Ultimate Travel Guide to Dharamsala | My Yoga TTC in India

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Things to know before traveling to Dharamsala | Getting my Yoga Teacher Training in Dharamsala

After a month long yoga boot camp at Himalaya Yoga Valley in McLeod Ganj, 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, I accepted my body’s shape-shifting to Dharamsala’s Indian-Tibetan hill region surroundings. Injury and bad diets (aka carb-loading for lack of veggies) happen and horrible toilet habits are spawned as a result of getting sick in Mother India.

But good things come out of these things as well.

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Getting my Yoga Teacher Training in Dharamsala

I 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 … then there was 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.

But what binds us all is that we went through a month-long yoga TTC in India… and survived.

My yoga TTC in India family

yoga teacher training certification in india, yoga ttc india

Yoga teacher training certification program

yoga-friends-2

Left: Autum, an acupuncturist. Right: Maria, a massage therapist who used to care for monkeys in Africa! Middle: me… still undecided but just left teaching ESL in Korea.

 

Best things to Do in Dharamsala (McLeod Ganj)

1. Admire Dharamsala views

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.

 

2. Explore nature and hiking trails from McLeod Ganj

You can trek to Triund or visit Bhasu Falls nearby in the neighboring town of Bhagsu. There are a lot of pastures to explore in these hills where you might find goat herders, travelers or monks laying their clothes out to dry.

dharamasala views

Dharamsala Views

3. Bhagsu Falls

Located in the neighboring town of Bhagsu, Bhagsu Falls is an impressive waterfall for this hilly region.

Bhagsu Falls

Bhagsu Falls in Bhagsu, a neighboring small town of McLeod Ganj

4.  Take a Tibetan Momo cooking class

I took a Tibetan momo cooking class with Llamo Cooking Class. It was my first cooking class and it took place in Llamo’s humble home. It was surprisingly fun and relatively easy to make. When I got back home to New York, I made it a lot!

Tibetan momo cooking class with Llamo Cooking Class, tibetan cooking class mcleod ganj

Tibetan momo cooking class with Llamo Cooking Class

 

5. Listen to the Dalai Lama’s sermon at Tsuglagkhang Complex

Tsuglagkhang Complex (aka the Dalai Lama Temple) is a definite must. It houses a Tibet Museum (Hours: 9a-5p) and you’ll find many residential monks roaming the grounds for spiritual training, debate and sermons. Check out the Dalai Lama’s sermon schedule. Hours: 5am-8pm . Address: Temple Road, Central Chapel (near the main square)

dharamsala, dalai lama

Dalai Lama Parade

Dharamsala travel guide

Dharamsala travel guide

6. Watch monks debate

One of the monk practices and training in Tsuglagkhang Complex is debate. You’ll find that compassion and calm is not a monk’s only emotion. During a monk debate, they are known to get pretty fiery!

7. Visit the Karmapa

Not far from McLeod Ganj, situated in Gyuto Monastery in Sidbhari, Ogyen Trinley Dorje is the 17th Karmapa.. The karmapa is similar to the Dalai Lama but a different sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Read my incredible experience meeting the karmapa.  Check out the Karmapa’s schedule for meeting and sermon updates.

8. Take a yoga , teacher training program or reiki class

Dharamsala has many reputable yoga schools offering 200 and 500 hour teacher training programs along with drop in classes. I took a reiki advanced certification workshop. Look for signs advertising classes posted on community walls around town. There is also an Iyengar Institute located in a woodsy area on the edge of McLeod Ganj ; it’s a perfect escape into nature.

Read: Things to know about yoga ashrams . or Guide to Yoga in India

yoga teacher training certification in india, yoga ttc india

Yoga teacher training certification program

 

9. McLeod Ganj’s Main Street

McLeod Ganj’s Main Street is Jogiwara Road. The street is lined with businesses from cafes, restaurants with rooftop views of the valley, bookstores, souvenir shops. McLeod Ganj’s main street is Jogiwara Road.

McLeod Ganj's Main Square of Jogiwara

McLeod Ganj’s Main Square of Jogiwara

shoe repair in india, shoe men in india

Street vendors in Mcleodganj: Shoe repair vendors

 

10. Volunteering

There are many programs for travelers like myself (even short-term ones) to have a positive impact on the community. I’m was surprised how easy it is to find and take part in volunteer programs in Mcleod ganj.  I’ve seen Tibetan volunteer programs in Mcleodganj take short-term and long-term travelers. Usually, there are three types of volunteer programs:

  • English Conversation: You show up in a room filled with travelers and Tibetans, find a Tibetan and converse with them to help them practice their speaking skills. Usually, there is a facilitator, who might have prepared questions written for you to ask. If you have more time to commit, you can tutor people or teach at one of the facilities. (There are a few of these programs)
  • Environmental cleanup: Dharamsala has a bad littering problem. You go out and help clean this up.
  • Daycare/Babysitting: You babysit and accompany Tibetan toddlers to where the program needs to take them.

Where to Volunteer in Dharamsala

Rogpa ( www.tibetrogpa.org) runs a child day care center and a coffee shop with a clothes donation clothes section. Located on Jogiwara Road Volunteers needed: companions for the children and babies and people to work in their shop.

Gu Chu Sum Movement of Tibet (www.guchusum.org) provides help to Tibetan political refugees and former political prisoners. Their classes (from 4:30pm-6:30pm).

Tibet Hope Center (www.tibethopecenter.org) is a center in which volunteers can offer their time to conversation classes (from 4:30pm-6:30pm), community cleanup, being nanny’s to children and English language classes.

What to Eat in Dharamsala

11.  Food in Mcleod Ganj

Living in Dharamsala for a month, I had 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.

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.

 My fave restaurants were located on the main center road of Jogiwara: Tibet Quality Bakery (mini shoebox bakery on the side of Jogiwara Road) Tibetan Kitchen (veg momo soup, fried and steamed momos; Located on Jogiwara Road), Lungta Restaurant (Korean food, Located off of Jogiwara Road)

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!y

Street momo vendor in Mcleodganj, dharamsala food, food in dharamsala

Street momo vendor in Mcleodganj

 

Things to Know Before you Go to Dharamsala

Read 5 Essential Tips for India

12.  McLeod Ganj is travel-friendly and easy to live in long-term

Dharamsala is a city in Himchal Pradesh. It is so removed from the craziness of India that it doesn’t feel like India. Mcleod Ganj is a small town in Dharamsala (nicknamed Little Lhasa) . It is also the home to the Dalai Lama.  The lush hills and valleys tell a different story of beautiful skies, nature and laid back Indo-Tibetan community which seems for the most part, content. There is a strong backpacker-traveler flux which comes through this town, so the streets are lined with businesses from cafes, restaurants with rooftop views of the valley, bookstores, souvenir shops.

You’ll find many travelers extending their stay in this town, sometimes for a month or longer.

13.  Dharamsala is very hilly and can test your fitness

Due to the hilly setting, you’re practically hiking daily getting from shop to shop. Having my apartment and yoga shala located at the base of a hill, it was  a daily StairMaster hike  up a crumbling 300+ stairway just to get meals. That one steep stair was my 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!

dharamsala broken pipes

My daily climb: The town piping system-adding to the culprit of contaminated water

14. Limited water supply and littering

There is a lot, lot, lot of beauty in Dharamsala and it feels like such a sanctuary. But there are ugly sides  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 spill over into the road.

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.mcleod ganj water supply

environmental recycling in india, dharamsala clean environment programs, keep dharamsala clean

15. Beware of Monkeys

Dharamsala has wild monkeys which roam and scamper on rooftops. Remember to close your windows and doors and never leave belongings outdoors unattended.

16.. Thunderstorms, chill and occasional power outtages

Despite being April and other parts of India are spitting with sweat, weather in McLeod Gganj can be freakishly 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.

17. Going to the McLeod Ganj Hospital.

Food in Dharamsala showed me what my body liked.and didn’t .

Staying a month in Dharamsala, I got comfortable and slacked where it came to food safety. So I got sick with amoebic dysentary. India is great because it has a lot of local pharmacies and they are easy to find. Nevertheless, I visited a doctor (who’s diagnosis wasn’t accurate), then ultimately, ended up at  Mcleod Ganj hospital, a five minute drive from my apartment. As a small hospital servicing a small hill community, the facilities were old but good. I was clear health in a week.

Read my Food Safety Tips for Travelers

Getting sick in India

read my post on Getting sick in India

mcleod ganj hospital, getting sick in dharamsala

Planning a Trip to India: At McLeodganj Hospital’s pharmacy counter getting my prescription

 

18. Clean & Filtered 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.

Tip: Take a water sterilization pen (Read my SteriPEN review)

Read 5 Essential Tips You must know before traveing India
ways to purify your water, boiling wand, clean water, water purification techniques

Water purification techniques: Use a boiling wand.

 

19. The Indo-Tibetan community & 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.

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

Tibetan women at the prayer wheels in Mcleodganj
Monks in DharamsalaMonks at a cellphone store

Custom framers mounta a life-sized photo of the Dalai Lama to be famed.\

 

That was all a part of my yoga teacher training in Dharamsala. What would you add to this Dharamsala travel guide? What are things to know before you go to Dharamsala?

 

Related articles about Yoga in India

 

 

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15 Comments. Leave new

Hi
This seems to be a nice blog
However I’m not able to read it due to the links on the left (the FB, Twitter,etc)
How can they be removed so we can read your blog???
:(((((

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[…] through my yoga teacher training in Dharamsala, my teacher Lalit, told us the real practice of yoga is not about twisting the body into a pretzel, […]

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Hello!

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

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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.

Reply

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.

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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.

Reply

[…] 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 […]

Reply

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!

Reply

    @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!

    Reply

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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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great post I love this land of lamas

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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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