What you should leave behind, what you should pack and what to buy there (hint: everything!)
By Justine O’Connell
When signing up for a yoga teacher training in India, deciding what to pack and take with you on this life changing journey is a question we ponder on. I have spent many months volunteering at Rishikul Yogshala (www.rishikulyogshala.org) even after completing my 200-hour yoga teacher training and I am constantly asked what you should pack to travel to India.
My biggest tip would be that you need to pack…nothing! Really! You can buy everything you need here in some form or another. But, if you must pack your backpack full of stuff, here are my most important items.
In India, there is a very different culture as compared to the west and it is important to obey and respect this culture. Modesty is a priority so ensure that you are covered up at all times, think longer trousers, nothing too low cut. I always carry a very light scarf with me to cover up in busy or religious areas. In certain towns where the residents are used to foreigners (as we are known!) such as Rishikesh’s tourist areas of Laxman Jhula, the dress code can be a little more relaxed when surrounded by other tourists.
However, when deciding what to pack from your wardrobe, I would suggest bringing only the essentials with you as within a matter of hours you will want to have purchased a pair of “Indian Pants” or a Kurta (shirt style long top with matching scarf). As far as yoga gear goes, you can pick up some fairly cheap baggies but I would recommend bringing two good pairs of leggings and supportive tops. High-end brands are not as easily available, as with the quality, so if you have a favourite style, bring that with you. But remember, in India most washing is done by hand, so don’t pack anything uber-expensive as it may not survive the hand wash!
When practicing yoga at your yoga school, your teacher will advise the class how covered up you should be. The level of your clothing may not matter much inside the yoga studio if it’s really warm, but just remember to cover yourself properly before you leave the studio to portray respect towards the staff and locals that may be around.
When in India, leave all those pore-clogging cosmetics at home. Just bring the basics to see you through and then visit the wonderful Ayurvedic shops and buy something more natural and authentic from India. Coconut oil is very inexpensive here and will work for almost anything so pick up a bottle. Makeup will not stay on too long due to the humidity and hardly anyone else will be wearing it so bring the basics. When you are pursuing something as wonderful and liberating as a yoga teacher training course, what you look like will the least of your concern and others too.
Few things that are harder to find in India are a good deodorant, sanitary towels, and tampons, so pop a good supply in your packing.
Carrying a yoga mat can be a bit cumbersome especially when flying. In parts of India such as Rishikesh, Dharamshala and Kerala where yoga schools and retreats are in abundance, you can usually pick up a good yoga mat for a couple of dollars. However, if you prefer to balance on your mat with a conscience and opt for the eco-friendly variety, I advise you bring one from home. There are many shops that sell wonderful yoga accessories such as mat bags (always buy a side opening one with a pocket) alongside straps and blocks.
Your yoga teacher training course will include some suggested reading. Some yoga schools will supply theses books, so check with them before you make a costly purchase back home. My advice would be to pick one and read it before, perhaps B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga, or for a hearty read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. Rishikesh has some amazing bookstores that you could get lost in for hours buying every manner of yoga texts (some even ship them home for you).
The other essentials would be an umbrella (depending on the time of year you come, essential for monsoon season) and a head torch to find your way home at night as there may be a shortage of proper street lighting in some areas. It is a nice idea to bring a good water bottle; I love the ‘babble’ which comes with a built-in water filter. Ensure that your place of accommodation provides pure filtered water at all times. This will help save the plant from the millions of plastic bottles that are used just staying refreshed.
Indian hospitality is extremely friendly; however, the standards are just not the same as the West, so ensure that you have an open mind and are up for the ride. Trust me, you will enjoy it and it will change you as a person. But do not arrive with any preconceptions; just be open to all new experiences.
When completing a yoga teacher training you will meet many other people from the staff at the school, your yoga teachers and your peers; all will have different expectations and experiences. Embrace them and learn from them.
A very important factor to consider: what you are going to pack it all into! I would advise a traveller’s backpack, one that has a zip or opening at the front so that you can access your clothes without having to take everything out of it first. When travelling in India you need to be fully mobile, the streets of India are often hard to negotiate and you would not want to be trailing a wheeled suitcase here! Also, I have seen many yogis who have been inspired by their classmates and decide to extend their travels in this amazing country.
What not to Pack:
Now, what are you waiting for? Go buy a backpack, get packing and enrol in a Yoga Teacher Training to change your life and have an awesome adventure!
If you have any other questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below and we can answer you.