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Four Gurus of my Yoga Teacher Training in Dharamsala

My guru is my environment : Dharamsala, India

After a month long yoga boot camp at Himalaya Yoga Valley in McleodganjDharamsala, I finally graduated with my Yoga TTC (teacher training certification). Woot!

Muscles aching, belly battling waterborne parasites, while hurdling through two asana classes a day and intensive schedule of studies and teaching practicums…  It was a lot!

Along the way, you accept your body’s shape-shifting to it’s surroundings.

Your foreign environment molds you– injury happens, bad diets take form (aka carb-loading for lack of veggies), India initiates you with horrible toilet habits.

But good things come from it as well.


I’d found four gurus…

1. Friendship

I had formed a family and a lifestyle that was my a warm cocoon, in the secluded sanctuary of Dharamsala, away from the blistering stains and antagonizing bustle of Mother India.

My yoga family

2. The Environment and the Challenges of Mcleodganj

Watching eagles hover gracefully over mountain ranges, while contemplating the majesty of Tadasana (aka mountain pose), to hearing monkeys scamper over the roof while in lecture.

Focusing on the distant speckle of a goat herder and his pack as I gain my upright balance in Uttitha Padangustasana or absorbing the soft murmur of Tibetans chanting on their early morning prayer walks.

A view of the valley Monkeys scampering on the rooftops in the morning and during class
dharamsala monkeysGuesthouses in Dharamsala
baga falls dharamsala, dharamsala beauty
environmental recycling in india, dharamsala clean environment programs, keep dharamsala clean Recycling in Dharamsala shoe repair in india, shoe men in india Shoe repair shack

bad water system in dharamsala, dharamsala water piping system, dharamsala water problem, water in dharamsala

The town piping system-adding to the culprit of contaminated water

In a month, I discovered that a meal costs a daily hike up a crumbling 300+ stairs just to get into town.

There are three fruit sellers (2 Indian and 1 Tibetan) I go to, depending on whose charging more or sold me bad fruits last. I try to go to the Tibetan seller more to give him and his community the business, but he doesn’t have as much stock as the Indians.

Despite it’s April and other parts of India are sweating, Mcleodganj is pretty consistently cold, which is why street vendors sell wool blankets and scarves.

And thunder storms… oh, how they howl and boom with rabid ferocity, only to pitter-patter and clear up the next day, releasing a mountain full of yellow butterflies!

I lived with occasional power outages, an eco-aware attitude about recycling and  got used to the fact that a 10- minute hot shower was necessary to keep Dharamsala clean and healthy.

All were gifts to be lived.


The food

Dharamsala has international food at it’s fingertips.  Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian …and there’s also a nice selection of Tibetan and Indian restaurants to choose from.

Being anchored to a town and its restaurants options taught me a lot .

About what my body liked

tibetan momo soup, momo restaurants in dharamsala, momo restaurants in india, momo dishes, momo cooking classes

Wheat veggie momos (Tibetan dumplings)
tibetan tsampa porridge, tibetan foodsTsampa (Tibetan porridge) is a porridge of sweet barley. Totally delicious!momo lady in dharamsala, tibetan momos in dharamsala, food in dharamsala My favorite street momo lady.

…and what it didn’t 

Getting sick in India

read my post on Getting sick in India

It also taught me what I should be more careful of…

water in dharamsala, clean water in india, bad water in india, water filter systems in india

A local fills his water reserves from water pipes in the town center.

4. The Indo-Tibetan culture and its Political Unrest.

Each day, I passed… a rush of red-robed monks enroute to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama’s temple. Meanwhile, sometimes I pass old Tibetan grandmas and grandpas faintly murmur “Om mane padme om” with jangling prayer beads, eventually drowned under the cackle of Tibetan toddlers, just out of school.

Tibetan women at the prayer wheels, tibetan religion, prayer wheels tibet

Tibetan women at the prayer wheels in McleodganjMonks in DharamsalaDharamsala: McLeodganj street roads
Monks in DharamsalaMonks at a cellphone store
The temple and residence of the Dalai Lama.Custom framers mounta a life-sized photo of the Dalai Lama to be framed.mcleodganj

Streets of Mcleodganj, dharamsala

Streets of Mcleodganj

I listened to stories of Tibetans who left their families behind to escape persecution in Tibet and watched as monks and nuns sat silently in daily starvation strikes to protest China’s occupancy in Tibet. Earlier in the month, a young monk was said to have burned himself in protest; a fast was performed in honor of his sacrifice.

Unfortunately, the passionate voices of the Tibetan community are trapped in Dharamsala. These are things the media cover or see.

monks on hunger strike in dharamsala, tibetan monks protest china

Monks & nuns protest the occupancy of China on Temple Road with a hunger strike. volunteering in dharamsala, volunteer teaching English to monks in dharamsala, teach English to monks in Dharamsala, free volunteer programs in dharamsala, volunteer in indiaForeigns have opportunities to volunteer help towards the community. You can help clean the environment, teach English to Tibetans and monks or tending to Tibetan children at daycare.missing dalai lama, 11th dalai lama missing ad, tibet's stolen child, tibets youngest political prisonerThe most haunting “missing child” milk-carton ad.  A billboard of the 11th Panchen Lama… Tibet’s stolen Dalai Lama. missing dalai lama, 14th dalai lama missing ad
tibetan monks in mcleodganj, tibetan buddhist protest dalai lama.

How far can these yoga arms stretch?

Maybe you can’t change a whole world or even a community. But you can let them change you and in return, one act in the right direction, a kind gesture or word, a helping hand, all goes out to touch others, who’ll touch others, etc…until you create a chain of change.

All of my gurus were part of a humbling chapter, forcing an uncomfortable, but necessary reflection on my world’s work in the grand scheme of humanity.

Now, it was all over.

We had been initiated into the school via a lovely puja ceremony. We exited with the same.

Lalit, our yoga guru sat along a priest, through a half-hour ritual of powerful chanting, burning herbs and performing prayers.

We each received a tikka between our eyes, a red string around our wrists and prassad.

Finally, we received a big diploma!

A video summary of our graduation puja

I am now an Ashtanga yoga teacher, excited to have a deeper, more meaningful and broadened awareness into my practice.  I’m thrilled to start sharing yoga wherever I go! But there’s still a handful of nagging questions querying a larger picture… I’d trained in India, inevitably to return home to live and share what I’ve learned.

But what of the larger world out there that’s searching for a yoga, which a downdog can’t fulfill?

Or can it?


What do you think?


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Article by Christine Kaaloa

Christine is a solo traveler, blogger and YouTube vlogger, who shares travel advice, trip planning and survival tips and tricks on how to travel alone as a woman, live and work in South Korea and to follow your passion for travel.
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  1. Tiago says:

    Hey, why did you chose to do your teacher training at the Himalaya Yoga Valley? I am going to do a teaching course in Dhamarmsala but finding really difficult to chose where to go. If you have some comments would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • @Tiago: It depends on what you want to get out of the program and what program seems to focus its attention on giving you that. Of all the locations of authorized yoga ttc on Yoga Alliance, I narrowed it down to where I’d love to stay for a month. I wanted my environment to educate me towards a yogic perspective. Dharamsala was it for the Tibetan/Buddhist aspects, etc… and it was perfect.

      I had two schools I was looking at also- both, had slightly different philosophies and energies. I studied their course listings, checked for FB pages, even emailed graduates. One focused heavier on a philosophical aspect, I’d always thought I idealized for my studies. I wanted to go deeper into my practice but I also wanted it to be useful. Himalaya on the other hand, was more well-rounded, with a bit of everything, plus the business and application of it in a western society. In the end, I chose the school that could give me what I couldn’t give myself or learn on my own… the business (I have a background in the arts and not knowing how to apply my skills to the business world made it harder for me, personally). Also, what I liked about Himalaya although a bit more expensive, they really focused on getting their teachers comfortable with teaching. It’s very hands-on and they get you into teaching right away. These were my personal reasons.

      I’m not sure what school you’re looking at, but keep in mind no school is perfect. I think there’s always going to be an aspect we’re a bit dissatisfied with. Just trust that the choice you make for yourself (based on your personal reasons) will be right for you and it will be! Good luck to you, Tiago & hope that helps!


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  3. riitaa says:

    great post I love this land of lamas

  4. Megan says:

    Congratulations! It sounds like it was an amazing experience. I really want to get more into yoga when I get back from South America – I’ve only done little bits here and there over the last few years and you’ve inspired me to get serious about it.

    I can’t wait to hear where your adventures take you next.

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