Where in the World to Take Your Yoga Teacher Training Course

When taking a Yoga Teacher Training Course the location that you learn in is an important factor to consider, after all you are about to invest a month of your life there. You may be new to travel or wanting to start your travelling adventures. Why not incorporate a full yoga experience learnt from the source of yoga in the East. Not only will this experience give you a qualification and open your mind to the traditional art of yoga; pranayama, mediation and of course asana practice from true masters. You will also get to see amazing breathtaking places, discover new customs and cultures and taste delicious food and experience the hospitality that these countries are so proud to share.

Rishikul Yogshala a Yoga Alliance accredited school runs yoga teacher training courses and yoga retreats in many locations in India and the East. I have been very fortunate on my travels to visit them all, meeting up with my favourite teachers along the way to deepen my practice. They each have their own merits and charms and here I share my experiences of these beautiful places I have found along the way.

The headquarters of Rishikul’s schools is in the ‘world capital of yoga’ Rishikesh, this is where I started my yoga journey. A small holy town  in the North Indian sate of Uttarakhand, about a five hour taxi drive from Delhi. A blend of Indian holiness with a comfortable level of western influence for that home from home feeling. The town is set along the Holy river Ganga, where it’s two foot bridges of Laxman Jhula and Rham Jhula carry many a tourist, local, bike, monkey or cow across the sacred waters. The Himalayan mountains harbour the national park, where wild elephants can still be found amongst some of its glorious wildlife.

Rishikul Yogshala’s home here is based in a quieter location of town, set amongst mango trees and overlooking the Himalayan valley. But just a short stroll from local shops and cafes and the main tourist spots such as the Beatles Ashram, Parmeth Niketan Ashram and Laxman Jhula. The accommodation is rated amongst the best in Rishikesh and the spacious yoga halls have beautiful views of the surrounding natural beauty. So every class is a delight followed by healthy food and drink in the lush green garden.

There is a strong cafe culture in Rishikesh where you can spend your time off eating delicious vegetarian food and a fresh fruit lassi whilst watching the river flow by. Many local shop, ayurverdic stores and bookstores present amazing shopping opportunities. A place where you are never far away form a spellbinding photo worthy sight; be it a cow wondering into a shop, a cheeky monkey stealing a banana or a baba meditating on the side of the road. The Holy Mother Ganga runs through the centre of the town where during season many daredevils white after raft. Rafting is suspended during monsoon and you can see the full force of the river. A beautiful holy place to give thanks or when the weather heats up take a cooling dip and wash away your sins.

Next I travelled to the South of India to Kerala, one of the wealthiest states in India and boasts such must see attractions as the tea plantations, wildlife reserves and the glorious calm backwaters. When travelling in India you soon discover that every single of it’s 29 states has such a unique identity, so much so that it almost feels like you are traveling to a different country each time. Kerala or ‘God’s own country’ as it is know is best visited when the school takes up residency in December and January, this time of year is wonderful on it’s stretches of beaches as temperatures stay at around the 30 degree level. Home for these months is a beautiful guest house with all modern facilities including an open sided roof top yoga hall where you can hear the birds chirping in nearby coconut trees. Comfortable rooms with ensuite bathrooms and that all important wifi!  A very short stroll from the beach and cliff top restaurants and shops.

There is a beautiful sandy beach to spend time off on and a welcoming vibe that becomes addictive as you spend time watching the amazing sunsets on one of the many cliff top restaurant. I was lucky enough to spend the Christmas month surrounded by a new tribe of yoga teachers in training, we danced through Christmas and saw in the New Year with a South Indian feast as a present to our taste buds. During our time off we had a spiritual hug from the hugging mother Amma http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/01/the-magic-of-a-hug-meeting-the-mother-of-immortal-bliss/%3C/pre%3E  at her nearby ashram. Kerela is also the home of ayurverdic treatments, so I learnt more about my constitution, had amazing treatments and massages and learnt about nutritional healing of this ancient science.

When things go too hot I headed to Dharamasala and fell in Love with the hill top location, mix of Tibetan, Indian, Buddhist and Hinduism surrounded by the lush green mountains and famous snowpeak. Dharamasala for the traveller is made up of the three towns; McCleoudganj (where the Dali Lama lives), Dharamkot and Bagsu. The three areas can be walked between on a mixture of Forrest walks and mountain paths. The place is buzzy with the right mix of yoga, trekking and a more sophisticated food vibe where your taste buds will be spoils for choice. We spent afternoons creating macedmi beautiful necklaces and learning about crystals. Here you are never too far from a Buddhist Monk and can learn all about the Dali Lama’s teachings and the plight of Tibet.

Rishikul offers 200 hour yoga teacher training overlooking the snowpeak in a calming environment. The cooler climate and laid back feel of the town is worth the journey over the mountains. Set 2500 feet above sea level, the yoga vibe is really taking off here and after the training many take to the Tashita centre to immerse themselves for ten days of silence and Buddhist teachings.

Take a short trip across the Indian- Nepalese boarder and a short plane journey from the capital of Katmandu and you are welcomed to the laid back town of Pokhara, Nepal. A place that took my breathe away with the 360 degree views of the Himalayan mountain range. Situated along the banks of the peaceful Fewa Lake, this laid-back town oozes charm and has something for everyone. Immerse yourself in serene nature with tranquil hikes, get your heart racing with some of the best paragliding in the world, and indulge in the flavours and colours of local dishes in one of the many relaxed cafes.

The schools home during the months of April, September and October is the Hotel tulsi. Set in the lush surroundings the classes are conducted in the indoor yoga hall or as often as possible out in nature. Here we danced with local children and spent a night camping in the mountains. The Nepalese have a wonderful friendly nature and it feels great to be helping out this country in a small way after its recent plight.

In the rice fields of Vietnam and to the town quiet town of Hoi An, located in the north of the country. I was in heaven a town full of tailors who can make you anything with a day’s notice designed just for you and made to measure. Watch silk worms weave silk, lay on a sun lounger on the beach and sip cocktails or see the nightly light shows on the river. I borrowed a bike and went on a cycle ride, got involved with local charities that helped the deaf and dumb at reaching out cafe and took yoga classes with Manoj in the Rishikul Yoga Studio that is linked with Rishikul being run by an ex student and the teachers take up residency here to run classes.

The school will be planning a teacher Training in Vietnam soon but in the meantime enjoy it’s calming treats and join in daily classes to deepen your practice whilst traveling.

Now don’t ask me which was my favourite place and where you should take your course as each place has such a unique identify and special for different things, I would say look at the schedule, see when you can go and where the course are being held and let your heart talk to you. Which ever location you choose you will not regret it, and you can always do as I did and adapt your travel plans to visit them all!

Justine O'Connell

Written by Justine O’Connell: Justine is currently living and traveling in India after taking her 200 hour yoga teacher training course with Rishikul Yogshala in August 2015. An experience that changed her life and way of thinking about the world. She quit her London life and hasn't returned as for now she is happy doing yoga, drinking tea, reading books and writing for her blog.

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