Sitting in between the Ganga river and Himalayan mountains lies the world capital of yoga, Rishikesh, where many yogis venture to get their teaching certification. 23-year-old West Virginia native Allie Bright ventured to India alone for a little under two months to attend Vinyasa Yoga School, and she shares her experiences in this Q&A—the good and the bad, and answers the question “was it worth it?”
MSM: How did you begin your yoga practice?
AB: I first started practicing yoga in 2011. I was in 11th grade, when my best friend and her dad took me to a class at the YMCA. We didn’t have any yoga studios at the time in our area — the only introduction to yoga we had was at the YMCA. After that I was hooked. They never went back with me, but I went to every yoga class the YMCA offered: Monday night, Wednesday night and Saturday morning.
MSM: When did you make plans to get your certification in India?
AB: Around the beginning of 2014 I decided I needed to get my RYT certification. I planned from the start to go to India to get my certification. I learned more about the “motherland” of yoga and discovered that the Indus River Valley Civilization was the closest location one could estimate the “roots” of yoga to be, so off to Rishikesh I went.
MSM: Is the certification process different there than it is in the United States?
AB: Yoga has been globalized. This means that, pretty much, yoga is the same everywhere. I learned a lot of philosophy, mantras and shatkarma (cleansing) practices in my training, which may not be quite as common in the United States, especially shatkarma, because some people may consider these practices dangerous. However, for the most part, the yoga teacher trainings are all pretty similar because they must be approved and certified through Yoga Alliance.
MSM: What are some of the pros/ cons about getting certified in India?
AB: Pro— You’re in India! Con— You’re in India. Essentially, what I mean is that India is a magical but very densely populated place. So, just like any other big city, one must be mindful and aware of their surroundings. You cannot just wander around at all times of the night, you have to dress appropriately, and most importantly, you cannot trust everyone, you have to be cautious.
The one thing I really enjoyed, specifically about Rishikesh, is that everyone was on a spiritual journey. I did not run into superficial and unaware people. It didn’t matter if I was in a shop or at a cafe, in a yoga class or hanging out by the Ganges River, everyone I spoke to shared bits of wisdom. It was beautiful, truly surreal.
MSM: What was a typical day like of your training?
AB: From Monday through Saturday we started at 6 a.m. with Shatkarma then Hatha Yoga, Pranayama, breakfast, mantra and meditation, philosophy, yoga therapy, lunch, anatomy, Vinyasa, meditation, and dinner was served around 8 p.m. On Sundays we had excursions such as hikes and visits to waterfalls, visits to rishi/sadhu caves to meditate and ayurvedic massage.
MSM: How did you fund the process? Do you think the investment was worthwhile?
AB: Before I truly immersed myself into yoga I was a model. Modeling, a lucrative but soul-sucking career, funded my trip and studies in India. The investment was 100 percent worth it; I would not take back my studies and travels in India for anything.
MSM: What advice would you give to other yoga teachers considering getting certified in India?
AB: Be smart, pack lightly, plan, but also embrace the freedom that is India. Live from firsthand experience, not secondhand knowledge.