Arhanta Ashram

Indian Ashram life (my 200 hour YTT)

I did my yoga teacher training at Arhanta Yoga Ashram, Khajuraho, India in November 2012.

When I made my decision to complete a yoga TTC (teacher training course) I knew I wanted to come to India to do it, as my love for yoga began here a few years earlier.

The course I chose to do was a yoga alliance certified, 200 hour TTC, over 4 weeks, at Arhanta yoga ashram, in Khajuraho, Northern Madhya Pradesh, the city is famed for its housing of the Karma Sutra temples. I knew studying in an ashram would be hard, the days were long and we had practically no communication with friends and family back home, however in the end this made it easier, as there were no distractions from the course, which meant that our main focus was to learn, and grow as teachers and in our own practice.

Arhanta yoga teacher training
Receiving my certificate from Yogi Ram

Our rooms were basic, with 2 beds, mosquito nets, some shelves in the wall, and a bathroom (without hot water). We could get a bucket of hot water between 5.30 and 6.30pm each evening for washing.

The daily schedule was tough, each day we were up for 5.30am, ready for morning Satsang to begin at 5.55am. The mornings were freezing, which surprised me for India, however it’s winter here now, so before the sun comes up, it’s so cold. I’d wrap myself up in layers of clothes, socks, scarves, and basically anything warm i had, and walk over to the yoga hall ready for our first class of the day. Sitting on the floor, and in the dark, Satsang would start with 5 minutes of Anolum Vilom (alternate nostril breathing / pranayama).

We would then move on to 20 to 30 minutes of concentration/ meditation practices, relaxing our whole body and focusing on our breath. The sun would usually come up during this 30 minutes, we’d know it was coming to 6.30 as the birds would be singing and chirping so loudly above us in the yoga hall, It was a great feeling, being so close to the nature, so early in the day.

The second half of satsang would be chanting, singing, and playing instruments, which was to”open up our hearts” for the day.

Arhanta ashram
morning walk to the nearby village.

After morning satsang, we had breakfast at 7am, this usually consisted of bananas or papaya, with some kind of grainy porridge, or yellow flat rice, with peanuts. Fine for a day or two, but gets a bit samey and boring after 4 weeks. We also got Chai in the morning, it’s crazy how people go mental for tea, when you cant get it on tap.

Between 8am and 11am we had out ‘How to teach’ classes, which were probably my favorite class of the day (accept for our advanced asana class) . I’m still shocked that after 4 weeks I can now teach a full class, know all instructions, corrections and benefits and the Sanskrit names for poses.

Ashram yoga hall
Ashram yoga hall

We learnt how to teach a 4 week beginners course, focusing on instructions and corrections for poses. Introducing students to yoga and pranayama, and making sure students alignments were correct. We then moved onto learning how to teach a 90 minute open class, with students of different abilities.

I’m so excited to put everything I’ve learned in this class to practice, and teach my first set of students.

11.15am was lunch, which consisted of rice, chapatti and raw tomatoes everyday, and then a variety of different, beans and pulses each day. Again, this was ok for a few days, but after 4 weeks, I was craving, cheese, and peanut butter, and things I don’t even usually eat.

Ashram food
Ashram food

The diet was strict vegetarian, with the only dairy being in our morning chai. Although the food was samey, I could feel myself getting healthier as the days passed, my skin was better, my hair felt nicer, and I generally felt really good.

After lunch we did Karma yoga with the lovely Omkah. Karma yoga means to do your duty without expecting anything in return. My karma yoga duties were fruit cutting for the first week, and cleaning the yoga hall for the last 3 weeks.

Arhanta yoga ashram
Evening singing after satsang

Afternoon lessons then started with 2 hours of Vedic philosophy. Vedas were first written over 5000 years ago, but were told for many years before this. Veda believes that everything in nature has a soul. All living things in the universe from a human, tree, animal or plant has a soul, and each time we die, we are reincarnated into a different physical body, until our karma account is burnt and then we are enlightened, then our soul goes to Moksha.

These lessons we so insightful into the Vedic belief, there are a lots of areas that I’m still struggling to believe/understand, but I really like the idea of believing in nature, and that all our souls together in nature become god.

Arhanta ashram
Group evening sing song

Later in the course we also learnt about Ayurveda and anatomy in the afternoon lessons, however this section of the course was the only part I would moan about, the lessons were unstructured, and we basically read from a book. The Ayurveda section was something I’d really like to learn more about though, looking at herbs and nature for food and medicine, categorising everything into Vatta, Pitta and Kapha.

Our advanced asana class was from 3 to 5pm daily. My favourite time of the day. Dharmindra, our asana teacher was amazing, such a sweet and lovely person, I think everyone on the course loved this class the most. As the weeks went by, my own practice was improving so much, and I loved having 2 hours where we didn’t have to think about anything, no philosophy, no learning, benefits, we could just surrender our selfs to the mat and enjoy the yoga.

Khajuraho town
Khajuraho town

Dinner was at 5 and was much the same as lunch but with no fruit. We then had an hour off to wash and do our homework (yes we also had homework, everyday!!!) Then at 7pm we had evening satsang, again we started with Anolum Vilom and 20 to 30 minutes of concentration/meditation. Afterwards, we would have discussions, or stories. The first week was life stories, which got pretty heavy, as we all sat at the front in the dark, telling our stories to our teachers and friends. It became more light hearted though when we moved on to our most embarrassing moments.

Final tea was after Satsang at 8pm, and then it was time for bed. By 8.30pm I was always ready for sleep, knowing I had my 5.30am start again the next day. So the days were long and tiring, but the course exceeded my expectations, I now feel ready and confident to teach others all that I’ve learned. I met some amazing people, and although I missed home, and moaned about the early starts and the same food everyday, I had an amazing time, and would do it all over again.

Arhanta Ashram
Me and beautiful Nina
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