Yoga has become very fashionable today: Hatha yoga, Bikram yoga, Sivananda yoga, Ashtanga yoga … it sounds like a sport. Different schools compete with each other over which of them is best. We look with admiration on the flexible bodies of teachers who are able to stand on their heads or hands with lightness. Looking at them, you get the feeling that even the most complicated asanas does not cost them any effort.
Although I have practiced yoga a few years I feel that I am only now beginning to understand what it really is. Already the first day of classes at Rishikul Yogshala showed us – future teachers of yoga – how superficial our view of yoga is. Each asana is a careful study of the mind and body. What for? For the love of wisdom and truth. A true yogi practices asanas not for creating the perfect body, but in order to be able to sit for a long time in meditation.
How I Came To Rishikul Yogashala?
India is undisputed as the birth place, the cradle of yoga. In each state you can find many ashrams or yoga schools, but India’s real capital is Rishikesh. The city at the foot of the Himalayas, through which passes the holy river Ganges, people from all over the world come here just to practice yoga.
I have been practicing yoga for approximately ten years, with a desire to do a teacher training course for several years. For a long time I have delayed taking the course because first; still seems to me that I am not good enough, second; I did not know which school to choose. Traveling through Burma I met a girl who had just finished a yoga teacher training course, at Rishikul Yogshala, she talked about it with such passion, that listening to her I was sure that it was the school for me!
Rishikul Yogshala organizes courses in Nepal, Kerala and Rishikesh. I choose Rishikesh 200 hours course (RYS 200).
You could say that the course began in quite an original way, the evening before the first day of the course we were invited to a wedding dinner! One of the teachers had just got married and held a party. Reigned Indian food and music, delicious!!!
I expected that the next day we were to simply start classes, as is normal in European schools. We were all quite surprised and excited that the course started around a fire. 07/03/2016 after dinner there was a soulful ceremony of fire was held with all of the students taking part; it was a very beautiful experience!
We all sat down around a campfire, a Havan. In India, prior to the start of anything new be it; construction, work, new job, a new course, the ceremony is held in celebration. I think this is a very beautiful custom. Apart from its religious character, it teaches respect, attention and focus, to approach everything with humility and sanctification. Swami sang a mantra whilst lighting the fire as each of us poured herbs into the fire to symbolize everything that could interfere in our science. We also received Tika – a red dot on the forehead with adhering grains of rice symbolizing abundance. The fire – agni symbolizes the universal light. They burn it in order to clear the air, the mind, the aura. According to local beliefs, some deities might be angry that we started learning not being in balance, so this ceremony is also for having their support.
At the end, each of us received a garland of flowers and sweets (the so-called Prasad). Yummy!
Then we meet with the teachers. To the delight of the participants and teachers we have four guys in the group! My group consists of 20 people from almost every corner of the world: Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, USA, Vietnam, England, Poland, Czech Republic, Lithuania, France, Estonia, Norway, the Netherlands… The age breakdown is also considerable: from about 20 to approximately 50 years. That’s what we all have in common is a passion and love for yoga, but what it really is… we will discover together.
Most of the people are in India for the first time, the ceremony enabled them their first experience of this colorful and rich culture.
The First Week of Classes:
It soon became apparent in the group there are people who are just getting started with yoga. You could say that they should not be on course for teachers, but this is the very different approach to learning the West and the East, they have no westernized preconceptions of yoga. I should not have waited so many years! That is the lesson which I take away from the first day, so much for my perfectionism 🙂
The schedule is very tight, we start very early in the morning, before the sun has risen. If a student was to arrive the day before the course starts the difference of time zones can be the big challenge for them. So I recommend you to arrive a few days early to get used to time change and different place in order to start the course refreshed and relaxed.
Classes start at 6 am and finish with dinner at approx. 7.30 pm. What we need here is to learn quickly is that “India is not organized country, India is the organizing country.” So the dinner hour dynamically changes 🙂
The course is really tight! You need great openness and trust to give the lead to a really experienced team! At the beginning we were all waiting for the moment in which “we stand on the mat.” In contrast, with each passing day we are more and more open to a huge field, which is yoga. Asanas are only a small part of it, the program is very interesting. It includes yoga philosophy, anatomy, pranayama (breathing art), mantra singing, meditation and relaxation. I believe that the strong advantage of this school is a combination of Hatha yoga and Asthanga yoga. The morning classes prepare you for the evening effort. Our Teachers: Bipin Baloni (Hatha) and Yogi Prashant (Asthanga) are very attentive and extremely accurate in adjustments. The first week we prepared and strengthened our bodies, focusing on our arms and legs. Really worth it I can feel every individual muscle. Muscles that I did not know existed are now awakening! The people who are just starting to exercise can accurately understand the positions and persons more experienced may take care to avoid injury and to learn from each other making adjustments.
A total of 5 teachers lead various classes. Gangesha Chitanaya (philosophy and pranayama teacher) in a very active and simple way explains to us the most complicated concepts of philosophy. After few classes of pranayama I have no doubt about how to breathe properly, and how various types of breaths should be done. Very often, teachers in the West teach them the wrong way and do not give you contraindications. Deepa Negi Mira, our mantra and meditation teacher taught us in one week several mantras and made us “raise in love” whilst singing them. We also have the opportunity to experience each day a different kind of meditation (active as well!). Anatomy classes are not a bad lesson for our ignorance about how our body works and why. Vivek, the teacher, by asking us simple questions, makes us realize how little we know about ourselves and how dangerous this ignorance is in the practice of asanas and everyday life.
Accommodation and Catering:
Accommodation is modest and simple. As in India, not everything works, but the school does what it can to fix problems on a regular basis, they are always flexible. Gurutze, the schools co-ordinator, takes care of us. She herself took the course and now helps in contacts between the school and the students. Soooo helpful!
About the food I can tell you one thing – delicious! Healthy a great variety; they cook very well, and depending on the weather (last week it was quite chilly) freely choose meals to strengthen the body, according to Ayurveda rules.
This experience was written by Monika Jakubiak who took the 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training Course in Rishikesh in March 2016. Monika is a therapist and massage therapist (Lomi Lomi Nui – Hawaian massage and sound massage with Tibetan singing bowls) from Poland. Her passions are travelling, health and yoga. After working for ten years in a corporate environment she started a new life as a massage therapist, yoga teacher and anti-stress workshops, helping others find passion and harmony in their lives. Monkia and her husband are currently traveling the world with their laptop and running an online store selling Spirulina Crunchy. When she returns to Poland she will continue her quest to enhance others lives with yoga.