Christmas at Rishikesh Yog Peeth

Christmas in India: My Weirdest Christmas Ever

I was watching a funky looking Indian Santa Clause shake his fake balloon belly on the dance floor when it hit me. It was my weirdest Christmas ever. While all my friends and family were enjoying turkey and opening gifts in America, I was spending my Christmas in Rishikesh, India.

It all started out as a pretty traditional Christmas Eve. My yoga ashram, Rishikesh Yog Peeth, decorated the courtyard with Christmas lights, played classic Christmas music for us and lit a nice bond fire. They even had a small Christmas tree set up. It was a really lovely start to the holiday weekend.

Unexpected visit from a friend

My phone rang and it was Kirti. He surprised me with an unexpected visit and I was delighted to spend Christmas weekend with someone special. I wouldn’t be alone after all!  We wasted no time heading out on the town to find some festivities. Someone told me that Anaa’s Café was having a nice Christmas celebration so we climbed into a taxi to go check it out.

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Yoga students practicing

5 Incredible Things That I’ve learned About Yoga So Far

I’m finishing my first week of yoga training at Rishikesh Yog Peeth Teacher Training School in India and it’s been an enlightening time for me so far. I’m learning so much that at times I feel like my brain is going to explode. I’m not only learning about yoga, more importantly, I’m learning about myself. The study of yoga is a process, and the process is beautiful. Yoga means awakening, and I see now that that is precisely what is happening to me. I’m awakening from a toxic sleep caused by stress, poor health choices and other environmental factors. Through yoga I am evolving and it feels marvelous. We learn new things every day and I can’t share them all with you, but here are the 5 major things that I’ve learned about yoga so far. If you want to know more, you should come to Rishikesh and experience it for yourself. It’s life changing.

Yoga is a lifestyle

Many of the students here at Rishikesh Yog Peeth have been practicing yoga for 5 to 10 years. They practice every day, not necessarily in a class, but more often in solitude. Some people travel from place to place on “yoga vacations” where they learn from various masters or instructors. They read every book they can get their hands on, starting with something simple like The Art of Joyful Living (a thoughtful new friend just bought me a copy) and ending with Yoga Sutra. Sure, you can choose to do “yoga” by just going to a couple of classes a week at your local gym, but that isn’t real yoga. That is just exercise.

Monkey Playing on Rishikesh Yog Peeth

Feeling Overwhelmed: My Initial Experience at Rishikesh Yog Peeth Ashram in India

I was in the middle of a downward dog pose today when I felt tears filling my eyes. Our instructor was slowly counting to ten, very slowly, and I couldn’t hold the position any longer. I collapsed on my yoga mat, frustrated and feeling like a failure. My whole body ached. We were on our third hour of yoga for the day and I had never done yoga before. A whole host of emotions were overwhelming me; anxiety, fear of failure, feeling homesick, along with emotional and physical exhaustion. I wasn’t sure I could push on and then a sweet young girl holding the pose next to me quietly asked me if I was okay. Those few kind words encouraged me. I somehow managed to dig deep within myself to find the strength to finish the class. It’s the little things like that here that make all the difference. Isn’t that the truth everywhere? There are 60 of us going through this program together, but individually we all have our own personal challenges to overcome.

 

Getting There

Getting here was a trip, quite literally. My driver drove me the 7 long hours from Delhi to Rishikesh. He stopped to ask for directions 6 times, although I had given explicit instructions to his boss on where we were going and who to call for directions on how to get here. Finally, my driver gave up next to a foot bridge that our car obviously couldn’t cross. I called the nice people at Yog Peeth and they sent one of their workers over on a scooter to get me. We managed the impossible by stacking two large suitcases, an overstuffed backpack, me and my handbag all on the back of his little scooter! I wish I had a picture of that, because it was India at its finest.

frusterated

4 Frustrating Things That Created Shipping Nightmares for me in India

Yesterday I shipped a box full of stuff home to the USA. Let me tell you, shipping and receiving in India are exercises of pure frustration. An hour and a half later I left the DHL office feeling ready to punch someone. Here is what to expect if you are trying to ship a box or receive a package in India.

They will repack everything

Whatever you take in to ship will be opened and repacked. So, if you are thinking of shipping home any highly personal items, note that they will be handled roughly and questioned. If it is packed in bubble wrap they will rip it open and you will have to repack it. Furthermore, the people handling your items are laborers. They don’t know how to treat a fragile antique and have never seen an adult toy. You will have to watch them very carefully and be prepared to explain everything. They won’t speak English well either (if at all), so it will just exacerbate the issues. I’m sure the reason they do this is to make sure that the box doesn’t contain some sort of explosives or prohibited items. But I’m an American shipping a box home to America. I hardly think I’m a danger or fit the profile of a terrorist.

Chandra Taal, India

5 Reasons Why I Like To Travel And Why You Should Too

For the first time in my life I have the freedom and means to travel a lot and it feels wonderful! Everyday my bucket list grows with new places I want to visit; Thailand, Malaysia, Africa, Croatia, Italy, the Greek Islands, Bora Bora….it never ends. Fortunately, this year I have scratched off a few destinations too; Nepal (check), Dubai (check) and Amsterdam (check).  Each time I set out on a new adventure I feel free to explore the world on my own terms. When the trip is over, I find myself longing for the next one. I wish more people would travel. It brings us together as humans and we learn things through our adventures. Here are the 5 reasons that I enjoy traveling and I hope they will inspire you to get out of your comfort zone and visit someplace new.

1. It opens your mind

When the boundaries of your world extend only to the next state or county, your perception is limited. Your world exists only within the confines of your own limited experiences.

The world is huge. There is so much to see and do, and every time I travel I see things from a fresh pair of eyes. Things are not black and white, right or wrong. There is a massive grey area when it comes to other cultures. They have different values, ethics and traditions. They see me through those limited perspectives as well. The only way to bridge these gaps and narrow our judgments of one another is through travel when you can experience such things for yourself. The Discovery Channel can’t make you feel what it’s like to see genuine poverty with your own eyes. It can’t make you feel the desperation from a street kid begging for money. Even the beautiful videos and pictures can’t make you feel the cold from the Himalaya Mountains or really appreciate the hardiness of the people that live there without heat and electricity. These things must be experienced first-hand to really be appreciated and understood. 

Yoga students gather besides the Ganges River

My Year in India: It’s Negative Impact on My Health & My Exciting Plans to Improve It

I have an amazing announcement!  I’m going to do something outrageous and way outside of my comfort zone! Wondering what it is?  Well keep reading.

This year in India has been brutal. Seriously, it’s been the hardest year of my life, surpassing even my two divorces and the death of my mother in 2004. Never mind all the cultural differences, demanding work and loneliness. Each of those challenges has been exponentially compounded by a single factor, my diminishing good health.

The Cause of My Declining Health

Now to be fair, I can’t blame it all on India. Yes, the pollution is awful! I can taste it in my mouth and feel it in my lungs. I’ve developed a persistent little cough since I’ve been here, much like many Indians. I’m always hacking up phlegm and sneezing. I usually have at least three sneezing fits every day.

Aside from the pollution problem and its effect on my health, I haven’t been eating right. Indian food is very greasy and heavy on carbohydrates. The sauces (they call them gravy) are loaded with butter and oil. They use very few fresh fruits and vegetables in traditional Indian food. Slowly but surely I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve nearly gained 10 pounds this year.

I haven’t done a great job at exercising either, which also explains my weight gain. Usually I go to the gym and work out several times a week. Unfortunately, due to the time difference (currently 13.5) hours I often have conference calls very early in the morning or very late at night. Add to that the demotivation I’ve felt because of being away from my family and friends, feeling sluggish from a poor diet and my lungs being full of crap, and well, I’ve just fallen off the gym wagon.

Nepalese Man Resting in the Sun

The 5 Things That I Liked Most About the People of Nepal

Nepal is a beautiful country full of gorgeous countryside, fascinating cultural and a rich history. But my favorite thing about the country was the people. They left me with a lasting impression of peace, happiness and love.

They are happy

The Nepalese people were always so happy! They had big smiles on their faces and always gave us a warm greeting. According to Phycology Today “a happy person is someone who experiences frequent positive emotions, such as joy, interest, and pride, and infrequent (though not absent) negative emotions, such as sadness,anxiety and anger. Happiness has also been said to relate to life satisfaction, appreciation of life and moments of pleasure.” To me this has never been more evident than on the faces of the Nepalese people.

They are simple

This may be closely related to number 1. Perhaps when you don’t have to spend two hours a day commuting or have to worry about posting on all your social media it is easier to just be happy. The people that I saw were very poor. They lived in little shanties and were lucky if they had electricity. Yet they seem to genuinely appreciate what they have, instead of focusing on what they don’t have.

Himalaya Mountains in Nepal

Trekking in Nepal: A Hellacious Journey to a Heavenly Destination

Sitting in the airplane heading back to Delhi, flying high above the jagged snow topped peaks of the Himalaya Mountains, I realized I already missed Nepal. The five days had gone by entirely too fast. The beauty, culture and adventure had left a lasting impression on me and I was already thinking about the possibility of a return trip.

 

A couple of important things to note. Indians do not need a passport or visa to visit Nepal but they need a voter’s ID card and one other piece of ID. Also, if you are wondering if Nepal has recovered from the 2015 earthquake, the answer is both yes and no. There are obviously many buildings that were completely destroyed and still need to be dealt with, but not enough that it interfered with our trip in any way.

Kathmandu

We arrived in Kathmandu late on Friday afternoon and wasted no time investigating all the cool places within walking distance to our guest house. Sporting goods stores specializing in trekking gear are everywhere, and their prices were incredible! Kirti needed some hiking boots for our three-day trek and we were pleasantly surprised to find a pair to fit his large feet. There were also tons of great Napalese handicrafts. We had a particularly good time in a knife store admiring all the intricate kukri knives. They had a range of sizes, from pocket knives to huge swords. Each one was handmade and we were so impressed that I bought one for my own collection. It has a jeweled sheath and is absolutely stunning!