This 200-hour yoga teaching class has been extremely intense. It’s 3 ½ hours a day of lecture and 4 hours a day of yoga. Fortunately, Rishikesh Yog Peeth has some of the best yoga instructors in the world! They know how to keep it interesting and how to pick us up when we are feeling…
Yesterday, while doing yoga alone on the shores of the Ganges river, and later browsing through the products in the local ayurvedic store (India’s version of naturopathic remedies) it occurred to me. I’m turning into a hippie, and I’m okay with it! I’m not sure if it’s Rishikesh, my introduction to yoga, or both, but…
It’s not all hard work at Rishikesh Yog Peeth. We are now in our third week of a four week course and we’ve made many new friends along the way. There may even be some romance blooming amongst some students (shhhh). We have a lot of fun between classes and on the weekends, so you can hear laughter ringing through the halls on a regular basis. The ashram obviously tries really hard to build a sense of family and to create some fun memories for everyone. Here are just a few things that we’ve enjoyed, along with a short interview with a couple of my new friends.
Trek up to a temple for an early morning blessing
A large group of students went on a short hike up a mountain to a temple to receive a special blessing from a spiritual leader. My weekends have been busy with Kirti because we have only a few days left to enjoy each other’s company for a while, but it sounds like the group had a wonderful time. Many of the students here are clearly enjoying the spiritual aspects of the program.
This was a special New Year’s celebration for me. It was my first one in India and I was blessed to spend it with Kirti, my boyfriend for the last 11 months. He got into Rishikesh on Saturday night and we wasted no time in finding something fun to do to ring in the new year. We headed back to Anna’s Café hoping for more dancing, but this time they had a drum circle going on instead. A few other guys were playing the digeridoo and the result was a beautiful tribal sound that almost left us in some sort of euphoric trance. At the stroke of midnight, the starry night sky was temporarily interrupted with a fantastic display of fireworks. 2016 instantly became history and we welcomed 2017 with open hearts and a special kiss.
On Our Way to Jumpin Heights
The next morning, we were up early to catch a taxi up the mountains to the famous Giant Bungee Swing at Jumpin Heights. It’s a lot like a bungee jump only the harness is connected to your chest instead of your feet. Also, instead of just bouncing up and down you are swung way out over the Ganges River. We were really looking forward to the experience and were in good spirits.
Before I came to Rishikesh Yog Peeth I had never done a single yoga class in my life. Now I intend to make yoga an important part of my everyday life. In only 2 weeks I have observed a few major changes in my mind, body and spirit, so much so that I only want to learn more. I know now why it is a lifestyle. Here’s how I’m feeling.
I thought the only real way to strengthen my muscles was by lifting weights in a gym. Boy! Was I wrong! I didn’t realize that the best way to build strength is by simply using your own body weight. There are so many yoga poses that once held, build your muscles. A good example is the tree pose. Stand with both feet together. Now lift one leg and press the flat of your foot into the other thigh. (Be careful not to press your foot against your knee). Now lift your arms straight over head so they are next to your ears. Engage your legs and arms and core so they are tight and maintain your balance. Make sure you are standing straight. Tuck in your butt and take 5 long deep breaths. My legs started quivering on the second breath, but I know it’s because it’s improving my strength and balance. I see the tone in my muscles already.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!