Advanced Teachers' Training Course (ATTC)
My ATTC experienced recently at Sivananda Yoga Ranch near Woodbourne, NY, was during the month of July 2011. I drove from Pascagoula, MS, taking a 3 day trip and arriving two days early, giving me time for adjustment to the Ashram life and recover from a recent trip to Ireland, jet lag and the drive. Upon arrival some confusion with front desk resulted in waiting for the desk clerk who did not realize who I was, although we had known each other for 4 years. Apparently there was not a room reserved for me. I said let me take an hour while you check with the lady who emailed me about arrival two days early and I can unwind from the long drive and practice yoga on the platform. Realizing I would be doing 2 asana practices and an hour of pranayama each day, I did my last Ashtanga Primary Series practice in blue jeans and t-shirt while the karma yoga volunteer checked about the room. I felt much better after the practice and walked down the hill from platform for yoga and entered the front desk area again, and this time he said my spiritual name and said the room will be ready at 2:00 PM. (Someone on karma yoga staff was using the room and moved out into a tent, I later learned). I walked around the beautiful Ashram taking pictures of the Catskills with I-phone, and three hours later drove up to Ananda House and took my luggage up to the third floor room 20 and unpacked, made the bed with sheets provided and placed my blanket and pillow on the bed, which was leaning to one side and uncomfortable, prompting me to sleep on the floor.
Yoga platform on the hill
View from Ananda Hall third floor room 20.
The Advanced Teachers' Training Course is an opportunity for graduates of the Sivananda Teachers' Training Course to deepen their spiritual knowledge over four weeks of intensive yoga practice and the study of Vedanta philosophy.
Curriculum of Teachers' Training Course
The goal of this training program is to produce qualified and inspiring yoga teachers who are able to draw on their own practice and personal discipline in imparting the yoga experience to others.
The curriculum is based on the five points of yoga which can be understood as the practical application of the traditional four paths of yoga.
The intensive daily schedule includes two meditation sessions, two yoga classes, two lectures, one hour of service to the ashram community. One day a week is lecture-free, otherwise known as the weekly day off.
Advanced Asanas (yoga postures)
A daily teaching practice class is devoted to teaching you how to teach asanas and pranayama. A daily asana practice class gives you the opportunity to practice your own asanas and will help to build the good habit of practice. The daily in-depth practice with individual corrections comprises:
• Sun salutation
• 12 basic yoga postures
• 100 asana variations, from intermediate level to advanced
• Postural alignment
• Deep relaxation with autosuggestion
• Release of blocked energy
• Training sessions for all age groups
Benefits of asanas:
• Control emotions
• Improve power of concentration
• Rid the body of excess fat
• Enhance physical fitness
• Relieve chronic ailments such as constipation, rheumatism, stomach complaints
• Stimulate circulation
• Stabilize thyroid functions
• Keep muscles youthful and supple into old age
• Expands capacity of the lungs
• Relaxes the nervous system
• Balances the two hemispheres of the brain
• Purifies the nadis (subtle energy channels)
• Awakens the inner spiritual energy
• Kapalabhati (lung cleansing exercise)
• Anuloma Viloma (alternate nostril breathing)
• Ujjayi, Surya Bheda, Bhastrika, Sitali, Sitkari, Bhramari
• Samanu (mental cleansing of the nadis)
• The three bandhas: Jalandhara, Moola, Uddiyana
I arose each morning at 4:20 AM to shower, brush teeth, clean tongue, netti pot, and do the morning ritual of stomach kriyas prior to pranayama at 5:00 AM for an hour. Pranayama was not challenging for me as I already have pranayama practice from Ashtanga and found these pranayamas not as challenging for there is no retention after the exhale as we do in Ashtanga, but sitting with legs crossed for an hour did bring about slight soreness in the left knee.
• Tratak, Neti, Kapalabhati, Dhauti, Nauli and Basti: six classical purification exercises for the eyes, nose, air passages, esophagus and stomach, abdominal organs and large intestine. Explanation and demonstration of the exercises and their effects. Individual instruction prior to practice. I awakened at 4:20 each morning and practiced these on my own in the restroom.
Yoga anatomy and physiology
• Introduction to the major body systems
• The effects of asanas and pranayama on: the cardiovascular system, respiration, digestion, skeletal and muscular systems, endocrine system
• The eight systems of the body
• Yoga and physical culture
• Diet and nutrition
This was an excellent course and taught by a yoginni and massage therapist. I learned that the brain tumor removed about the size of a golf ball several years ago was still causing imbalances of functions controlled by the hypothalamus, thalamus, and pituitary/pineal of the center brain called diencephalus. I still have residual tumor about 3/8 inch in diameter, but was treated with cobalt radiation using gamma knife. I decided to limit eight count head stand held for long intervals, and rested prior to doing advanced headstand variations. Some members of the class held headstand for up to 9 minutes and then did advanced variations without rest. Headless headstand, handstands were easy for me as balance was better with no pressure on the skull.
Karma and Reincarnation
• The law of action and reaction
• The law of compensation
• The law of retribution
• Destiny and self-effort
• Vegetarianism for ethical, spiritual and health reasons
• How diet affects the mind
• Proper balance of the main nutrients
• Ayurvedic principles of nutrition
• Healing effects of fasting
Vegetarian Feast after Graduation
• Guide to meditation
• What is meditation
• Why meditate
• Physical and mental meditation
• 12-step daily practice
• Effects of and experiences in meditation
• Mantras . spiritual energy in sound
• Mantra initiation (if desired) I already received mantra from ttc.
• Ethical and moral principles
• Body prana (life energy) and mind
• From control over the body to control over the mind and meditation
Ah, the Royal path, yoga sutras, eight limbs of yoga, philosophy of science and knowledge.
• Ashtanga - the 8 steps of yoga
• Antahkarana - functions of the mind
• Concentration and meditation
• The Absolute and how it manifests itself in nature
• Macrocosmos & microcosmos
• The 7 Chakras
• The awakening of cosmic energy
The pranayama advanced practice in Sivananda tradition is only practiced at the Sivananda Ashram or with an experienced Guru, for Swami Vishnu Devananda believed the Kundalini might try to enter the wrong nadi or cause severe problems. The sanctity of the Ashram assures safety.
- Learning the Sanskrit alphabet
- Correct pronunciation and spelling of the mantras and hymns
- Writing yoga sutras in sanskrit
- Asanas in sanskrit
• Kirtan: chanting of classical Sanskrit mantras
• Indian gods and their cosmic meaning
• Chanting opens the heart and purifies the mind. With daily chanting, you develop a strong feeling of devotion and a very pure vibration. In devotional chanting correct pronunciation, devotional attitude and awareness of meaning are all-important.
My Karma Yoga started two days early and was about 5 hours each day during the early arrival days, chopping wood, splitting wood and piling wood. Needless to say the sun burned the back of my neck and I sweated in the heat while two others operated chain saws to cut pulp wood into lengths for me to split using a 20 ton press log splitter. I wore gloves, sun glasses, a cap, and ear protection from the chain saw noise. I enjoyed the work, but experienced severe sunburn later with the back of the neck peeling off later and bleeding on my pillow at night trying to sleep in this new environment. The a/c system is an open window bringing in fresh Catskill mountain air and the blissful noise of mother nature.
When attc schedule started, my karma yoga was less than an hour splitting logs for firewood used at the sauna. Also I did maintenance work, carried luggage for important visitors in between classes or our limited free moments, and operated the weed whacker and a weed eater. The area on a hillside overlooking a drop off to a frog pond below from where guests ate meals from outdoor wooden tables with seats, such a beautiful sight! This area had briars, poison ivy, and weeds mixed with wild flowers. My instructions were “knock it all down”. I did all of this after splitting the wood for the rest of the month. You should see the long chords of wood and the weed whacked hillside, minus the poison ivy. Needless to say, a week after arriving home, I broke out with poison ivy rash all over my arms. I took precautions during the month with long sleeves and protective oils. But the last two days I weed eat-ed some dark red poison ivy leaves growing over flat rocks and forgot to apply protective coatings. I wore gloves, safety boots, long blue jeans, sun glasses each day, but the final two days did not wear protective sleeves and coatings. Such pain and suffering after getting home.
Le Chocolate (yogurt from adjacent yogurt shop)
• Karma yoga is the practice of selfless service and helps to reduce selfishness and egoism and keeps you fit and healthy and gives immeasurable joy
• You will be asked to do various tasks within the Ashram setting including gardening, cooking, cleaning, office work and any other work necessary for the smooth running of the community
• The law of cause and effect
• Samsara . the wheel of birth and death
• Karma Yoga - selfless service: one hour daily in the ashram community
Split wood for Sauna
Hillside down to frog pond prior to weed whacking.
After weed whacking
Sauna Furnace (where fruits of labor realized by guests within 190 deg sauna room around the corner)
We had a few warm up classes by Swami SadaSivananda and a final review, the major portions of Jana Yoga, Vedanta philosophy were taught by the Director of all USA, Canada, Bahamas, and Israel yoga centres, Swami Swaroopananda. Class was most interesting experience being in the director’s class, especially his entrance to class, his assistants and secretaries and traveling companions. The permanent staff and our teachers attended, playing the harmonium and chanting until the anticipated arrival of the Swami, very much unlike all the other classes.
• Basic concepts of Vedanta philosophy with lots of illustrations and analogies
• The 7 Bhoomikas or planes of consciousness
• Space, time, causation
• The 3 bodies
• The 3 levels of the mind
• Conquest of death
• Considered one of the greatest spiritual texts of the world, the Bhagavad Gita contains subtle and profound teachings and has a universality which embraces every aspect of human actions. It symbolizes the solution of the eternal struggle between the spiritual and the material in every human being
• Study of both the text and Swami Sivananda's commentary
Daily schedule and course rules
• 4:30 am: Wake up
• 5:00 am: Advanced pranayama
• 6:00 am: Satsang (Meditation, chanting, lecture)
• 8:00 am: Basic Asanas w/o pranayama
• 9:00 am: Anatomy and physiology
• 10:00 am: Breakfast
• 10:45 am: Karma Yoga (helping out with chores)
• 12:00 pm: Sanskrit/Raja Yoga/Bhakti yoga
• 2:00 pm: Main lecture in Vedanta, Bhagavad Gita
• 4:00 pm: Asanas and pranayama, advanced variations to basic 12 postures
• 6:00 pm: Dinner
• 7:30 pm: Satsang (Meditation, chanting, lecture)
• 10:00 pm: Lights out
Satsang means being in companionship with the truth and with the wise. The course satsang consists of half an hour silent meditation, half an hour chanting and a talk or reading on aspects of yoga philosophy. It will help you to develop a strong and steady meditation practice and show you the way to peace and happiness.
Final Satsang and graduation
The first SatSang conducted by Swami SadaSivananda, included an introduction of each member of the class here for ATTC. I introduced myself giving a description of training and teaching experience, and indicated I came here to have a good time and enjoy the course. Later the Swami said the purpose of ATTC is experience Pain and Suffering, not to enjoy the experience. At the end of the course this was negated “Neti, Neti” by the director in his final lecture saying he hoped we did indeed have a good time for we all enjoy yoga and staying at such a beautiful Ashram founded by our Guru Swami Vishnu Devananda. I did have a good time. The only pain and suffering experienced was ascending the flight of stairs each day to the third floor of Ananda Hall, and getting sunburned while splitting wood for the sauna. There was much talk about chocolate and coffee by Swami SadaSivananda and how these were vices he tries to avoid. I do not drink much coffee nor like chocolate at all, but hearing that this was to be avoided; and many of the staff recommending visiting “Le Chocolate’ store in downtown Woodbourne on our day off for cappuccinos and chocolate. So naturally on my day off, I took a small group of classmates in my auto to Woodbourne and we all ordered chocolate and cappuccinos. One lady ordered the Belgium waffle with chocolate syrup on top. The chocolate and coffee did not bother me, but a small portion of the Belgium waffle did, making my stomach feel squeamish. So most of my pain and suffering occurred away from the Ashram, not to mention developing a rash from poison ivy after I arrived home 3 days later. Driving home I also experienced pain and suffering in the Southern Gentlemen’s restaurant in downtown Lexington, Virginia, home of Washington and Lee college and Virginia Military Institute. A group of men ordered same time as me. My order for dinner was rainbow trout, string beans, baby potatoes and carrots almost sattvic.. The adjacent table much to my chagrin ordered a large greasy hamburger, bright red meat, covered in onions and salty French fries, a huge rib eye steak cooked slightly almost raw with blood oozing out of it, fries and catchup, fried calves liver and French fries, and the fourth a sirloin steak also cooked rare with a mound of fries, too. The smell of these platters of gluttony delivered to the adjacent table made me almost throw up, such that I moved my plate to another table near a large group of women and it was not long thereafter they all ordered wines and draft beers. Such a fermented odor and smell turned my sinuses and made me almost as sick seeing and smelling the red meats. Such pain and suffering for a flexible vegetarian who occasionally consumes local fish and vegetables.
On our day off, we experienced a silent meditation walk around the Ashram property and offsite into the wilderness for over an hour’s walk, enjoying the views of meadows, temples, paths in the woods, panoramic views of sun rising, distant saddle backs, lakes and wooded Catskill ridges.
Day off at Lake after 5 hours of Karma Yoga
A high degree of self-motivation is required for all aspects of the course. A basic knowledge of yoga postures and philosophy is helpful but not essential. A sincere desire to learn and openness to the teachings of yoga is required.
The practice and especially the teaching of yoga demand a high degree of self-discipline and purity. To ensure the success of the program, participants are required to attend all spiritual activities, meditation sessions, lectures and asana classes.
Meat, fish, eggs, black tea, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, drugs and nudity are prohibited during the course as they are counterproductive to the yoga practice. Participants who do not comply with the ashram rules may be dismissed from the course. Unfortunately, it is not possible to cater to personal dietary preferences beyond the yogic-vegetarian meals.
What to Bring
The book Meditation and Mantras by Swami Vishnudevananda (available for purchase at our boutique and in all of our centers worldwide), 2 pairs of Yoga Teachers' Training uniforms from ttc, yoga mat, meditation cushion, meditation shawl, toiletries, notebooks, pens, slip-on sandals, clothing for warm days and cool mornings/evenings, rain wear, flashlight, insect repellent, alarm clock, bathing suit for sauna.
For tent space only: bring your own tent, bedding, and towel.
Further recommended reading for at-home study
• Yoga - Your Home Practice Companion by Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Dorling Kindersley
• The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga by Swami Vishnudevananda, Three Rivers Press
• Bhagavad Gita with a commentary by Swami Sivananda, the Divine Life Trust Society
• The Sivananda Companion to Yoga
• Yoga Mind & Body by Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Dorling Kindersley
These can be purchased at any of our Centres or Ashrams or from our online boutique.
Students are responsible for making their own way to the Course. Details of how to get there will be sent to you upon registration. Please arrive on the day before the course is scheduled to commence. Departure will be the day after the course finishes. Please do not arrive late or plan to leave early. You may wish to arrive a few days earlier to acclimatise to the new environment or stay longer after the Course has finished. You need to liaise directly with the Ashram to arrange this.
ATTC July 2011 Yoga Ranch