Want more yoga and exercise? Become a woods warrior, try this lower body workout, then end the day with bedtime stretches that relieve lower back pain. Check out my 200hour yoga teacher training experience and read about the school I attended here.
PEOPLE! I’m officially a yoga teacher. What does that mean? Well, last night I registered and paid my dues with the Yoga Alliance. The Yoga Alliance is the largest nonprofit association representing the yoga community. Basically registering with the Yoga Alliance gives you credibility because they review your certificate of completion of course work and all that other good stuff. It’s a seal of approval and something to make you sound super official when you prance into a studio looking for a job. I haven’t started that part of the process yet, even though if you recall, one of my New Years resolutions was to teach a class by the end of January. Lay off, I have one more week!
Should I pursue a yoga teacher training?
With that mini hurdle (shelling out $105.00 for a figurative stamp of approval) out of the way, I’m feeling pretty official over here and I wanted to share my experience beginning to end with you just in case you’re contemplating a 200 hour course. First you have to ask yourself all those hard questions like, “Am I willing to put my body through mild forms of torture for 28 days?” “Am I that into yoga?” “Do I plan on teaching?” “Do I value my self practice enough to pay upwards of $2,000-$4,000 to improve it?” All these extremely valid questions that honestly, I did not ask myself until after I put down the $200 deposit with my school. I just went for it and then my mind threw all these questions at me immediately after I confirmed my payment method. That’s how I handle life altering decisions, you too?
What type of yoga? Which school? When?
Okay, so you’ve decided to pursue the training. The next step is figuring out the type of yoga, the school, and scheduling that’s right for you. What type of yoga do you enjoy and value most? What would you like to pass on to others? For me, this was simple, I absolutely love vinyasa flow yoga, which also falls under the ashtanga title. Basically it means linking the body movements with the flow of one’s breath. It’s fluid and beautiful and it’s the right type of yoga for me so there was no question that I would pursue a school specializing in ashtanga/vinyasa. Then I thought about scheduling, you can either take a course that meets every weekend for a few months (most U.S. schools offer this type of scheduling), a split course where you practice hard for two weeks, take a break, and then gather again for the final two weeks, or you could do it all in one shot, which is what I did, with a 28 day intensive 200 hour program. Scheduling comes down to your personal way of life; I knew I wanted to focus completely on the course, so I knew weekends wouldn’t be best for me. Last, but surely most important, you should think about where you’d like to be trained and who your yoga gurus will be. Do you have an allegiance to a specific studio? Have you been inspired by a particular teacher over the years? I knew I wanted to learn from people who lived a yoga lifestyle every.damn.day. not simply a fit individual who practices asana (the physical/exercise portion of yoga) three times a day. I was firm in wanting my yoga teachers to be of Indian decent, the birthplace of yoga. I wanted an authentic eastern experience so that the yoga I was being taught was as close to the source and truth as possible.
How to find the best school for you:
Like most adventures in my life, it all started with late night googling. I was looking for a yoga retreat of some type, but after searching on https://www.bookyogaretreats.com/ and typing in a few of my favorite countries, I found this program hosted by Rishikul Yogshala in Nepal taught by Indian teachers from Rishikesh, India, the yoga capital of the world. Since my first visit in 2012, I have been itching to return to Nepal. I immediately knew this was the right program for me. If you’re having trouble finding a program, start by asking yourself some very basic questions: What weather would I like to practice in? What city or country would I like to practice in? How much am I willing to spend? Once you have a general idea of where you’d like to practice and how much you can spend, pair that with the type of yoga you want to practice and go on a searching spree. You should also ask any friends that have completed a program for their thoughts, they’ll be able to shed some light on important aspects of the training and what they loved and hated about their programs.
Preparing for the training:
I would like to say that I prepared for the training, but besides buying a bottle of vitamins, borrowing a few pairs of yoga pants from the trendiest Schu sister, and packing my bag, I really didn’t do much. I had hopes of practicing a lot to ‘get in shape’ for the training, buttttt I didn’t. I showed up with the tightest hamstrings and hips and my downward dog definitely needed some work. I plan on writing a post about what to pack for yoga teacher training, so I’ll keep it brief here. You’ll definitely want a few pairs of yoga clothes, your mat, a water bottle, journal or notebook, and some type of cover or sarong for Yoga Nidra. Those are the essentials; yoga is all about simplifying anyway, so if you have those items, you’re good to go.
The General Flow of Rishikul’s 200hr Yoga Teacher Training
When I read the 12+hour schedule online, part of my brain shut down. I figured there was no way we could actually be squeezing so.much.yoga into each day, but sure enough we did. I had those thoughts of so many people are yoga teachers, if they can do it, I can and I was right, I could and you can too. The training was absolutely tiring and draining, but I’ve never felt more alive in my entire life.
Here’s how our daily schedule went:
- 5am – wake up + tea time
- 5:30am – hatha yoga
- 7:30am – pranayama + tea time
- 8:30am – yoga nidra
- 9:30am – breakfast
- 11am – yoga philosophy + tea time
- 12:30pm – mantra
- 1:30pm – lunch + break aka nap time
- 3pm – anatomy + tea time
- 4:30pm – vinyasa yoga
- 6:30pm meditation
- 7:30pm dinner
The gurus set up the program in such a way that you start your morning with slow (ie: painful) stretching and strengthening during two hours of hatha yoga before moving into energizing breathing exercises during pranayama. Pranayama was always a little difficult and painful for me because I have major sinus issues, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I’ve never met a man more god-like than my pranayama teacher. The first day we asked him his name and he went to the chalkboard, drew a huge 0 and said, I am zero, I am nothing. Yep. This was the eastern experience I was interested in. After pranayama, we relaxed a bit with yoga nidra and then headed to breakfast. Yoga nidra was something I was most excited for, but if we’re being honest here, and we are, I fell asleep during every.single.session. It’s not like I snored through the whole hour, but I definitely missed a few minutes each class, which serves as a testament to how calm and comforting my yoga nidra teacher’s voice is. I assumed I would be starving every morning until breakfast, but I really wasn’t. Although it’s good to practice on an empty stomach, our teachers were sure to tell us to have a little snack if that’s what we needed. I realized immediately that the yoga teachers were there to serve me in my yoga journey not there to uphold strict scheduling and rules. After breakfast it was time for yoga philosophy and mantra class. Yoga philosophy was definitely interesting and full of words and topics I’ve never heard of in my entire life. Sometimes it felt like yoga church, which was hard to navigate as an agnostic, but simply distancing myself a bit and consuming all the knowledge in a light-hearted way helped me to digest it. Everything we talked about in yoga philosophy dealt with bettering the self and coming closer to our own true nature and that I could understand and grasp on to. Mantra, which is basically chanting in sanskrit turned out to be one of my favorite classes. I’m not one for singing in public – or with a group – I actually want to shrivel up and die when sing-a-longs take place, but I could really get down with chanting for some reason. Maybe it helped that it was in a completely different language. Anyway, we learned dozens of mantras to guide us through our daily life. It’s kind of like adding a blessing (yet they weren’t religious) or motivation to your day before, during, and after you do certain things. Mantras still pop into my head, more than three months after training. Each mantra had an uplifting message and made me smile long after the class ended. Then it was time for lunch on the balcony.
After lunch, I would either skip out to the main street for a little shopping (and by week three for a coffee!) or run to my room and try to fit in an hour long nap. After lunch, it was time for yoga anatomy, shat kriya, or lesson planning. There would often be minute changes in the schedule to allow for various subjects depending on what week it was. Then it was time for our two hour vinyasa class. Almost every day, I felt like there was no way I could make it through the class, but after ten minutes, I was in the flow and not even realizing how hard my body was working. By the time two hours had come to a close, I was weak, wobbly and ready for meditation class. Meditation is as hard for the brain as vinyasa is for the body. It was a real challenge to sit still and meditate for an hour each day, but the variety of meditation techniques and practices kept everything fresh and had me interested and determined every day to quiet my mind. Once meditation was over, everyone left the room in a dreamy fog, high on yoga drugs, and ready to eat dinner and sleep soundly.
Prana G is a powerful force. It’s kind of hard to describe him, he’s more of a feeling than a person, a really powerful feeling. His spirit captivates a room and he’s quite terrifying in the you are so intimidating share everything you know with me kind of way. I naturally gravitate to people who scare the shit out of me, so him and I hit it off, even though we communicated with words very little. When Prana asks a question, it’s better to not answer because chances are you are wrong. I should mention that he was always smiling and full of belly laughs though. His favorite phrase is WONDERFUL! and it is almost always shouted you. Gangesha – taught yoga philosophy, shat kriya, and bandhas
Gangesh is without a doubt one of the most truthful people I’ve ever met. His knowledge and expressive nature makes him a powerful teacher and guru. If I ever needed major life advice, I would want to call Gangesh. If I ever felt extremely depressed and needed someone to tell me it would be okay, I would visit Gangesh. He is a magical man. To me, he’s a laughing buddha.
Bipin – asana teacher for hatha and vinyasa
I knew clicking with my asana teacher was be really important to me and I’m so glad I did. From day one, Bipin commanded respect and totally controlled the room. Whatever Bipin said, I did, or at least tried my hardest. I totally gave up my self doubt and physical limits when I stepped onto my mat in Bipin’s class. With his instruction, I’ve never felt so confident in my capabilities and his adjustments. I was absolutely floored the day I learned Bipin was the same age as me. He doesn’t look any older, but his maturity and the way he conducted himself had me thinking he was ten years older! Deepa – yoga nidra, mantra, and meditation teacher
Deepa, oh what a sweet lady. I once said, “I wish Deepa’s voice was the voice in my head,” because it’s so calm and soothing, especially during yoga nidra. Deepa is the walking definition of self love. He calm, genuine, confidence instantly makes you fall in love with her. She is like a sweet little bunny bouncing into the room and calming everyone of their deepest insecurities. What a beautiful soul. Kavita – mantra and meditation
Kavita’s quiet way was instantly captivating to me. Kavita helped our class immensely with the pronunciation and tones of the sanskrit language. I loved how Kavita floated around during all our classes, like a student herself. She was always popping up with a quiet, calm word of encouragement or asking how our day was going. Kavita is someone I’d like to pack in my suitcase and take home with me 🙂 Gurutze & Dipika – demonstration & communication
Gurutze and Dipika were an integral part of our training. Gurutze, shown above in white with her sister, is a woman from Spain who completed the 200 hour course a couple months prior. She loved the program so much she decided to stick around and help the Rishikul school with media and communication. Gurutze acted as a liason between the students and teachers, which really kept everything honest and running smoothly. If any conflicts arose, Gurutze was there to talk through them and find a solution that worked for everyone. Dipika is a native of Pokhara, Nepal and an avid yoga practitioner. Dipika attended all of our asana classes and acted as a shining example of someone devoting themselves to yoga. She also demonstrated all the positions for us, which sometimes flipped us out. She is so bendy! Dipika is so sweet and also a little shy, so I don’t have a great photo of her to share here.
The food and accommodations :
Hotel Tulsi was theeee nicest hotel I’ve stayed at in Asia. Bright and airy with marble floors, western showers and toilets, and the nicest staff you could hope to meet. Over the course of the month, I fell in love with kitchen staff, front desk men, and of course, the owner of the hotel, who I lovingly referred to as Mr. Tulsi. The hotel also had several outdoor balconies that were outfitted with lush green turf. These spaces quickly became our favorite hang out spots and I cherish every memory from those moments on the terrace. From the outdoor patio, you could look across the way to our yoga studio. The yoga studio was spacious with an open air section in the back of the room. It was refreshing to feel the intense monsoon rains spray you while you’re twisting into a pretzel. As for the food, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. During the program we were all on a strict vegetarian diet. We also all abstained from alcohol and cigarettes (I rarely drink and never smoke cigarettes so that was quite easy) during the month. I spent four years as a vegetarian so I was excited to dive back into veggies. I loved the variety of dishes and sauces we were presented with each day and the soups! I’ve never tasted so many delicious soups. I think I need to go back to Hotel Tulsi and create a cookbook with their yummy creations. The only thing I did miss was dessert, as there wasn’t really any sugar (besides fruit) during the program. This sugar withdraw clued me in to how addicted my brain and body was to the sweet stuff. Some nights I seriously lay in bed craving sweets!
The other students:
My yoga family. On day one we were all timid and shy, but by day 28 we didn’t want to leave one another. I learned so much from the other students and none of it had to do with asana practice. The spiritual growth and maturity that radiated out of the yoga hall every day was mesmerizing. I will always strive to surround myself with wise and wondrous souls like those I practiced with. I even met a new best friend, a girl that I know I will be connected to forever and ever. Now that I write that, I’m tempted to talk about each and every one of my beautiful classmates, maybe I’ll make a post all about it. All I can say is, I found my people.
Days Off & Karma Yoga:
Each week we had two days rest days. Even on the rest days we woke up early and drank tea, had self practice, and tried a new cleansing method aka shat kriya. After our morning routine, we all ate breakfast together on the terrace with a little bounce in our step. It felt great to finally have a few hours off after being mentally and physically on for three days straight. If Rishikul Yogshala had nothing planned, we could all do whatever we wanted. Some folks had a nice, long rest, while others went exploring on motorbikes or off on a hike to the Peace Pagoda. Most off days were spent exploring the city, hanging out by an amazing swimming pool, or catching up on yoga homework, like lesson plans and trying to memorize mantras. Some days Rishikul planned outtings for us. We ventured to hot springs, more images of that here, and visited a local school. We taught the children yoga, sang songs, gave them new school uniforms, and just had an awesome time acting like kids for the afternoon. During the full moon, we were all taken to Sarangot, a viewpoint high on the mountain near Pokhara. At night we all meditated to the full moon, which turned out to be a powerful experience for some. The next morning, we awoke before sunrise to hike up to the peak where we practiced yoga asana with Bipin. After the tough practice we were all rolled over out of meditation to the most spectacular view. I will never forget the sound of our class uwwing and aawwwing at the peaks before us. What a special moment.
There are a million and one things I could say about the 200hr yoga teacher training provided by the Rishikul Yogshala, but like all things in life, it’s really something you have to experience for yourself to understand. I tried to keep this post descriptive rather than writing a review of the course, but I think it’s evident from my words that I fucking loved every second of this program. I can’t count the number of times I had to delete the superfluous use of words like beautiful, wondrous, magical. I’m sure they snuck in a few extra times just like I’m sure there are some flowery sentences in here, but honestly, as tiring and challenging as this whole course was, I felt like I was walking on the moon. Even the days where I was dragging myself out of bed or reluctantly had to take a nap during one of the lectures (I missed approximately six classes during the course – there were two or three students who didn’t miss a single second!) I knew I was doing what was right for me and my teachers would tell me the exact same thing. If you’re looking for self-acceptance, knowledge, and growth, this program is absolutely right for you. If you have any questions about the Rishikul Yogshala or yoga in general don’t hesitate to ask.