Himalaya Yoga Valley Centre

International Yoga Training Centres  
Goa | Ireland

Archive for : October, 2015

Journey to the Self

This article was originally published by Himalaya Yoga Valley staffer Eveanna for OM Magazine UK in 2015

Training the Mind, Body & Soul in India
There is no doubt that Yoga is one of India’s greatest exports and thankfully people can now access yoga almost anywhere. So why do so many yogis travel to India for teacher training? For many it is the appeal of an undiluted, pure stream of knowledge to tap into; when it comes any cultural practice, art form, or body of knowledge there is great value in accessing this information directly from its indigenous gatekeepers- this certainly also applies to the study of yoga.

Personal growth and transformation can happen anywhere in the world but being in India supports this transformation in a unique way. Spirituality permeates every moment and aspect of daily life. Being in an environment where yoga is life and life is yoga (not just an hour on our mat every day) makes immersion into the depths of our practice much more tangible.

Although most students prepare for the physical challenges and rewards from training in India it is important for training aspirants to also consider what to expect on a mental and spiritual level.

Arrive with an empty mind because you will definitely need the space! Studying yoga in India is a truly academic pursuit. There are countless institutes, ashrams and universities dedicated to the study of this science. Accessing knowledge that has been carved out of centuries of study at the source is invaluable. It also means cultivating serious mental discipline. Studying subjects such as the Sutras, Sanskrit, Anatomy, Philosophy, Ayurveda, Ethics, Yoga Lifestyle, Yoga Alignment & Adjustments (and then actually learning how to teach and deliver a class) can push even the most scholarly of students to the brink of overload. This robust and academic immersion in the study of this yoga will however truly develop your integrity as a practitioner and teacher.

Your hips hurt from sitting on the floor cross legged for 12 hours a day, your roommate was snoring all night and you got no sleep, your malaria tablets are making you hallucinate…Sorry there will be little room for complaints or excuses when it comes to your practice. Your teacher will share their knowledge with you and in return you are expected to approach your practice with discipline and integrity. Yes, it is physically demanding to practice yoga in the heat, without the creature comforts of home, often with a stomach bug (or as one of our trainees recently discovered an actual bug, in her ear, during savasana) but there is something special about sweating it out in a bamboo shalla, as a stray cow tries to get in through the mosquito net while the temple down the road blares our the bhajans that you can only find in India. Many people are intimidated at the thought of bringing their practice to India. Remember it’s a yoga practice- not a yoga perfect. Traditionally nobody is ever left behind when it comes to yoga. Authentic means accessible to everybody, a good teacher trainer will be able to bring out the best in you and thus you will be able to do the same with your students when you go on to teach.

This is where we find the most jewels on the path to becoming a teacher in a traditional setting. It is also where we can meet the most roadblocks. Many students can perform any asana required of them yet they struggle to sit with their eyes closed for more than 30 seconds or be in silence for a single day. Yoga is to unite and hopefully it is here in unity with body and mind where we meet our true selves. Practices such as chanting, meditation, pranayama, silence, kriyas and kirtans all hold up a mirror to who we are and often to the past that shaped us into that person. A high degree of emotional and spiritual cleansing can take place within these practices but essentially this prepares us to emerge with a clean spiritual slate, ready to pass on our knowledge as teachers with true spiritual integrity.

Teacher Training in the birthplace of yoga can be a profoundly life changing experience. As a member of the Teacher Training team at Himalaya Yoga Valley I have seen thousands of students come to our centre in India and without exception take two journeys- the journey towards becoming a yoga teacher and the journey towards the self. After nearly a decade of being a privileged observer of these journeys with all their highs & lows I believe that it is only by meeting the true self that trainees can become authentic teachers and teach others how to live better lives through yoga.

About the author
Eveanna de Barra is a global traveller and writer, passionate about all things India. She divides her working year between Himalaya Yoga Valley Goa www.yogagoaindia.com and Ireland www.yogacorkireland.com with plenty of adventures in between.

The Yoga of Accountability

The following article was originally written by Himalaya Yoga Valley staffer Eveanna and published by Yoga Alliance UK Magazine in 2015

The Yoga of Accountability
Many yoga practitioners are turning their passion for yoga into a career and whilst there are plenty of wonderful yoga Teacher Trainings to choose from, it has become more and more apparent that there are also an abundance of poor quality Teacher Trainings around the world.
Trainees are often faced with inexperienced teachers, second-rate methodology and insubstantial curriculums.

Aside from the emotional, physical and spiritual damage being done to these aspiring teachers (and their future students) many trainees also suffer immense financial stress through exorbitant fees, licencing practices and trademarking that traps them in a financial web with their teachers. The outcome of poor quality trainings churning out poor quality teachers is that many people who have tried one yoga class will never set foot in a yoga studio again because they were injured, misled or damaged on a psychological or emotional level by a graduates of these programs.

With so many Teacher Trainings and new yoga teachers out in the world how can the yoga community stay on track and ensure new students are protected from poorly trained teachers and trainees are protected from bad Teacher Trainings? Perhaps by looking back to India, the source of our science for guidance and into a future where we take responsibility as teachers and trainers we can move forward into a space of professional integrity.

Having lived and worked on Yoga Teacher Training Programs at Himalaya Yoga Valley in India for the last 7 years I have witnessed an influx of new trends, styles and paths of yoga from the western perspective brought through our doors by yoga students from all over the world. Whilst I appreciate the open minded and inclusive practice that is yoga today I have also seen some negative changes caused by deviation from traditional practices.

One of these deviations that has had serious ramifications on our very young, western yoga world is the lack of professional and personal reflection in relation to standards and practices. It appears that self-inquiry and a senior teacher to present the findings of these reflections to is rarely a part of a modern day practice. Unfortunately it is often the case that teachers are missing a Guru or elder within their yoga community to look up to, to take advice from, to further their knowledge with and to be accountable to. It also appears that most trainees who attend trainings are not offered a continuing relationship with their mentors.

Through the traditional practice of accountability we can greatly improve the current state of the Yoga Teacher Trainings and yoga in general. By respecting the deep importance of lineage and the importance of self-reflection we can become better practitioners and teachers.

In an indigenous setting, lineage is highly valuable and deeply sacred to the practitioner. It provides students with a history and a future path on which to take their practice. Being initiated into a particular lineage is a great privilege and responsibility. To tarnish the reputation of your Guru, to sully the teachings that have been pure for thousands of years with your own ego or bad behaviours would be a betrayal of your yogic ancestry. For most Indigenous yoga practitioners severing or damaging your lineage would mean becoming spiritually lost.

Lineage in this capacity may seem restrictive for the student but the traditional practice of teaching your students to be entirely nondependent on you balances out this potential issue. All of the great and true Gurus in India strive to create masters within their students. The practice of non-attachment with between student and Guru ensures freedom from being bound by your teacher. The beauty of this philosophy is we will always need our teachers and always turn to our lineage without being confined and most importantly we will always have someone to be accountable to with each step we take on our spiritual path.

The role of the Guru is invaluable for the student. An accomplished teacher is one who remains an eternal student. Without spiritual self-inquiry and leadership from those who have greater experience than us we can begin to feel like the source of knowledge rather than a conduit for this knowledge. When this happens we see the seeds of grandiose teachings, competitiveness, greed and unhappiness cultivate in our teachings and life. We also see poor quality teachings resulting from this lack of guidance and professional counsel.

But what about the thousands of students and teachers who do not have a Guru on hand to be accountable to? Who can we look to maintain standards, ensure the practice of yoga stays free from damage?
If each yoga practitioner takes responsibility for their own spiritual growth, professional development and yoga practice on a holistic level we should be able to self-regulate through the great science of yoga as many practitioners have done for thousands of years.

Trainers should be encouraging trainees to practice looking in the mirror daily as part of their discipline. Yoga practitioners should constantly question their own integrity. Are we really practicing yoga if we spend two hours on our yoga mat making shapes every day but do not study ourselves in relation to the Yamas and Niyamas? Are we really practicing yoga if we go to workshops and professional development courses but we treat our fellow teachers badly because of envy? Are we really practicing yoga if we feel so passionately entitled to charge for our services but feel no responsibility to give back through seva? Are we truly teachers if we cease being open to learn and thus stop giving to our students?

It is entirely up to each individual that makes up our yoga community as a whole to practice the most important path a yogi with ever step upon- the path of self-inquiry. We have the tools in the 8 limbs it is our responsibility to pick them up and use them to become better teachers, mentors and individuals.

Trainers and facilitators of Teacher Training Programs can greatly improve their own curriculums, businesses and most importantly; the outcomes of these courses and the quality of the teachers they send out into the world, by reflecting on their programs and practices and by being accountable to their Gurus before them and to Yoga Alliance. As trainers we must be the first ones to put our hands up to be evaluated and reviewed if we expect our students to follow suit. Professional transparency and accountability can bring more standing and genuine integrity to schools that wish to establish themselves as credible trainers within the yoga community.

Fresh graduates of a 200 hour program are fledglings in the world of yoga; they need guidance & direction and they also need to be held accountable. I believe that as teacher trainers the more we insist Yoga Alliance acts as guide to these teachers the more integrity we will see back in our classrooms. As teacher trainers sending these new teachers out in the world it is not ethical to do so without giving them an anchor to attach to professionally. Developing a relationship with Yoga Alliance and being available as trainers, not just for 200 hours but for a lifetime is this anchor. We should also reflect the standards that teachers should see when they look in the mirror of self-inquiry that we have held up to them.

The act of becoming accountable to ourselves and Yoga Alliance will emulate the role the Guru plays in a traditional sense, questioning all aspects of who we are on every level to bring positive growth. As yogis it is time to take individual and organizational responsibility by creating positive gatekeepers of yoga standard to stay healthy, honest and grounded as a community.

When we first stepped onto a yoga mat we consciously or subconsciously began a journey of self-determination and personal responsibility- we became accountable to ourselves through our practice, as a collective if we wish to see an improvement in standards we will need to carry over these qualities we first connected with to our professional standards.

Written by Eveanna de Barra for Yoga Alliance UK teachers magazine.

Yoga in India – the Myths & The Magic

This Yoga Magazine article written by Himalaya Yoga Valley staffer Eveanna is a great guide to practicing yoga or doing a training in India 🙂

You can enjoy the original article linked here http://www.yogamagazine.com/yoga-in-india/ or read on below for the full article without leaving this site.

Yoga in India – the Myths & The Magic

Many western yoga enthusiasts flock to India to experience yoga at its birthplace. The lure of accessing undiluted yoga in an exotic and sunny location (usually on a shoestring budget) is strong enough to see people put down roots in places like Mysore, Rishikesh, Pune & Goa for weeks, months and sometimes even years.

Working in a yoga centre in India for the last seven years I have seen thousands of students arrive from all over the world with the same goal- to experience “authentic” yoga. India is a wonderful adventure like no other but practicing yoga at the source comes with its highs and lows.

Here are some considerations that can make your yoga journey in India a smoother one.

Your guru is in the mirror
Find your inner guru before you leave for India. A spiritual seeker should have developed strength and resilience through a robust and steady practice, preparing them for the often bumpy path of self-discovery. There is a danger in seeking out a practice or person to fulfil you mentally or emotionally without being in a steady spiritual place. Be clear about what is motivating you to take the journey deeper into your practice; is it because you are ready or running away?

There are many wonderful teachers in India who can enrich your life and practice immensely. These teachers hold an abundance of wisdom, spiritual intelligence and experience- it is truly an honour to receive teachings from them. Always remember that a good teacher will empower you rather than expect you to hand your power over to them. They will present themselves as a conduit to deepening your practice & never encourage you to become dependent on them. Self-determination is paramount to having a healthy experience when it comes to spiritual development. If someone professes to be a guru run the other way. A true guru will never make this claim- they will simply offer you teachings without being attached to the outcome of how and if you receive them.

You will finally understand why they call it a discipline
My yoga teacher in Australia used to tell us that yoga was a practice of discipline. I would feel rather the achiever as I floated out of class into the café next door for my well-earned latte. When that 4am bell goes off in the ashram and you stumble out of your bunk bed to get ready for your practice at 5am, you realize that your twice weekly yoga class back home didn’t quite prepare you for this version of yoga discipline.

Traditional practices such as being in silence, a Satvic diet and a rigid schedule can push you to the edge of reason. Sitting cross legged on the floor with burning knees and hips, listening to a lecture on Ahimsa with sweat rolling down your back can give you an urge to squash that mosquito into oblivion with your text book or lash out at your teacher; don’t worry it doesn’t make you a bad yogi- it makes you human. Try not to run away in the middle of the night and check into the nearest 5 star hotel with a 24 hour bar.

Remember to take it one day and sometimes one moment at a time. It’s not often we get the chance to be in silence, to connect with ourselves without distraction, to stand and face ourselves without the usual escape routes. Being outside of your comfort zone is part of your practice, it’s where your growth will take place. We can all make shapes on a yoga mat but the real yoga happens when we can cultivate a steady relationship with ourselves.

Your yoga teacher may seem a little mean- it’s not personal
I once stayed at an ashram for 10 days in Rishikesh; the teacher who was in her 80s carried a big stick with her during class and barked orders at us about correct alignment. Consider yourself lucky if you meet a teacher like this early on- she will prepare you for the host of excellent teachers in India who have no time for narcissism or self-indulgence but will instead guide you to a healthy place of self-inquiry.

The traditional student teacher relationship is one of deep mutual respect.
You respect your teacher’s knowledge & experience and they respect the trust you have placed in them. You probably won’t hear the comforting yogababble about your blossoming heart energy that you will hear at a class in New York. Your teacher will not try to be likeable, they don’t have time or the inclination to tell you how wonderful you are, none of their energy will go on maintaining your ego. This can be a bitter pill to swallow for most of us who come from a culture where we are always praised and rarely criticized. There is however great satisfaction in knowing that the encouragement you receive is genuine, well-earned and based on your achievements; also there is nothing quite as satisfying as that hug you will get from the 80 year old lady with the stick when you are leaving the ashram.

It’s yoga…enjoy it
Many yogis come to India for deeper adjustments, more challenging classes & stronger teachers. Often they are a little let down when the intensity they feel about yoga is not seemingly reflected by some of the most established teachers and students there. Remember, you don’t “do yoga” in India- you live yoga. Yoga does not finish when you roll up your mat; because it is a lifetime practice that permeates through every day it can seem less intense than a two hour class of punishing vinyasas. You don’t have to have an Eat Pray Love breakdown moment for your experience to be real.Yoga in India is a balanced expression of thousands of years of exploring a well-rounded science. No one cares about your jump backs if you can’t sit with your eyes closed for 2 minutes. It doesn’t matter how many arm balances you can do if you aren’t striving for emotional balance too. It’s not meant to be another addiction or way to be hard on yourself. It’s a healing science designed to bring us happiness.

Come to India with an open mind and heart. Enjoy the practice, your achievements and the challenges. Enlightenment is not about getting heavy or more weighed down. Travelling to India to practice yoga is one of the most life changing and enriching experiences you can have- enjoy the ride!