Summary of the 300-hour TTC in India, 2017

The Indian 300-hour TTC was quite eventful. Even before I went to India, three Hong Kong students cancelled because the relationship between China and India had soured (quite normal with China who has trouble with all her neighbours, Vietnam, Japan…) and these women claimed that they were afraid that Indians would be aggressive toward Chinese citizens. It’s ridiculous but they would not hear me.
Then I flew to India and some students were already there, most would come after me. I need to arrive earlier to prepare a TTC, to adapt myself to new climate, new food, new environment, and so on, which is always demanding on the body and spirit too. Added to that the jetlag and the long flight!
The organiser finally moved me to another place than his place, where, he said, there were 19 rooms, just that many rooms were simply not acceptable—no windows, mouldy, dark. Finally some of us stayed in his place, 5 minutes from the TTC-hotel. The yoga room also was not ideal, two blind walls, one wall with 2 windows facing the hills, and the back of the room hot, often too hot. Added to that, ill-conceived and I always need walls, for handstands for instance.
Anyway, I accepted because I knew that everywhere, there are problems, nowhere is perfect. The main thing was to teach that TTC.
Three Chinese women arrived together. I took them to the “market”, introduced them to Rishikesh. Next day, one of them freaked out, she had not said a word for one day, and she left. I think she could not cope with the mess that India is.
Then two ladies arrived together after a trip to Agra (Taj Mahal) and one night in Delhi. One of them too freaked out, was in tears, scared to death by everything around her. I must say that Indians and India by and large don’t look safe. It’s dirty, smelly, chaotic…
On the 1st day of the TTC, I caught a virus, high fever, pain in all the muscles, joints, I immediately took Ravintsara essential oil. The virus lasted for 2 days only… but it was forced labor for me to teach 8 hours per day to 19 persons, among whom 9 were beginners (they had attended a 200-hour TTC with a local school and were far from the level of my Chinese students). For one week I remained weak with this virus. But I made it.
Out of 19 students, 7 are Westerners, 1 young Indian lady, and 10 Chinese. I know the Chinese, they sign up to a TTC to learn something, whatever the conditions. They have come all the way to India, they take responsibility for themselves. But I don’t teach Westerners very often. And the field of yoga has been invaded by New Age thinking. Ideas like a TTC teacher is more than a TTC teacher. I have come here to teach: asanas, pranayama, meditation, teaching methodology, anatomy, philosophy, and nutrition. And that’s it. Yoga teachers are not, and should not present themselves as other than yoga teachers. Students should not have any further expectation beyond the subjects here mentioned. I quote Shyam Ranganathan:
Some who practise yoga, particularly in the West, come to yoga from a seemingly New Age perspective according to which everything under the sun is ok, fine, good and without need of criticism. “I’m ok, you’re ok,” has been revived by many practitioners of yoga. For them, yoga is an escape from self-criticism, stress and difficulty. This is NOT Patanjali’s view of yoga.
This phrase, so in vogue with the hip of the 90’s—It’s all good—would not sit well with Patanjali. To be a yogi is to hold oneself up to a very high standard. It is not to disassociate the self from the mind & body and to take no responsibility for one’s thoughts, desires and actions. To practise yoga, according to him, is to practise rigours of the body and mind. There is no room for rest or relaxation for the yogi.
How then are we to make sense of the peculiar phenomenon of fashion yoga: yogic practice that people take on for the clothes that one can buy from expensive yoga clothing boutiques, or yoga undertaken so that one can secure the body of one’s dreams or as a substitute to some other type of physical exercise that leads to a positive body image?
Patanjali is committed to the notion that tapas helps in the practice of yoga, because it purifies the body and thereby purifies the mind. However, success in yoga cannot be had by the mere practice of tapas or a weak subscription to watered-down ‘spirituality’ that attempts to infuse divinity in all things (including one’s own decisions and thoughts) in order to avoid the difficult project of self-criticism. (I.21-22) Yoga that is merely divorced from self-critical study and introspection is hardly yoga. His view is that tapas is merely one component of the practice of yoga. And as we see in the sutra II.1, it cannot be yoga without a concomitant introspection conspicuously absent in fashion yoga.
However, tapas can and often does have a transformative effect. Over the years that I have taught the Patanjali’s philosophy to students of tapas, I have been impressed that many students come to yoga initially for a challenging and fulfilling workout, and stick with it only to see their life change: A heightened commitment to self-reflexivity, increased ethical reflection, sensitivity and activism, along with a nascent spirituality and devotionalism seem to sprout in many who seriously commit themselves to “yoga”. It starts out as one thing and turns into something completely different. This is not the universal experience of practitioners of tapas, but few students of yoga seem to have the type of commitment that Patanjali seems to think is necessary for noticeable success in yoga, its transformative power.
But, as often in a TTC, one person with issues thought that I would share my ‘experience’ and looked up to me as if I was going to do something for her issues. She was “processing”, one of those nice New Age phrases. She was also following another kind of teaching, though in the introduction I said my TTCs would be intense and the students should dedicate time and energy to this and this only, for a limited period of time. She was certainly doing something else. Moreover she has some hearing problems too! She understands part of what I teach, and often forgot her ear-piece.
That’s fine, but she became more and more demanding, since I did not reply to her demand. She did not understand that I am not and don’t want to be a life-coach. Day 32 out of the 37 days of the TTC, she asked, “what is khecari mudra?” I had explained this mudra on day 1 of the TTC, we watched a video, I commented on this video, I sent all students this video so that they keep it as a document. 31 days later, she still had not heard this word! And it was the same with everything.
Day 32, I asked the students to massage the sole of their feet, and do a forward bend right after. She said, “oh nice, this reflexology.” And then, “oh, I did not know it was supposed to stretch the hamstrings.” I had explained that in detail, and what reassured me, is that the 17 other students, all of them had understood.
I blew up.
This is an exchange on FB messenger:
[Me]: The other reason why i am exhausted is One student, 1, wo has confused a ttc yoga teacher into a life-coach, and she is hanging on me 'like I was a crucifix."
[my friend and student]: Oh no! Of course, you're supposed to have all of the answers for all of your students problems! I'm sure you'll help her understand that you aren't a life-coach I've been pretty upset about yoga business, yoga tourism, being identified with too many horrible teachers now. I'm sure it's even harder for you, to have seen it through all of these years. Poor India. such a strange place!”
One of the students started the TTC as stiff as a block. It was clear that she was a meat eater, with a flesh that cannot release, even under relaxation, her flesh is hard, all the time hard. After 3 weeks of my vinyasa practice and vegetarianism, her body started to change, the joints started to loosen. I recall when I first adjusted her, that whatever I tried to ‘push’ (a shoulder, a hip joint…) it felt like pushing a block, a stone. By the middle of the TTC, when I adjusted her, I could feel that her joints could yield more.
Another one was overweight—thyroid issue. She gained so much core, she lost so much weight, I just hope she’ll continue a regular practice. It would be really sad to have practiced for 45 days and gotten such a result to just quit, and return to what she was at the beginning of the TTC.
One of the students is a Chinese woman who attended my 200-hour TTC in 2016. I always thought she was 45. She is 60! Chinese women are wonderful. How much I love their courage, their willpower.
This TTC left me exhausted, and I am grateful to the students who actually helped me, with a positive attitude, during this TTC.

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