I had iron, zinc and St. Johns' Wort with me and took those every morning.
Lunch and dinner was more or less the same - white rice, daal, chapati, potatoes and some kind of cooked veggie. I had some days where I got tired of it and had serious cravings for a fresh salad with avo, but overall I really enjoyed the food. Also, quick side note: I was eating SO many carbs (I definitely didn't hesitate to take seconds when it came to rice and chapati), but I still lost a considerable amount of weight during the month. You exercise so much and the whole experience is physically and mentally so demanding, that your body and brain really needs the fuel.
We also went out to eat a lot because a) it's ridiculously cheap (think $4 AUD for a whole meal), b) we loved exploring the city and its offers and c) sometimes we just felt the urge to get out of the school and do something different.
What about those weird SHATKARMA cleanses rituals you guys did, you ask?
We did this one every day and I became completely hooked on it. In fact, I took my neti pot back home with me and plan on incorporating it into my daily routine (have yet to implement that, oopsie...). A neti pot is a ceramic/plastic pot that looks like a cross between a teapot and Aladdin's magic lamp. In short, it is used to clean the nostril passages by flushing out mucus, allergens and other irritants that can cause sinus problems. It felt a bit funny the first two days, but you get used to the sensation really quickly and the clean and breathy feeling you get afterward is dare say addictive.
Vaman Dhauti: induced vomiting
This is a wash of the esophageal tract. It clears excess mucous from the throat and chest and is great for the throat chakra, our center of communication and truthful conversations. And yes, as you may remember for my tasteful insta stories (sorry for all the #tmi 's during this month...), this practice involves vomiting salt water. Some people will vomit spontaneously just from drinking the huge quantity of salt water - you need about 1 gallon - but others will have to actually make themselves gag by sticking their fingers in their throat. Unfortunately, I had to do the latter. . . This was the most provoking and confronting experience for me all month. I thought I'd NEVER EVER do that again (if you don't know my story, read up on it here) , and suddenly there I was, with a gallon of water in my system that absolutely had to come out. The moment I realized there was no turning back and I had to just do it, it felt like the flood works opened and I was catapulted back into the old days. I literally saw my head in the toilet in Dubai where I first learned to make myself throw up. It was one big ugly flashback. This is what I think happened: even though I have dealt with my ED on a conscious and subconscious level, there is an even deeper level of something that I hadn't touched on for a very long time. And this cleanse triggered it, as if it activates my body's memory. It was horrific in the moment, but I am so so glad I did it.
Shank Prakshalana: Induced bowel movements
This is wash of the entire digestive tract. Again you drink a gallon of water followed by a series of dynamic stretches and repeat, but this time instead of vomiting it out, we want all that salt water to stay in so that it goes through the intestinal tract and comes out the other end, flushing the intestines and colon. In other words, you drink salt water until you crap yourself. This practice takes up the entire day, because you are pretty much bound to the toilet for the rest of the day and feel so freaking exhausted that it's hard to do anything. You know that super hung over dehydrated feeling? Yup, that's pretty much how it feels. I did feel pretty cleansed the day after and also had an energy surge the coming days.
Let's talk people
YTT is an interesting concept; you throw a bunch of strangers from all different walks of life together into a small space for a month and leave them to their own devices. YTT is also an incredible heart-opening experience, one where others are bound to experience your emotional outbursts, frustrations, insecurities and so on. As such, there are no filters, no masks, no hiding under a facade. You get to know who people really are, stripped of all the superficial BS. And that is a beautiful experience. What also helps is the fact that you uhh ehm. . . vomit and shit together . . . so that kind or removes all barriers and inhibitions. Fun stuff, I tell ya.
As for the teachers and staff, they made us feel so comfortable at home. They are all how you imagine a zen yogi to be like, and their positive and relaxed energy made us all feel comfortable and at ease. They totally went above and beyond to give us a real taste of India and Indian hospitality. Thanks for being our family for a month! The graduation ceremony was one big dance party where we all danced and played music until late at night. Well, until I fractured my toe and had to sit the rest of the dancing out, that is...
Let's talk Rishikesh ...The yoga capital of the world
First, let me say this; I am so glad that I went for a fully immersive YTT and didn't do it here in Australia spread out over weekends. Your yoga practice might improve the same way, but I don't think you get the same spiritual experience as if you go straight to the source. And as that's what I was after, it was the perfect fit for me.Rishikesh, my friends, is the yoga capital of the world and boy is it beautiful and overwhelming and colorful and chaotic and the people we met were all incredibly kind. It's right by the holy Ganges river, which makes it a spiritual place for many Hindus who travel there for numerous religious events such as the Lord Shiva festival. We also found many amazing restaurants and cafés serving local Indian food as well as Middle Eastern food, green juices, vegan desserts etc., at which we often relaxed on weekends or in between classes.
Places to eat at:
It was my first time visiting India and I was definitely overwhelmed the first couple times we went into town . There's just so much to take in, so many people, so many smells, sounds (OMG the honking I can literally still hear it ring in my ears(, the cows/monkeys/dogs everywhere, the fact that Indians seem to have no sense of personal space It is a lot. But honestly, you get used to it in no time and start to love it. By the end, I almost didn't want to leave and I feel like I had more of a culture shock coming back into the Western world than vice versa. But more on that in a later blog post.
- How long, do you think, one should practice yoga before doing a YTT? We had a mix of students - some were practically already teaching yoga, others had only done a few classes. Some did ballerina when they were younger and had really great flexibility, others weren't as flexible but had more strenght to compensate with. I think the most important thing is that you are willing to push yourself to your limits and that you have some sort of resilience. Personally though, I'm happy that I didn't do it as a complete beginner but already had a +- 1 year of yoga experience beforehand.
- How much did the month of YTT cost? India is probably the cheapest place in the world to do a Yoga Teacher Training. My month-long program cost $1,500 and that included instruction, food and accommodation- quite the bargain! Obviouslously there's the flight (about $1600 from Sydney) and I also had to keep paying rent for the month, so it does add up a fair bit.
- I'm interested in doing the course for the experience, not to become a teacher. Would you recommend doing a YTT anyway? Yes yes triple yes. I had no intention to become a teacher when I signed up; I wanted to do it for the sole purpose of improving my personal practice and for the spiritual self-development. I have learned so much from this experience (I'll write a separate blog post on that later), that compares to nothing else that I have done in my life. I honestly couldn't recommend it enough.
- In which way has yoga helped you? There's no doubt that YTT has improved my physique in a pyramid of ways. I am the most flexible I have ever been - my shoulders are more open, I released a lot of emotions out of my hips, my general posture is better, the pranayama exercises have helped me SO much to improve my lung capacity (before this, I couldn't even sing "Ohhmmmm" with everyone in class till the end because I had too short of a breath. Yup, true story.) Mentally, it has made me more resilient, grateful, non-judgemental and believe in my own strength. Without sounding too melodramatic, this experience has helped me come full circle in my healing journey in many ways.
- How did you chose your school/location? I didn't do much research at all. Vic had a family friend who had gone to Rishikesh Vinyasa Yoga School and she recommended it to us. We met with her, she told us about her experience and we were sold. Honestly, I didn't even look at pictures of the school before. I went with absolutely 0 expectations and no clue of what I was getting myself into, and I think that was part of the beauty for me. Having written this post for ya'll, I guess I blew the surprise, but tbh doing a bit of research is probably the smarter idea anyways, even though I was lucky with my experience.
- Would you recommend the school you went to? Personally, it was exactly the type of experience I was looking for and I'm so glad with my choice of school. But let me tell you, it's not everyone's cup of tea. You have to be OK with simple housing, the water not working 50% of the time, hard AF mattresses, sitting on the floor 'cause there ain't a lot of chairs, not having AC, kinda sorta feeling dirty all the time even straight after coming out of the drizzle of a shower...It's the real deal. And I loved (OK I had a love-hate relationship with it....) it. The staff is so lovely and makes you feel at home, everything is family-run and witnessing their love for each other in their interactions with one another is beautiful in itself. They live a simple life, but they are content and happy all the time. Truly inspiring. At dinner time, we'd sit in the dining hall, have chai, someone would play the guitar and we'd all sing together. Or there was that time where I got a crazy rash all over my body and AJ and the kitchen crew came to my rescue straight away with Indian remedies. Yes it's a bit chaotic sometimes and their concept of time and planning is definitely different to ours, but that's part of the experience. I have never danced and laughed and sang this much in my life, and I thank the school , it's members and all my fellow yogis for that.