Yoga Teacher Training RISHIKESH, INDIA
It is difficult to express my feelings about the experience I've just had in Rishkesh without using cliché words such as ‘blessed’, ‘grateful’ or ‘life changing’. You really do come away feeling like your heart might explode from all the new friends you’ve made. Largely from spending fifteen hour days in the same room… learning, laughing, crying and growing together. And from all the new knowledge bestowed upon you from your wise and wonderful teachers. Then nearly as soon as it had begun, just like that. It is all over. And it’s time to say your goodbyes.
How the hell are we supposed to practice non-attachment under these circumstances?!
They kept telling us ‘A month is nothing.’ And it really is NOTHING. There is so much to learn. The 200 hour yoga teacher training really just opens up the gates.
I had no idea about what to expect, how I would feel afterwards or whether I would feel ready to teach. Before Rishikesh, I had been not just at a cross-roads but what felt like the world’s busiest intersection. I was so uncertain and insecure about which direction I wanted to take next. I was so fearful of making the wrong decision or taking a wrong turn that I was just stuck in traffic/living a life in limbo. I’d been back in Australia about a year after moving from London where I had spent the entirety of my 20’s. I’d had a tough time in the last few years in London, I’d been through a big break up (8+ years), then a series of wrong relationships, wrong jobs, wrong living arrangements (wrong wrong wrong). I was putting so much pressure on myself to ‘sort my shit out’ that I started to suffer from panic attacks, the first one landing me in hospital! I thought I was dying! It was so scary to think that my mind was doing this to my body. It was a dramatic way of my mind and body telling me enough was enough, I wasn’t OK, I needed help and I needed to make some changes.
During this tumultuous time, I stumbled upon yoga (or it stumbled upon me) and I started going to regular classes in London and then in Australia – where everyone is much hotter, fitter and more intimidating than the UK! Nonetheless, yoga was the perfect antidote for my anxious mind. It made me feel happier, healthier, more balanced and gave me the tools to start giving myself some much-needed love.
Like with most things after you’ve been practicing for a while you become more and more curious and want to learn as much as you can. Like Alice down the rabbit hole!
YTT, yes but why India? I hear you ask. Well, despite all the cow shit and the diarrhoea, India (Rishikesh in particular) is the birthplace of yoga. And if I am going to spend a month learning about something I’m passionate about, I want to learn directly from the source. From the crème de la crème! Or lassi de la lassi, if you will. There are literally hundreds of yoga schools in Rishikesh, after doing TONS of research online I had narrowed it down to two candidates. One of which was Rishikul Yogashala. They were offering a scholarship, which I had applied for but did not think I would get! Then one week in April I had the news that I was accepted, almost immediately afterwards I received an email in my inbox offering cheap flights to India. Obviously, THIS WAS A SIGN! Only problem being that I had a job interview in Sydney that week for a Graphic Design job. I said to myself, “If I get the job, then great. I’m moving to Sydney. If I don’t get the job then great, I’m going to India.” Although I secretly hoped I wouldn’t get the job because I W A N T E D T O G O T O I N D I A !
When I arrived in Rishikesh my immediate response was that I had made a huge mistake and I should take my money and run away! This was mostly due to the 40-degree heat, the idea of sharing a small room with a total stranger and the general lack of cleanliness. This multiplied by the initial culture shock and the fact that there were no bedsheets or no towel played a big part also. When I’d asked reception for a towel so I could shower after my arduous journey, the response was “No! You can’t, because students keep using them to clean their feet”. My western brain was horrified. It was then I noticed the sign by the entrance with the words staring at me, right in my face ‘The key to happiness, is low expectations!!!
My perspective needed to change…damn quickly! Why was I being such a snob?? Luckily things improved when I met my new roomie ‘Elisa’. Cut to us dangling our feet in Ganges and swapping travel stories (and towel shopping). The following day we met our teachers and we went through our new schedules. We were told that nothing is by chance, we were there for a reason and this month will change us forever, etc. The lack of towel situation quickly seemed unimportant after this inspiring chat. And so, it began…
A typical day at Rishikul looked like:
5.00am – Tea
5.30am – Ashtanga
7.30am – Pranayama
8.30am – Chair yoga/Mudra class/Mantra (alternating)
9.15am – Breakfast
10.00am – Yoga philosophy
11.00am – Anatomy
12.45pm – Lunch
1pm – 4.30 pm – Study time/Swimming in the Ganges (too hot to move)
4.30pm – Hatha Yoga
6.30pm – Meditation/Yoga nidra
7.30pm – Dinner
10.00pm – Lights out
* We had two days off, Wednesday and Sunday. Every Wednesday we had an excursion. Which included visiting *Baba’s cave, Waterfall, cooking classes, white rafting in the Ganges and sunrise at a temple in the Himalayas.
Suffice to say it was intense, but I was so happy to be a part of it. Spending nearly every hour of the day learning more about something you love? What’s not to love?
There were a few hiccups along the way, one involving a room change on my part. Turns out at 34 years of age, I cannot share a room with another human being for longer than a week (and I’m single…go figure!) I also found it quite a challenge to be CONSTANTLY around other people, even though everyone was super lovely, many of which I now call my dear friends. When you are an introvert, you are an introvert. Best thing you can do is accept it and just give yourself alone time to recharge when you can.
So, once you get used to the 4.30am starts and the ridiculously unbearable warmth, you’re laughing. Some didn’t make it through mind, a few people left. Because the heat was too much or they became too ill.
HOT TIP: Don’t go to India in May/June/July. It’s too hot and the monsoon season is beginning. Go at any other time!!!
I thoroughly enjoyed my classes and fell for each of my teachers. All of them Indian and all so knowledgeable in different ways. Like our Hatha teacher who learnt everything he knew in ashrams, so his teaching style was quite strict (which I was not expecting from Hatha!) and there wasn’t so much theory but he made up for it with his physical knowledge of asana, adjustment and alignment. Then our Ashtanga teacher studied at University so, he was very thorough with each asana and he went through everything step by step. Then our mudra and chair yoga teacher was a big ball of positive energy who not only made you feel all warm and fuzzy inside but also knows every single mudra and crap loads about Ayurveda, Hatha and EVERYTHING. Our philosophy teacher was like a wise old grandpapa and our meditation teachers were like sweet gentle mamas there to look after and nurture us. Sounds like one big happy family, right? That’s exactly why it’s so hard to say goodbye.
If primary school, secondary school and university were like a yoga school I think the world would be a much better place!
At the end of the course you are required to put a class together and teach to your classmates – it seemed so scary in the beginning but towards the end you have so much knowledge, you kinda just want to put it into practice and give it a go. It helps that everyone else is the same boat. Of course, I was still nervous, I rushed through it and was so worried about not fucking up that I was less than attentive in adjusting my students. But I learnt from it and I was proud of myself for getting up there. Public speaking is one of my biggest fears, so this really wasn’t easy for me. As I am sure it is the same for many other introverts out there! I would like to teach again but I want to do some free classes with my friends before stepping out into the big bad world. The experience has certainly increased my self-practice and my confidence to teach others for sure.
Then there is an exam, which I think I nailed ; ) It wasn’t too difficult. But you do come away with such a sense of accomplishment. Which is where all the love and gratitude come into play I guess.
I had an Indian astrology reading at the school also. The diagnosis: It is not good for me to stay in one place too long, I need to spend more time in nature, wear more pink + green, teach, help people with depression and give chocolate to black children! Yes, that’s right. I asked if I was allowed to give chocolate to white children, and that is also allowed, but mainly to black children. #racistpriest
Oh, and I’m told I need to work on toning down my ego and my temper… Whaaaaat?!
There is also an Ayurvedic doctor on site, he will examine you and tell you what dosha type you are. According to Aruyvedia there are three dosha types, Pitta = fire + water, Vatta = Space + Air and Kapha =Water + Earth. The goal is to keep these three elements in balance. I am Pitta! Find your dosha. So, I need to avoid food and asanas that will aggravate and flare up my fire! Doctor will then tell you what foods you should eat and what foods you should avoid. No spicey food for me : (
Your self-practice also depends on your dosha and particular asanas are good for your dosha type. I’m still reading up on Ayurveda but I find it all very fascinating. I’m curious to learn more.
Other things I have taken away from this love fest is that the most important thing is that you trust and have faith in yourself. When you do, ‘Everything is Possible’. Or ‘Possible is Everything’ according to one special Hatha teacher’s Indian printed T-Shirt! We were taught that God is not some mythical creature in the clouds but is within each of us and we are all connected and part of the universe. If you need something, the universe is there for you. You just need to believe and really, truly want it.
It kind of felt as though the universe was dishing out presents like Father Christmas. Crossing off everyone’s wishes on their wish list. There were love stories, friendships, sex (!), people letting go, giving up, breaking up, moving on, moving up and for me, I had met one fellow Graphic Designer + Illustrator who happened to be already living my dream as a digital nomad. Molly’s story is an inspiring one and has inspired me to also hit the road and fulfil my dreams of becoming a DN. I realised when I was out there inhaling all that cow poo that the only thing standing in the way of me and my dreams is ME! Inspiring, right?
So, I am heading back to Australia with a pocket full of new clients (ask and thou shall receive) … And a new-found interest in wandering around Thailand with my laptop and instead of feeling scared, I feel excited about what the future will bring.
Yes, we are all connected. Yes, everything happens for a reason. Yes, if it is meant to be it will be. And YES, I am changed for the better, I am happy, grateful and certainly, I am blessed.