Yoga Studies with Rishikesh Yog Peeth
September 8, 2014 | By Mitch & Jewels |
We spent six weeks completing our 300-hour yoga training at Rishikesh Yog Peeth in a little bubble of yoga bliss in Rishikesh, India. We’ll write about our time in Rishikesh separately and dedicate this blog post just to the course itself.We’ve already had some friends of friends ask us about the school, and obviously feel free to ask any questions not answered here and we’ll do our best to answer. Their website is online here.
Why We Chose Rishikesh Yog Peeth
We each completed our certifications as yoga teachers in New York several years ago, and were looking to settle down for a while mid-travels to dedicate time to our yoga practice. We decided to only look at programs that carry U.S. certifications (useful to us in the U.S. even though it’s kind of bogus), and we limited our search to northern India. There are hundreds of programs that are Yoga Alliance 200-hour certified (the “basic” certification), but a much smaller number of 300-hour (“advanced” certification) certified programs.
From the 30 or so programs we now had on our list, we did a process of elimination. A few immediate nixes: places that crammed a 300-hour training into 4 weeks, places that were a specific branded style, places that had multiple web domains and looked like they were trying to game SEO, places that were absurdly expensive, places that had a really light schedule, places that had huge numbers of maximum students per group, etc. We were down to a handful of programs, so we looked at reviews, other people’s blog posts, and asked friends and friends of friends. Then we contacted a couple of schools to ask them specific questions and saw how quickly and diligently they responded.
While we were skeptical about registering for a program without knowing the teachers, we also realistically knew that if we waited then we probably wouldn’t get our choice of programs. So we took the plunge and, while we were in Cambodia a few months ago, registered at Rishikesh Yog Peeth for their July-August 2014 300-hour yoga training.
About Rishikesh Yog Peeth
The school started several years ago and has an interesting backstory, which Roshan (who runs the school) is open to sharing. As he explains, the school came into existence because they realized that foreigners had money and were interested in spending it learning yoga, so they needed to figure out how to teach yoga to make money. Through the ensuing years, the interest in the yogic path caught them too. Now they are in the process of changing course and leaving the certification business altogether and focusing instead on a community to learn and live yoga, which will be a really incredible evolution to witness. Pretty neat, huh? Here are a few photos that we took on a field trip up to the construction site of the ashram.
They seem to have a really well-run program. They have 4 buildings of accommodations and pump out trainings… they have done 50-some 200-hour trainings, and we were in their 10th 300-hour training. They don’t currently have any public classes. On the downside, the administration is a bit of a yoga factory. On the upside, it’s incredibly well-organized – both for India standards and even for U.S. yoga standards. And while you’re in it, it doesn’t feel like they are just selling certificates; our teachers were truly dedicated to teaching.
When we’ve been reflecting on our experiences, we only have a couple of negatives, so we’ll be totally up front.
- The class sizes are fairly large. Our 300-hour program had 22 students. The 200-hour program that’s happening now has about 60 students, which are divided into 3 groups during asana and pranayama classes but one single group during lectures. Our group didn’t feel like too many students, but it wasn’t the 6 – 8 student group size that gives you a super one-on-one feeling.
- It was a six week training, but the teachings unexpectedly slowed after the fifth week. It felt like many people (teachers and students) checked out, and the teachings fizzled and the pieces never fully came together after an incredibly strong and cohesive first five weeks. We think it would have been helpful to set the expectation of the schedule from the beginning, and at least to have optional lectures or group discussion time (with the teachers) during the regular lecture times in that the sixth week.
- To me (Jewels speaking), it felt more like a “yoga intensive” than a “teacher training.” Their philosophy here is that to be a good teacher, you need to learn how to learn yoga. The people who we know who came out of the 200-hour training (for the most part) didn’t feel “ready to teach” after it. And I feel like much of the growth people had as teachers in the 300-hour training came from practice teaching (for people less experienced), and from using observations from our teachers as takeaways.
We can’t say much about their 200-hour training. We have some friends here who did their 200-hour with Rishikesh Yog Peeth and had really positive experiences. One thing we noticed is that there have been some very inexperienced teachers teaching in the 200-hour program, so for people considering the program, we would probably check in on the background of the specific teachers before the course.
We can only talk about the teachers that we had, but we feel incredibly lucky, especially having come into the program nervous because we hadn’t met the teachers in advance. We were taught by Krishna and Roshan, who have very different approaches but many of the same philosophies. I’m already excited to start quoting them both in classes at home in New York.
Krishnaji is both brilliant and lovable. As an asana teacher, he has Iyengar-based leanings – his asana alignment is focused and precise, with a strong emphasis on using walls and props as tools to let us feel how things should be aligned. His adjustments were strong and precise, and I’ll definitely be integrating some of Krishna’s magic into my classes at home. He approaches yoga philosophy (as well as asana and pranayama) from an academic perspective. He is very grounded in various classical yoga and hatha yoga texts, and has an amazing ability to reference (and compare) texts verse by verse in Sanskrit and English. That said, he focuses on how we must observe how things feel and function for us personally as the only way to properly understand. He is dedicated to his students and his work as a teacher, and genuine and humble in his knowledge.
Roshan is the founder of the school and much less traditional. He was a business/marketing person who came to yoga through the back-door (as described earlier), so he teaches from his personal understanding and experience. He cuts to the chase and is not afraid to offer a different way of looking at any situation. He’s a brilliant philosophy orator in his ability to circle back to a few salient points over and over from different angles and create a strong case for those points. He has a strong anatomical understanding and uses that as a basis for breaking down asana in an interesting way.
Schedule and Coursework
The schedule and coursework are demanding but not too stressful – some people got really stressed out, but it was a demonstration that stress is something we put onto ourselves and not something that is imposed on us externally.
Here was our basic schedule for the 300-hour training (six days a week, with Sundays free). It kept up for the first 5 weeks, and then in the 6th week, we had a lighter schedule. (The 200-hour training has a lighter schedule, but we don’t know the details of it.)
- 5:30 – 6:00 am: Morning tea and kriyas
- 6:00 – 8:15-ish am: Asana, Pranayama, Mantra class
- 8:30 am: Breakfast
- 9:45 am – 1:30-ish pm: Lectures
- 1:30 pm: Lunch, then open time for homework and chilling
- 5:30 pm – 7 pm: Asana and teaching practice
- 7:30 pm: Dinner
- 8:30 – 9:00 pm: Meditation or mantra
What are morning kriyas, you might ask? Kriyas are cleansing practices, and we are used to doing water neti at home (when you pour water through one nostril and out the other nostril, it’s great during allergy season and generally awesome when you live with polluted air). For us, neti has usually been a pretty private, personal thing. Here, we did water neti and other kriyas as a group in the courtyard. Those who stick rubber catheters up their noses together, stay together…
The written coursework itself was reasonable. We had to write out a bunch of background based on a few texts and class teachings, which was time consuming, but also useful. It was really up to us to decide how much to do, whether or not to stress about it, etc. The last week they gave us an open-ended essay topic, which was our opportunity to reflect and put our thoughts into writing.
They collected all the written assignments, but I don’t think anyone ever opened up the books to even see if we had written all the sections, reinforcing the idea that it really was just our own work for our own edification. (We kind of wish we could have gotten thoughts and feedback, but c’est la vie.)
Here’s a photo of the yoga hall where we spent most of our time, as well as some of the visitors who looked in through the windows. But, as Krishnaji said: The monkey is doing his duty eating a mango. If we stop focusing and stare at the monkey, then who is the monkey?
Our group was 22 students. There was a large U.S. contingency, but also an array of people from Latin America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. There was a wide array of teaching experience – we were surprised that about half the class had very little teaching experience and had finished their 200-hour just months (or less) before coming into the 300-hour program. Of the people who had more background, there were a variety of different styles reflected, and we really enjoyed the opportunities to learn from other teachers who were students in our program. We won’t go into too much detail, but suffice it to say that the people were really positive, interesting, smart, dedicated, and generally great.
Accommodation and Location
Rishikesh Yog Peeth has 4 buildings for student accommodations. There seems to be some disparity in the quality of rooms, so ask to see different buildings to choose your room when you first arrive (and arrive earlier than later if accommodation is a big deal for you). Surya and Sarika seem to be the best, and some of the top floor rooms have stellar views; Shiva and Krishna are a bit older. Some of our classmates staying in Shiva (the main accommodation for the 300 hour program) had some mold issues since it was monsoon season.
We were on the top floor of Sarika, which is newer and quite nice. The rooms have tile floors, big windows, a balcony crossing the whole floor (with picture perfect views of mist-covered forested mountains every morning), a private bathroom with hot water. It’s not super luxury, but it more than met our needs and was much better than we were expecting. Our first day here, we spent about $5 USD to buy a small carpet runner and some hangers, which amazingly made it feel much more homey.
There were some little glitches that you get with Indian construction and standards… during monsoon rains, we had a little river from the front door of the room crossing the whole room toward the bathroom, and we had no hot water for a week. And the back windows have no monkey bars, which means you can’t really open them. Mitch broke the squeegee (that we have for drying the bathroom floor after a shower) because a monkey started to come into the room and Mitch had to go on the offensive. But it could have been worse… one of our neighbors came out of the bathroom to find a monkey sitting on her bed digging into her chocolate stash and ayurvedic pills. Oh, India…
The school (and all its buildings) are located in the Swargashram area just above Ram Jhula in Rishikesh. It is really a perfect setting… The city of Rishikesh is not where you want to spend time, and the more interesting areas for westerners are Laxman Jhula (which is a little more hustle and bustle) and Ram Jhula (a little more laid back). Both of those are right on the banks of the Ganga River. The school is less than a 10-minute walk from the banks on the Ganga, so it’s very peaceful and quiet, but everything you need is easily accessible.
Overall, it’s been a lovely place to plant down for a month and a half.
The school provides three meals per day, which are great. For the most part, the food is delicious and healthy, and just slightly repetitive. Breakfast is cut fruit and either porridge, beans, sandwiches, etc. Lunch is rice, daal, cooked veggies of some sort, and salad. Dinner is chapatti, soup, curry or some sort of vegetable dish, and some sort of sweet dessert. Each meal comes with tea. There are also water filters in almost every building, so there are no issues having a full supply of filtered water. There are a bunch of nearby restaurants where it’s easy to get a steady supply of chai or whatever else is needed.
The teachings here have been really valuable and interesting for us. The school really impresses the idea that we each need to arrive at conclusions for ourselves, and so we are expected to listen, ask questions, hold onto the information, and then decide later what elements are useful for us. Overall, we’re really happy with that as a philosophy for learning and think there’s a lot to be gained from it.
Trying to sum up the course’s main teachings as succinctly as possible, we would say that there’s a focus on being serious and being on the yogic (specifically hatha yoga) path. There is a strong emphasis on defining health, as well as the pathway to health – with an interconnected perspective that the mind and body (and all systems of the body) must be healthy in order to experience health. Ultimately, the hypothesis has been that our goal on the yogic path is to have a healthy body and mind, and that that state of health will allow us to go deeper into our beings toward self-realization.
Personally (Jewels speaking), I found that the training missed two things that I feel are critical elements of my yoga practice: joyfulness and love. Joyfulness they say shouldn’t be a part of it at all – because joyfulness is an extreme that is balanced by the comedown or sadness, and so the ideal state has bliss but not joy. I can understand that perspective, but I don’t think it works for me. It’s funny because when I was younger my mom thought I was too serious and that I needed to “lighten up” – but part of why I fell so deeply into my yoga practice was because of the joy and lightness in it.
Love I think is accepted here as being at the heart of human truth – that when we come to accept all beings as ourselves, we find love for them all. But I feel like a loving attitude comes before (and beyond) this. It’s largely a cultural difference, but I feel so grateful to have a community at home that is open to expressions of loving, where you can greet people daily with a hug.
We decided to stay focused on our yoga studies instead of taking a lot of photos during our time at Rishikesh Yog Peeth. Here are a bunch of snaps, including ones that we took, ones from some of our friends during the training, and a few official ones from the school.