Last year around this time, teaching yoga was just a dream, a thought that crossed my mind while was trying to figure out what I really want to do in life. I had been practicing yoga for four years, a relationship that started from the most common aspect, the physical aspect of postures. I enjoyed my growing flexibility and how it helped me recover from injuries caused by practicing other sports like running. I didn’t know back then that yoga postures were just the tip of the iceberg, the tip of vast blessings that practicing yoga brings. This is what I learned later at Anand Prakash Ashram during my Akhanda Yoga teacher training.
The Search for a School
I started investigating yoga schools on the Yoga Alliance website, searching by yoga style. The registered yoga schools’ directory was really overwhelming – thousands of schools all over the world. So, I set the filters to schools that have 5 stars rating, which teaches spiritually oriented yoga, and hundreds of schools appeared. I was trying to find a comprehensive program that combined more than one of my favorite yoga styles and covered different aspects of practicing yoga. I started to open the websites of the yoga schools, and the second was for Akhanda Yoga YTT at Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram. As soon as I opened the website, I said to myself “I want to be in this place”. I knew it right program for me as I read through the curriculum and the description of the Akhanda Yoga approach. I sent an email asking about the program, the possibility to join, and I got a warm welcoming quick and friendly reply from the program coordinator Chétana. After that, the universe conspired to help me attending this program for real.
A few months later I was in the airport heading to Delhi. I was scared, confused, feeling lost, but as soon as I arrived at the hotel where we were supposed to start our ride to Rishikesh, I had this warm welcome from Eila Devi, one member of the most dedicated teaching staff I’ve ever met, and with her profound and grounding presence, I felt like I was in trusted hands. She took me and introduced me to my roommate. I later realized that we were thoughtfully matched together, and same for all the group members.
After a long drive from Delhi to Rishikesh, we finally arrived in Anand Prakash Ashram. I still remember the scene when we approached Rishikesh – a huge mighty mountain range covered in green forests that has a mystical energy that you can’t miss. And then, around one of the curving roads, the stunning view of the Ganges appeared. I felt blessed to be there.
The following days proved that I was right, we arrived at the ashram with a warm welcome from Yogrishi Vishvketu, the Himalayan yoga master that I saw on the website, welcoming us with flower garlands and sweets along with the rest of teaching staff, other workers in the ashram and fellow YTT students who arrived earlier. It felt like it would be more than a YTT – it would be a life-changing experience. Our teaching staff was really aware of this and had handled us as thoughtfully as I’ve never imagined possible – beyond their duty as teachers.
The Yoga of Balance
Since day one, I noticed that everything in this place was about balance, everything was in perfect balance. There was a balance between the strict schedule running as accurate as a clock every day, and the overall friendly atmosphere in the ashram. The dedicated kitchen staff cooked perfectly balanced vegetarian meals, three times per day who never let us down. In food, there was a balance between wholesome and fun – like the chocolate banana samosas. There was consistency in the morning Akhanda Yoga sessions, yet variety – each class was unique over the full 28 days. The curriculum was balanced between asana, anatomy, philosophy, but also practical aspect and application of all what we were learning were considered. I still remember that Vishva-ji assigned certain time every session to answer our questions, it was a sacred and important time that we never skipped, usually followed by one of his unforgettable stories full of another balanced mix of a sense of humor and wisdom.
Seeing Ritual in a New Way
After morning yoga we had daily fire puja. despite the resistance I had for this ritual at the beginning, it soon became the pillar of my day. The idea that all these people from all over the world set together chanting prayers with intentions to send healing energy to the world was so inspiring, it gave me a completely different view of religious practice or rituals. I realized that rituals are the way we physically manifest our beliefs and intentions, it completes it, alleviates it and strengthens it. And sacred doesn’t need to be with tension or over-seriousness. We did it with ease, light hearts, faithful intentions and sometimes humor.
Dropping into the Whole
As the program continued, the transformation continued. My relationship to yoga and my approach to practice asana has changed forever. We always got the cue to respect our bodies, to move with ease and joy, to let our bodies trust us that we don’t go beyond its limit so that it opens up, to have the perfect balance between effort and ease.
At Akhanda Yoga I understood that teaching yoga is not just a profession, it’s a lifestyle, and a lifelong journey of learning and growth. I learned that any progress in asana practice starts with intention. I found the gracious space to understand myself through yoga practice, and that the traditional yoga styles have a lot of varieties to suit different purposes. I learned about balance – that it’s doable and achievable, and it differs from perfectionism, but can bring us closer to it. Anand Prakash Ashram is a living proof and model of this. I’m so grateful that I had my YTT there and can’t wait to have my 300 YTT there after I have the time to digest what I have learned on the personal and professional level.
I left the Ashram knowing that I have friends from all over the world, an ever-growing family. I have soul brothers and sisters everywhere now, and I’m blessed to be a member of the global Akhanda Family.
By Nada AlShazly
Nada graduated from Akhanda Yoga YTT in Spring 2018. She was a dentist and social media marketer when she encountered the path of yoga practice 5 years ago while exploring self-awareness through different techniques of body movement, like contemporary dancing, Sufi spinning and meditation. She chose to take her yoga practice to the next level and become a professional yoga teacher, sharing the path that changed her life with others, helping them to thrive and connect with their true selves.