Ok, so this review is a little overdue, and for that I apologise. I can only plead mitigating circumstances. Poor online access plus a lack of free time (and rarely the two together!) makes for a very slack blogger.
But you don’t care about that, you want to know what the course was like don’t you? And see what it was like too no doubt. Well, as best I can without giving too much away, here is my review of the Sivananda Teacher Training Course in Reith, Austria (September 2012).
Food and Accommodation
As I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, the food to me was great. Good, solid, well cooked, veggie food and plenty of it.
Unlike other Sivananda Ashrams most of the guests in Austria stay at the bio-hotel next door to the yoga centre, so our meals were provided by the hotel.
But they cooked to the Sivananda recipes, so it was pretty similar to the stuff I’ve cooked an eaten at the London centre before. I had no complaints anyway – they even went so far as to mark everything as vegan or nicht vegan, which was good of them – and I even had to put myself on short portions as I was getting a bit stuffed all the time (you tend to do that when there’s loads of free food and you only get two meals a day. It’s a survival instinct I think).
The room I was in was pretty basic to say the least. But you were so busy with other stuff you didn’t have much time to lounge around, so it wasn’t really a problem. And for the most part sharing a room with eight other blokes was ok too. We were all pretty respectful of each others’ space and each others’ peace (all except one person who made life difficult for everyone else) and got on better than I expected.
I had originally wanted a room sharing with just a few others, but ended up in the dorm for some reason. I think next time, if I can afford it, I’d go for a single room. Even with the best of intentions things can get a little ripe with nine guys sharing for a whole month; phew!
The Teaching (both theirs and mine)
The level of teaching was, as expected, excellent. We had two lectures a day, one on the Bhagavad Gita and one on either anatomy, philosophy, meditation, or some other aspect of Vedanta.
NB: It should be noted that the Sivananda Organisation teaches the entirety of Yoga, not just the Asanas (postures). Most people think yoga just comprises of the exercises, but it in fact includes meditation and philosophy as well. The true purpose of yoga is realisation of the Self, not just getting your foot behind your head.
There was just enough work to keep us busy, and just enough time in between to relax. We had homework, but just a page or two of writing a day. I never had a problem with it. I still found time to chill out throughout the day.
As well as an asana class in the morning we also had a ‘how to teach’ class in the afternoon. We split into small groups and practised teaching each other. I had no problem with this, what with my background in teaching Tai Chi. Plus I’ve always kept an eye out in class to see how the other teachers do it (just in case, y’know ;)).
In fact everyone did really well, I was surprised. A few were a tad nervous, or couldn’t remember the sequence or the correct words, but by the end of it we were all pretty good.
You have some karma yoga to do each day. If you’re lucky it’s something simple like cleaning toilets or handing things out. I on the other hand had the job of doing the sound during the Satsang.
I must confess, not my favourite thing in the world. I keep trying to get away from these technical jobs but, like the Mafia, “Every time I get out, they pull me back in!” Ah well, waddaya gonna do?
The Exam and Graduation
The final exam took me about just under 3 hours to do. I won’t give away too much detail here if you don’t mind, as it would be doing anyone who is thinking of doing the TTC a disservice (trust me, I have my reasons). Suffice it to say they do everything in their power to make sure you pass, and I salute them for that. They make sure you have all the information you need, they make sure you know what to study, and they’re always there to help. Put it this way, if I tell you everyone in my group passed, then I think you see where I’m coming from.
Quick story: The night before the exam a group of us were studying in the dining hall of the hotel. The landlord, Florian, came past smiling and laughing and said (in German, which a friend translated for me)
“What are you studying for? Don’t you know everyone passes! Why not have a beer instead.” 🙂
We had the graduation ceremony the same day as the exam. It meant those who were local could head off in the evening instead of having to stay another day. They did well, getting through ninety or so people in just a few hours. Wasn’t much room for taking photos though. I managed to get a few from where I was sat near the front, and a kind soul took some of me too, plus we made up for it afterward with some group shots, so in the end we did ok.
The Slightly Naughty Bit
Ok, any Swamis reading this might want to skip this bit. It might not prove very ‘sattvic’.
A few of us went out after hours on the Saturday night, once the graduation was done and the course was finished, to celebrate and blow off a bit of steam.
It was nice to go out and be a bit naughty, after a month of austerities. I mean all I did was play a bit of pool (it’s been so long since I played pool too!), but just to stick on a pair of jeans and go do something ‘normal’ was very therapeutic.
I have to admit, I didn’t win many games. But with pool, as with life, it’s the taking part that counts.
My Top Five Tips For Surviving The TTC
Ok, things you need to bring/do, in no particular order:
1. A torch and an umbrella. The one for meditative walks in the woods that start or end in darkness, and the other for getting from building to building in the randomly changing Austrian weather.
2. A good pair of easy on, easy off shoes. Every time you enter a building you have to take off your shoes. A real pain if you have boots with lots of laces. But if you wear slip-ons wear something sturdy. I brought a pair of Toms and they were messed up in less than 10 days (and I wasn’t the only one).
3. Pay for a single room. For the reasons mentioned above. Failing that bring earplugs, air freshener, and good amount of tolerance.
4. Get a watch. There’s no mobiles allowed, so a watch is the only way to know what time it is. Seriously, I found mine invaluable (as did many others). Also very handy if you intend to teach. Without a watch how can you time your classes?
5. Patience and a GSOH. Though not a stressful as the meditation course I did, the Sivananda TTC is still quite challenging, both physically and emotionally. The ability to laugh and smile, especially when things are getting a little loose around the edges, is an invaluable thing. And if all else fails go take a nap. Everything looks more manageable after a bit of rest.
And that’s it. My review of my Teacher Training Course. Hope you found it informative, and at the very least enjoyed the pretty pictures.
I’ll be posting a couple more anecdotes from the course over the next few weeks, as well as writing about the work they have me doing for them (for those that don’t know, I’ve stayed on in Reith for two months to work at the ashram, a work study program they call Karma Yoga).
Until then, have fun and take care. Om om om. 🙂