Updated: Mar 13
I set a 5 year goal to do my Yoga Teacher Training overseas, and 3 years later, I booked a trip to India! Little did I know that India would soon feel like home. I spent 28 days on an Ashram with 13 people from around the world and indulged into my mind, body and soul.
Working for Lululemon really exposed me to the yoga world. The company is huge on mindful living and I immediately connected to the philosophy of yoga. Always diversing my knowledge on the body, I was really interested in doing my yoga teacher training, and with a cultural experience.
So when I was ready to quit my job, I booked my trip to Rishikesh India! I used this website that was really helpful called bookyogateachertraining.com, that allowed me to find the school I connected with most. I chose one in the home town where yoga was found, 20 minutes up, into the Himalayan mountains.
Although I was exposed to yoga, I wasn't quite sure all the different styles, so I ended up signing up for Ashtanga/Vinyasa training, which I later learnt that Ashtanga was quite a difficult practice, not commonly practiced back home. It's a sequenced practice, making every practice the same, mastering each Asana (pose) which is the third limb in yoga philosophy.
So I jet set to India arriving at my ashram late in the evening. I was in a private room, in a concrete building with a washroom and power most days. I assumed India was always warm, so being December I never even checked the weather, and boy was it WET and COLD in the mountains!
We began our first day with a welcoming ceremony where we all chanted by a spiritual fire and sang, danced and celebrated the beginning of our journey together. It was someone’s birthday, so we also celebrated with cake and got to know one another. We were a group of 13, with me being the only Canadian. It was quite amazing to see a piece of America, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Trinidad, Switzerland, London, Spain, South Africa, India, Bosnia, New Zealand, Belgium and France, all in one place.
The following day; routine begins! The bell rang at 5:30am so we could get up and start our cleansing at 6am. We would cleanse our nostrils with warm water and a neti pot, followed by a leather strip we inserted through our nostrils and pulled through our throat. We had to make sure our bowels were empty also, so if we needed to push a movement, we were to drink warm water, and walk barefoot on the rocks around the ashram. This ALWAYS pushed a bowel movement, and for someone who has struggled with consistency with that, i can tell you felt AMAZING.
Next we would meet in the yoga room which was a concrete building, that held the cold like you wouldn't believe. The walls would be sweating cold mist, and it was hard to keep warm. We began with an hour of Pranayama practice, which included breathing techniques, stretches and some chanting. Now we were prepared for our hour and a half of Ashtanga practice.
Like I mentioned before, Ashtanga is a sequenced practice. Every ashtanga practice starts with standing in a standing pose, chest to center as we chant the opening mantra. Followed by 5 sun salutations, and 5 extended sun salutations, we are ready to begin the sequence. Each day we would build off each sequence, so we can learn it correctly, spending extra time with each pose. After the practice, we were more than ready to stuff our face!
The ashram provided all our meals, which were 100% vegan. Our breakfast was always warm porridge with local honey, which was incredible, some local fruit, a random indian dish, and some cereal. We would have an hour to ourselves before we would go into Philosophy, meditation and alignment class, which we each an hour and a half in length. Most of our classes were right along the river, getting to experience the warm sun, and the sound of the flowing water.
In philosophy we learnt a lot about hinduism and how it related to yoga, we learnt about traditions, and the history of yoga. We covered a lot of philosophical conversations that really allowed us to connect as a group. Meditation class was often spent practicing meditation, however we were also taught a number of different types of meditation, and philosophy behind it. And Alignment class was spent breaking down each and every yoga pose, to really get down and understand it, for all body types.
Now we were served lunch, which was always the best meal of the day! Tons of rice! Tons of VEGETABLES! Tons of LEGUMES! We loaded up our trey, as much as we wanted and had a couple hours to digest our food. Now we were off to Vinyasa practice for an hour and a half, which I was actually familiar with. It's a one hour flow practice, where each pose connects into one another. It's a full body practice, with each practice being different.
Finally the last class of the day was Anatomy, where we learnt the nervous systems, the muscles, and injury prevention. I love learning anatomy of the body from as many perspectives as possible, and the yogi perspective to me, was the most wholesome and natural to carry through mindful living.
Now we got to have dinner, which was a lentil stew usually with some curried vegetables. It's crazy because before I went to India, I had never eaten a bean, lentil or chickpea, believe it or not! Everyone who knew me was terrified I was going to starve myself, but I have never been SO excited to eat flavour in my LIFE, also just getting off the carnivore diet, I was READY for change in my eating habits.
After dinner, we always had a bonfire where we could sit around and talk, or we would play cards inside where we would eat. We all spent hours getting to know each other and sharing our life experiences. I never really experienced that before with strangers in such a warming way. We were all there to better ourselves, and it really reflected in how we cared for one another.
Some interesting days on the ashram were when we would have a complete cleansing day, which consisted of drinking warm salt water until we vomited, or started coming out of the other end. This allowed for us to empty our entire bowl system, and gave ourselves a day to rest. We ate a really bland stew to allow our stomachs to digest properly. Every Sunday we had an activity. We got to go into town, meet locals, and shop! We visited the Ganga fire ceremony in Ram Jhula, and a beautiful waterfall in Tapovan. Some of us went white water rafting, however I didn't end up participating in that.
One morning, we went to a famous temple, an hour up the mountain to catch the sun rise, wow was that breathtaking! We also went to an orphanage that the yoga school was associated with, and got to spent some time with the kids, which was interesting to see no girls playing sports! It was so inspirational to show the kids that women can play sports too.
The training was 28 days long, we all ended up getting sick at least at one point, from it being so cold up there! We had wifi about 30% of the time, and power about the same. Warm water was not an option, so we were boiling water from the kitchen to shower with warm water. We concluded with a very emotional ceremony, where we were all rewarded our certificate.
India transformed my life. It was the most fulfilling experience I ever felt. I connected with my mind, body and soul in ways I only dreamt of being possible. This ended up being my first of many trips to India. For any body who is really looking to connect with themselves internally and experience a very different way of life, and give up their belongings for some time, I HIGHLY recommend that you put India on your bucket list!
Check out where India landed me next!