Yoga Teacher Training in India: Beyond Rishikesh

Does the tag of yoga capital of the world is apt for the entire Indian subcontinent or Rishikesh? Is Rishikesh a yoga or religious centre? Did this town in the Himalayan foothills played some crucial role in the origin and development of yoga or yoga originated at an entirely different place? What is really Yoga and which place in India is qualified to offer it best? Let us look into all these questions.

Many times we hear this query: ‘I am looking for Yoga Teacher training in India which school should I go to in Rishikesh’? This question may be natural for any newcomer in yoga looking to gain some knowledge in this ancient art that originated in Indian subcontinent, as the person ends up at Rishikesh through internet search results. Moreover Wikipedia describes Rishikesh as ‘yoga capital of world’ which may prompt people to believe that it was Rishikesh where the earliest lesson of yoga might originated. In fact it is not the Rishikesh but the whole of Indian Subcontinent which is the yoga and spiritual capital of the world. But the soubriquet is leaning more towards Rishikesh. Yoga is purely an Indian concept which is based on spirituality and is spread across the length and breadth of country.

Origin and Development of Yoga

According to historians there are two generally prevailing theories about the origin of Yoga. Then we have the modern scientific research which does not present any new theory but give credence to one of the prevailing theories to solve the riddle of origin of Yoga. In the first theory according to the historians, it is argued that Yoga originated along the Indus-Saraswati civilization (2000-3000 BC), which is named after the two mighty rivers that flowed in the north-western India. Today only the Indus river flows in Pakistan. The inhabitants of this large civilization living in their cities of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro thought to have developed some form of yoga. This theory is based on archeological findings of soapstone seals that strongly resemble yogi-like figures, which were found through excavation.

In the second theory scholars mention that Indus valley civilization was invaded and disrupted by invaders entering from the north-west known as Aryans. It was these Aryans who brought with them primitive form of Sanskrit language. Later they establish a more sophisticated civilization in India and pushed the original inhabitants down south.

The latest DNA and human science research has finally solved the riddle of origin of Yoga. According to this research finding Aryans did invade the Indus-Saraswati civilization and caused some upheaval. With time the original inhabitants of Indus-Saraswati civilization shifted towards south of India. The Aryans who migrated from Central Asian grasslands (Eurasian Steppe) laid the foundation of Vedic culture and finally crafted the science of Yoga. It is also guessed that Steppe migrants (Aryans) might have absorbed some of the initial elements of Yoga from the Harappans and slowly developed it into a complete spiritual science. This was around 2000 BC and by the time Buddha arrived around 400 BC, Yoga had spread through the length and breadth of Indian subcontinent.

Demystifying Yoga, Hinduism and Philosophy

With the clear understanding of origin of Yoga, let us demystify what is Yoga and if Yoga has something to do with Hinduism and philosophy. To understand Yoga, first let us see what ‘Yoga is not’. Once we have understood what ‘Yoga is not’, it will naturally take us to what Yoga stands for. Yoga is not accumulation of mystic powers; it is not religion, philosophy or any method of mental concentration. Yoga is not any of the isms, not exercise regime or even therapy. Yoga is pure search for Reality or Self.

Does Yoga has any connection with Hinduism? The answer in no. We have seen above that Yoga is not a religion. Any religion is a set of isms, doctrines, ideologies etc and same is true for Hindu(ism) and thus yoga is separate from Hinduism. What about philosophy. Is Yoga related to philosophy? Again the answer is no. In philosophy we train our mind ‘to think in right way’ and create an understanding of the world around. On the contrary in Yoga we train our mind to ‘calm down’ or how not to think. Reality already exists around us we just have to realize it.

Rishikesh in medieval times was a destination of spiritual practice but slowly it transformed into a religious destination which has completely diluted its spiritual significance. Today Rishikesh is a hodgepodge of yoga, religion, rituals and spirituality. A serious student of Yoga should be able to look entire India as land of spiritual salvation where every nook and corner of country is holding the treasure of knowledge flowing since antiquity.

Expanse of Yoga in India

Yoga is the greatest gift of India to mankind.  Yoga is based on spirituality. Spirituality is not a theory or concept. It is simply a state of being. It is state of relaxation, where our nature unfolds. Since centuries such spiritual beings have traversed the land of India.

The message of Karma Yoga in Gita by Sri Krishna was delivered in Haryana (north India). Buddha attained enlightenment in Bihar (east India). The great spiritual master Sri Ramkrishna went through spiritual ecstasy as young child in West Bengal (east India). Mira Bai the great Bhakti Yogi flourished in Rajasthan (west India). Ramana Maharishi experienced self-realization through inquiry into the Self in Tamil Nadu (South India). Bhagawan Rajneesh who spread spirituality beyond the Indian boarders hailed from Madhya Pradesh (central India). The lineage of hatha yogis of Nath Sampradaya emerged in Uttar Pradesh. Thus the spirituality is weaved across the dimensions of India.

Yoga learning centers in India

There are many old and new yoga institutions spread across India. Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute, Bihar School of Yoga, The Yoga Institute, Krishnamachrya Yoga Mandiram, are some of the old Yoga centers. Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga and SVYASA University are the modern Yoga institutions, although they maintain the traditional authenticity of Yoga in their teachings.

The establishment of Yoga Alliance USA is an important event in history of Yoga in modern times. Yoga alliance has democratized the knowledge of Yoga and made it accessible throughout the world with basic minimum guarantee of quality and  authenticity of training. The regulatory body of Yoga Alliance has created a healthy eco-system of Yoga schools and teachers to grow, prosper and spread the knowledge of Yoga. In India most of the Yoga Alliance registered schools are concentrated in tourist spots of Rishikesh, Goa and Mysore.

Given the today’s scenario of Yoga Alliance registered school’s in India, Akshara Yoga School is an outlier, situated in the hinterland of India. We are a school with proven track record of offering most satisfying Yoga Teacher Training course. 

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