I Came for an Experience, I Left with a Purpose
With Yoga being popularized by local gyms and television channels, adopting Yoga practice is easy. Maintaining the discipline, to include it in one’s life, is difficult. But, progressively taking it to the subsequent levels is where the real challenge lies.
Wanting to conquer this challenge, and to learn more about the Advanced Vinyasa flow and Ashtanga Secondary series in Yoga Practice, I headed to the Himalayan city of Rishikesh in March, this year.
The 300-hour Yoga Teacher Training Course (YTTC)
And thus began the month-long journey and stay, at the Rishikesh Vinyasa Yoga School (RVYS), to get a grip on the Advanced Vinyasa flow and Ashtanga Secondary/Intermediate series, and to learn from the learned.
As the name suggests, it is a teacher training program. It aims at imparting Yoga education to those who want to spread the light of Yoga.
It’s a certification. Though, for me and all those who attended the program, it was far more than that.
What the Program is All About
The YTTC is an advanced level program where having completed the 200-hour basic Yoga program is a prerequisite for joining the course. This ensures that the participants have a minimum level of endurance necessary to reap complete benefits of the course.
Train the Trainer
The main aim of the course is to make the participants better teachers. For, only a practitioner at a higher state of Yoga and existence can lead the path for his students.
So, all the participants in the program were those who were aiming to take their Yoga practice to the next level and teach better.
Besides these, the program also aims to introduce (for those unaware) or, dive deeper (for those who are already somewhat knowledgeable) into the philosophy of Yoga, meditation and pranayama.
Food for Thought!
Another very important facet of the program is veganism. The course does not vehemently pursue the participants to adopt a vegan lifestyle. Nor is there any blatant marketing of cruelty-free practices.
Instead, it subtly introduces veganism by serving the most delicious meals I have had in my life. I was surprised to experience vegan food with a superior taste sans ghee and butter!
That’s what you call food for thought in true sense of the word.
Pillars of the Program
I must mention that the success of the program depends on the Gurus as much as it depends on the participants. So, while each of us was physically and mentally keen to learn, it was the Mentors – The Gurus that made the course worthwhile.
The pedagogy was apt for the practitioners’ level, and each session had an element of surprise or challenge that left us yearning for more.
And that brings me to the point of introducing our Gurus – the Yoga experts who conducted the course.
The Yoga Gurus at Rishikesh Vinyasa Yoga School
God manifests himself in many ways. An ideal Guru, who has walked the path and can guide you through the same, is one of them.
RVYS is blessed with some of the best Yoga gurus. They are not only great Yogis but, equally able at inspiring and challenging their Shishyas to the next level of Yoga learning.
Yogi Saajan Ji, Yogi Rajesh Ji, Yogi Mohit Ji, Yogi Manish Ji, Yogi Honey Ji, and Yashpal Ji along with Dr. Sumit were the gurus who not only brought out the best in us but inspired us enough to practice Vinyasa and Ashtanga for the rest of our lives.
And with these Yogis, the seven of us from different parts of the world, began our 4 –week long learning of Yoga.
The Deeksha Begins…
As should be expected from a Yoga course held in the lap of Himalayas, the start was pious.
The program began on the 1st of March. We started with an elaborate havan and chanting of mantras, the reverberations of which purified the space that was to be our learning ground for the coming four weeks. The opening ceremony pics were clicked by our lovely in house photographer Lavish Ji.
This was followed by a delicious Indian vegan meal the taste of which still lingers in the palate.
In the evening, most of us headed to the famous Parmaarth Niketan for the International Yoga festival.
It would be a gross injustice to the entire program, and this blog if I do not mention the Sandhya aarti at the aashram. Not just for Yoga followers and practitioners, attending the aarti for anyone visiting the city at the banks of River Ganga can be a supremely elevating and overwhelming experience that is beyond words to describe.
And with that, we ended the day with our spirits and energy highly charged, looking forward to the program.
The Shiksha begins…
Or, should I say, the rigor begins?
Naaah!! There are no rigors in the life of a Yogic seeker. It is one stepping stone after the other on the path to the true meaning of life.
So there we were the seven of us waiting for the first lessons of the course.
The day started with body cleansing Yoga practices. Shatkarma and Pranayama sessions detailed by Yogi Saajanji were centered on the Jal Neti, various Pranayama, and cleansing techniques like Kapalabharti.
This was followed by a well-sequenced Advanced Vinyasa Flow session by Yogi Rajeshji.
A Deeper Understanding
A Yogi completes his Yogic learning by understanding the underlying principles, and its need. So, each day of the program introduced an element of Philosophy of Yoga by Yogi Mohit Ji. This was based on the Bhagwat Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Following the Sequence
And yes… then came the Ashtanga Yoga teaching by Yogi YashpalJi. While I have been practicing Ashtanga for many years now, I have never introduced it to my students yet.
But, after attending these sessions that always had a new challenge each day, I am far more confident to lead my students into it.
The Body-Breath Alignment and Anatomy
This was followed by Yogi Manish Ji and Yogi Honey Ji taking us through the Ashtanga secondary series poses in the session dedicated to Body Alignment. Dr Sumit gave us a detailed explanation on human anatomy.
Post a long lunch break we were lead into a peaceful session of meditation by Yogi Saajan Ji.
And the icing on the delectable cake was the last session of the day which was the Ashtanga Secondary series that I fell in love with. It brings Patience and Self-discipline to a whole new level. Whether we are able to achieve the poses or not we just show up on the mat and do our Yoga!
This was what a typical day at the Yogashala would look like with the difference being that we practiced many other cleansing techniques, body alignment, dived deeper into the philosophy and came out with renewed vigor and meaning to Yoga practice.
The Fun Elements
We also had a chance to teach the 200-hour Yoga courses on one of the days, and enjoyed a riot of colors on Holi.
Guess what? My first inspiration into Yoga – my mom, was a participant of the 200-hour program. She completed her 200-hour training as I completed my 300-hours at RVYS.
The Sunday excursions and trips added a new dimension and were great ways to further recharge and learn about the local culture.
An Extended Family
The seven of us, the Yogi Gurus, and the staff at the Yogashala had bonded into a family but sadly we couldn’t get to the finish line of the course.
No, it wasn’t that we failed the course. Mind you, we all came out with flying colors. Colors more vibrant than those that painted the town on Holi.
Till Corona does us Apart
Oh Yes! This tiny little virus that has locked down the world got us packing our bags earlier than expected.
Though, we all passed and received our certificates the sudden evacuation gave an abrupt end.
We all decided to bow down to the virus for the time being.
But, we will be back. To learn more. To dive deeper. And bathe in the light of the Yoga principles.
Leaving with a Purpose
I joined the program to learn. I came here to become a better teacher. I wanted to get to the higher level.
But as I packed my bags, I realized that what I had gained from the three weeks of the program, apart from the certificate (which is just a piece of paper), was a penchant to learn more.
Of course, the Vinyasa flow and Ashtanga Secondary series practice has bestowed greater flexibility, endurance, and strength. I am sure I can benefit my students with these, in other forms.
But, what touched me the most were the principles and philosophies of Yoga that will manifest in different ways in my daily life, and as a teacher I will be keener to share it with my students. The vegan food has left me aspiring to make cruelty-free food the choice of my life now. Maybe more so, given the global pandemic humankind has gotten into due to their food choices.
Every aspect of the program, the Vinyasa flow, Ashtanga series, the cleansing techniques, philosophies of Yoga, the vegan food, and yes the passion of the Yogi Gurus have impacted my life in unspeakable ways.
Looking forward to return soon.
Deepti Shetty is a Yoga and Pilates practitioner and coach based out of Central Singapore. Since the age of six, she started aping her mother, who used to practice yoga daily since before she was born. Soon, yoga became an inseparable part of Deepti’s life. To know more about Deepti click here.