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Five Gurus of my Yoga Teacher Training in India |Dharamsala

Five Gurus of Yoga Teacher Training in India

After a month long yoga boot camp at Himalaya Yoga Valley in Mcleodganj, Dharamsala, 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) or horrible toilet habits, which come with getting sick in Mother India.

But good things come from it as well.


My five gurus of Yoga Teacher Training in India…

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.

I’ve met people, who’s yoga practice was so focused, it blew me away. Others, who have unique backgrounds from designers, heath care practitioners, physical therapists and … me.  Every one is a teacher and like a family we occasionally have our moments. Cliques form, people mix and don’t mix. Each person has their own individual way, philosophy, practice, belief… and from this fury of passion juices flowing in harmony and discord,  acceptance and flexibility is born.

My yoga family

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Yoga teacher training certification program


2. Living in Mcleodganj

Perched in the Northern mountains of India, you feel like you’re worlds away beeping rickshaw horns, zig-zagging chaos and cows. It’s hard to believe you’re still in India. The mountain range is lush, green, majestic and frost-tipped. 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, as I follow silently behind them… are all peaceful ways of “finding center” and living within the grace of Dharamsala.

dharamsala monkeys

There are three fruit sellers I visit at least three times a week (two Indian and one Tibetan). Who I visit, depends upon who is charging more or sold me bad fruits the last around. (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.)

I discovered that a daily meal roughly costs me a hike up a crumbling 300+ stairway. It’s our only access to town, where there are grocery stores and restaurants and believe me, after a day of developing aching limbs training in yoga, you’ll wish you didn’t have to eat.

But there are ugly sides to Dharamsala, which make you more aware of how your footprint and waste has an impact on the community and its cleanliness. Spaces for vendors are limited and some simply take to the roadside.

Trash disposal is separated by recyclables and perishables.  Due to the limited water supply, you’re asked to not take long baths or to use your water wisely. I’m forced to develop a more eco-friendly awareness, knowing this is my temporary home and I must do my part to conserve water, eradicate waste efficiently and protect my home’s loveliness.

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

Despite being April and other parts of India are spitting with sweat, Mcleodganj is cold. At nights, it can feel like it’s 40 degrees Celsius and that brisk feeling can mellow out to 70 degrees Celsius by 11:00am. Street vendors sell wool blankets and scarves and they are a godsend if you haven’t packed for winter.

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.


3.  Food

Dharamsala has international food at it’s fingertips.  Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian, as well as, baked goods shops.  It’s almost as if foreign travelers have been figured out-  keep them happy with some western baked goods like donuts, chocolate chip cookies, cheesecake…) It all feels a little odd and a bit like cheating if you’re in Dharamsala wanting to experience native foods.

But there’s also a nice selection of Tibetan and Indian restaurants to choose from.  If you want to go local’, Tibetan is it. Tsampa (tibetan porridge) is a bit like oatmeal but made with sweet barley (Yum).  Momos (or Tibetan dumplings) are another easy staple, which travelers love and find filling.

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

The food taught me about what my body liked

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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

4. Clean Water

You don’t think about clean water until you don’t have it. Although Dharamsala had water tanks for practical uses of bathing, toilets, etc…, a sip of clean water always took either, money or effort. So I thought about it often–  how and where I was going to get my water, make it and use it.  There were water stations, where the water had already been boiled and sterilized and you could refill your drinking water for a few ruppees.  Our guesthouse also sold boiled drinking water too and I also had my own ways of boiling and sterilizing water on my own.

From using a sports bottle filter to a boiling wand, each either took time or effort. Either I got tired of fist-pumping my sports bottle for every sip or I got tired of drinking only hot water and tea. Pick your poison. Buy, boil, squeeze… it all boiled down to how lazy I was that day.

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

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Water purification techniques: Use a boiling wand.

4. The Indo-Tibetan culture & its political unrest.

Each day, I pass a flock of red-robed monks enroute to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama’s temple. Some hang out at cafes. I pass old Tibetan grandmas and grandpas faintly murmur “Om mane padme om” with jangling prayer beads and this is easily drowned under the cackle of Tibetan toddlers, just out of school.  All these subtleties of daily living make up different notes of a grand opera. They collide, clash and resolve together.

To live as a part of this environment is humbling. Each day I feel a mix of both, gratitude and awe. For me, there are no words to describe the privilege I feel to experience this. … to describe the realization of knowing I chose this place and got here on my own… solo. How can I be capable of such choices, such a bold act and such a daily lifestyle?

I don’t know, but I’m living it right now.

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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 listen 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.

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Monk robes laid out to dry at Baga Falls

Unfortunately, the passionate voices of the Tibetan community are trapped in Dharamsala. These are things the media does not cover or see.

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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
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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. And 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 yoga practice.  I’m thankful for the five gurus who have enveloped my life for a month, transforming me into the person I am today. They are a part of me, a part of my eyes and thoughts and heart.

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?


These are the five gurus of my yoga teacher training in Dharamsala. What do you think? Would you want to live and train here too?


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  1. Ira says:


    Could you kindly provide the name and contact details of the yoga school you attended?

  2. Wissam says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful experience! I am looking forward to joing a TTC in Dharamsala as well. However I am also confused after I found so many schools. I am interest in the multi-style programs but several schools offer them as well. I trust your recommendation of Himalayan Yoga Valley. But schools like Trimurti, Parimukti, Universal Yoga with Vijay, and Kashmir Shaivism all seem very good also. I still find it hard to choose.

  3. chandra says:

    Thank you for sharing this blog,

    Yoga is a Hindu physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline. Yoga is a philosophy of Hindusim that requires mental, physical and spiritual connection in order to achieve enlightenment. Lord Shiva was the first yogi as per the authentic Vedic texts in which Yoga was first taught.

    200 Hours yoga teacher training India has been designed to understand and experience the yoga deeply with its full meaning and attention. The 200 hrs yoga teacher training provides a comprehensive knowledge about the proper asana pranayama madras bandha, shatkarma, anatomy physiology methodology philosophy Alignment and much more one can expect from a yoga teaching course.

    Yoga is a Hindu physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline. Yoga is a philosophy of Hindusim that requires mental, physical and spiritual connection in order to achieve enlightenment. Lord Shiva was the first yogi as per the authentic Vedic texts in which Yoga was first taught.

    I love how I’m learning things about myself mentally, physically and spiritually and how they are all connected. Going through my daily life I find myself thinking about the things I learned during my yoga practice. Things like my breathing, posture, letting go of things I can’t control and living in the present moment. Physically yoga has helped tremendously with my flexibility and strength. With my new eating plan and practicing yoga I have lost a little over 40 lbs. I’m starting to feel muscles in places I didn’t even know I had muscles!

    I’m so thankful that I found YogaStair! My journey is ongoing and always changing with every yoga practice. I love the fact that I feel better.

  4. 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!


    The Bhagavad-gita is universally renowned as the jewel of India’s spiritual wisdom. Spoken by Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead to His intimate disciple Arjuna, the Gita’s seven hundred concise verses provide a definitive guide to the science of self realization.No other philosophical or religious work reveals, in such a lucid and profound way, the nature of consciousness, the self, the universe and the Supreme.So read Gita minimum once and if possible read daily one chapter and this help to make a miracle in your life mean first destroyed your accumulated sin(Paap) and rapidly increase your virtue,remember critical problem in life is depend upon quantity of your sin and Luck and Happiness in life is depend upon quantity of Virtue(Punya).

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    Quotes on Gita

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    ( Shrimad Bhagavad Gita- SBG )

    Note:You can also say thanks to Lord and get much more blessing by donating minimum 5 or 11 little Bhagavad Gita Books to relative,friend or a stranger.

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  6. riitaa says:

    great post I love this land of lamas

  7. 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.

  • […] choice to take my yoga teachers certification in India wasn’t obvious, until I lived in Asia. Before that, the notion of flying to India […]

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