India- Yoga Teacher Training
The Basic Guide
India is the the Motherland of yoga and every yoga teacher should make the pilgrimage there at some time in their lives- because whether you love or hate it- the teachings will suddenly fall into place there. It all starts to make sense.
After several lengthy trips and 12 years of yoga practise, I chose to move to India in 2012 and ended up living there for 2.5 years. In this time I opened up an architecture and design studio (young citizens) and started a 2 year training to be a teacher. In this time I taught yoga occasionally in Mumbai whilst simultaneously running around the city designing buildings. Toward the end of this time I completed my official YTT200hrs and several other trainings.
My experiences and hence my teaching style are so specifically mine- a culmination (and a kinda wacky mix) of many teachers and many years of experience. So the advice I am offering is by no means complete, qualified or extensive, it's simply a result of being emailed about this topic from students 2-3 times a WEEK.
So if you have experienced an amazing YTT or teacher in India and want to share please add it to the comments or let me know! I would be happy to pass on the recommendations of good teachers.
Mumbai - my other home
Full Circle Yoga
Vandana Yadav keeps her teachings low key- but she is for sure one of the best teachers in India. In fact she was my teacher and mentor for over 2 years. She shies away from social media and promotion but her practises are phenomenal. They are not only intensely physical (she will push you to extremes!) but also steeped in a wisdom and knowledge of ancient breath work and meditation. She draws upon her extensive trainings which include not only many styles of yoga but also in healing, ayurveda and south Indian Martial Arts.
An incredible and beautiful ashtanga teacher who makes her way around the world teaching workshops and courses. If you are lucky enough to find your way to a class of hers in Mumbai, be prepared to be packed like sardines and surrounded by Bollywood babes. Her ability to read your body and know exactly what is happening for you physically borders on clairvoyant. She is one of the few teachers to be YTT Ashtanga Secondary Series trained. Under her tutelage Digna Popat takes her classes and is also an incredible teacher (she taught me how to jump back from crow pose after YEARS of trying!)
The Yoga House
One of the few yoga studios I found in Mumbai where you can drop in for classes throughout the day and experience a range of teachers and styles. Beautifully styled and incredibly run, it attracts the best teachers in the city. With an incredible ayurvedic cafe it was the kind of place I would love to meet friends for lunch or chai and just chill out in.
My boyfriend at the time swore by the teachers at this school. I only practised there a couple of times (they are such a strict bunch and weren’t encouraging of drop ins) but I enjoyed the class and the super traditional Indian chilled atmosphere.
Up North (Rishikesh, Dharamsala)
I love going up North- it really feels like the Home of yoga. In fact the area where most yogis head is called the Valley of the Sages. I first headed here at 22 as a solo traveller and it completely blew my mind. Since then I have visited several more times, spent short periods of time with many teachers, but these are the ones I can recommend and remember.
Swasti Yoga with Surinder
When people ask me about Indian YTTs i tell them about Surinder at Yogarden. In fact you mention his name in Rishikesh and everyone will know him. He is definitely one of the best teachers in India and he teaches teachers! He has such a heartfelt style, and really looks the part (an Indian man with a big beard. BOOM) He does things like say ‘thankyou’ after you complete the pose and says ‘please’ when instructing you to get into it. Some of his non physical adjustment cues I still find myself using to this day! I only experienced his classes a few times but his teacher trainings are sold out for months in advance. On top of that his prices are very reasonable.
This is the biggest ashram in Rishikesh. I studied here and stayed at the ashram for some time after my YTT200. The ashram accommodation is bordering on jail cell awful, but the grounds are beautiful and what I learnt there completely changed the way I teach and practise yoga. Mornings began at 5:30am with Mataji (her name means The Honoured Mother) chanting mantra, followed by a pranayama series I teach to this day. After that we practised a kinda hilariously Indian asana practise (they aren’t much into asana but seem to just do it for the westerners) and meditation. The food is Indian and spicy (not exactly sattvic in my opinion but pretty yummy) and it attracts a whole range of international people interested in understanding a yogic way of living. The days are spent learning philosophy and chanting and the evenings everyone heads to the Ganga for prayer and more chanting (you see where I get the enthusiastic attitude to chanting from now!) You can also get ayurvedic treatments there.
I haven’t been here myself- but my best friend did a 10 ‘silence’ retreat which included a lot of talking and delicious peanut butter. The teachings are also Buddhist- and everyone knows Buddhists are the best. Potentially a good starting spot for those who haven’t done Vipassana but would like to ease into it a silent meditation retreat.
Rishikesh and Dharamsala - General
These places are an absolute HUB for yoga and meditation. Book stores, short courses, YTTs, amazing conversation- it’s crowded with interesting people on the spiritual path. Not all of it is necessarily able to be searched for online, it requires you show up and go with the flow. While I was there I did an incredible tantra course (there are a few good tantric schools around there) after seeing a poster about it. I highly recommend heading there and allowing the Universe to show you what you need and listening to your instincts.*
Down South (Goa Kerala etc)
Goa is a great spot for teacher trainings, and further south in Kerala you will find that the focus changes to Ayurveda, the Indian Science of life, healing and food. There are many health retreats and Ayurvedic doctors in this region to explore.
Tribe Yoga Teacher Training - Goa
I completed my YTT200hr with Tribe and they were an incredible group to train with. I loved every minute of it. Ok it was a struggle at the start because noone, not even the teachers were Indian, but when I got over my resistance to that it was Awesome! While they describe what they teach as an ashtanga vinyasa YTT, the teachers were all trained and practising tantrics and so much of what I learnt with them set me up for my personal tantric practise (without me knowing it!) The course included pranayama, mantra, meditation as well as lots of chanting. Practising this daily for 4 weeks raised my vibration to a state that my life completely changed after it forever.
There are several Sivananda Schools around India and they do YTTs. I do tend to get it mixed up though with Satyananda and the Bihar School, because I haven't practised with either of them and they seem to be linked. From my understanding it's more of a traditional school- ie: men and women here sleep separately, and there are some branches of the school where the sexes also train separately. You are required to wear fully covered clothing (Indian style) and the main practise teaches you 12 postures (starting with head stand), as well as traditional suriyar namaskar, yogic pranayama, philosophy and meditation. The real deal and super traditional, for those who are craving a ‘traditional’ experience. The Bihar School produce some of the best academic Yogic literature on the planet (you will see their striped book spines on every yogis bookshelf).
Other important things!
India is a country of weather extremes- and the month you choose can make a big difference in your experience of a place. It can get extremely hot, (like dying hot) monsoon rains can cause flooding, and up North it also gets to freezing! DO the research and find out when you should head to your chosen spot.
Training in India can be a struggle for us firangi (foreigners) because standards are different- especially when it comes to accommodation and cleanliness. However, as with everything in India, my advice it FOLLOW YOUR GUT. I can’t say this enough. If it feels dodgy, if you don’t like the teacher DON’T DO IT. Cut your losses and leave. Yoga is a practise of opening yourself up on an energetic level. Spending time with a teacher who doesn’t have your best interests at heart can be damaging on many levels, so if you can ask to speak to the teacher before you lock in to you chosen YTT and get their vibes. And trust yours.
India is a massive country and there are literally millions of teachers and many thousands of teacher trainings there (hence the confusion for most people.) On top of that, like anywhere, the quality of the teachings, accomodation and food is not always up to demands of the Western Student. The tradition of practising physical asana (postures, ie: a normal western yoga class) is also not necessarily high on the agenda of most Indian yogis. Often the saddhus, babbas and traditional teachers you might meet will focus on chanting, breathing and simple meditations. The key is to be open to whatever it is that Mother India has to offer, allow for flow to replace control (there's no other way) and just enjoy the ride.