Finding Balance in India

This was the post I wasn’t sure I would write, wasn’t sure I really could write it. Honestly, I’m still not sure it will make sense to anyone besides me, but this is my attempt to share my experience.

I’ve been practicing yoga for years now, dipping my toes into the idea of teaching many times, even taking some “introductory” type courses, but had always been “too busy” in D.C. to devote my time to becoming certified. I can see now how silly that was but I am thankful for my previous notions of time & commitments, I never would have had the opportunity to travel to Rishikesh & take on such an experience.

In hindsight, I ended up being pretty lucky. There are hundreds of yoga schools in Rishikesh & it would have been easy to select one that would have led me to have a very different, even disappointing experience. When I first arrived at Rishikesh Yog Peeth , I didn’t know what to expect. The “campus” was a big green (and I mean green) building, rooms were decent enough but this was not going to be a glamping style yoga camp - this was the real deal. My home away from home would be dorm style living with 45+ other yogis in training from all over the world & a fairly strict daily routine.

Daily Schedule:

5:30-6am wake up (loud ringing gong included….)

6:30am tea & nasal cleansing

7-9am Morning Asana Practice

9am Breakfast

10am – 1pm Philosophy & Anatomy lectures

1pm Lunch  

3-4pm Teaching Methods lecture

5-7pm Evening Asana practice

7pm dinner

Rinse & repeat Monday thru Saturday (Sunday we had a reprieve) for four weeks. I can’t begin to explain how taxing this was physically. It’s a shock to the system to suddenly be thrust into a physically demanding practice while your diet is turned upside down, no meat or eggs, very little dairy in any of the food, basically nothing but water or light tea to drink. It didn’t take long for us to realize how strong we were becoming. For the first time in my life I was getting muscles in places I forgot existed. Bring on the handstands & firefly.

Despite the intense physical workout, what was more taxing was the mental & emotional work we were putting into ourselves. Here comes the part that I don’t know how to describe without sounding “crazy” or like we totally “drank the juice” they were serving. There is something freeing about being in a place, surrounded by likeminded individuals who were not afraid to question our preconceived thoughts & ideas. No topic was off limits during our lectures & casual conversations while sharing a meal. We debated the notions of “Good” vs “Evil”, definitions of God, love & relationships, even some questionable dolphin behaviors...Here people came from all walks of life, stretching each corner of the globe & all varieties of religions & beliefs; no one shied away from putting their ideas out on the table.

One aspect that I appreciated the most was the emphasis Yog Peeth placed on Yoga being your own unique experience. Nothing was ever “wrong”, each person is recognized to be on their own path, finding his or her way simply being guided by the Yoga principles. Here we were being taught to be “selfish”. Before anything else, before accepting or loving anything or anyone else, we first had to understand & love ourselves. You ever sit in a room & hear a teacher or mentor state what should have been completely obvious from the beginning but for some reason you never understood it until someone else said it? Lots of “Oh of course, that makes so much sense” moments.

It’s amazing the friendships that form in those four short weeks. People that, under other circumstances, you probably never would have had the chance to meet. We had students from the U.S., France, U.K., Russia, South Africa, Australia, Brazil, Malta, New Zealand, Ireland, Poland, Canada & I know I’m leaving people out! It was truly an international experience. Ana, my new good friend from Brazil, said it perfectly, time & again we found ourselves in conversations about our “daily lives” & she would smile saying “We are all the same, no matter where, it is not so different”.  

Apparently, just as it is in D.C., housing is expensive. In Australia & Poland, it’s becoming more difficult for young people to afford to buy a home without some form of government credit and young adults are putting it off. Apparently, families in Germany, India & the Netherlands all like to overfeed you, especially grandparents, whenever you get together. What is it about grandmas that they always assume we must be hungry & insist we eat something at their home before leaving? We all agreed it’s lucky we don’t weigh a ton.

The experiences & growth we all shared here can never be explained with written words. It’s a feeling, an emotion present when I think back on all the people I met & days we spent together. For many, including myself, it was an emotional exercise. I probably cried more times in those four weeks than most of my adult life. There were stories of personal loss, people who had suffered emotional or physical traumas, diseases or injury. But there were stories of growth, of a renewed sense of hope & purpose we all felt towards the end of our training – a charge we felt ready to take on & bring to the world.

In that fourth & final week, we were tasked with teaching our own classes to earn our accreditation. Thanks not only to our masters & teachers from Yog Peeth but to each & every one of my fellow students I had never felt more comfortable & ready for anything in my life. The natural feeling of doing what it felt like I had always meant to be doing left me with a renewed passion for life & adventure. As one of our brilliant teachers shared with us, “you are like my family”. It is something I can never really explain but must simply be understood. With a sense of happiness & peace renewed, I leave Yog Peeth & my new friends knowing that a piece of our heart & souls will always be with one another.

“The Divine in Me honors the Divine in Each & Every one of You, Namaste”