I Got Yoga Teacher Certified in India, Dharamsala | Here’s the Highs & Lows

My yoga TTC in India family

 

After a month of yoga boot camp at Himalaya Yoga Valley, I finally graduated with my Yoga TTC (yoga teacher certified) in India, Dharamsala. Woot! Getting a yoga teacher training in India is unlike any school training I’ve experienced. I am elated to have done this for myself.

Yoga in India is more than just coming to the mat. 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.

Note: I took this yoga training in India in 2012 but strive to keep my articles updated.

Getting my Yoga Teacher Certified in Dharamsala, India

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 India.

Undergoing yoga training in India, I met travelers of different countries, whose yoga practice was so focused, it blew me away. Each yogi has a unique backgrounds from designers, heath care practitioners, physical therapists and … then there was me.  Every one is a teacher in some form and like a family, we had our moments~ cliques form, people mix and don’t mix. Each person has their own lifestyle 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 teacher training in India… and survived.

Interested in yoga teacher training courses in India?

Read these posts where I go deeper into yoga in India and how I got my yoga teacher training course:

How to choose the right yoga school in India.
What is a yoga ashram in India like?
Why should you learn yoga in India if you’re serious about understanding yoga?
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.

 

What is it like yoga living in Mcleodganj?

Traveling India is different from living in one spot in India for a month. Anchoring myself to one spot means having time to  get to know its community and live its lifestyle.  For me, this is  an exciting perk of long-term travel – you get to spend your time in a place and gaining a deeper understanding of it. You create a relationship with it.

Yoga living in Mcleoganj is its own Shangri-la. Many travelers choose to stay in (upper) Mcleodganj for extended periods to stay or study Buddhism, meditation, yoga, etc…, so apartments and guesthouses are open to rental and an expat community. Lifestyles are laid back, friendly and there is the fresh mountain air and tranquil scenery. There are enough cafes, restaurants and small grocery shops to feed your hunger and your need to be social.

If you visit lower Mcleodganj, you’ll find more of the local community, household appliance shops, family cafes, etc.. It is not as pretty there, but it reminds you there is an active local community who is there to make their lives work and get their needs met. Upper Mcleodganj is more for the travelers and dreamers.

On weekends, I trekked the mountains or visit the neighboring town of Bagsu.  I decided I wanted to live in Dharamsala more than in a busy city, so I purposely chose a yoga school in Mcleodganj (the official base of Himalaya Yoga Valley school is in Goa, but they run a program seasonally in Mcleodganj).  If I had to live anywhere in India, I wanted it to be in Dharamsala, in the mountains, against an Indo-Tibetan community, eating momo and thukpa. Dharamsala does not feel as blunt as India. It is more Tibetans and so you won’t feel like everything is a haggle, like you’re having sales pushed onto you or you have to be on your toes. The Dalai Lama’s residence is in Mcleodganj, so there’s a lot of crimson robed monks in the streets. The temple home of the Karmapa is a taxi ride away.  And I guess I also felt more comfortable around faces similar to mine. Dharamasala is a different mindset. It is a peaceful oasis of calm, a hideaway… it does not feel like India.

My one month in Mcleodganj was filled with so many things outside my yoga training program.

Read things you NEED to know before visiting Dharamsala

My yoga apartment in Mcleodganj

When I arrived in Mcleodganj, I arrived a week early in order to get settled before my Himalaya Yoga Valley program started. I stayed at two other guesthouse buildings until I moved into the Siddarth House, a guesthouse my yoga school rented for our program. The yoga program worked from the rooftop studio of our guesthouse and the guesthouse was at the base of a steep hill lined with old rock stairs; it was about a 15 minute walk to the heart of town, closer to nature. Initially this felt like a lovely idea, until a couple weeks into the program, when you realize that after a long day of yoga training, sometimes, your calves and thighs are shot. The last thing you want to do is walk, much less climb!

All the rooms were spacious with a balcony opening to the scenic valley.  I had enough closet space to hang clothes and unpack my bags and a large bathroom. We each had a kitchenette so that we could choose between buying groceries and produce in town to make our own meals and snacks or going into town for a quick meal at a cafe or restaurant. No refrigerator.

The Sidarth House mcleodganj, guesthouses in mcleodganj dharamsala, long-term rentals in mcleodganj, places to stay in mcleodganj

The Sidarth House: One of the many guesthouses in Mcleodganj and where I’m staying for a month, while doing my training.The Sidarth House mcleodganj, guesthouses in mcleodganj dharamsala, places to stay in mcleodganj, long-term rentals in mcleodganjMy huge room with a view and outdoor balcony

The Sidarth House mcleodganj, guesthouses in mcleodganj dharamsala, places to stay in mcleodganj

My apartment kitchen The Sidarth House mcleodganj, guesthouses in mcleodganj dharamsala, places to stay in mcleodganj, toilets in mcleodganj Spacious bathroom
The Sidarth House mcleodganj, guesthouses in mcleodganj dharamsala, places to stay in mcleodganj, long-term rentals in mcleodganjCloset

music, flute player, indian snake charmer

Each room has it’s own name and theme

Each room at my guesthouse  has a theme and a name. For me, a name encapsulates an essence and an energy. I’m in “Music“. Originally, I was in “Ocean“… until I saw it.  First floor, basement-level, corner room, dark, lifeless energy. No flow.  And though it opened to a lovely patio sun deck, I had no balcony to bring in light or air. It didn’t sing.

Being in “Music” felt livelier and I literally, have musical instruments as decor in my room. Getting settled in, I’ve already met “Happy“, “Taj Mahal” and “Sun“. So far each student’s personality matches their room names.

indian musical instruments, Indian sitar, indian guitar

Indian sitar?.

What is it like doing yoga teacher training in Dharamsala?

Note: After my yoga teacher training in Dharamsala, I stayed on in Mcleodganj and got my second reiki certification and eventually got my Master Reiki level a couple years later from the same teacher.

Doing a yoga teacher training course in India takes a great deal of discipline. Many of us assume this going in, but being in a surreal environment like India, somehow, you forget how hard discipline can feel. On one hand, your unconscious mind feels like it is on vacation due to the exotic surrounding. It feels dreamy.  Meanwhile, your body and your conscious mind is training in meditation, yoga practicums, chanting, anatomy lessons, spiritual classes, etc..

Mixing physical yoga training twice a day, with studying, note-taking and reading books for quizzes, my body was underprepared. There were days, after morning classes that just a five-minute hill climb to get to lunch felt exhausting. It inspired lunches at the nearby guesthouse cafe, despite the fact its food felt pricier and nowhere near as delicious. There were also days when I felt like my mind could not grasp some concepts, either because my anatomy awareness was not experienced as some others. Mind you, everyone is at different places in their life and knowledge. My program had a lot of holistic practice, massage and sports therapy type of yogis, who were spring boarding from their schools of learning or careers. I was a videographer turned ESL teacher. My learning curve was a little more.

Read: What is yoga in India & why it is different from the west?

Going to the Mcleodganj Hospital

The daily regimen and repetition of an intensive yoga training program can lead to burn out if you’re not careful and towards the latter week, accidents and injuries were occurring more frequently amongst students. A few of us had to go to the local doctor or hospital to deal with injuries or mild illness. Luckily, Mcleodganj is a mecca for alternative therapies and some students would go to get massages or chakra healings…

Eventually, living in one place you get familiar with it, but also careless. Ultimately, I got sick with a parasite, but not in the usual form of Delhi Belly. Instead, it had me running to the bathroom during class and emerging from the toilet with a horrendous gaseous odor. Eventually, I went to the hospital to get antibiotics for it.

Read:

How to Deal with Getting Sick abroad

The realities of Mcleodganj

There are few harsh realities of living Mcleodganj. Instead, there are interesting realities, which locals and travelers navigate on a daily basis.  I visited in spring, when mornings and evenings in Mcleodganj are cold (around 50-60 degrees Farenheit). Alternately, the rest of India’s weather during that time is warm to hot.  If you forget to pack warm clothes, you can buy beautifully designed woolen blankets from street vendors. They are inexpensive. Some stores sell jackets and parkas. There is even a consignment store where you can occasionally find sweaters, left by travelers.

Mcleodganj also experiences occasional electrical storms and power cuts and so heated water comes from the guesthouse’s generator. There is a strong focus on rationing and limiting water usage.

Hot water and drinking water in Mcleodganj

I had a gas hot pot burner in my room and I bought a heating wand in town at a home appliance shop.

My boiling wand was unlike anything I had seen. We certainly do not have heating wands in the U.S., but with this, you plug your wand into a socket and stick it into your water to bring it to a boil in under a minute!  (Now I know how Indians have the patience to do the boiling water thing!)

Drinking tap water is unsafe in India.

All drinking water can be bought from your guesthouse or in town at a water refill station or a local cafe –it cost a few rupee to fill your water bottles. In an effort to save money, some students brought their own water filters~ one bought a hand pump, I brought a water filter sports bottle and a boiling wand, etc..

Eventually, I gave up on the sports bottle idea (too much effort). The hand-pump filter seemed even more ridiculous considering the yoga program will get physically tiring.  After two weeks, drinking wand-boiled anything really got to me.

Travel Tip: Buy the freakin water from your guesthouse or refill station. It’s priced locally so its cheap. Don’t put yourself through all that pain to save a few rupees, which are pennies. Or you can bring a SteriPen water purifier.

Read Four ways to avoid buying bottled water in India

ways to purify your water, boiling wand, clean water, water purification techniques

Water purification techniques: Use a boiling wand.

 

mcleodganj road, dharamsala

Me in Mcleodganj!

 

Food in Mcleodganj

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)

Read Food Safety Tips to Avoid getting sick while traveling

what is sherpa food, mcleodganjSherpa Food vendor

Other yoga teacher certification courses in Dharamsala

While I enjoyed my experience with Himalaya Yoga Valley, it will not be for everyone. Yoga practices can be very personal and individualistic. Here are more teacher training courses in Dharamsala. It is up to you to research and find the best yoga teaching for you.

Yoga Vidya Mandaram– 22 Day 200 Hour Hatha & Ashtanga Teacher Training in Dharamsala- Dharamkot, starts $1599

Sarvaguna Yoga– 28 day 300 Hour Dual style Teacher Training in Dharamsala- $1606

Om Yoga Ashram – 25 day 200 Hour Yoga teacher training, starts at $750 (stay at an ashram over a guesthouse)

Aranya Yoga Ashram– 31 day 300 Hour Multi-style Yoga teacher training, starts at $1855 (includes ashram housing)

Getting from Delhi to Mcleodganj

Mcleod Ganj bus station is about 20 kilometers away from Dharamsala and is accessible by frequent buses and taxis. Always ask your school if they do airport pickups first. This is the easiest way.

Flight

You can fly into Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) or Dharamsala’s Gaggal Airport (DHM).   From Delhi, you will either take the train, bus, taxi or ask your school if they have an airport pickup. The Dharamsala airport is 40 minutes away from Mcleodganj

Tip: fly to Dharamsala direct. You might find yourself on a flight with the Dalai Lama (a couple of students in my program were!)

Bus

There is a 10-hour overnight bus from Delhi to Dharamsala. Buses leave around 8pm and drop you at Dharamsala bus stand, where you catch a public bus, shared jeep, or taxi to Mcleodganj bus station.  Alternately, you can take a bus from Delhi to Pathankot (my bus broke down and I got dropped away from the bus station and need to tuk-tuk there). Then take the government bus to Dharamsala and transfer to the bus to Mcleod Ganj.

Read  Is taking the Indian bus safe for solo travelers?

You can book India trains and buses in advance here.

Train

Take an overnight train from Delhi to Pathankot (the closest station to Mcleod) takes approx 7 hours and will cost around 1400 Indian Rupees for a seat in second or third AC. Sleeper and day trains run  daily. From Pathankot, take the public bus to Dharamsala. The bus journey from Pathankot to Dharamsala is 90 kilometers or 55 miles and takes approximately three hours. There is a prepaid taxi stand outside of the Pathankot railway station. Read my Complete guide to Indian trains for Solo travelers.

Read my India transportation guide to prepare yourself!

 

Trip planning for India ? Start here.

Planning your first trip to India? Start here. What to Pack for India Backpacking? Check here.  Read about how to Get an Indian SIM , do you need a female urinary device?getting an Indian Tourist Visa for U.S. Citizens

Learn the India trip essentials from India scams, dress etiquette, itineraries, accommodations, food insights, how to take the bus, dealing with sexual harassment and indian trains, and staying at ashrams.

 

Best Travel Insurance for Yoga in India

My yoga school made travel insurance compulsory. For good reason. Yoga enthusiasts get hurt and the training program is like training for a mini yoga olympics. The worst case in our program was that one of the students broke her toe and had to go to the hospital. But several others were getting anything from pulled muscles, back spasms, … I got sick, we were all dropping like flies.

Although there are good doctors and hospitals in the big cities, you might not always have access to them. Also, traveling in India has its obvious risks–  standards and regulations are different from the U.S., so safety precautions and measures aren’t always perfect. I went with World Nomads to cover my entire trip and it was the cheapest I found.

Previous Post
Love Letter #12: Passion & Voice for Tibetans in Dharamsala
Next Post
Packing Tip: How to Pack a Guidebook, bit by bit

Related Posts

13 Comments. Leave new

  • […] 10 Things to know about staying at an Indian ashram is everything you need to know about ashrams in India. It is based on my experiences of my yoga ashram in Kerala followed by practicing yoga in India through a month-long 200 hour yoga teacher training program in Dharamsala. […]

    Reply
  • 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???
    :(((((

    Reply
  • […] 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, […]

    Reply
  • Hello!

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

    Reply
  • 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.

    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
  • great post I love this land of lamas

    Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
  • […] https://grrrltraveler.com/2011/06/yoga-ttc-in-india/ archive: GRRRL Traveler, retreats & spas ← 10 Beach Photography Tips – getting great beach shots with your digital camera Official Launch Date: July 1, 2011 How do I get an article listed on TravelBark? 1. Write great content that will be useful to travelers. 2. Tag it with #travelbark on Twitter and we'll take a look. If it rocks, it should be posted within 24 hours. (Optional: you can also tag it with the destination or topic – e.g. #Mexico or #Rome.) 3. Repeat. There's no limit to how many quality links we'll add for any one site. Once a page is added it's accessible forever in our searchable archives. Note: As we build up our archives over the next few weeks we encourage travel sites and bloggers to send us their best articles from the previous 18 months. Anything from after January 1, 2010 is eligible for being linked to. What types of articles are you looking for? Informative detailed pieces that will be helpful for current travelers and those planning a trip. Look through the posts we've currently linked to and you should see a common theme. And don't worry, if you tag it with #travelbark and we don't accept it – no harm done. Publications […]

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Menu