The Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training course is both deeply rewarding and extremely hard work. It’s hard to capture in words the amazing things that happened, the lasting friendships formed, the intensity and the number of spiritual moments that occurred while there. Many tiny things, now forgotten, may turn out to be deeply significant some time in the future.
I’d never been to India before. And tropical southern India is a completely different world to the dry air of mountainous Nepal. The heat and smells coming off the plane reminded me very much of Mauritius, where I spent time as a child, while the humidity and the beauty of the countryside made me feel at home straight away.
The Sivananda Ashram at Neyyar Dam is a hectic two-hour taxi ride from bustling Trivandrum airport, through polluted noisy towns. Arriving at the centre itself is another contrast:
an idyllic, rural place combining a quiet retreat and a busy college. Across the road lies a lion park and occasionally, during meditation, you can hear lions roaring in the distance.
In order to qualify as certified Sivananda Teachers of Yoga (Yoga Siromani) we learned how to teach the twelve basic postures and were taught Sanskrit chants, meditation and breathing techniques. We also attended Philosophy lectures, to understand Sivananda teachings about the workings of the mind and the nature of the Universe.
Each day began at 5am and we worked through to 10pm, six days a week. There were short breaks and free time between classes and as with so many educational experiences – it was outside the lectures that much of the real work took place. We were detoxing through a wonderful vegetarian Ayurvedic diet, participating in ancient rites of initiation and practicing yoga postures twice a day. We were opened up to receive higher levels of energy and as the month unfolded our well-being was deeply enhanced.
The yoga classes themselves pushed our limits. Twice a day, every day, we did postures and most people found they were particularly challenged by at least one. My own test was the Headstand. We learned the spiritual and emotional roots of each posture and it gradually became clear that this was linked to why one might find certain postures harder. So my own difficulties with the Headstand were rooted in self-confidence and self-support. I’m pleased to say that after weeks of practice and encouragement, I can now do the Headstand with ease.
It must be said, there were times when sharing a dorm with thirty other women, missing home and the frustrations of just being enclosed with over 100 students for 24 hours, seven days a week, took their toll. It was difficult even to contact home because it isn’t considered important for students to stay in touch with their lives outside. Many students found it tough and a surprising number dropped out during the first two weeks, despite the cost and distance travelled to join in the first place!
I found myself feeling particularly tired and vulnerable in the third week, so I went straight to the head Swami for guidance. His advice was wise, he’d seen it all before and he placed my disconcerted feelings into context, assuring me that they were temporary. He knew how much better I’d feel, after I had completed the course.
How right he was! The final week was exciting and rewarding, with extra festivities and harder work than ever. It culminated in some difficult practical tests and a daunting three-hour written exam, followed by traditional feasting. There was music and dancing, while food was served up on banana leaves. We felt fantastic and I was proud and relieved to learn I had passed.
My certificate reads: Yoga Siromani (Teacher Of Yoga) and includes my spiritual name Maheshwari (Great Goddess of the Universe).
Several thousand people across the world have completed the TTC and have gone through similar experiences. The Sivananda schools and centres are a true international network, open to all faiths and styles of yoga. I thoroughly recommend the course as it not only helped me towards a closer understand of myself, but means I can now be a part of this uplifting spiritual network, promoting peace and goodwill to all.
love Rifa xx