This blog post was written by Vinyasa Yoga School 2015 alumni Grace Young and originally posted on her blog Chasing Nehru
When I told people I was going to Vinyasa Yoga School in Rishikesh, the very place where yoga began many people’s eyes lit up, ‘that’s incredible, I bet it will be life changing’, or ‘wow, you’re going to be so zenned out when you leave.’
Reflecting on my month there, the first assumption people made was entirely true: practicing yoga each day alongside a panoramic view of the Ganges and the Himalayas inspired and motivated us; taking mantra classes and learning the traditions of yoga and meditation gave us a unique insight into this culture; and being in the classroom with the most diverse and incredible people (let’s face it, yogis are pretty great) made for the most memorable experiences, the heartiest of laughs and friendships that I would deem unbreakable. The second assumption was also true, but on the day of graduation I’d say the words ’emotional’ and ‘exhausted’ were closer to the reality, the zen comes later.
In the Classroom
Going back to school was familiar to all of us, we listened to the teacher, made notes, asked questions. It was a much more comfortable version of school though, as cushions and blankets replaced chairs and desks and we wore yak wool shawls, henna on our arms and yoga pants as our uniform.
In philosophy we enjoyed hearing the colourful stories of the gods and discovering the many symbols and hidden messages. Mantra was unfamiliar at first, but in a few weeks we knew the lyrics by heart and felt moved by their meanings. We used our mala beads to guide through silent practice in the classroom and someone could always be heard singing their favourite mantra down the corridors or humming one over breakfast. In anatomy class we learned about the different internal systems and how we use our body in asanas. With a few tests and a presentation to prepare there was a lot to consider, but these topics were helpful for developing ourselves as teachers, as well as giving us some practical advice for guiding those with injuries.
The theoretical classes gave us a strong foundation for yoga practice and teaching. Whether beginner or advanced, the lessons were tough. During our four hours of yoga each day we repeated asanas, perfected adjustment and over time we learned how to teach others. By the end we were creating our own flows and teaching full length sessions. Each person added their own flare, some did this through music, from Beyonce to The Kinks, others through candles and incense, and some through bringing their own thoughts to the meditation. A room full of teacher with their own unique styles.
Weekly excursions and exploring Rishikesh also made our time at Vinyasa Yoga School. Mantra class was brought to life by a visit to a Hare Krishna temple, we sang with our teachers and danced with local children who clapped and jumped and never got tired. In one meditation class we took a rickshaw ride to a beautiful ashram and joined a silent guru in his practice. On Sundays many of us went to watch the sun rise over the Himalayas or rafted on the Ganges whilst others took personal time to recuperate. Aching limbs certainly felt better after an Ayuvedic massage and some retail therapy.
There were challenges that we faced on our journey to becoming yoga teachers, after all it’s an intensive training course, not a yoga retreat. However, supporting one another and overcoming these challenges together was so rewarding. Each person got something different from their experience at Vinyasa Yoga School; a great introduction to begin teaching yoga back home, a deeper personal practice, an insight into a fascinating culture, new friends that spanned the globe. Perhaps the greatest thing I learned was that yoga is not just something we perform on our mat each day, it is the way we choose to conduct our lives.
We’re all teachers now, but we’ll never stop learning…
A collection of photos and memories, including views from the beautiful Rishikesh, rafting on The Ganges, an outing to visit The Beatles Ashram, the classroom and new and forever friends.