Friday, 17 May 2013

Incredible INDIA :)

7th installment along this wonderful journey that is so easily becoming my new way of life :) 


I am so excited to be in India, it's going to be wonderful and I am going to have such an adventure I can just tell! 

Within the first two hours of being in Delhi I already had enough material to fill my first blog! What a crazy place. I was one of only 6 females on the entire plane, it was….an experience! Fully grown men sneezed into their pillows, belched openly, farted, and generally made life as tricky as possible for the air hostess as possible. One man clicked his fingers at me to move out of his way - as in out of my own seat to take one of the free seats next to me. Then when I wasn't fast enough for him he proceeded to climb over me until I said NO really loudly and moved out of his way. Insane. He was young too which surprised me. The air hostess smiled at me. I braved a local meal on the plane, no ideas what it was just that it was from southern india and I said a prayer for no delhi belly with each bite.  

There were two ladies in the passport queue who asked me if I was traveling alone in India and said "wow, well done, how brave, BE SAFE". They asked if I was Australian and I said no British and they said oh we guessed ozzie or kiwi, you look super relaxed (proud me). I told them that I had lived in Bermuda for the last 4 and half years and they smiled and said ahh she has island in her. Yep I will ozzie and an island girl over english most days ;) I felt so alive and so excited as I sat in Delhi airport waiting for Helen (another girl on the YTT 300 hour course) to arrive from Chicago. I wanted to go and explore and see what all the excitement is all about. It felt as though I was kind of cheating not taking public transport to Rishikesh, but honestly after everyone stopping me to say be safe I was kind of cool with my decision to sit tight In the airport. The yoga school had been very specific in telling me not to leave the airport until the final moment the car arrives.  Instead I found Costa coffee and bought a dark chocolate kit kat and ordered a strong coffee…enjoying what I imagined to be my final piece of junk food and coffee during my stay in India. Little did I know India has the highest addiction to candy!! In that moment I was very excited <3

I very quickly knew that I was going to love India. OK, the bubble that is Rishikesh.  My first 24 hours in India looked something like this:

I survived what was an 'interesting' 8 hour minibus ride from Delhi to Rishikesh last night. We alternated between driving like complete lunatics at super high speed (5 plane traffic on a 3 lane road...) and slowing down at final second to dodge super size potholes, or randoms crossing the road. The driver lived on the horn the entire way?!? I shared the journey with the other girl from my course, and we gossiped most of the way. We passed monkeys, cows, pigs, peacocks...all sorts of craziness and poverty followed by fancy hotels. We got to the bridge in Rishikesh (Rum Jhula) at 1am and Vishal asked me to get on motorbike with him the final stretch - with me - AND my 20kg backpack, day pack, yoga mat and duty free bag. I had lost my sense of adventure by then and said no. He didn't look too impressed at my lack of adventure but honestly I think he sensed he was fighting a losing battle.  So we took it in two trips - good call on my part as cows jumped out at us in the dark, manholes, sharp bends and no helmets. In the dark light my room looked super basic, and there were certainly no luxuries, and in that moment I seriously wondered if I could survive 6 weeks.  

At breakfast the next day I quickly made new friends, I met Cat who was doing the beginners course and discovered Charley already arrived - Charley is the daughter of one of yoga students in Bermuda. Susan had told me after I broke my news of leaving the island that Charley would be in India when I was, I thought it was a long shot back then swapping details but luckily for me the universe worked it all out so that we got on brilliantly and both got to be in Rishikesh together for two weeks. That girl is awesome and I know much of my trip will be with her in the future :) I quickly discovered that Cat was a very cool chick as well, from Melbourne and the three of us clicked so easily it was a fantastic grouping! That first day together we set off to explore Rishikesh - we dipped our toes in the Ganges River (since discovered in order to have good luck you actually should put your palms in first not your feet - oops), bought scarves, had bindis drawn on us, bought lots of yoga and reading books ($2-4 a book max and LOVED the lady who ran the book store), swapped stories, made fast friends, tried random street drinks like sugar cane candy, dodged cows in the street (more on this later…), avoided a monkey attack when I tried to take its photo, and bought local offerings. It was a busy morning and one which firmly cemented our friendship. We were inseparable. I know I will see those girls again on this amazing adventure.

I immediately fell in fast, hard, crazy ♥ with Rishikesh. It is such a calming place and just knew that this adventure would be the making of me. I still question how I knew this place would 

You would not believe how cold those first weeks were in India….luckily it warmed up day by day and after days of panic buying scarves these quickly became bed spreads as the temperatures picked up rapidly! 

On the first evening Rishikesh Yog Peeth organized a welcoming ceremony for us which was an opportunity to meet the other YTT 300 students, and ask questions to the teachers. They also did a small prayer and chanting service for us which involved us watching them chant, them paint red bindis onto our foreheads, us hold the candles and make offerings, and be given a piece of red string to wear around our wrists as a sign of our commitment to our studies.  The course outline was slightly different to what we expected from the website, but hey it is India. I was a little concerned as there only seemed to be gentle yoga practice scattered throughout the class and no studies of the more advanced poses which I had hoped to spend some time learning better how to teach to my students. I don't think I had realized just how much this course would be about breath work (pranayama) and reaching the mind as well as the body.  I tried to stay open minded about it (haha) and see what happened.
I survived my first day at yoga school and thoroughly enjoyed it :) It looked a little something like this: 

6:00am - herbal tea 
6:15am - nasal cleansing - weirdest experience ever but felt awesome afterwards! 
6:30am - chanting mantras - gonna take some getting used to...
7:30am - gentle yoga practice 
9:00am - breakfast 
10:30am - yoga therapy 
11:30am - personal practice 
1:00pm - lunch 
2-4:00pm - chicks about Rishikesh exploring and being chased by cows
4:00pm - yoga philosophy 
5:15pm - yoga pranayama (breathing) and meditation.

During these first two weeks yoga philosophy and the evening asana class were my favorite classes.  Yoga Philosophy was taught by the founder of Rishikesh Yog Peeth, the incredible Roshan.  His words form the content of so many future Facebook posts that I am just itching to share. I learnt so much from this man. His calmness, his manner, his words - all are so very inspiring. His first question to us was "what is yoga?" - we had a zillion answers. His reply was "Yoga is Everything". I was surprised then when he rationalized it - oh my god, he made so much sense. Yoga is Everything. He would speak to us for hours and you could feel as though everything he said was specifically related to some aspect of his life. The thing I loved the most was his energy, he exuded positivity and a sense of loving the life he lives which as you know is key to me on this travel adventure. I had found my teacher and was a very happy girl indeed :) One hour in his classroom could wash away a whole week of doubts about what we were doing, or self doubts or questions about life.

The 5:15pm class was taught by our teacher Faraaz, who I respected and liked very much.  In the first week he taught us Yoga Nidra which is something that I have never even heard of yet alone tried. It was an amazing experience.  We lay still for between 45 and 60 minutes in a deep state of conscious rest. During this time Faraaz was reading us key guidelines on how to focus our mind and body, and how to get the most out of the experience.  My first class was the best of the week and I actually lay still the whole way and was the calmest experience I have had in a long time, except when I got a weird shock sensation down my left side and kicked the air randomly which was kinda odd. The second night I fell into a deep sleep and Helen had to wake me up. The third night I could not get past the notion that there were ants or some kind of creepy crawly moving all over me. This is apparently normal, and is the nerve endings starting to relax, however at the time I could only concentrate on not freaking out and screaming like I really wanted to and making a total ass of myself in front of a room full of people I hardly know…. I found it difficult to clear my mind entirely for the one minute meditations that were scattered throughout the day though, all of the India noises in the background awakened my senses too much to concentrate on the silence inside (that was my excuse and I stuck to it……). 

The second week Faraaz taught us Yin Yoga - my new favorite thing to do and teach. I can't wait to get to Lembeh and show this to Dani and teach it to my customers. Easily the most relaxed style of yoga ever, particularly after a taxing day or when you are long overdue a massage or have done a hard workout and need to stretch and unwind. Yin Yoga works on stretching and releasing the fascia tissue between the muscles and ligaments, and is something that has been around in India for a long time and is starting to reach the western world slowly but surely. It is amazing. After class I literally felt so calm and zenned out that I didn't want to speak to a single person, I wanted to keep the cocoon of warmness and safeness around me for as long as I could. I think I might just love Yin Yoga :) Such subtle movements and makes you so bendy, think I may have grown 5 inches every evening! 

A quote that I learnt on my yoga course which is so true and has stuck in my memory and I hope will forever ♥ 

"A belief is nothing more than a chronic pattern of thought, and you have the ability to begin a new pattern, to tell a new story, to achieve a different vibration, to change your point of attraction."

- Esther Hicks

This encompasses everything that Roshan taught us in the yoga philosophy classes. We have the ability from day to day to decide if we choose happiness or misery. We choose the state of mind, the beliefs that we have. We also have the ability to change our beliefs, and create new ways of thinking, new ways of focusing our mind on positive energies or people, to change the path of that moment. We attract what we are. If you unhappy you will attract this, if you are happy then you receive happiness back. It really is that simple. Since arriving in Rishikesh I have adopted this way of thinking and have never felt happier. I smile literally every single morning here, and people smile back at me. I receive so much positive energy in this crazy little town, to exudes happiness.

My all time favorite time of day is personal practice time - only 4 of us seem to want to do it, so we go to the yoga hall, turn on the fans, and get to do our own silent practice. All working through our own poses that we want to conquer, and helping each other where we can. It has been a great way for me to stay focused on my goals of improving both my personal practice but also finding the time to have some quiet time amidst the business of the course, and being surrounded by 18 fellow yogis for 8-10 hours a day. 

Then our lunch time wanders around town, and absorbing all the craziness around us. I love this part of my day too :) I just love it all really! Shopping is insanely good here!! I have bought so many pairs of awesome pants and scarves for like $3 a pair. There is also an amazing stationary shop which I have become addicted to, and the owner waves at me each day when I walk past. He has so many beautiful designs, I find myself wanting something new each day. I have always been a stationary geek ;) We also found a bakery which is fatal as they do amazing coconut cookies, and chocolate balls. They ARE AMAZING and I am doing my best to forget they even exist (doing it badly I might add).

We discovered a place called Laxman Jhula which is a 30 minute walk away down to the next bridge, but has more diverse shopping, not to mention places to eat and watch the water which is just amazing to me. The scenery is out of this World as you sit and watch the Ganges River right in front of you, and the rafters going by in their colorful raft boats on the rapids. The bridge set against the backdrop is fascinating to me, yet another thing I absolutely love about Rishikesh. I can sit for hours in places like Little Buddha and Paradise Cafe just watching the world go by. It is an amazing place for people watching and juices.

Charley, Cat and I went to the Beatles Ashram at the end of Rishikesh to explore one day. We found a fabulous and huge deserted ashram with the most amazing graffiti ever spread across the music hall, where apparently the Beatles wrote most of the music for The White Album. We also spent some time hanging out on the roof of the building in which they slept - the view was to die for, what an amazing place to hide from the World. We met a zillion monkeys along the way. We tried to break in as it was all locked up but a helpful guide popped up and offered to show us around for RS 100 each so we took him up on his offer and he told us the history as he showed us around. Fantastic place, I will definitely be going back there :) 

As we left the ashram, we got accosted by an Indian family who were obsessed with us. They literally couldn't stop touching our faces, our heads, taking photos of us etc! They all gathered together and made me take a photo of them all before they would let us go :)

We walk past so many different animals every day which have quickly formed a normal part of my daily routine - cows, puppies, donkeys, horses, monkeys - the list goes on and on! It is incredible to feel so normal walking past them in the street and have cows beg from you as you walk past in the same way dogs would at home! And so many cute little puppies everywhere, I feel like I want to adopt one nearly every single day!!

At a time when I was getting a little frustrated earlier this week, I saw this quote and thought how amazingly funny and accurate this is! All about switching the way we look at the World and keeping our smile in place :) This quote amuses me a lot and I can apply this to so many situations it makes me smile even more to think about it. 

"It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious."

-Oscar Wilde

Two weeks of following the strict regime outlined above is however beginning to take it's toll. I need a massage. My back and shoulders hurt from sitting up straight for 3 hours pranayama, meditation and mantras, an hour of gentle practice, an hour of personal practice and 2 hours of lectures each day. I am so tired it it untrue. At least all of the sitting still for breathing is getting much easier for me and finally my mind is starting to slow down a little. My body is however craving a long stretch of road to go for a hard and fast run. I miss running terribly. It doesn't seem to be advised to run alone here, so I am desperately seeking running partners of any speed, sex or ability!

Holi Day - see the next journal entry as it deserves it's own special page in the "Live the Life You Love" blog - not to mention all the colorful photos :)

I could write for hours on my first two weeks alone.  Yet really all I need to say is "I <3 Rishikesh and yoga".  There is a tremendous calmness in Rishikesh, amongst the people in the Ashram. Everyone smiles and is genuinely happy and content with life. We are all there for a lesson in life, we are all on some kind of journey and I feel incredibly lucky to be part of this experience. The noises that have so easily become an easy part of my daily life amaze me. My first attempt at lying still for one minute of meditation was impossible with the cows, the bikes, the horses, the children screaming, the I acknowledge the noises and carry on as if those noises had always been a part of my life. In the very same way we stopped noticing the noise the tree frogs made in Bermuda each summer so easily! Rishikesh is a very, very special place.  I am also really enjoying realising there is so much more to yoga than just the crazy poses I love to play with. As my teacher says - Yoga is Everything! 

Happy Rishikesh days ♥


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