So, you’re considering a yoga teacher training in India…where to begin? Rather, how to begin? You’ll find a plethora of information on the web, teacher training schools all touting themselves as the best in India, but what is it that you need and how on earth can you narrow down your options? In this article, we’ll review some of the best yoga teacher training schools in India, we’ll look at the top four reasons to complete your yoga teacher training in India, as well as the most popular destinations for yoga in India.
Many yogis consider a yoga teacher training in India due to the popularity and the prestige of saying, “I did my training in India!” It somehow sounds more authentic, more dedicated, a reflection of how much yoga means to you and your commitment to your practice and teaching. However, there are several things to consider before embarking on this journey.
Whether you’ve traveled to India previously or not, in all likelihood, you’ve seen images and are probably aware this won’t be the same as a weekend in Devon. Aside from the heat, you’ll be managing transportation logistics, working to maintain your health and well-being, not to mention the sheer madness of a country teeming with over a billion humans! India overflows with sensations, some maddening and some overpowering in beauty and simplicity. India can cause people to buckle at the knees, whether from love or repulsion, and there’s no way of knowing how you’ll respond until you land and start your journey. But what a journey it will be! So let’s check out a few practicalities to consider for a yoga teacher training in India:
One notable and obvious change will be the climate. This country is just plain hot! If you’re coming from grey Ole Blighty, this might be a very welcome relief. And depending on where you travel to India, the heat index will either rise or fall. There are several ways to beat the heat (hot curry will cool you down!) and there are benefits. During a yoga teacher training in India, you may find some yoga poses more available as your muscles adjust and relax with the heat. Is this part of the reason that yoga originated here?! From Kerala in the South to Rishikesh in the North, there are several options on the heat scale to choose from.
The culture in India is far different from anything you’ve experienced before. Both how people interact with you, how they interact with each other, their physical proximity to you, the accent, the accepted norms and behaviours, everything! Things will be a bit different and contemplating how you might respond to these changes fully before arrival is wise. Consider how you experience your personal space and how that may be slightly nudged during your time, and what you can do to create some internal and external parameters.
Yoga Teacher Training India
There is a great appeal to completing a yoga teacher training in India because this is the origin point of yoga, what better place could there be? The history and lineage are well preserved in places, and sitting under the tree where the Buddha achieved enlightenment is wildly appealing! Training in the same location where the founders of Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga trained may make you feel as though the history is seeping into your body and bones, the weight of yoga somehow permeating through the annals of time to christen you with a yogic touch. And yet…there are several schools and training centres in India that feed off this assumption and the weight of history, without being able to replicate and authenticate their training.
We’ve spoken to many a yoga student who loved their teacher training in India but found themselves unable to teach once they returned home. They simply weren’t exposed to the rigors of teaching nor were they taught how to teach specifically to westerners. Learning how to market yourself back home or how to construct a music playlist for your yoga classes is not on the agenda for most Indian teacher training centres.
And then there’s the food. Glorious, decadent, rich, hot, spicy, fried, juicy Indian food. Whether it’s your favourite or your worst, there’s no getting around the proliferation of Indian food! During my time in India, it was hard to get even a Western meal for breakfast, let alone for dinner. Depending on your ultimate destination though, you may find Western restaurants abounding. With a few simple rules in place, you can also keep yourself (mostly) healthy. If you haven’t heard these before, here they are:
- don’t drink the water (or the ice)
- wash your hands thoroughly before eating
- only eat cooked foods
- use bottled water to clean off fruit
Another smart option is prevention! If you’ve never heard of grapefruit seed extract, this could be your new best friend. Bring a bottle with you, and place a few drops in your water. Drink this and any little bugs in your system will be discouraged from staying. Also handy are charcoal pills which help build up strength in your belly and solidify anything that might um, need solidifying! Obviously, consult your physician.
Where to Train in India
Location location location! India is a massive country and certainly, there are yoga teacher training centres in India all over the country. The most popular places are Goa, Rishikesh, Kerala, and Mysore. Goa is known for being familiar and commonplace for Westerners, Rishikesh is in the North and cooler, Kerala is in the south and is beautiful for its waterways and Mysore is the founding location for Ashtanga Yoga. Each location has its advantages and disadvantages, as well as varying degrees of teacher training prestige.
Goa is one of the top destinations for Westerners to India. Miles upon miles of coastline, beautiful beaches, remote hidden oasis sanctuaries and abundant resources for tourists. Given its past and familiarity with Westerners (see Portuguese colonial times), there are many Western-style restaurants, accommodation options, and shops. You’ll encounter lots of other Westerners, which may (or may not) be appealing to you. Some of the best yoga teacher training centres in Goa are:
Purple Valley Yoga
One of the most prestigious and long-standing centres is Purple Valley in Goa. Focusing primarily on Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, this centre has several well-known teachers and highly distinguished graduates. While there are few yoga teacher training courses at this centre, the calibre of teaching and resources is remarkable.
Located in one of the most popular destinations in Goa, Kashish yoga has a variety of teacher trainings on offer. Starting with a 100-hour training, 200-hour and 300-hour trainings, all in the style of Ashtanga Vinyasa. With five different shalas, bamboo huts accommodating 2 – 3 people, a swimming pool and many bicycles available for your days off, these basic yet comfortable buildings and resources should meet your needs.
Sampoorna is gaining quite a following among yogis for the caliber of teachers as well as the accommodations, food, and setting. Offering both Ashtanga-Vinyasa Yoga, Yin Yoga as well as a Meditation course. Many elements set Sampoorna apart, but one of them is that they offer teacher-training courses not only in English but also in German, French, Spanish and Italian. With teachers from India, Europe, and the U.S., Sampoorna has a diverse range of personalities and experienced teachers that participate in courses. Their yoga village is very well laid out, very clean, with rooms and courses reflecting European prices rather than Indian rates.
Kranti Yoga located on Patnem Beach in South Goa has many options available for the yoga teacher training crowd. Week-long courses, 200-hour courses and 300-hour courses in the Yin Yoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa style or Hatha Flow are all on option. Accommodation is quite basic, with a leaning toward Indian styles rather than Western styles, whilst prices for the training and accommodation are listed in Euros and don’t quite reflect a “value for money” exchange.
Kerala is in the Southern part of India, full of gorgeous waterways and hidden treasure troves. The decadent heat abounds here and can relax muscles and soothe aching bones if that happens to be your plight. While it is still considered an up and coming destination for travelers, those that have visited make sure that they return time and time to enjoy their favourite locales and secrets that are still well-kept from the mainstream traveler.
Rishikul Yoga is establishing a strong foundation in India, with locations in Kerala, Dharmsala, Rishikesh, Delhi and abroad in far-east Asia. They have a tried and true formula of solid yoga training in the methodology of Hatha Yoga, with a strong emphasis on Ayurveda practices, diet, and lifestyle. Their food and accommodation are nothing to boast about, but they are well-maintained and clean. Rishikul gives a broad overview of several aspects of yoga, including Hatha Yoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa, yoga Nidra, kriyas, mudras, pranayama, and anatomy. Whilst in-depth instruction in any one of these topics is not forthcoming, there is something to be gained in becoming well-versed in several aspects of yoga.
Shakti Yoga Peeth
Limited to only 24 students, Shakti Yoga Peeth offers very reasonable rates, training in Hatha, Ashtanga Vinyasa and Ayurveda. With locations in Rishikesh, Kerala, and Nepal, they’ve got a systemised curriculum and their lead teachers originate from India and Schools of Yoga within India. Their accommodations lean more towards traditional Indian style and luxury than Western standards.
Along with a 100-hour course, 200-hour and 300-hour course, this centre has the distinction of offering a 95- hour children’s yoga teacher training course, a noteworthy point. With over ten years of experience and two locations, Santhi Yoga has been paving the way for yoga teacher training schools in India. While their accommodations are basic, their location is beautiful and their prices (in USD) remain very reasonable.
One of the most popular destination sites for yoga teacher training schools is Rishikesh. This northern destination has always been a popular location for ashrams, spiritual centres and those seeking refuge from the rest of the world. In the last ten years, the number of yoga teacher training centres has doubled, creating a wonderful hotbed of learning, spirituality, and access to Western and Indian style cuisine, accommodation and resources. You’ll find a healthy mix of both Westerners and locals here in Rishikesh, and the proximity of other spiritual sites (the Ganges, Bodhgaya, and Varanasi) make this location very appealing to many.
Iyengar Yoga Centre
Many of the yoga teacher training schools in India focus on Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga or Hatha Yoga. Of course, India is also home to Iyengar Yoga which is well-known for its emphasis on anatomy and alignment. Thus, the Patanjala Yoga Kendra centre located in Rishikesh is worth listing as it’s been authorised by the official Iyengar centre in Pune, India. One week courses focused on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are available, and one-week Philosophy courses are also available. If you’re a beginner, this could be a valuable place to begin, as the foundation will serve you for the rest of your life!
Gyan Yoga Breath
Located in the hills of Rishikesh, this training facility teaches both Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga with 100-hour, 200-hour and 300-hour trainings. They are thorough enough to include courses in Ayurveda, kriyas, meditation, mantras and pranayama practices as well. They have 7-day retreats which might be an excellent way to test out the teachers and centre before committing to longer teacher training. They are unique in offering an on-site Ayurvedic Doctor who gives consultations for free and pulse diagnosis.
We’ve been hearing good things about Vinyasa Yogashala located in Rishikesh offering the standard 100, 200 and 300-hour trainings. Each student has a private room, and while it’s not the Ritz, the accommodation is fitting, clean and private. They have a special emphasis on Ayurveda and also open excursions to the nearby temples and offer a boat ride on the Ganges.
Mysore India is the founding home of Ashtanga Yoga. When Sri Pattabhi Jois decided to set up his shala, he chose Mysore (or it chose him!). Now his grandson Sharath Jois runs the shala and legions of devoted Westerners come to practice in this location. There are several other respected teacher training centres nearby, and given the influx of Westerners, there are also many many Western-style restaurants that can cater to the demands of the market. It’s worth a look-see!
Now then, where and with whom should you train? Here’s a list:
This centre is the original centre that was made famous by Sri Pattabhi Jois. Located in Gokulum, Mysore, it is now run by Saraswati, (Pattabhi’s daughter) and her daughter, Sharmila. The “official” authorisation to teach Ashtanga Yoga is still reputed to be designated only by Sharath Jois, Pattabhi’s grandson. If that is of interest to you, read the following paragraph where you’ll find more information. One thing that is customary in Mysore is that you’ll often need to find your accommodation and food, as most training centres here do not provide this.
Sharath Yoga Centre
Sharath Jois is the grandson of Pattabhi Jois is responsible for continuing the lineage of Ashtanga Yoga. At present, he teaches Ashtanga Yoga in Hebbal, Mysore and entry is not available to all. To study with Sharath, you must first practice with an authorised teacher for 2 – 3 months. Once that is complete, then you may complete your registration, at which point acceptance is not necessarily assured. Yes, there are many hurdles to practicing with Sharathji, but several students past and present would argue that it is well worth it! As with other yoga training centres in Mysore, no accommodation is available at the Sharath Yoga Centre.
Another very popular teacher is Ajay Kumar. A dynamic and enthusiastic teacher, Ajay has a popular vinyasa class as well as a back-bending class that is extremely popular with Westerners. While he has strong adjustments, he is also very forthcoming and welcoming of feedback and discussion.
Vijay Kumar is another yoga teacher in Mysore, and with many yoga teachers in Mysore, he has been teaching for decades. He is teaching in the Ashtanga Vinyasa system with an emphasis on breath-work and adjustments. He is a noteworthy teacher and many consider him to be worth the visit.
Hope this helps you in locating and determining what training centre is the best for you and will your yoga to progress as needed to support your life and well-being.