How to become a Sivananda Yoga Teacher

Why did I want to do a yoga teacher’s training course?

Being brought up as a hindu, yoga was part of my upbringing. I have been practising yoga since I was 13 but then when I left home to go to University I stopped yoga for other forms of exercise, including karate, running, tennis, keep fit and circuit training classes.

Slowly as I was getting older, I found my journey took me back to yoga. Yoga for me is not only the asanas (postures) but the pure yoga taught by the ancient scriptures of India, which include proper exercise, proper breathing, proper relaxation, proper diet, positive thinking and meditation. In today’s stressful life, yoga will undoubtedly benefit most people and hence the desire to help others by teaching yoga was born. I had already done some unofficial yoga teaching with friends and family members.

Selecting a yoga course that is right for you

There are hundreds of different types of yoga from chocolate yoga to Chaya (shadow) yoga [Chaya happens to be my name!]

There are however few yoga “types” that are really the true yoga from ancient India

To name a few : Sivananda, Iyengar, Bikram and Ashtanga (Although the name Ashtanga means the eight limbs of yoga and is therefore misused!)

If you are looking at learning and teaching yoga as any other sport then the choice is really based on the style you prefer.

For example, Ashtanga and Power Yoga are for the fit.

Some people love Bikram yoga, but I find that it is the hardest form of yoga as it is carried out in a very hot (40 Deg Centigrade) room.

I was looking at a style of yoga that would become more a way of life and also as per the ancient Indian scriptures explained, a yoga practice that would help me become a better person and get closer to the divine within.

After a lot of research I decided that the Sivananda course was the right one for me. However it seemed the most intense and difficult of all of them, but it was the only teacher’s training course that I found, that includes, chanting, prayers, meditation, vegetarian cooking, and lectures on philosophy and Indian scriptures. I made this choice although I was a little nervous that it would be too hard!

The Sivananda Rockers!

The location : India or elsewhere?

Of course, since yoga comes from India it would be nice to do the TTC (Teacher’s training course) in India. So I started looking at costs, dates and how to get to different ashrams. But while I was researching and about to book a Sivananda course in India, I realised that the courses are carried out exactly the same way and usually it is the same swamis, who fly all around the world to give these courses. As it happened, I had to work longer on my project and could not make the dates in India. The best timing for me corresponded to the course in May in London. I used to live in London and I felt it was the right place to do the course.

The course

The course duration : Started 14th May 2011 and finished on 12th June 2011.

Price : The price was based on the number of people sharing a room, from 1900 pounds to 2600 pounds.

The course was held in a Sivananda Centre, which is not exactly an ashram. The centre was a place where londoners came to do their yoga classes and some also helped out with chores in the kitchen on a voluntary basis. These people became our link to the outside world over the month.

The facilities were excellent. Nice spacious yoga studios, meditation and prayer rooms were well lit and very nice positive energy throughout the centre.

The course was structured such that we had a 5:45 wake up bell everyday even on our days off (yes we did have a kind of day off!). But most of us were up way before that, as there was a mad rush for the couple of showers we had to share between 16 of us!

There was normally a 30 min meditation at 6:15 followed by chanting. I was nervous about the chanting bit, but in the end I really enjoyed it and it was very uplifting. The morning session always ended with a lecture by one of the swamis, about some important aspect of Indian philosophy, for example reincarnation, karma and similar topics.

At 8:00 we had our morning yoga session. Here we were all learning to push ourselves a little more and stretch our body that little bit further. We learnt intermediate and advanced variations of the 12 basic Sivananda postures. By the end of the month we were all much more flexible and doing things we never imagined we could do! The bonus for me was I lost at least 4kg in weight.

By the end of our yoga session, we were all starving. So brunch was normally at 10:00. The food was just delicious. I have never eaten so well while losing weight. After brunch we all had chores to do. This is a very important part of yoga. It is called karma yoga, or selfless service. This helps us develop humility and get rid of this monster inside us called EGO.

At 12:00 we had a lecture either on the Bhagvadgita (one of the most important scriptures describing how one can reach enlightenment) or learning chants and understanding the meanings of chanting and how to use mantras during meditation. A mantra is the repetition of a sacred sound like AUM.

At 13:00 we had a headstand workshop, for those who were struggling with this king of asanas. I have to admit I am still working on my headstand but I hope one day soon I can stand on my own head!

At 14:00 we had the main philosophy lecture, which I absolutely loved because the topics discussed were those that I have been wondering about all my life. It would not do any of these deep meaningful topics justice to discuss them here, and I hope to write other blogs on these topics at a later date.

At 16:00 we had our practical “how to teach yoga” session. This was a great practical session, but it was stressful when it was our turns to teach as we had to find time in our busy schedule to prepare for the different classes we had to teach as well as do two sets of homeworks every day!

At 18:00 it was time to eat again! Then at 20:00 we had our last meditation, chanting and informal lecture! By the time we had finished helping clear up the rooms it was normally around 22:30 and I slept like a log. I always remember my dreams very vividly, but either I did not dream or I was too exhausted as I did not remember a single dream over that month!

Finally, there was a 60 questions written examination to complete in 3 hours. We had to study quite hard for it and it was nice that we all passed! We all received our lovely yoga teacher’s training certificate. 

Talent show

The people

The students were a really diverse group. We all came from totally different walks of life and people came from South Africa, New Zealand, USA and all over Europe. So it was fun having such a group. The age group was from 25 to 68!

Amazingly enough we all got on great although each one of us had a tough time fighting with emotions and hardships we were going through.

The teachers were incredibly patient, kind and very giving.

I got to know everyone fairly well as my karma yoga (selfless service) was doing roll call or attendance for each class and I also had to collect everyone’s homework. Although my job appeared easy at first, it had challenges when people did not remember to hand in homework etc…well I felt like the school prefect! Nice thing was I got to know everyone’s name fairly quickly.

One fun thing we had to do together was a talents show and that was great fun and we discovered, rockers, singers, dancers, song writers, poets and artists! It was nice to have a bit of light-hearted fun when everything else was quite serious.

Initiation into the spiritual world

What the experience brought to me

Discipline in my own yoga practice

Tapping into all the knowledge from an incredible line of gurus/masters

A desire to evolve spiritually as a yoga student and a desire to help others evolve by being an instrument for teaching yoga.

Work through ego issues by helping others by doing karma yoga

Staying fit and healthy by practising cleansing techniques I learnt and breathing exercises (pranayama)

Deepening my meditation practice by being given a mantra by my spiritual teachers that will help me even when I am practising alone.

Finally we are all looking for happiness and peace, and I feel the course took me a big step forward to that place.

And what happens afterwards…

It is now nine years since I did my yoga teaching training.

I became vegetarian for a few years, but for health reasons I started eating fish again. I started teaching yoga at home in France and also at work to help colleagues cope with stress.

I am now living in Spain and we have a nice gym/yoga room, where I practice my yoga regularly. I have not taught yoga for a while, but for me the most important is to practice first, only then can we teach others.

I hope I can follow the yogic path of non-violence and purity for the rest of this amazing journey called life.

Author: Chaya Parme

Chemical Engineer Author

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