Monday, July 30, 2012

A Yoga and Meditation Teacher Training Course in Rishikesh, India

Meditation Teacher Training Course in Rishikesh
Meditation Ashram in Rishikesh
Last March I completed a Yoga and Meditation Teacher Training Course at the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama Ashram in Rishikesh, India. The official name of the course is actually Himalayan Yoga Tradition Teacher Training Program (HYT-TTP) but I prefer to call it Yoga and Meditation Teacher Training Course since we not only learn to teach yoga but also meditation which the main emphasis on the Himalayan Yoga Tradition, and that's exactly what I love about it. Sure we do learn how to teach Hatha Yoga and at a very deep level but keeping always in mind that the goal is to purify the body and make it fit for meditation. The regular daily schedule at the ashram includes two meditation sessions of one hour each and also a morning and afternoon hatha yoga practice.


A few years ago I found on YouTube some very interesting yoga philosophy lectures given by a Indian yogi called Swami Rama from the Himalayas. I felt very inspired by his lectures so I decided to dig in more into his teachings. Little by little I started to view more of his videos and read his books. I searched for an ashram in India where I could study yoga according to his teachings and I found Sadhana Mandir in Rishikesh, but they didn't have the kind of program that I was looking for.

A few months later a friend told me about Swami Veda Bharati a disciple of Swami Rama and his ashram Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama in Rishikesh. After reading about it on the internet I immediately decided that this was a place that I was going to visit for sure. I had a very good feeling about this Himalayan Yoga Tradition and about this ashram so I purposely planned to visit it by the end of my first two years in India, after the Sivananda Ashram Teachers Training Course, Sadhana Intensive and Advance Teachers Training Course, and after the 4 Months Yogic Studies Course at the Bihar School of Yoga. In a way I was probably thinking about leaving the best for the end. By "the best" I don't mean that this program is superior to any other programs but actually that it is one of the most exciting and suitable for me because of the emphasis on meditation. I do feel very satisfied and happy with the other trainings that I have done so far.


About The Himalayan Yoga Tradition Teacher Training Program


One of the teachers during the course said that the real and unofficial name is Self Transformation Program because that's exactly what it is but they call it HYT-TTP otherwise not many people would come.
"Our Teachers Training Program is for people who wish to be connected to an authentic living lineage for ongoing study and spiritual guidance. Working with all aspects of our lives, the aim of the program is self-transformation. We train people to be not merely teachers of classes, but guides of people." Swami Veda Bharati
"The main goal of our program is to deepen the students' sadhana so that they can transmit authentic yoga teachings to others, not only from a storehouse of academic knowledge, but also from a depth of personal experience." From the Himalayan Yoga Tradition Website

Swami Veda Bharati
I really liked the course. From my point of view this is really high quality yoga, probably one of the best yoga trainings that you can find. The teachers are amazing. We had four different teachers, each one an expert on an specific field. One teacher for the anatomy and physiology and posture alignment, another teacher to focus on the science of breath, another teacher for the Yoga Philosophy and meditation and another teacher for the Hatha Yoga class. There were also a few other teachers that were assisting the course in different ways. Swami Ritavan, a senior Swami of the ashram also gave us a few classes and we were also very fortunate to be able to receive some meditation classes by Swami Veda Bharati himself.

The Teacher Training Program is divided into three different levels. Each level includes a two weeks intensive course/retreat at the ashram and then 12 months of home study assignments as in a long distance course with the help of a mentor.
  • Level One - Awareness: exploration and self-acceptance
  • Level Two - Control: mindfulness and regulation of emotions
  • Level Three - Synthesis: harmonious whole personality

After the first 12 months you complete the first level which account for 200 accredited hours with Yoga Alliance as RYT-200 (Registered Yoga Teacher - 200). If you wish to continue further with your training you can apply for the 600 hours program which accounts for a RYT-500 certification after completing level 2 and Level 3. So in total if you wish to get the RYT-500 certification it will take three years.
"The intent of the curriculum is to guide students so that they will become gradually aware of subtler layers of their personalities (body, breath, mind and higher levels of consciousness) and then pass this acquired knowledge on to others. The three levels of the 600-Hour Curriculum correspond roughly to the three levels of growth that student can experience." Student Manual

The content of the course - course curriculum


The program covers ten major study areas. Each level focuses on these same ten study areas but at a greater depth in the second and third level.

  • Foundational studies: The lineages of Rishis and role of the teacher in the Himalayan Tradition.
  • Sadhana: The Five Pillars of Sadhana, sacredness of spiritual practice, influence of Eastern spirituality on the West, and spiritual integration: the highest purpose of life.
  • Hatha Yoga - Asanas: Asana as meditation, Joints and Glands Exercises, cleansing, anatomy and physiology, subtle body awareness.
  • Pranayama: The subtleties of breathing as the integrative link between body and mind, gross and subtle body. Underlying principles of pranayama in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras as well as mudras and bandhas.
  • Relaxation, Concentration and Meditation: Systems of meditation, science of mantra, chakra concentrations, purifying the personality, five koshas, advanced shavasana techniques, and yoga-nidra.
  • Yoga Anatomy & Physiology: The importance of the anatomy, physiology and biomechanics of the muscular-skeletal, respiratory, and other systems of the body as it relates to the energetic (pranic) component of the joints and glands exercises and asanas.
  • Holistic Health & Biofeedback: Awareness of habit patterns, the effect of meditation on one's well-being, journal-keeping, conscious eating, transition to a balanced lifestyle and the uses of modern science such as biofeedback in measuring associated states of body, mind and consciousness.
  • Yoga Psychology: Eastern and Western approaches to the mind and personality, purifying emotions, karma and reincarnation, and yoga psychology in daily life. Also discovering and applying Yoga as a therapeutic modality in one's life.
  • Yoga Philosophy: Patanjali's Yoga-sutras, philosophy of hatha yoga and Raja Yoga, developing a personal philosophy of life, the Bhagavad Gita and principal Upanishads.
  • Teaching Methodology: Practical applications of course planning, preparing the physical classroom environment, basic attitudes (e.g. ahimsa) in the teaching of yoga.

Source: Himalayan Yoga Tradition Website.

"This unique program of ongoing spiritual guidance and home study is for anyone who seriously seeks self-transformation in this life time. By drawing from the ancient wisdom of sages such as Patanjali, Shankara, Swatmarama and Swami Rama, students will develop philosophies and skills, which can be applied to workplace situations, personal relationships, and mental and emotional conditions. Our practical, experiential approach to teacher training encourages students to incorporate these skills into their daily lives." Swami Veda Bharati


Himalayan Yoga Tradition two weeks residential course


The classes were very intense. One hour, two hours and some times they would extend to up to three hours with a couple 5 minutes break, and we didn't have any days off during the two weeks residential course! But it was not so exhausting because everything was so interesting for everybody.


Level One - Awareness: exploration and self-acceptance

The focus on the first level is on awareness. When I read about the Level 1 description on their website I didn't fully understand what it was about but during the course it all became very clear to me. The whole emphasis during the course was on becoming more aware, aware of our posture, aware of our breathing, aware of our thoughts, aware of our emotions, aware of our actions and aware of why we perform those actions. You hear about this all the time during the course so by the time that you finish the course you leave thinking continuously "awareness, awareness, awareness!"


Meditation Teacher Training Course


Right from the very first class that we had with the anatomy and physiology teacher we learned about the correct sitting posture for meditation. I think we spent two hours just learning about how to sit correctly! It was an awesome class and I was very happy because we started the course from what really matters, from the good stuff. And in the next few days we learned the steps for the meditation practice so we could include them in our own practice and later on teach it to others.


We also spent many hours just talking about the right way to breath using diaphragmatic breathing. We reviewed this every single day of the course and specially during the meditation and hatha yoga sessions.


Hatha Yoga Teacher Training Course


During the two weeks course the emphasis was on the joints and glands exercises (pawanmuktasana series). These are very easy and gentle exercises like eyes or neck rotations that are usually done as a preparation for the yoga asanas . It doesn't matter if one is a very advanced or a beginners yoga practitioner, these exercises are beneficial for everybody and at many different levels. If done correctly with full awareness of each body movement and of the breath it can become a dynamic meditation practice.

Besides the joints and glands exercises we also learned a few basics asanas, again always making a lot of emphasis on the awareness, awareness of our posture, awareness of the breath, awareness of the mental state.


Himalayan Yoga Tradition Home Study Program


Following a long distance program with today's technology is so cool. I found another good excuse to make the best use of my iPhone. Once you subscribe for this program you get access to the Himalayan Yoga Teachers Website and in it you find several Pdf documents and audio files (mp3) that you need to download for your home study. You also need to read some of Swami Rama and Swami Veda books.

I downloaded all the pdf files on my laptop and I synced them with Dropbox so I can also view them on my iPhone as well. I saved all the mp3 files on my iTunes and on my iPhone and I bought some of the books through Amazon Kindle app so I can also read them on my iPhone. Very cool eh, and very practical for sure.

The Teacher Training Manual which is also available on pdf format on the website includes a systematic month to month assignments schedule so you can easily know what you need to focus on, but it is not mandatory to follow that exact schedule. This same schedule is available as a checklist on the website so whenever you complete one of the assignments you just tick the checkbox, save the changes and your mentor will be notified of the work that has been done. The assignments can be reading the different articles or booklets, specific chapters from some of Swami Rama or Swami Veda's books, listen to some of the mp3 files or submit a written assignment by uploading it into the website.


Mentoring: A guide along the way


Another very cool thing about this Himalayan Yoga Tradition Teacher Training Program is the support that you receive after the two weeks intensive retreat through a mentor. After completing the first two weeks retreat you can choose a mentor that will help you with any doubts that you have along the way and to help you stay in track with your home study. He/She will review your progress after completing each assignment through the Himalayan Yoga Tradition Teachers Training Website, and the mentor will also be responsible to review your teaching practice sessions that are part of the program.

I really like the idea of having a mentor and I really like my mentor, Randall Krause one of the senior yoga and meditation teachers from this tradition. He has a twitter account @hymlayoga and a website Himalayan Yoga Meditation - Los Angeles through which he shares the teachings of Swami Rama and Swami Veda Bharati. Actually I met him for the first time through twitter before doing the course at SRSG. Every month we schedule a Skype meeting to review my Home Study progress and answer any questions, and of course I use my iPhone for the Skype call.


Popular Swami Rama books in Amazon.com


Living with the
Himalayan Masters
Meditation and its
Practice
The Art of
Joyful Living
The Royal Path



Initiation into the Himalayan Yoga Tradition


During all this time that I've been traveling in India and living for some time in different ashrams, the friends that I made at these ashrams always asked me the same question: "are you going to receive diksha?"

Diksha means initiation. During the initiation there is usually some sort of ceremony by which the guru of the ashram gives you a mantra for you to practice meditation. By receiving the mantra you are normally accepting that particular master or lineage as your guru.

So, my answer was always "no". Although I might have enjoyed a lot all the other ashrams and courses that I have done before and I do feel a strong connection with the gurus I never felt ready for a mantra initiation, none of these places felt like the right place for me to receive initiation, the exception was at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama. I stayed at the ashram for about 20 days in May 2011 and little by little the thought that I wanted to take initiation there started to grow.

By the time that I came back to the ashram in Feb 2012 for the Himalayan Yoga Tradition Teacher Training Program I was totally decided so as soon as I arrived I asked for a meeting with Swami Ritavan to share some doubts with him and a few days later I received my mantra initiation. It totally felt that this was the right place for me to take initiation. They were also very professional about it. After my initiation I received a CD with some documents talking about mantra initiation, with another document explaining the meaning of my mantra and with a mp3 file with the recording of my mantra so I wouldn't forget.

This was actually a very important and big step for me. I wasn't sure about taking initiation in the first place because I already have an initiation, not a mantra initiation but a Kriya Yoga initiation that I received through Paramahansa Yogananda's lineage. But at the Himalayan Yoga Tradition they are very open minded and flexible and they told me that there was not a problem at all and of course I could continue with my normal meditation and Kriya Yoga practice.

It is not mandatory to receive initiation to complete the training but if you wish to continue with the Level 2 and Level 3 for the 600 hours certification and teach as a Himalayan Yoga Tradition Teacher then I think it is expected that you take the initiation.


About the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama Ashram


You can find information about the ashram facilities, daily schedule and more in the following link: The Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama Ashram, Rishikesh


Related blog posts




How to reach the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama Ashram


From Haridwar bus stand which is just 2 minutes walk from the Haridawar train station you can take a direct public bus to Rishikesh. When I called the ashram they told me to ask the driver to stop at the Koyal Grand Stop, a restaurant at the crossroad with Virbhadra road and from there take a Rikshawk instead of going all the way to Rishikesh. This was not that easy cause nobody in the bus knew this place. But if not a big problem, the Rishikesh bus stand is not so far away from the Ashram.

After getting off the bus, either at Koyal Grand Stop or at the Rishikesh bus stand just take an auto rickshaw and ask for Seema Dental College. Every rickshaw no it. It should cost between 40 or 70 rupees. You can also take a shared rickshaw which would be 7 rupees.


From the ashram to Rishikesh proper

To reach Ram Jhula or Laxman Jhula bridge you can take a shared auto just outside the ashram, on the left side, to market (7 rupees) and from there change to another share auto (these one are bigger and bluish) for 5 rupees. The total journey should be around 20 minutes.


Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama Ashram Contact information


Phone: +91 135 2450093, +91 135 2453030, +91 135 2450596
Fax: +91 135 2450831
email: sadhakagrama@gmail.com

Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama
Virpur Khurd, Virbhadra Road,
P.O. Pashulok, Via :Rishikesh
Uttarakhand, India - 249203



I feel very happy every time that I remember that I'm following this Himalayan Yoga Tradition Teacher Training Program, or Meditation Teacher Training Course. I have already become a yoga teacher through the Sivananda tradition, but this program helps me to stay on track, to regularly continue working on myself and to deepen my knowledge of yoga and meditation in theory and in practice and with the help of a mentor to guide me through the process. And although there are many differences between the Sivananda Yoga Teachers' Trainings and this Himalayan Yoga Tradition Teacher Training Program I see them as complementary. I'm very happy with both of them.

14 comments:

  1. Marco

    Such a clear and thoughful presentation. Also quite comprehensive and instructive.

    Wishing you well--peter

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Peter, I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed reading this post. Btw, your blog looks very interesting http://peterfabian.com/blog/, I'll take a closer look later.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nice Post Marco :) I am about to go there in November this year for the HYT-TTP. I have done the Sivananda TTC and Sadhana Intensive :) If you can tell me how it differs from the Himalayan Tradition would be grateful and prepared before I go there . My e mail: rabindrasahu@hotmail.com

    Om,
    Rabindra

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for your comment Rabindra, I'll reply to you by mail shortly.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great post! I like your presentation. Love to read your more blogs.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you Arick. I have so many things to write about so don't forget to subscribe by mail or connect in any other way you prefer so you can receive a notification whenever I update my blog.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Would like to recommend The art of living foundation and the yoga course provided by them. Check out the following article on yoga:
    http://www.artoflivingsecrets.com/2012/08/yoga-chocolate-flavour.html

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Marco :) I have same question like Rabindra Sahu :) I have done SIvananda TTC and ATTC is supposed to be mostly about the meditation, but also Himalayan Yoga so I would like to hear about the difference from you.

    My mail you can send this to is rokins (<-gmail)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Marco, I appreciate the level of detail you have provided here and nearly booked into this ashram until I looked into it a little more. Have you investigated at all the allegations of sexual abuse by Swami Rama and accompanying cover-up by the Institute members? Please see --
    http://www.rickross.com/reference/swami_rama/swami_rama2.html

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Marco,
    I have a question: I is the SRSG the rigth
    place for me (my experience in yoga is elementary, but I have much more experince in meditation).
    I have never visited an ashram.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Bernd, sure this could be the right place for you but the only way to find that our is to actually visit the ashram and stay there for some time. This ashram is very comfortable and the people is super nice so as a first ashram experience sounds like a good place for you, the only problem is that it is a bit expensive (around. 25 dollars per day including everything) compared to other ashrams in India, but it is certainly worth it. Good luck on your journey.

      Delete
  11. Nice man. Just wanted to know whether they taught any shatkarmas and any other pranayama exercises. Also the fee for the same.
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Marco,

    I enjoyed reading your blog a lot. But this ashram and swami rama are just not something I would recommend that lightly.


    In July 1994, two lawsuits were filed against Swami Rama, the spiritual leader of the Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. The civil suits followed decades of reports of sexual improprieties, including a 1990 magazine article that detailed instances of sexual misconduct and several individuals’ efforts to alert Himalayan officials to the abuses.


    http://www.sonofaswami.com/

    Best
    D

    ReplyDelete