Rishikesh is undoubtedly the yoga capital of the universe, and with over 300 schools to choose from, you have plenty of options 🙂
Because there are so many schools, everyone has a different experience doing yoga teacher training.
It’s not possible for me to summarize all the available options, so this post is about our experience at Rishikesh Yog Dham, and some advice about doing TTC (Teacher Training Course) in general.
Before you go :
- What to expect
- Choosing a school
- Choosing a program
- What to pack
- Getting to rishikesh
- Things to consider
- Course structure
- Seeing the town
- Avoiding illness
- Extra activities
What to expect:
Rishikesh yoga TTC is a month that will probably change your life, and most people have a very positive experience here. With that said, your enjoyment of the course, how much you learn, your personal growth and development, and your overall experience depends entirely on YOU.
You have to come to the course with an open mind, and you have to make a conscious effort to be positive.
There were people who skipped class, didn’t put effort in, and even though they got the piece of paper, they walked away unsatisfied with the whole experience, because they didn’t grow and develop as much as the rest of the class.
The certificate is secondary to what you will be learning here – far more important is your personal growth, discipline, understanding of yoga and the yogic lifestyle, making lifelong friends, and, of course, your inner peace. 🙂
Nobody can force you to do anything, but my personal opinion is that if you are paying for a course that will help you in some aspect of your life, you should try and maximize the benefit you gain from it – most people who go and do TTC only get the opportunity once in a lifetime, so make it count!
The course is difficult. Not just physically (4 hours of yoga asana per day!) but also emotionally and psychologically. We were exhausted at the end of each day, going to bed at 8:30-9:00 pm every night.
The course material wasn’t intellectually very challenging, but if you are someone who struggles to learn things that are outside your worldview then you might find it difficult.
Choosing a school:
Choosing a school can be tricky, since there are so many options, and each school usually has more than one program that they offer.
What I would recommend, is consider the factors at play:
- How much time do you have?
- What is your budget?
- What style of yoga are you interested in learning?
- How much experience do you have?
Based on all these things, narrow down the available options to the top 5 or so schools, and then compare reviews, see what their class size is (smaller is better – don’t go for anything over 20), compare leisure time etc.
We ended up with Rishikesh Yog Dham, since it fitted into our boxes nicely, and we had a wonderful experience – they teach traditional Hatha yoga, and we loved getting in touch with the basic principles of yoga. Also, their food was awesome 😎
Oh, and you must be ok with vegetarian food and no alcohol for a month – rishikesh is a holy town so no meat or alcohol is permitted. Relax, it’ll do you good 🙂
One major problem with our school was the payment for the course – they had a card machine available, but didn’t want people using it – presumably because of tax evasion. They also didn’t want to use PayPal because of the fees and processing tine, and didn’t accept bitcoin 🙁 basically, they want cash in hand, which, in my opinion, is a bit ridiculous when you’re handing over so much money). If you can pay before the start of the course, do so – you will save yourself lots of hassle.
Choosing a program:
Depending on your time available, there are various options – from drop in classes on a daily basis at most ashrams, to retreats of any duration, as well as 200h (1 month) 300h (6 weeks) and 500h courses.
We opted for the 200h TTC, over 4 weeks, and it was perfect – long enough to really settle in, but short enough that you can leave feeling satisfied, and maybe still wishing you had a little bit more time 🙂
What to pack:
Rishikesh gets cold in winter! Don’t be fooled!
We came expecting summer and heat in India, but even in February it was still chilly enough to need your jacket every day, and the mornings were downright cold.
A basic first aid kit is essential, with rehydration salts, anti-diarrhoeal medication and flu meds, as well as hand sanitizer. Consult your doctor before leaving to top up your vaccines if needed.
Malaria isn’t a big problem while we were there in winter, but if you are going in summer or if your doctor recommends then rather take your prophylaxis – malaria isn’t fun for anyone.
All the other usual asia travel advice – don’t bring suitcase on wheels, pack light, mosquito repellent, hat, power bank etc etc.
Getting to rishikesh:
There are several ways to get to rishikesh, depending on your budget and where you’re coming from.
You will have to bear in mind that most of the yoga schools and ashrams are not in Rishikesh Town itself, but in a suburb 5km north of Rishikesh call Tapovan
The closest airport is Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun, about 20km away – from here you can either take a Tuk Tuk (+-Rs1500) or walk 2km to the main road (running between dehradun and rishikesh) and flag down a public bus going left to rishikesh town. From rishikesh town your best best is a shared Tuk tuk, called a Vikram or a Tempo, into tapovan – costs about Rs20.
If you are coming from Delhi you will probably end up in Haridwar by train or bus, from here your most convenient option is a vikram/tempo (as above) – it’s about Rs50 per person and an hour long bumpy ride, and if you’re lucky they drop you all the way in tapovan 🙂 there are also public busses to rishikesh, just stand on the main road and flag one down.
Things to consider :
- Download the area of rishikesh and tapovan / laxman jula offline on Google maps, and drop a pin where your final destination is – if you are unable to get a sim card while in India (or if it stops working for whatever reason) then at least you’ll be able to navigate to your destination.
- Always negotiate a price first, before getting into any type of private transport – public busses are fine, you can just jump on, but any Tuk Tuk (shared or not) you have to establish the price first, or you’ll end up paying triple or quadruple the actual price.
- If you take the trains, the class options can be confusing. Also, booking trains can be confusing. To book directly with the IRCTC you’ll need to register on their website – a long and painful process that generally ends in frustration. The only registered online travel agency that bypasses the need for your IRCTC registration is 12go asia, and they charge a nominal fee – totally worth it.
- Train classes – anything with AC behind the name is fine. The AC officially stands for Air Conditioning, but is actually just the fact that the windows are closed so you don’t get the smell. Also, you get some semi-clean bedding in AC berths. 1AC gives you a private 2 person berth, 2AC is 4 in a room, 3AC is 6 in a room – best value for money in my opinion.
Our days looked like this:
- 6:00 – wake up,
- 6:15 herbal tea
- 6:30 cleansing/breathing exercises
- 7:00 asana practice
- 8:30 breakfast
- 9:30 anatomy
- 11:00 meditation
- 12:30 lunch
- 1-3:00 free time!
- 3:00 philosophy
- 4:00 another asana class
- 6:30 supper
Evenings were free, but most of the time we were too tired to do anything! We loved that our school gave us lots of free time to explore the town, drink tea, get tattooed etc 🙂 – some schools are very strict and won’t let you leave the ashram during free time.
Seeing the town:
Very important, of course! Every afternoon we went to drink tea, explore the thousands of “organic shops” selling herbal shampoos and other natural odds and ends, finding the best street snacks (hint – they are just over the laxman jula bridge to the east!) and just generally enjoying the India-ness of it all.
Tapovan is a very sheltered environment, not at all like India. Reminded me a bit of Pai, in Thailand – loads of dreadlocks and tofu everywhere.
There are a few great cafes, too many to mention, but ganga beach cafe, shanti shanti, shambala and Mango Garden spring to mind as being reliably good. Also, you can get a Bhang Lassi at Shambala, but keep it discrete.
This is unfortunately a very important topic – because you are in close contact with a large group of people, diseases tend to spread very quickly.
There is no hard way to avoid everything, but the following can help minimize your risk.
- Wash your hands. Obsessively. Hands are probably the most important vector for the spread of diarrhoeal illness, so wash them regularly and thoroughly, and definitely before eating anything.
- Hand sanitizer – as above. Use on top of regular hand washing, is not effective on dirty hands.
- Avoid sharing utensils etc
- Don’t drink the water. Ever.
- Zinc 20mg/d will help protect against viral illnesses, and probiotics might provide some benefit against bacterial sources.
- If you do get very ill, ciprofloxacin 500mg twice daily for 3 days – can be purchased without a prescription from the pharmacy in Tapovan.
Do them! We had a few day trips that were organized by our school, and they were all unforgettable!
We went rafting down the ganges (ganga) river, visited a small temple in a village on the hill, went to an international yoga conference, and did a cooking course.
Try pick a school that gives you lots of opportunities to do things and bond with the other classmates – we really enjoyed the off time, it helped balance out the intensity of the course! If your school doesn’t do any of these activities, then make a little effort on your off days to explore and experience what you can 😋
And that’s basically it! If you have been to rishikesh, or done a ttc in another part of india, let us know what you thought!