Interview: My Yoga Teacher Training in India
Name of program: Rishikesh Yog Peeth “RYP” (Please note some upcoming changes: the last yoga teacher training “YTT” offered by RYP will be in March 2017. The owner, Roshan, is currently transitioning to a 21 day retreat program called Abhayaranya)
Location: Rishikesh/Ram Jula, India
Cost: $1400 course fee (room & board included) + $1000 airfare = $2400 + spending money
Length of program: 4 weeks (they also offer a 6 week option for the 200 hour as well as a 300 hour)
View from Little Buddha Cafe in Laxman Jula
What inspired you to do this?
First and foremost, the joy which I find while doing Yoga inspired me to do this. Five years ago I was hit by a car. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy on healing since then. First came physical healing then emotional/psychological healing and now, finally, I think I’m moving into spiritual healing. I have been practicing yoga (asana) for about 10 years “off and on”. Four years ago I fell hard and fast for barre (as in a ballet barre— mix of ballet + pilates + yoga). I have been teaching barre for about three years now. I adore teaching but hesitated at the title “yoga teacher” since it feels even more personal (and I’m a tight-hipped handstand-fearing yogi preferring “gentle” and “Sunday” and “restorative” classes). So I suppose the desire to be brave and express myself emotionally, through yoga, is a large motivator. Also my friends and colleagues who have pursued doing what they love as work inspire me to give expanding my teaching capacity a shot.
What was the biggest take away or what has had the biggest impact on your life?
I think that my 5ish recent years of solo travel have allowed me to gain a good amount of self-awareness but I realized about halfway through the YTT that I was missing something: self-acceptance. It’s one thing to know yourself, it’s quite another to love yourself unconditionally. The course impacted the way I see my body and mind. It opened my eyes to the impact that my own words and judgement have on myself. I needed to loose the victim card, the shame card and the “old lady” act (I’d make fun of myself moving like an old lady when in pain). I took away self-blame and negative self-dialogue and that has impacted the way my body and mind interact with each other already. I found room to appreciate the positive changes which have come in the past few years. I feel more whole than I have in a while…maybe more full that before the accident. I’d say that is life-changing. I believe that through self-acceptance I can create a setting for self-realization to bloom in the future. So now my future image is altered. No longer focused on how my physical body might deteriorate, I have higher spiritual aims in mind.
With my dear friend Serene – a woman beyond beautiful inside & out who became my rock and voice of reason at RYP. She always found a way to help me see the light at the end of the tunnel and I am so very glad to have gone through the experience together.
Advice for people who want to do the same type of experience?
The weekend before I departed for India I finally sat down and read through few former student’s blogs about their experience. I thought back to that information regularly while in the course. Do your research, prepare for the worst but expect the best and find a first-hand testimony or three! Be aware of the weather (and don’t assume indoor heating is something found everywhere in the world) and don’t skimp on strong medications just in case—being sick and far from your home hospital SUCKS. In regards to India and yoga specifically, I’d warn that the style of yoga in India and at home is going to be VERY different. For me, the cultural experience made up for it but for someone who is looking to jump right into teaching and hasn’t had other training/experience teaching physical exercise know you’ll need to do some self-teaching to cover the gaps between Eastern and Western practice.
What was the program like—for example what was a typical day like?
6 am wakeup and a quick shower (pray for hot water), herbal tea, nasal cleaning (using “neti pot”) before two hours of morning asana (mantra chanting, yogic breathing “pranayama”, joint rotations, sun salutations, postures, pranayama, mantra chanting) then breakfast (alway porridge + fruit + a mystery dish). Two morning lectures on yogic science (psychosomatic disease, emotional anatomy, Ayurvedic medicine), anatomy/physiology/psychology of yoga (we learned major systems and muscle groups, bones of the body as well as yoga-related injury and a lot about postural alignment) and philosophy (focusing on the teaching of the Yoga Sutra) before lunch (rice and beans + curry vegetables), one hour of library time (optional) after — I often used this as free time to run errands & did reading/homework in the evening after dinner (bread/roti & lentils/dal + soup, dessert). Lecture on teaching methods (pose set-up, counter-poses, info on different schools, how to plan a class) and Yoga Nidra then two hours asana again before dinner. The program covered primarily Hatha but touched on Ashtanga as well.
“Yoga 24 hours” is a phrase which one asana teacher, Abhi, used for shoulder/hip opening stretches which he recommended we do throughout our waking hours. The focus on posture is as essential in asana class as it is in each moment of life as a “yogi” or a healthy person, for that matter. The yoga which I knew back home in the United States consisted of mostly physical asana postures (downward facing dog) and an occasional touch of breathe awareness, maybe guided meditation. The yoga which we experienced at RYP stretched into almost every aspect of our day-to-day. The schedule was shaped around yogic ideals: waking up at the same time daily (about one hour before sunrise), morning cleansing (herbal tea, shower, nasal), a Sattvic diet (low in spice, vegetarian + no eggs, little milk, no caffeine, repetitive and measured portions encouraged), sitting in a meditative posture for lectures…we learned that applied yoga (based on the Yoga Sutra) means impartially observing the self, others, posture, breath and thoughts. Yoga focuses on the fundamentals of life: how to breathe, how to use the frontal cortex (the “rest and digest” portion of the brain) and how to stand in alignment. It means self-love, visualization and self-realization. Applied yoga means community-building, self-sustainability, wholistic education, self-care and health care. Yoga means fearless self-expression.
How did you get involved with this program?
While having brunch one day with my good friend Christie, I expressed that I was considering a yoga teaching certification locally but was struggling to find the means to pay for it. She immediately took out a piece of paper and wrote down every detail I needed to know to sign up for RYP. I went home that afternoon and found that there was a course offered during the dates of my winter break from school. I followed my intuition and signed up that day! I trusted Christie’s judgement wholeheartedly and knew it would be the right place to go. I also felt that the journey to the source—where yoga began—was a noble one with adventurous appeal.
Wandering down a back road, I came across this woman as asked to take a photo. I was inspired by both her strength and her smile. She made me think, “we can do it!”
Challenges—personal journey or travel-based such as traveling alone or language barriers?
I expected the physical demands involved in traveling to and making it through the 4 hours per day of postures to be my biggest obstacles. Last June I fractured my back. For weeks after that, my legs were numb and muscles slow to respond which made walking challenging (it still happens sometimes). I had a lot of fear regarding whether my body would be up to the rigor of that much physical work. I skipped the MRI appointment scheduled weeks before departing because I worried they’d advise me not to go. On the last day of the training I found myself crying through Savasana. This was not the first time. But this time it was not because of frustrated fear around a failed attempt at a headstand or the result of intense hip opening. This time I cried because I remembered how hard I worked to go walking with my mom just a few months before, despite having to take breaks to regain my physical and mental strength I was determined to make it around the one mile loop. And I realized that now that same body got me halfway around the world with a backpack on my shoulders and through 96 hours of yoga in 4 weeks. Our teacher Roshan said that understanding is something that happens to you. In that moment I stopped telling my legs what to do and understood what they had done. I stopped demanding my body work for me while my mind spoke behind its back. I felt more whole, more healed than I had in many years— I’d say stronger than before 5 years ago.