Certified Yoga Teacher Training (200 hours) in Rishikesh, India

If you are thinking to embark on a yoga teacher training (YTT) course overseas, there must be tons of queries going through your mind right now.

And you will probably get a billion other questions from everyone around you. Like many others, you might probably be wondering,

"Where should I go?
Why would I want to go all the way outside my country for a month just to learn yoga?
What is the purpose of learning yoga?
Why not take the course in Singapore?
Is it safe for a lady to travel alone, to India, for one month?
Which school should I attend?"

These questions were constantly thrown at me before I sent my application for the course, and even so after I came back.
Hence, I thought it will be easier for me to write it down so that I can simply refer anyone who asked to this post! :D

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I came back from a 200-hour YTT programme in Rishikesh, India, July 2019. This was by far one of the best decisions I've made in my life. Even there were things I wish I could have prepared better for, I have no regrets. The experience was invaluable and irreplaceable.

I am a novice in yoga, am I suitable?

Hi there, I am too. I ambitiously (or recklessly) decided to be a certified yoga teacher after less than a year's practice. I was first exposed to yoga when I was around eighteen but I stopped practice for 3 years after that. I mainly focused on cardio and strength training exercises before, with (very) occasional yoga practices as and when I felt like it. I only started being more regular with my practice 3-4 months before the trip. That was the period when I was grappling through a stressful and uncertain phase in life.

I turned to yoga as a way to help me destress then and it unexpectedly did much more than that.

It can help me realign to the present moment and temporarily leave the daily grind behind. I find myself calmer after each session; my body less tight up and my mind much clearer. It is truly my safety harbour.

Misconceptions of yoga

People always associate yoga with just the asanas (yoga postures). However, it goes beyond. It involves your whole life -  from very basic things, like the way that you sit, stand, walk and sleep, to spiritual aspects such as mental focus, awareness, self-acceptance, and self-control.
Many yoga studios now have Western influences which emphasises more on the asanas. This does not allow you to reap the full benefits of yoga. Yoga is really something more than what meets the eye.

Why India? Why overseas?

There are several reasons for this decision.

1) As the saying goes: If you want to know how to play with the rules, you must first learn and understand the rules. If I want to adapt or even create my own yoga style in the future, I must first properly learn the fundamentals and understand the risks and benefits of each yoga pose before I can teach anyone else. I am not saying that the yoga studios in Singapore do not teach the traditional form of yoga in their YTT but I simply would like to learn and embrace it from its original birthplace (which is India). This would certainly give me a more authentic experience and ultimately hope to bring these teachings back to Singapore.

2) Another key consideration was that it was about thrice the price and thrice the time needed if I were to complete the YTT programme in Singapore. YTT in Singapore is only held on weekends (for those that i saw)  and I have to work on weekends. At the same time,  I wanted to complete the course as soon as possible.

3) As you know, yoga is all about spirituality. If I chose to stay in Singapore, I will be too overwhelmed with other commitments that I will not be able to focus on practice. This certainly will affect how much I can experience and takeaway from this YTT programme.

I wanted to be away from all these distractions so that I can truly experience the meaning of yoga. I wanted to have space to reflect, discover and improve. I wanted to find out more about myself - aspects I have never known before, my strength and weaknesses, and to enrich myself with experiences that I would certainly not get if I stayed in Singapore.

3) It was the perfect timing before I begin my full time working life. This was the time I did not have to worry about my career yet (i.e. one less distraction to my practice). It was also to help me set my mind right for my upcoming job. I did not want to enter the workforce to simply get the paycheck at the end of every month. I wanted closure - a closure to the many years of being a student in my life.

4) People who joined the programme comes from worldwide, and nationwide. I will get to meet people from all around the world. I have never actually interacted, or even so made friends, with anyone from other countries (except Malaysians). This was a great opportunity for me to learn more about people from other cultures and continents.

5) Lastly, it is OVERSEAS. I have got the chance to visit and explore new parts of the world alongside the programme. If you do not know, India is full of hidden gems and surprises. It is a country so beautiful and rich in its own rituals, traditions, and history. I get to travel too so why not

Thinking of all these benefits and takeaways, I was really excited to take my YTT overseas to learn and experience something new!

Which yoga school?

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I went to Ekam Yogashala in June 2019. Considerations that went into choosing this school mainly boiled down to the timing, price, history, and their school curriculum and schedule.

1) Timing 
The starting and ending time of the course fits perfectly into my schedule, which was one of the major deciding factors.

2) Price
It was one of the cheapest schools that I can find. The price also includes proper residences, the curriculum, three proper meals per day and weekly excursions.

3) Review
I compared several yoga schools in Rishikesh, looking at their curriculum and most importantly read up on personal experiences and reviews from those who had previously attended YTT in ekam. Most of the reviews were positive. In fact, the more I read up on their experiences, the more excited I got!

4) School curriculum
Unlike many other schools, the course curriculum involved more comprehensive teaching of yoga forms, including pranayamas, mantra chantings, human anatomy, meditation, history and philosophy of yoga, etc). It also teaches Hatha yoga, the basic style of yoga asanas - all other styles are modern yoga adapted from Hatha yoga.

It is also a Yoga Alliance USA fully accredited yoga teacher training school. Getting registered with the Yoga Alliance USA makes you eligible to teach yoga anywhere.

5) Experience
This school welcomes students with no prior experiences in yoga, although recommended to have. This was a crucial deciding factor because this meant that the curriculum would be more catered to the beginner level. Many other schools that I came across accept only practitioners with some minimum time in their yoga practices.

With barely much experience and knowledge in yoga, this was important. A curriculum that is too advanced might be too challenging for me to transit and be on par with others in the programme.

These were some deliberations I had when I was choosing the school to engage with.

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The decision to embark on this journey overseas wasn't easy, and there were many issues I have to think about and prepare for. It is not as simple as going overseas for one month on my own, it extends to going to a country that treats females relatively less respectfully. Having said so, it is certainly not as bad as what the media had put it. Rishikesh has literally tourists from all around the globe everywhere, and I felt relatively safe when I was there. It will definitely not be a month living in comfort, but this was also what I wanted to put myself through. And so I did.

I hope by sharing these would help some of you somehow. Perhaps I would share more about my journey in the future? I know this post came way looonggeeerrrr.... than it should be.

I certaintly did not regret making the decision to go ahead even though people around me weren't that supportive of the idea, even when i am back safe and sound. Wherever you are, if you are thinking about doing your YTT in India, I hope you really think through and make a decision that you won't regret.

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All the best!