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From Chennai to Rishikesh, we bring you India’s top yoga centres that teach you to be a guru

The last few decades have seen yoga shrug off its reputation of being just about head-stands and flexibility. It’s now a lifestyle choice for many—not just for a healthier life but also as a means of finding ‘inner peace’. For many, however, mastering the asanas isn’t enough; they want to turn disseminators of yogic knowledge, too. If you are one of the latter, then here are some of the institutes you can approach, to study to become a yoga teacher.

Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram, Kerala
The 12-acre Sivan-anda Yoga Ashram is located near the Neyyar dam in Kerala. With its headquarters in Canada—established in 1967 by Swami Vishnudevananda, a disciple of Swami Sivananda—the Neyyar branch is one of three ashrams in India. Their approach is holistic and offers yoga, devotion, and philosophy.

The teachers training course is a one-month residential course, based on the traditional gurukula system. “It is aligned to help people develop a yogic lifestyle and to learn the tools to spread the techniques that will help others to help themselves,” says Nataraj, the director of the ashram.

No prior knowledge of yoga is necessary to enroll. The curriculum includes instruction inasanas (yoga postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation, chanting, mantras, yoga philosophy, diet, kriyas (cleansing exercises to purify the body) and the study of the Bhagavad Gita.

“What drew me to this ashram was their style of hatha yoga. At the Sivananda ashram, it is more of a philosophy than exercise,” says Mansi Gandhi, an instructor at 136.1 Yoga Studio. “They teach you that it is not just about physical fitness, but also about the control of your mind. This course’s certification is also recognised all over the world.”

Highlights: Besides the one-month course, the ashram also has an Advanced Teachers Training Course, spread over four weeks and designed for graduates of the Sivananda Teachers Training Course. As part of this, students study Sanskrit, the Raja Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Vedanta philosophy, anatomy and physiology.

Procedure: The fee for Indian applicants is Rs 25,000, while for foreigners it is CAD 2,450. Dormitory accommodation is provided and there isn’t much of a waiting period. Details:yogaindia@shivandad.org

Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai
T K V Desikachar founded the city-based yoga mandiram in 1976 as a tribute to his father and guru, T Krishnamacharya. Today, the institute is the go-to place for viniyoga, ashtanga yoga and for yoga therapy. “We have three batches of teacher training programmes running concurrently,” says Geetha Shankar, director of yoga studies. “You don’t need any yoga experience to apply, but you will have to take an aptitude test and an interview.”

The two-year PG diploma programme has classes dealing with everything from healing chants to yoga philosophy to how to plan a course. “I went in with cursory knowledge of yoga and the interest to learn. And I found the course transformative. The filtering process is very strict and once in, they make sure you master it. It was tougher than preparing for my board exams,” says Satya Krishnakumar, currently a yoga teacher at the Viniyoga Healing Foundation in Besant Nagar.

Highlights: Diploma courses in healing chants and yoga therapy are set to start later this year.

Procedure: You can download the application form from their website, kym.org. The classes are priced at Rs 9,500 per module for Indians and $1,500 for foreigners. Details: 24952900, 24933092

Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh
Nestled on the banks of the Ganga, the Parmarth Niketan ashram was founded in 1942 by Pujya Swami Shukdevanandji. The reins were taken over by Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji three decades ago and under him the ashram has flourished. The 1,000-room retreat plays host to students from over 40 countries. And the teachers training programmes have found many takers.
“We offer three courses, which begin on the same day. The first is a two-week beginner course, followed by a three-week intensive course, and ending with a five-week teacher course,” explains Sadhvi Bhagawati, a teacher and counsellor at the ashram. “The teachers will assess the students. They will have to experience the asanas in their bodies before they can impart the knowledge to others,” she adds.
Two years of regular yoga asana practice is a prerequisite to join the training course, which explores all eight limbs of yoga and includes the study of asanas, pranayama, philosophy and meditation.

Highlights: For the past one year, the ashram has been working with Vivekananda Yoga Anus-andhana Samsthana (VYASA), an international yoga research organisation. This association will give their certificates wider recognition. The ashram also has teachers from over 20 countries who meld their knowledge of yoga along with spiritual knowledge from their cultures to give a holistic approach to their teachings.

Procedure: The classes have  high attendance from foreigners (with many coming from China, Japan, South America, Russia and Kazakhstan in the last few years). The fee for foreigners is $951, while for Indians it is Rs 29,000.

K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute, Mysore
Founded by K Pattabhi Jois, widely renowned for having developed and popularised the ashtanga school of yoga, this institute is the only authority that is able to certify teachers in this particular form of the practice. This variant of yoga is meant to engage eight limbs of the body and is known to be highly strenuous and intense and not advisable for the novice. The school takes in only those with experience in the field and requires students to stay on the premises for a minimum of one month and maximum of three months with at least a six month break between courses. The two current gurus at the centre, Sharath and Saraswati, have been trained directly by Pattabhi Jois and specialise in specific aspects of the training that is known to be a highly intensive physical and psychological experience.

Highlights: While the course offers no official certification on paper, it boasts of having in its archives, the only legitimate teachers of the practice in the world. With celebrities like Madonna in their ranks, the institute attracts students from across the globe.

Procedure: Fees vary according to duration and time period. All registrations are to be made online strictly between two and four months before the intended stay. Details: kpjayi.org

—Surya Praphulla Kumar (with inputs from Neelima Menon and Susanna Chandy)

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