Journey to Rishikesh
Written by Amanda Horkin
Earlier this year I travelled to Rishikesh in northern India to spend a month completing my 200hr yoga teacher training. My yoga journey began 5 years earlier when I started going to yoga classes to help gain strength and stability again while recovering from an injury. I instantly loved the physical aspect of the practice and but over time I noticed something so much more than this kept drawing me back to the mat, something I couldn’t quite grasp. All I knew was I loved getting to a yoga class almost every day as a sense of calm and clarity always followed this physically and mentally challenging Asana practice. I started to notice these calm, clear and balanced feelings stay with me and spread throughout all areas of my life.
A few times it had crossed my mind to do a yoga teacher training to learn more about this amazing practice I was loving so much though I always seemed to brush off these thoughts because at the time I didn’t think I would actually teach yoga. However, these thoughts persisted and I soon realised it didn’t matter whether I was certain I wanted to teach yoga or not, it didn’t need to be the deciding factor, I really wanted to take this journey for myself, to start to deepen my knowledge and understanding of yoga. So, I finally took the leap and booked my yoga teacher training in India.
There are so many yoga schools to choose from in Rishikesh and many offer a very similar program . The school I chose had been a recommendation from a friend, and it was smaller which I liked the idea of to really get to know everyone I would be spending the month with.
I was a little nervous before I left to be honest, feeling unsure about travelling to India on my own and questioning whether I was physically and mentally strong enough for this 4 week intensive training. As soon as I arrived though I felt completely comfortable and the yoga school ensured you felt as welcome and at home as possible. As for the physical and mental aspect of the course, it was definitely challenging yet in such a good way. Although you do need a base level of fitness, everyone was at completely different stages in their physical practice which continued to improve over the month.
We marked the beginning of our training with a traditional Vedic Fire Ceremony which is performed to let go of patterns and obstacles in our lives, to express gratitude, for purification or for success with a particular venture. We all shared what brought us to India for our training and everyone’s reasons for being there were so different, some people certain they wanted to teach and most there on a journey for themselves to work deeper into their own practice. This is one thing I found really special about training in another country, it draws people together from all over the world, with different personal reasons for being there, however at the same time all being there for the same reason and connecting through their shared passion for yoga.
Our mornings started early with a 5.30am wake up, followed by a herbal tea and daily nasal cleansing (Jala Neti) - the process of running salty water through one nostril and out the other - this was quite interesting to learn! We would then meet in the yoga hall for mantra, pranayama and our morning asana practice. Class would always begin with multiple rounds of Surya Namaskar and then focus on specific asana postures to workshop for the day. We also had daily anatomy and philosophy classes.
In the afternoons we would have a few hours of study/free time before meeting again for our evening asana practice, classes finishing for the day with a calming pranayama and meditation session. Our evening would complete with a delicious dinner together and usually a very early night as we were always exhausted after a long and active day. Food at the yoga school was delicious, we were served three vegetarian meals a day throughout the whole course and it was always fresh and full of variety.
Sundays were our day off and we would go on a group outing to see some of the beautiful sights near Rishikesh. My favorite was our trip to watch the sunrise over the Himalayan mountains. Sunday afternoons were free time to explore, wandering through all the beautiful market stalls, endless bookshops, watching the sunset over the Ganga river and trying the local restaurants for some traditional Indian street food.
In the final few days of our training we prepared for and completed our exams, including a physical asana exam, teaching exam and written philosophy piece. After a truly amazing month we closed our yoga training with another fire ceremony and received our 200hr certification.
I will always be grateful for this time I spent in India starting to deepen my understanding of yoga as a way of life. I loved everything I learnt…the long discussions on philosophy of yoga… learning more about how our amazing bodies work in anatomy classes…the challenge of the long hours of physical practice morning and night. I loved learning more about myself by pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I had a few personal challenges I wanted to work on through my yoga training and can say I really saw a shift in these areas throughout the month and since leaving India.
If you have ever considered spending some time deepening your knowledge of yoga, I can truly say India is a very special place to do this. Being the birthplace of yoga, you will be totally immersed in everything yoga, you will meet beautiful teachers who have grown up with yoga as a way of life and spend a month with like-minded people from all over the world. One thing I find so special about the journey of yoga is that it’s such a personal journey, yet often so powerful that naturally you may feel inclined to share your findings along your path in some way with others….
Whatever may draw you to a yoga teacher training course, whether you want to teach or not, I feel it opens up so much for you to grow and learn about yourself.