Teachers' Corner Travel

Bad Taxis and the Search for Self: My Yoga Teacher Training in India

No cell service. Zero money (Chase Bank unbeknownst to me prepares me with Bank of Marutia rupees verses Indian ones) and a non-English speaking taxi driver who is hell-bent on taking me to the crappy Golden Palace Hotel (where he receives his commission) 45 minutes away.

Deep in Delhi. The dark garbage-strewn alley was peppered with skinny, barky dogs and stone-faced men, young and old, who started to stare at me then surround my taxi as it finally came to a slow halt. My driver pointed his wrinkly fingers out his window, pushed his chin up and said my hotel was “down there.” Oh no it’s not! My Booking.com place was super cute, close to the airport, included a simple breakfast and was designed to easily get me off to Rishikesh by train the next morning. I had been duped.

Not exactly my imagined peaceful start to Yoga Teacher Training in India.

I took that room at the Palace. Shoved the rusty bolt on the gray metal door in tight, then closed the drooping drapes shutting out the pink and yellow blinking neon signs that made too many shadows in my room. And fed my growing monster headache.

Finding out the next morning that the Tuesday train north to Dehradun was a full 12 hours prompted me to book a quick 30-minute flight and open my Uber app. Enough of those taxi drivers! I was feeling like my confident self again. Until the rude hotel manager refused to give me the downstairs internet code and I missed my Uber. He suggests his taxi. Of course.

Later, relieved to have landed, I was just 10 miles away from my new temporary home in India. Smiling Rishal from the Vinyasa Yoga School somehow finds me in the chaos, relieves me of my stuffed orange bag and takes it on as his own. He dashes off into the crowded streets expecting me to keep up with his 20-year-old legs. This is not so easy, as my eyes are bouncing around up and down then around so very taken with the vibe, charm, and natural beauty that unfolds before me.

The first thing you notice about Rishikesh are the colors.

Women in vibrant blue, deep green, and hot pink saris filled the suspension bridge I swayed on, being swept along with the bold cows, demanding motorbikes (incessantly honking I might add), and fast-moving locals. The holy River Ganges 247 feet below was a powerful turquoise ribbon framed by the Himalayan Mountains to the north. Families smiling stopped in clusters, babies on their shoulders taking selfies against the magnificent scenes available on either side of the 70-year-old bridge. I’m in love.

My alarm goes off startling me at 5:15 every morning and will continue to do so six days a week for the next month. Hard to believe I’m here. In India. Committed to a Yoga Teacher Training program that feeds my brain non-stop and taxes my body to exhaustion until 8:30 every night.

My whole adult life I’ve been a gym girl – weights, classes, cardio – you name it.

For over 35 years now. One year ago, the realization that I was severely out of balance struck me hard. I observed myself getting on the treadmill phone in hand scrolling away, Kindle propped on the display board, headphones in and dialed to CNN glued to the wild US 2016 election noise and a Fitbit on my wrist – which I looked at constantly being pleased with my accumulating steps and earned e-badges. This from a health professional…really? I was not well. Obviously.
I walked away from the gym one rainy, cold October day and brought nothing but myself to the yoga studio. I was home.

My desire to come to India came from…who knows where? Like getting on those moving sidewalks in the airports I was standing still, but being moved in a very new direction.

The night before my class started pure anxiety set in. “What the hell am I doing here?” came out of my mouth repeatedly. Big tears, too. Fear was setting in. Could I do four hours of yoga a day plus take classes in anatomy, philosophy, pranayama and quiet my own monkey mind for a full hour of meditation?

Oh. And my back. It had been out of whack for 10 days (can you say emotional blockage?), got worse in the 13-hour plane ride and was sitting at a level 6-7 discomfort. Really? And I’m committed to three intense Vinyasa and Hatha classes every day.

Early in my trip, I was also starting to get some acute stomach upset. I know how bad this can get, having been sick in both Vietnam and Laos. But, on my second day here? I’m hopeful the 12 capsules of charcoal I’ve been consuming hourly will soon do their thing.

So, there I am tossing and turning (that night before class) as well as getting up twice to tell the Indian dancing dude and his two curvy girlies across the balcony to please, please turn down their techno (crap) music.

What a wreck I was. Could I do this? Had I reached too far?? I felt quite alone. Because I was.

Fast forward three days: I CAN do this! I AM doing this!

I love my classmates from around the globe. I love the spicy Indian food that nourishes me. I’m learning about chakras and the melodic Sanskrit language. I’m reading. Singing. Chanting. And talking / walking with the smiling locals every day.

I push myself physically and emotionally beyond perceived limits daily. Already I am so much stronger and have become quite flexible. I’ve settled in. To my little purple room. The school. The Village.

Mostly, I am settling into myself.

Have you ever had a wild travel experience like this one? Share with us in the comments!

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  1. Federica Cusumano

    Federica Cusumano

    January 20, 2018 at 6:25 am

    Such a great experience you had been living ! I’m sure everything worths despite of the crappy music and crazy drivers you dealt with ( this story sounds very familiar to me!)
    I am also interested in taking a YTT in India the coming summer and until now, Rishikesh is my first option. Might ask you a couple of questions about the best way to get there once you are in India-land.
    I’ve recently checking the flights from the Middle East, which is where I am now, but I was puzzled as soon as I found out that there are no direct connections to go to Rishikesh. From you storytelling, I understood that you got there eventually by flight. Do you recommend it or the train might work as well?. Also, you think transportation are reliable to be taken last minute or is it necessary a carefull plan in advance ?
    Thanks to have shared with us your great personal story !
    Hope you are doing good and best of luck with you teaching career:)

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      Shirley Piccarreto

      January 20, 2018 at 4:42 pm

      Hey Federica! Thanks for the kind words…glad you enjoyed! Yes, you can take the train to Rishikesh…I had planned on doing that initially but on Tuesdays, it’s a local 11 hour journey verses 5-6 hours on the other days. I booked my plane flight the morning of at 9AM and was on it by noon…seemed to be plenty of flexibility. You can also take a car/taxi for around $75 . Rishikesh is magical and so much fun! The Vinyassa Yoga School is fantastic as well. You can see my pics on Instagram at Tales Of Two Travelers and get a good flavor of the beauty there….best to you and let me know if I can help in any way! Shirley

  2. Pála Margrét

    Pála Margrét

    January 21, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    Sounds amazing! Yoga teacher trainings transform us in unimaginative ways!

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      Shirley Piccarreto

      January 26, 2018 at 9:33 pm

      I’ll say! Life changing for sure…Who knows what else will come of this! Thank you!!

  3. Federica Cusumano

    Federica Cusumano

    January 24, 2018 at 7:42 am

    Dear Shirley ,

    Thank you very much for your travel tips !
    I will keep them in mind.
    I am not a Pinterest members but I had the chance to see some of your life changing experience pictures in it though.
    I wish you the best of luck in this path and lot of good energy to build your own road.

  4. Avatar


    January 26, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    Sounds amazing! Which school was it? I’ve been looking into a few in india. Did you go on your own?

  5. Avatar

    Shirley Piccarreto

    January 26, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    Hey Hope! I went to the Vinyassa Yoga School in Rishikesh…the yoga capitol of the world! What an amazing city full of color, music and fabulous food. The school is one of the best and has a 5 star rating. At the base of the Himalayan Mountains on the beautiful turquoise blue Ganges River. You can check a lot of my photos on Instagram- Tales of Two Travelers! 🙂 Yes, I went alone. All the students did and I think we represented about 15 countries! You fly to Delhi and can take a train up (5-11 hours depending on the day) or a quick one hour flight which was cheap- $79 US. Let me know if I can help in any way!

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