When I first arrived in India last September, the last thing I wanted to attend was a yoga class. Sweating in the never-ending humidity of monsoon season and making a complete fool of myself in the process was a thought that paralyzed me. I sure as hell wasn’t going to endure an entire yoga teacher training course.
Fast forward to November and at that time, I had been living in Rishikesh for a little over a month. I had relegated most of the hippies that flow through this sacred town by the river as culturally-appropriating try-hards who refuse to actually learn a damn thing about Indian culture beyond hash and jam sessions. Looking back now, I realize that was terribly presumptive and judgemental, but also not 100% innaccurate.
Despite my best efforts to be anything but a Rishikesh cliché, my life path was somehow leading me to a yoga school where I would spend the next two weeks as a meditation student. It was there that I would fall in love with yoga, stay two months as a volunteer and earn my 200-hour yoga teacher training certificate. I didn’t really see that one coming, but as the old Indian adage goes: anything’s possible!
That yoga school is really where the next chapter of my life began. You see, I came to India with many questions. And don’t get me wrong, I was never expecting India to provide me with any answers. I won’t go all “Eat, Pray, Love” on your ass, although I do love me some Elizabeth Gilbert. The truth was that I was far too caught up in the sticky webs of anxiety to even give that a thought — the typical post-college existential crisis was in full swing. I really do have the timely exposure to yoga and a few select people to thank for helping me through that hard time.
Getting your yoga teacher training certificate in India does come with its merits, one of them being that this is the country where yoga was born and the yogic way of life was cultivated. With the commercialization of yoga and India’s tourism industry in full swing, it’s important to take certain considerations when deciding where to embark on your personal yoga journey. So, I’ve gathered some of my most useful tips and suggestions for navigating your way to the yoga school of your dreams, and hopefully they help you along the decision-making process!
What Experience Do You Want?
This is the best question to ask yourself while first initially trying to narrow down where to get your yoga teacher training.
What are your priorities? What are your goals?
Some schools specialize in certain yoga styles, like Hatha, Vinyasa or Ashtanga Vinyasa. Some schools tend to be more experiential and less technical based in their teachings, so you’re more likely to partake in some level of introspective, personal growth.
It’s crucial to note that not all course curriculums at yoga schools are created equally! If they are Yoga Alliance-certified, then they’ll have to follow certain guidelines but they’re also allowed to add additional coursework and classes if they so choose. Attend a school that’s heavy on yoga philosophy if that’s what you’re into, or maybe a school that incorporates Ayurvedic teachings into its program.
Do your homework and peruse online reviews (like TripAdvisor and Google) with a critical eye. Take them with a grain of salt, but also make note of anything that seems a little off about the school or its curriculum. Some yoga schools have their reputations for a reason.
Beautiful, peaceful Rishikesh is where I decided to do my yoga teacher training.
Location, Location, Location
If you’re ready to get down with Ashtanga Vinyasa, then you better head to the beautiful and culturally immersive city of Mysore (Mysuru) in Karnataka. Other yoga hotspots in India include Rishikesh (right next to the Ganga River), Dharamsala (heavy Tibetan Buddhist influences) and Goa (tropical and relaxed, but the party atmosphere may be less than shanti shanti). Every place has its own distinctive characteristics and personality that will impact your experience.
Have you thought about whether you want an ashram or a more westernized teaching environment? Choosing a more westernized or “upscale” yoga school won’t make your experience any less authentic. In my opinion, the yoga instructors are what make the training special and worthwhile. If you find sensible and inspiring gurus to learn from, you’ll be golden!
Spirituality Is (Sadly) a Business
I’m not trying to scare you out of coming to India or have you abandon your spiritual quest, but if I’m being completely honest with you, I did leave Rishikesh a little disillusioned. I’ve witnessed enough cautionary tales to make me weary of the yoga industry in India. I’ve seen many well-meaning foreigners come to India in hopes of pursuing their yoga dreams only to leave broken-hearted after uncovering the truth behind the artificial facade of “spiritual” guides and witnessing fake gurus who take advantage of people.
What I mean here is, be smart and keep your wits about you. It’s all fine and dandy to believe in the legitimacy of mystical and esoteric concepts (I certainly do!) but be aware of those who might possibly be treating spirituality as a commodity to line their pockets with. This is not a problem exclusive to India because it’s happening in many places around the world.
Despite all this, India is a deeply spiritual place. Just one day there will make you realize that. I think a big reason why I initially got into yoga was because of my love and respect for Indian culture, which is why getting my teacher training in India was really the only option that I considered. I couldn’t be happier with my experience!
This beautiful photo was taken by a dear friend of mine and yoga teacher, Kharem Kavita.
I wish you the best of luck in making your decision. Feel free to contact me with any more questions you may have or if there’s anything else you’d like me to expand on in this blog post. When all else fails, trust your intuition. If you can, try to visit the school in person to feel out the vibes and verify the photos they post online. For further reading, check out this great article from Christine at GRRRL Traveler who discusses what you should expect when studying yoga in India.
Do you have any advice for picking a yoga school in India?