So, you are searching for a teacher training program in India?
I did my teacher training in India in 2013 with Siddhi Yoga in Dharamshala, And while I have no regrets, there are plenty of things that I wish I knew back then.
As someone who’s spent significant time and done teacher trainings in Bali and India, it’s now obvious to me in hindsight that training in Bali has all of the same upsides of training in India with little of the downside.
I spent at least a month researching dozens of programs unsure if I was going to go to Rishikesh, Goa, or Dharamshala. I ended up booking one of the cheaper programs on a gut feeling without knowing much about it at all what I was getting into. I’ve always been the type of person who travels on a whim, but I knew this training was going to change my life and I wanted to make the right decision.
My experience was mixed. I was fortunate enough to meet one of the most amazing men that I’ve ever met in my life, Gurumukh Singh, who is now my co-founder and the head meditation and philosophy teacher at the East West Institute. Had I not met him, however, I would have described my trip as a nightmare. My romanticized view of what it was going to be like to become a yoga teacher in India was really only made true because of him.
(Gurumukh, yeah he’s usually laughing like that)
I was so certain that I wanted to go to the source of yoga to learn, and I’m glad that I did but I realize now that there are other ways to find an authentic yoga experience. I also realize now that many, perhaps even most people don’t have an experience like I did in India, particularly women.
Reasons why many people have a bad experience teacher training in India:
1. It’s very uncomfortable for women. I’m a very bold and adventurous person, and I don’t buy into this ideology that certain places in the world are unsafe. However, India’s is truly not a great place for Western women to travel, particularly alone. While the stories you hear about women getting raped on buses are not as common as the news makes him seem to be, egregious sexism and sexual advances from strangers is quite normal. The reality is is that Indian men’s relationship to women is equivalent to 1900’s America. Many of the girls in my program we’re hit on by teachers. One of the teachers even tried to kiss a student during a private session. They were mature enough to brush it off and not let it affect the rest of the group but they should never ever happen. What I learned is that many of the male yoga teachers India have developed the safety of the western women come to do their trainings to sleep with them. This is of course ridiculous. I have a very romanticized view of India and there are many aspects of the culture that I absolutely adore, but this is also the other, darker side of it.
2. The accommodations are substandard at best, and it can affect your training. I’m not the type of person who needs luxury. I’ve never mind roughing it, but India was honestly the toughest I’ve ever had it, and it affected my ability to focus on yoga. Basic things like heat or air conditioning, hot water, wifi or even electricity are unavailable or inconsistent. My training was in Dharamshala, which got to be about 35 degrees Fahrenheit at night. I slept with three very thick blankets and still spent most of my night sleep was because of the cold. What I see now is that I spent a significant portion of my training dealing with basic comfort issues and I see that it did actually affect my ability to go deeper into my yoga training. While luxury isn’t necessary it definitely helps to have your basic needs met.
3. You will most likely get sick. I am the healthiest person I know, and I got one of the worst sicknesses is of my life for 3 days. Almost every single person in my training and every person I know who has travelled to India for an extended period of time gets sick. This can be especially debilitating during a yoga teacher training when you are basically in school for 12 hours a day. Many students in my training were out for more than half the training due to nagging sickness.
4. Companies are often not professionally managed. Indian culture does not operate with the same level of professionalism, service, and basic expectations that Western companies have. When you are going to a teacher training you’re putting significant trust in the people running it, and if issues arise, this can be a huge problem. If you have a medical emergency, a payment dispute, or some other emergency it can be a nightmare.
What I would have done differently:
1. I would have trained by Bali.
I love the idea of India because it felt like the birthplace of yoga would be the most authentic place to practice. In many ways, Bali is very similar to India. I tell people that Bali is like a mix between India and Hawaii. The culture is incredibly spiritual, it has the same bright-eyed smiles of people from India, the same spiritual rituals from the Hindu tradition (95% of the island is practices Hinduism). Also what you get for the price in Bali as far as accommodations is second to none. The Balinese are a culture of artists, healers, and service providers and so their hotels their restaurants and healing centers are second to none. And cheap. Having now spent 3 months in Bali on 3 separate trips, I was so inspired by the culture that I decided to make it the home of the East West Institute. I strongly believe that it has really all the upsides of India, with none of the downsides. It is marginally more expensive but generally, all of the hotels are fantastic and all of your basic needs will be met and more. The food is very clean fresh usually organic. I’m taken hundreds of yoga classes in Bali and I feel like on average the teachers are just as connected to authentic yoga but also more relatable. Sometimes teachers from India are incredibly knowledgeable but come from such different worlds that it’s difficult to relate. Bali attracts a good balance between authenticity and relatability.
(yup, bali is amazing)
2. I would not have selected the low-cost option.
There are dozens of options for teacher trainings wherever you go, and it’s tempting to go with the $2,000 option. But now being involved in the business side of teacher trainings and understanding the economics, it’s obvious to me that you really get what you pay for. My yoga teacher training was the foundation for my spiritual practice for the rest of my life, and in hindsight, I would have spared no expense. Comfort is an incredibly important part of spiritual deepening. Think of it like this: If you didn’t know if the building you were in was sturdy could you really sit and meditate? In your teacher training, you want to be in total trust, relaxation, and comfort. Again you don’t necessarily need luxury but you should feel good and inspired and at peace.
Why I love Bali for Yoga Trainings:
The spiritual environment is more conducive and inspiring
In my personal life and travels, I find myself continuing to return back to Bali because I’m continually inspired by their culture, particularly their sense of design/internal space and natural landscape. While there, you get that feeling like you’re in a movie that’s just a little bit too good to be true. In India, you often feel like you’re in the place that looked better in the pictures.
(places like this are normal in Bali)
The environment in Bali is also significantly more progressive than in India. Indian spirituality is very much rooted in traditional religion & ritual. Yes, the Balinese are very religious also but the International spiritual Community in Bali, particularly Ubud, is more vibrant than anywhere I’ve ever been in the world. Ecstatic dancing at the yoga barn on Friday night was one of the best experience of my life. I could wander around the Organic restaurants meeting strangers from different countries and getting 5 dollar massage in Ubud happily for years on end.
(yoga barn in Ubud)
Flight are cheaper
If you are coming from the US or Canada, flights to Bali can often be $800-900 or less. I flew to Bali last October for $600 round trip from LAX! Flight prices continue to go down to Bali, and seem to stay consistent at over $1,000 for most cities in India.
While I do believe that the environment of Bali is the best in the world to support healthy yoga practice, I always felt that there still was something romantic about training with a real Indian yoga teacher. At the East West Institute, we bring Indian teachers to Bali in luxurious Eco-Resorts and pair them with popular Western teachers from major cities like LA, New York, and San Francisco. Students get the depth of knowledge from India, combined with the practical knowledge of actually building a yoga career.
If you have any questions about searching for training, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com. I know most of the best programs in the world and am always happy to help guide people!