I did my 200 hour Yoga TTC with Merel Maartens at Parimukti in April 2015 in Dharamkot, India and I got my 60-year-old mom to join me. I wasn’t really planning on doing a TTC well in advance, but the summer before, I was reading a yoga teacher’s website and saw that she studied in India and it just kind of tipped off my curiosity.
So I looked into it and saw it was much cheaper than in the states, and I liked the idea of being there for a whole month and using it as a way to explore a totally new country in a more in-depth learning way.
I googled around and asked if anyone had advice, but ultimately no one really gave me helpful suggestions of specific schools. So I contacted one that looked like a decent possibility, and I had the foresight to ask if they could give me some previous students’ emails so I could get their insights. Surprisingly, they sent me like 5-7 students’ contact info, and most of them have mixed reviews.
Most mentioned that they felt the Indian teachers were a bit hypocritical between what the yogic philosophy was and how they taught and interacted with students. Several of them told me that they liked one Western teacher, Merel, who was there but had recently started her own school. So I looked her up and decided to go there since those handful of recommendations were more than I got from anywhere else.
It was quite the experience, both for me individually and to go through with my mom. I really liked doing the full training all at once as opposed to a weekends only thing or other structure that it would be otherwise. It helped me be pretty much solely focused on the yoga practice and learning, though I was doing remote work also so had a few hours a day of unrelated focus.
Even though I am not planning on being any kind of full time yoga teacher, I did want to learn as much as I could about it and have been a (academic) teacher before, so I was a fairly disciplined student. In spite of my familiarity with yoga and, to a degree, meditation, I was really surprised and challenged by what we learned about the philosophy side of everything.
I think it would have been hard to be learning all that and trying to go back and forth to daily life. It made it easier to be somewhat isolated in the mountains of India and get to just be working through my understanding of that and myself.
Merel is a wonderful teacher both because of her knowledge and passion (training with medical school and personal journey learning about yoga) but also because she is wonderful at reading the group mood and dynamics and introducing activities that are specifically tailored to what’s needed at the moment.
We had some new Indian teachers who were supposed to be teaching Anatomy and Philosophy but it was pretty much an immediate disaster (they didn’t seem to have anything memorized, they were reading from our packet, they told us we were wrong about things that are true — skin IS an organ, etc, and they were kind of insulting about our knowledge and ability).
After the first 3 days of it, Merel quickly made the decision to have them leave the school, teach the classes herself, and find another teacher to help teach the physical practice classes Merel had been leading. We were a little surprised, but ultimately, she was SUCH a better teacher that I’m so grateful we didn’t waste any more time. I also think that, while it might be amazing to learn about yoga from Indian teachers, I also recognized through the course of our classes how much it was helpful for me personally to have western teacher.
I like to ask a lot of questions and discuss things in class, and the Indian format is much more didactic. So I think given how much I found the anatomy and philosophy classes to be full of new content and confusing elements,
I am really grateful that I had a teacher who understood it very in depth and also was able to answer our questions and talk through everything.
Merel also did a great job of adjusting classes to suit what was needed. A lot of people have a really emotional experience doing the training, and there were a couple days that we did these physical improv dance sessions rolling around the classroom or sitting in a circle and sharing our feelings or having a laugh attack for 15 minutes (literally).
It really helped bring everyone close together and also handle what is inevitably a physically and emotionally demanding experience between the 7 hours of class and being in remote India and whatever else each individual is experiencing at the moment.
Dharamkot was a beautiful place to spend a month, and we got to experience a couple great lectures at Tushita, a guest Swami came to speak to us for two afternoons, and we even heard the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu speak!
Overall, it was an amazing month, and I’d highly recommend studying with Merel if you have the opportunity. She does the course in Dharamkot in the summer and Goa in the winter — I haven’t been to Goa but I’ve heard it’s a very party beach scene. I’m sure it’s fun, but being in a more low key mountain town felt much more appropriate for me for my first yoga training.
After rereading the other comments, I wanted to add a few things. This was a mix of hatha, vinyasa, ashtanga yoga. It’s not and can’t be (as mentioned) a fully in-depth way to learn everything about any one or several types of yoga. But I did find it helped me learn more about the specific physical postures that are used in the asana practice and give me more insights into my own / general anatomy as well as get into the yogic philosophy, which is almost invisible in western / American yoga. So if you are just a general practitioner or hoping to be a western yoga teacher, I think this type of TTC would suit your needs and interests fine.
My mom is 60 and went with me, as mentioned — she has practiced yoga on and off for years and is in relatively good shape. But she’s also 60 years old.
So she has back problems and some health issues, and we just made sure to be careful and conscious of that throughout the experience. The teachers were really helpful in giving her adjustments and modifications, which I think in general is incredibly important for yoga practice and teaching as almost everyone has places of weakness or injury. And at the end of the day, I had a lot of admiration and appreciation for my mom going through something like that as it was by no means necessary or easy for her to leave behind her husband or very comfortable life to spend 6 weeks in India with me living in pretty challenging conditions and pushing herself physically and mentally every day.
Also, yes, India is an insane place to be. I lived in Morocco for a year, so I think it was less jarring to me, but I was also very glad to spend my time up in quiet little Dharamkot instead of being in one of the big cities. I did have some degree of stomach issues the entire time, but it was manageable and never interfered with my yoga classes if that gives any insights. They had plenty of baby wipes 😉 and other toiletries for sale in the village, so it was fine in terms of being able to meet general comfort needs.
But we were staying in concrete block guesthouses on wooden bed frames with foam mattresses — my mom and I paid to have our own rooms, which was a good idea, so we had enough space and did get heaters eventually for the cold nights. But it’s up to your self-assessment about whether you can or cannot be comfortable / happy in very different conditions than what you’re likely used to living in at home.
My attitude is that whether it’s about food, where I’m sleeping, or anything else, I expect being abroad to be different and I recognize that it is temporary. And I also think everything you struggle with there (food, pollution, quality of living, housing, trash, plumbing, illness, etc) provides a strong reminder about the quality of life we have at home and also how many people don’t have an alternate reality waiting for them elsewhere. I have been struggling with reconciling those random, harsh inequalities of life and circumstance that I’m seeing around the world and trying to understand what it means for what I can and should do with my life and how to contribute to the solutions more than the problems. Which, if we’re honest, almost everything we do (we = middle class or better people in general but especially westerners) is on the backs of others.
So if you go to India, don’t be surprised if you start having a struggle with this (and if you go to India and aren’t challenged by this, then you’re incredibly insensitive and ignorant). It’s not a place you can just visit and not have complicated feelings and perspective of the world as a result.