Believe it or not, my decision to go for yoga teacher training in Rishikesh was mostly a spontaneous decision. Growing up as a dancer, I’ve practiced yoga here and there but never did I pursue it seriously. Until one day, I was chatting with one of my dear friends who went to India to study yoga and she told me stories of her transformative experience. Looking at photos of her doing the splits in front of a waterfall, I thought about how I’ve been increasingly feeling stiff and how stress I’ve been (Thank you aging). All of a sudden, I decided that yes, I will do this too. I am going to India! I’m going to reconnect with my body and learn how to take care of my mental health. Next thing I know I pressed the “BOOK” button and off I went on my Eat, Pray, Love- esque journey.
This turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. In the span of a month, I felt like I went through so much healing. I was challenged everyday physically, mentally and spiritually. After years of traveling around the world, this trip allowed me to dive deep into my inner world, a whole entire universe that I was just beginning to discover. By the end of the course, I had fallen in love with yoga. Although I am qualified to teach now, I know I have so much more to learn.
In this post, I give an overview of my yoga teacher training experience in Rishikesh with some tips for those aspiring to go.
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Why do Yoga teacher training in Rishikesh?
Rishikesh, a city at the Himalayan foothills next to the holy Ganga river, is revered as the original birthplace of yoga. People come from all over the world to this spiritual mecca for studying yoga and meditation. Temples and ashrams are everywhere you turn, enveloping the town in peaceful energy.
Comparing to other popular wellness destinations in the world, completing yoga teacher training in Rishikesh is the most affordable as the overall cost of living in India is quite low. My fee for a 200-hour yoga course including accommodation and food for one month was $1150 USD. I had looked at similar courses in Bali and Costa Rica, and they cost 3 to 4 times more. Sure, a beachside yoga school in Bali would have been beautiful, but my goal was knowledge seeking. I am very happy with the authentic education I got at my yoga school in Rishikesh.
If you are looking for more of a retreat vibe ashram, take a look on BookYogaRetreats where there are tons of options. In Rishikesh, there are some stunning (and pricier) ashrams that are in the mountains secluded from the hustle and bustle of town.
Choosing the right school for yoga teacher training in Rishikesh
There are over 100 yoga schools in Rishikesh and not all are made equal. To be honest, some are straight up scams. I heard enough horror stories. I actually had an easy time making my decision as I chose the same school my friend had gone to and raved about. The Rishikesh Yoga Teacher Training Center is indeed a fantastic ashram and I wholeheartedly recommend their courses.
Upon first contact with the school, I found the program staff prompt with providing information and very friendly. They laid out everything that would be included in the course fee of $1150 USD:
- 200 hours yoga teacher training
- One new yoga mat
- All study materials
- 28 days accommodation in standard 2 share room (There are some other options like budget shared room for $999, or standard private room for $1400. I decided to go with something in between)
- 3 meals a day, excluding Sundays
- Weekend excursions
- One Ayurvedic massage
You have to pay $100 deposit via Paypal to reserve a spot and then pay the rest with cash after arrival in Rishikesh.
Accommodation at Rishikesh Yoga Teacher Training Center
The amenities of rooms at the yoga school is relatively basic. My standard room contained two beds for me and my roommate. Bedsheets, pillows, blankets and bath towels are provided. Although it’s a good idea to bring your own sheets and towel if you are picky and want to feel more comfortable. My roommate brought a mosquito net which I thought was so smart. We each had a little table and we shared a cupboard for storing our clothes. The rooms have attached bathrooms with western toilets. Hot water for showering is notoriously inconsistent. In the hot summer months, it’s not a big deal. But because we were there during the cold month of December, there were sometimes complaints from students.
Our room also had a balcony with a lovely view of the mountains and garden. We often hung our laundry outside and they would dry in a day when it’s sunny. Looking back, I am so glad that I got a standard room. The budget rooms didn’t have balconies and would not get any sun. I imagine I would have got a bit depressed after awhile. Definitely go for the standard rooms if possible.
Finally, there is wifi on site but it is iffy. Electricity also goes down every now and then. Patience is something you develop here. Youtube not working? Go read a book. Lights went out? Time for some candlelit yoga. 😛
Overall, I was satisfied with the accommodation. It was nothing fancy but comfortable enough.
Food at Rishikesh Yoga Teacher Training Center
The food at RYTTC is definitely a highlight of the experience here. I loved it. In fact, I gained some weight after a month of overeating everyday. So perhaps I loved it a bit too much. 🙁
At the yoga school, they provided three meals a day, excluding Sundays. All meals are vegetarian and based on the sattvic diet, an Ayurvedic diet that emphasis seasonal foods like fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. Sattvic food is said to help purify the body and calm the mind, which facilitates the practice of yoga.
The RYTTC menu is designed by the head school chef who used to work in five-star hotels. I was thoroughly impressed with how tasty the food was. The buffet was different every day. The kitchen staff really put a lot of love and thoughtfulness into the dishes.
Here is a sample look at some of the things we ate:
Breakfast: fruits, porridge, toast, rice, chai
Lunch: Hand made pasta, rice, veggies, soup
Sundays are days off for the school and the students, which means you have to go forage food on your own. Just kidding! Rishikesh town has many amazing restaurants. Find my favourite cafes and eateries in Rishikesh here. Keep in mind that Rishikesh is a completely meat-free, alcohol-free city.
A day in the life at Rishikesh Yoga Teacher Training Center
A typical daily schedule looks like this:
5:30 AM -7:00 AM Hatha yoga
7:15 AM- 8:15 AM Pranayama and Meditation
8:15 AM- 9:00 AM Breakfast
9:45 AM- 10:45 AM Human Anatomy
11:00 AM- 12:00 PM Vinyasa yoga/Mantra chanting
12:00 AM-1:00 PM Lunch
3:15 PM – 4:15 PM Philosophy
4:30 PM – 5:30 PM Adjustment
5:30 PM – 7:00 PM Ashtanga yoga
7:00 PM Dinner
As you can see, the day starts very early and is quite intense. Not all the classes are physically demanding though. Hatha, Vinyasa, and Ashtanga are the classes where we actually do asanas and sweat it out, whereas Philosophy and Human anatomy are theory-based classes where we sit on the ground and take notes of the lecture (the challenge is to stay awake). Adjustment is a bit of both as it’s the class in which we learn how to teach yoga and do hands-on adjustments.
I loved the pranayama classes. I learned so much about taking care of the body through breathing and meditation. Mantra chanting was also surprisingly something I enjoyed very much. We had a great teacher who always created so much positive energy when she would lead us to sing together. I always left the class feeling great and filled with love.
Although it was said to us at the opening orientation that all lessons are mandatory, the rule was never really enforced. As expected, attendance of the 5:30 AM class started dropping after a couple of days. By the third week, most students were filling broken and tired. Many started sitting out on lessons. I was pretty proud of myself that my body held up well physically. Years of staying active really helped. 😛 In the end, I had almost a perfect record with only class missed! *Pat myself on the back…
In addition to regular classes, we also had some extra classes from time to time such as foot reflexology and Thai Massage. The ashram was good at switching it up and introducing little surprises. I really liked the time we spontaneously had class outside on the grass or when we went to the beach for some acro yoga. It kept things fresh and interesting.
I give all the RYTTC teachers five stars. They are very professional and very knowledgeable about their subjects. Some of them are shockingly young. Our Hatha teacher Sonu ji is only 21 years old. 21! But the wisdom he has is beyond impressive. Sonu is so good at what he does and is able to explain things in such clear and simple ways. I guess it’s what happens when you start practicing yoga from a young age. Note to self, teach my future kids yoga as soon as they can walk. 😛
Yoga teacher training certification final assessment and graduation
At the end of the yoga teacher training course, students must demonstrate their mastery of the skills taught through two assessments: 1. Teach a yoga class 2. Pass the final written exam.
Students must pair up to teach a 60 minutes yoga class with a theme assigned by the teacher. My partner Nicole and I taught a class focused on forward bending. It was a little nerve racking to teach for the first time but we prepared a lot and overall it went very well. The hardest thing about teaching yoga is finding the right language to describe the movements and postures as they are very specific. The key with it, as with everything in life, is simply practice, practice, practice!
The final written assessment is more of a formality than a serious exam, if I am perfectly honest. For us, the test had 17 questions, covering a bit of everything subject. We were given one hour to complete it but most people finished early. Everybody in the class passed, even those who didn’t study much. I think that is kind of the sad part about the Yoga TTC business. The schools don’t really fail people as long as they’ve paid the money, leading to “teachers” who are not really qualified to teach. Anyways, that is my opinion. A loaded topic for another time.
The entire program ends with graduation day. It was very bittersweet for us. Everyone gathered in the yoga hall wearing white, just as we did on our first day. We had a fire ceremony, sang mantras together and were presented with flowers and our certificates. There were gifts exchanging and lots of photo-taking. We had such a great group and amazing friendships. It was sad to say goodbye. Besides studying yoga, the biggest take away from this trip for me was all the connections I was able to make with likeminded people from around the world. The memories we had together will always be something that I treasure.
Extra Fun activities at Rishikesh Yoga Teacher Training Center
Besides yoga, I want to share some other beautiful experiences during my one month at RYTTC. The ashram often organized excursions for our Sunday offs. For example, we went to the Kunjari temple on the mountain to watch the sunrise, and attended the Ganga aarati ceremony to celebrate the holy river Ganga.
The school is also very open to students’ suggestions. I hosted a Christmas movie party since we were all spending the holidays in Rishikesh. Another student taught an Indian cooking class which was also very fun. All the staff at RYTTC are very flexible and laid back. If you have ideas for events, just tell them and they will help you get it done!
Tips for planning your yoga teacher training in Rishikesh
Booking the course
Start planning your trip at least two months in advance. Think about whether you are looking to do a 200 hour, 300 hour or 500 hour course. 200h are open for everyone whereas 300h can only be done if you have already done the 200h. 500h is a combination of 200h and 300h. If it’s your first time, I suggest just doing the 200h. From what I’ve heard, anyone who did more than 200h ended up feeling burnt out. There is a lot of information to take it so it’s best to digest one course first. You can always pursue further education later.
Visa for India
You can apply for an e-visa to India online here. At the time I applied in November 2019, a multiple entry one year visa to India for Canadians costed $41.39 USD. Once approved, the visa is valid for 365 days.
How to get to Rishikesh
Rishikesh is in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand. The nearest airport to Rishikesh is Jolly Grant airport, Dehradun (DED) which is 30 minutes away. All flight to DED comes from Delhi, so you will have to transit there and take a domestic flight to DED. The domestic flight price ranges from $20 to $80 dollars. At Delhi, please note that all international flights are at Terminal 3 and all domestic flights are at Terminal 1, except for Jet Airways (Terminal 3). Therefore, make sure that you have at least 1-2 hours to move between the two terminals. From DED, the yoga school can arrange a taxi to pick you up. A direct taxi from Delhi airport is also possible. The taxi charges would be $75 per trip.
Rishikesh has many ATMs from where you can withdraw cash for a little service fee. They don’t always work though. There are also many currency exchange offices around town if you have foreign cash with you. When going to money exchange offices, make sure to bring your passport and a copy of your visa for identification purposes.
Health & Safety in Rishikesh
It’s never fun to get sick while traveling, especially not when you are doing a physically demanding yoga course. Many people tend to have stomach issues when they come to India. However, I’m here to spread hope that it is not inevitable. I’ve been to India twice, once for tourism where I traveled all over the country for 2 weeks, and once for yoga. I never got sick on either occasions. In my opinion, the most important two things are:
- Be cautious with the drinking water. Luckily, at the yoga school, they have free filtered water available for students.
- Take some probiotics to promote healthy gut bacteria.
In terms of safety, Rishikesh is a very safe place to travel. The locals are humble and kind toward foreigners. Like everywhere else in India, you should dress modestly if you don’t want to draw attention to yourself. Do not wear yoga pants outside of the ashram! Stick to flowy clothes that provide decent coverage. When going out at night, grab a buddy and exercise common precautions. As Rishikesh is a sacred city, alcohol is banned here. So respect the local customs.
Don’t leave without getting travel insurance! World Nomad is one of the best travel insurance companies out there. Affordable and great customer service. Get a quick quote here:
I hope this guide was helpful for those of you considering doing your yoga teacher training in Rishikesh! If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or send me a DM on my Instagram.
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