I recently completed the teacher training course at SWAN Yoga retreat and wanted to share a bit about my experience! I was looking to find a teacher training course that that goes beyond the asana (physical) practice, and also focuses on the vast abundance of yogic practices and deep traditions and culture in India. If you are looking to identify the personal tools that you have always had within to rebuild yourself and your life into a beautiful one- this training is for you.
To give you an idea of the schedule, the teacher training is a one-month course and classes are 6/7 days each week. Fridays are off days to relax, study, or venture into the towns or beaches. Here is a general schedule that varies week to week.
6:00am - Meditation
06:50am - Tea & fruits
07:30 - 09:00am- Asana class
10:00am - Brunch
11:00 - 01:00pm - Patanjali Yoga Sutras
01:00 - 02:00pm - Karma Yoga
02:00 - 3:30pm - Bhagavad Gita Class/ Anatomy
04:00 - 05:30pm - Asana, Pranayama, mudra, Bandha Class
06:00 - 07:00pm - Dinner
07:00 - 08:30pm - Mantra chanting/ Kirtan (Singing)/ Havan (fire ceremony)
Some important factors that most may be interested in are the accommodations, food, ambiance, and teachers. SWAN is in the quiet jungle of North Goa and there are three tiers of accommodations which are all eco-friendly huts. Depending on preferences, you can save money and share a budget cottage, or have more privacy in a standard or deluxe cottage. All have private bathrooms, sitting areas outside, and a rustic natural appearance. During my stay I felt as if my room was clean and comfortable, all while feeling well connected with nature and beautiful simplicity around me. The landscapes at SWAN are lush green with ample space to relax in the various shaded nooks or in the sun on the ‘fake beach’. The yoga shalas are screened in open spaces that overlook the jungle and provide a magical classroom (and also has great views of the sunrise in the morning). The weather is sunny every single day and being just a few kilometers from the beach it is easy to access to the beach on those days off.
The food is one of the best parts about SWAN. It is all vegetarian and the menu samples foods from all around India so you can experience unique flavors, dishes, and ingredients during each meal. The menu is also vegan and gluten free friendly for those who require those options. Meals are buffet style and the challenge exists in trying not to overeat during each meal. The food really was one of the best parts about SWAN and it helped having such nourishing and tasty food to sustain me throughout the busy days.
The teachers are all extremely qualified and also are really wonderful people. SWAN stands for Swami Niranjanananda, who is the guru at the Bihar School of yoga (BSY). All of the teachers at SWAN are from India and have lived and studied at the BSY Ashram, have completed many diverse and intense trainings, but mostly- all of the teachers live their yoga everyday. They are honest, humble, and knowledgeable and are great resources in and out of the classroom. I also appreciated their knowledge with Indian culture and traditions, something I also wanted to learn during my time in India. During breaks the teachers are always available if you have questions or to simply share some of their own experiences.
It is also worth noting that since India attracts students from all around the world, my TTC class had people from the UK, Germany, Turkey, Sweden, United States, and other parts of Europe. The diversity in our group made our classes so enriching and broadened my perspectives throughout the course. Everyday we would all eat together, go for walks during our free time, and study together. Some of us had little experience with yoga, and a few people had been life-long practitioners, allowing us to all learn from one another in a humble learning environment. Everyone seemed to learn aspects that they had never learned before resulting in lots of discussion time in and out of classes.
To say that this schedule above makes for an incredibly enriching experience is an understatement. The Asana classes go straight to the yogic texts and dive into the traditions of Hatha Yoga, which includes many pranayamas (breaths), using chakras, energy locks, mudras, and mantras in classes. I feel as if I have solid knowledge that has not been twisted by western influence, but that which comes straight from the traditional lineages in India. The first two weeks are spent learning the practices from our teachers and by the third week we begin learning how to teach ourselves. By the final week each student is given time to teach a complete 90 minute class with ample time for feedback after the teach. With this curriculum I have been given the tools and practice time to feel confident teaching these classes after leaving SWAN.
SWAN encourages those to go ‘beyond the asana’ and the Philosophy, Bhagavad Gita, and Patanjali Sutra classes are some of the most amazing classes that I have ever taken. The Sutra class goes through each sutra individually and the teacher, GyanMitra, directly translates the sanskrit in-class and proceeds to discuss each one in depth. The same concept goes for the Bhagavad Gita class, which breaks down the main ideas including non-attachment, Dharma, Viveka, and the four paths of yoga (Karma, Jnana, Bhakti, and Raja). These classes are complex and challenging, but the teachers weave in stories and laughs that make for an extremely enjoyable experience. I have taken another previous TTC and also read multiple books on the sutras and versions of the Gita. For the first time in ten years I feel as if I have a true understanding of these books and can start applying these concepts to my own practices and entire life.
The training course also invites an Ayuvedic doctor to teach Anatomy, which highlights all systems of the body including nervous system, skeletal/muscular, glands/endocrine system, respiratory and cardiovascular systems. The course is extremely relatable for a yoga teacher as the class connects the asanas and pranayamas to each of these body systems. This class has prepared me with knowledge to know the purpose behind each of these practices to assist students with the health benefits while also minimizing risk for injury. I found this to be a unique aspect to the teacher training at SWAN.
The meditation classes are all guided and will touch on a variety of techniques that you can use in your home practice. The mantra classes teach students a variety of mantras including shorter ones that I will continue to use daily and in future classes, but also some longer ones that are beautiful and directly from the vedas. Also included in the teacher training is a traditional Indian cooking class, Shatkarmas or ‘detox’ days that work on cleansing the body, and consultation with the Ayurvedic doctor that is on sight at our Ayurvedic clinic (that is open for treatments during your stay).
I am walking away with the right knowledge, wonderful memories with new friends and special teachers, a deeper understanding about myself, and a purpose behind my practice. I look forward to returning home to the USA to share what I have learned and spread the seeds on what yoga is truly all about. In the future I will certainly return to SWAN for the other courses they offer, including Meditation and Tantra and basic Ayurveda courses, and to further deepen my yoga practices. If you are interested in pursuing a teacher training course that is all encompassing, goes beyond the asana, and focuses on the traditions of yoga as described in the yogic texts, I would absolutely recommend SWAN.