In November I made my way to the foothills of the Himalayas, half an hour outside of Rishikesh (the home of yoga) to the idyllic Sattva Retreat (here) ready to embark on a 22 day, 200 hour yoga course. This would be my last stop en route back to the U.K. for Christmas so it was an interesting, transitional time for me with looming changes afoot.
Day to day
On our first day we met the other students, there was a 300 hour course running alongside ours so there were around 70 students at this point – despite my initial reservations about so many people it rarely felt like we were overcrowded. The grounds at Sattva are stunning, surrounded by hills and a river running alongside I really couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend 3 weeks. There was a pool, a spa and an onsite shop (though it was western prices, very much more than anything else in rishikesh).
After our opening ceremony we were straight in to a rigorous timetable. Our mornings were silent, up until around 11:30 – after my Vipassana I can appreciate the importance of having time and space to reflect on the experience as it happens and without input from anyone else so I was grateful for this (though not always, sometimes I just wanted to chat with my friends!). The first session, though voluntary, was at 6:15 – a morning Puja, which I attended almost everyday. It helped to get me in the headspace for the day ahead and probably more reason was I had already decided to embrace the whole experience fully whether it was “my thing” or not.
Next up was meditation, a specific Sattva meditation we learnt early on in the course which includes Pranayama, Kriya and a Mantra. We were so lucky to be able to meditate outside by the river daily, though it was cold first thing in the morning so layers and scarves were a MUST. Honestly, can you think of a better place to meditate?
Next we had a tea break, yes to masala chai allllll day – one of my favourites, in which we were encouraged to journal and reflect.
At around 8:15 we had a daily morning journey with Anand, the Master Teacher at Sattva which was intuitive and varied every day – including Pranayama, Kriya, Asana, Meditation and much more – they were an intense, deep dive into the yogic experience and probably one of the highlights of the course for me.
After that was breakfast at about 10:30, followed by the next session. As the timetable was fluid and also intuitive it was changeable day to day but often this was a time for asana, or kriya breakdown.
Next up was lunch at around 2pm, followed by our next session which could be a Satsang or wisdom talk with Anand, learning more about yogic philosophy, history and principles or other learning such as anatomy, bandhas, mantras, koshas etc.
Following a quick tea break we had a practical class – either taught by another Sattva teacher or later in the course, practice teaching for ourselves.
After our evening meal we usually had a final session with Anand, the content of which depended on what the rest of the day had involved. And that’s the end of the day at around 9:30, so as you can imagine the days were long and full of information to take in. The intuitive timetable meant that we had no control over where we went and what we did – it was an interesting and novel concept having been in charge of what I did when for the past few months whilst travelling.
I went in to the experience not knowing that much about the course, I honestly didn’t know what I was looking for and I guess it turns out Sattva was it.
There is an integrative, holistic approach which I think is quite unique – in case you aren’t aware, asana, the movement part you usually do in a “yoga” class, is only a very small portion of yoga. At Sattva we of course learnt asana but alongside a huge amount of yogic wisdom, pranayama (breathwork), kriyas (energetic practices), meditation and so much more..asana was not the priority, it was a part of the whole. The unique part of the course for me was the knowledge we took from Anand along with the Himalayan Kundalini Kriyas we learnt, which were not something I had ever come across before but now I know of how powerful and beneficial they can be, it’s definitely something I’m grateful of.
Really, my eyes have been opened to how much more there is to yoga than just the asanas, how much more I can get from my practice than just that aspect and hopefully how much I can pass on to others that are receptive.
Some mornings we had a hike into the hills instead of the morning journey, it was so beautiful I can’t describe. And not always an easy hike, to think some people live up there and must make the hike on an almost daily basis is crazy!
We also got the opportunity to head into Rishikesh for an Aarti at Parmarth Niketan followed by a Satsang with Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati which was such a lovely way to spend the afternoon/evening towards the end of the course after such a full on timetable, it was just the refresh and break from monotony I think we all needed to get us through to the end.
We got two half days “off”, which I chose to spend in Rishikesh. We got a taxi there (if you know Indian taxis, you know) – and honestly the road is one of the worst – I felt travel sick every time, but it didn’t stop me going..and spent the day roaming around the streets of Laxman Jhula, buying food supplies, getting a massage, seeing the ayurvedic doctor, the Vedic astrologer, shopping in the markets, visiting the cafes, dipping in the Ganga, navigating the bridge, watching the sunsets…the list is endless of things to do in Rishikesh, and the days are magical. We had to get the taxi back before 8 because they close the road (I believe because it goes through a national park and there is tigers and elephants!).
The Boring Bits
The accommodation at Sattva is varied and reflects the price, from very basic, to more luxury – the staff are great and happy to help, though some things take longer than others (don’t forget it is India!). The laundry service can take up to one week, which is pretty difficult when you’re only there for 3 so I would recommend taking some hand wash supplies.
There’s also monkeys and cows around – amazing and they were no problem to us but just keep hold of your food..
The food is basic, the breakfast was yoghurt, fruit, rice porridge and often rice, pancakes or similar. The lunch was my least favourite meal, because it was the same every day………our evening meal was pretty varied and probably the best. My advice would be to bring some condiments and add ons to “spice up” the meals (I had nuts, seeds, dates etc and of course some chocolate. I got avocado in town when I could too and ACV).
There is little to no phone signal at Sattva, which was wonderful – with a Jio simcard I could use the internet, but I didn’t want to bother often I must say. I think other providers are even more limited there.
There was also a lot of (social) media presence during the course from Sattva, lots of videos during sessions and photos – at times it felt very uncomfortable and certainly unnecessary, especially when we were in a place where we wanted to feel comfortable and at ease. Similarly a lot of this from fellow students too – I suppose this is the world we live in nowadays!! But I will say it was all a bit much, and definitely something I would consider in the future…limiting student phone time (like at school ha ha) and asking before photos or videos are taken in sessions.
In November it was cold in the evenings and mornings, of course I had very little warm clothing which was fun but I did manage to pick up a yak wool scarf in Rishikesh for all of £4 which was pretty much on me at all times – I would recommend thick socks, jumpers and scarves for sure. Honestly I cant say I looked my best for most of the course, but you’ve just got to embrace it haven’t you?
Finding the right course for you
In all honesty I didn’t do that much research when it came down to the planning of my yoga course – I had heard very mixed reviews of YTTs in India so I knew for definite I would be looking for a personal recommendation. Other than that I wasn’t entirely sure what I was looking for, once I decided Rishikesh was the place I wanted to go (the other option for me was Goa) it was a case of checking dates, yoga alliance accreditation (though from what I can tell this is just a case of filling out the appropriate paperwork, not necessarily a stamp of approval for the actual course) and trying to find former students to quiz.
I came across Sattva which had excellent reviews online (again I’m very dubious, cynical perhaps, about online reviews as many appeared to be fake – not necessarily for Sattva but as a whole) so I dug further on social media to find people who had recently graduated and messaged them for their opinion. I got nothing but glowing reviews so I decided this was the place for me.
In hindsight, questions I would ask myself when looking for a course would include:
How long is the course?
There is such a volume of information to learn and absorb it is important to consider the duration. I think your yoga experience, style of learning and retaining information is probably what you need to bear in mind. From a financial stand point the shorter the course the lower the cost to administer is for the centre, especially if it’s residential.
Where is the course?
I guess this is self explanatory but there are certainly yoga courses across the world and I expect they vary dramatically – I chose India to get the full experience, to basically immerse myself in yoga, with a holistic approach direct from the source and as a foundation for my teaching that was important to me but I hope to continue my yoga development with other courses which won’t necessarily be in India.
Is the course residential?
I think this would be reflective of how you learn, I was very happy to be at the centre practically 24/7, within a community of students and teachers for both support and relief. As I mentioned, having been very much responsible for what I did when whilst travelling it was a bit of a shock to be so out of control of my timetable all day every day, but it was actually a welcome change so I could just relax into the whole experience and enjoy it without using what little spare time we had to work out any logistics. I did sometimes crave some alone time which could be difficult to come by, the mornings of silence were sometimes a help though.
What style of yoga is taught?
The course I did focused on static, dynamic and vinyasa flow asana along with Himalayan Kundalini kriyas, but of course there are many different styles of yoga out there so I would make sure you know which you’re signing up to!
Does the course cover the holistic side of yoga?
Before my course I had no idea the extent of yoga, I knew there was more to it than just practicing on the mat but the course at Sattva has opened my eyes to so many more aspects of yoga – the philosophy, wisdom, meditations, karma, bhakti, koshas etc etc – and it really made me understand the root of yoga which I think will truly help my ability to teach in a holistic way, to really pass on the benefits of yoga. Of course doing it in India made this more attainable but I know of friends who have also started courses in India with little to no holistic knowledge like we gained.
I thoroughly enjoyed the yoga teacher training, the people on my course were incredible and I think a huge part of the experience – I always get surprised by how many like minded people you can get in one place when you follow a passion and also how many new things you can learn from them.
I will also say, I am a strong believer in not getting all information from one source, I think to do so is limiting and oftentimes not helpful, there isn’t a one rule fits all approach – as individuals we all have different strengths, weaknesses, outlooks, focuses, priorities, attitudes and so on – basically we are all different and I truly believe that being open in your learning is the best way to embrace this. Getting variety in your training, learning from whatever and whoever you find resonates with you (whilst also using common sense over who and what information you trust) and being open and aware are all priorities for me when it comes to growth as a teacher (and an individual for that matter). And so I intend to continue learning from various sources to build on the incredible foundation I have developed at Sattva.
I hope that helps with anyone looking to do a yoga teacher training, whether you want to be a teacher or not I couldn’t recommend it enough.
I am more than happy to help with any other questions if you have any about the training, please get in touch.