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Ashram Life – Yoga Teacher Training in India Experience

Can a Singaporean lady adapt to the simple life & rules of living in an Indian ashram for more than 30 days? This Singaporean lady did! I more than just survive, I dare say that I flourished, despite heading there with zero expectations.

Place: Yoga Vidya Gurukul ashram in Nashik, India

Dates: Nov 7 to Nov 12 – International Yoga Festival; Nov 15 – Dec 12 Yoga Teacher Training A total of 37 days, including the day I left the ashram to fly back to Sg.

Setting: Shared dorms of 4 to a room, with an attached toilet & shower. Yes, there is hot water. All meals provided, including snacks at 3pm.

Curriculum: All forms of yoga from various Indian & international teachers associated with the ashram for the yoga festival; traditional Indian Hatha yoga for the TTC. For the latter, poses are held for a minimum of three deep breaths.

6.30am yoga at the top of the hill, meaning we started walking up the hill at 6am!
The strong wind made it even colder!

Schedule: This is the daily schedule during the TTC, six days consecutively, then we have one off day.

On most days, we have lectures instead of Yoga Nidra and self-study. Most nights, the session could stretch to 9.30pm. By 10.30am the ashram is shrouded in darkness as all exterior lights are switched off.

Typical scene of our lectures.

Asana classes: We had two asana classes each day, six days a week- one in the morning, one in the evening. Each session lasts from 1.5 to 2 hours. We would begin with warm ups then surya namaskar or sun salutations, followed by asanas revision before going on to new or advance postures. As you can tell, four hours of yoga a day is quite intense on the human body, but we hardly felt it as time flew by every time. Due to the intensity of our practice, all of us saw huge improvements in our personal practice. In the process, we also learned how to guide each other in achieving the poses, which is the whole purpose of a teacher training course. Many poses were broken down in a way that isn’t done in yoga classes, an due to this, we nailed advance poses very quickly. Overall, I love the way the syllables was taught, and this has made it an extremely enjoyable yoga teacher training course to attend.

Afternoon asana class, warming up with surya namaskar facing the setting sun.

Entertainment: The only form of entertainment was whatever we created for ourselves, after the night sessions are over. It could be our own bhajans, accessing the WiFi (only available for an hour each evening) at the shop, or lounging at the shop area while chatting with each other. On our weekly off days, we had the option of staying in the ashram to rest, or head out. I chose to visit Nashik town on my first off day (more of that in another post later), on my second off day I visited the famous Shiva temple at Trimbak, and I chose to stay in on the last off day.

Hanging out in front of the shop in a ‘posh’ setting.

Tests & grading: We were tested on theory and practical. The theory part consisted of a 700-1500 word essay, 3 open-book written assignments, and 1 written reflection of the silence days that we had to observe. On the practical side, we had 2 tests on asana positions, and we also had two 1-hour lessons to plan and teach. We are not told our final grading, as the purpose of this wasn’t about how many marks we got, but rather how well we understood & delivered the yoga lifestyle in our teaching.

Teaching a 5-minute micro class to my fellow group mates.
These micro classes were a lead up to teaching a 60-minute class.

Food: All I can say is that I had the most deliciously amazing food at the ashram. It’s the same Indian dishes that you can get in any part of the world, but it was prepared for the yogi lifestyle, i.e. satveek food. No stimulants such as caffeine, chilli, onion, garlic, and other spicy ingredients were used. Everything was prepared fresh, and with love. Breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner were provided. We seldom had desserts. Except when it was someone’s birthday or a course was graduating, then we would get a ladoo each or some baked peanuts. I could go on about the food but the best way to fully understand it is to experience it in person.

Typical lunch of (clockwise from bottom right) chapati, tomato soup,
carrot & cucumber salad, pumpkin curry.

Lunch always makes us happy. Ok ok, food always makes us happy!

Accommodation: It was shared accommodation for everyone at the ashram, with four people to a room. The campus was split into one for females, one for males. We had to share a toilet per room, share room cleaning duties, and get used to each other’s habits. We learned how to respect each other’s space, which was separated by curtains. Some of us were lucky, and had only two or three people in the room. That made it slightly easier to manage schedules and characters. I was fortunate to have a very easy-going lady as my room mate. We synced extremely well together and are still in constant contact.

With my room mate Sunaina. It was our third and final off day of the entire course and we opted to stay in the ashram. Good choice, for it rained so much that day and temperatures hovered between 16 to 18 degrees the entire day.

Graduation: Our last day of the course was also graduation day. I wasn’t told before I went to India, but graduation day is a day for dressing up. One of the Indian ladies, Mayuri, happened to have a suitcase full of saris, as she was going to visit her mother-in-law after. So she loaned her saris to the girls. I opted for a plain kurta with leggings, and accessorised with a pair of Indian style earrings—a gift from Mayuri—and a gemstone mala necklace.

All dressed up! Even Tom had a shirt & trousers on. So fancy & glam.

The main highlight was of course our certificate presentation. Each of us received a laminated certificate from the ashram director, Gandharji. He was accompanied by our teachers Roshanji and Lokeshji. It was one of the proudest moments of my adult life.

So there we have it. A brief look at the YTTC that I underwent at an ashram in India. Since leaving, I have been missing it and have a deep longing to be back there again. My course mates all remain connected, thanks to the wonder of technology and WhatsApp.

Here are a few more photographs that always brings me back to those days.

On the last morning of our YTTC, after sun rise yoga on the hill.

Making ladoos that will be packed into the gift boxes—seen at the left of the photo—to be taken home as gifts by those who ordered them.

Fooling around with Malina in between lesson planning for our 60-minute test, hair braids, and chats on a soul connection level.

Getting in touch with our inner child during a kids’ yoga workshop. Here we are, being a three-headed dragon that consists of (bottom up) a snake, a lion & a bear.