India: Yoga Week 1

Last Tuesday morning, the 11th, Chris and I checked out of our hotel around 8:00 am and headed to the train station to try to pre-purchase tickets for the 11:00 am train to Nasik, but we found out that it was too late. Therefore, we got back on the train to go straight to the station of departure. Unfortunately, in one of the transfers, Chris and I got separated…I was now on my own. I will not go into the details of the day from hell, but after a few more rides on the local train (most of which were free, as they rarely check tickets and I was too exasperated to buy them), one missed train to Nasik, one expensive cab ride that took me in a complete circle, a few more pointless train rides, another expensive cab ride to another part of town, and a nervous breakdown in the middle of a busy, cow-infested intersection, I finally boarded a bus around 3:00pm.

The luxury Volvo bus was over-priced and filled with members of Bombay’s upper-crust elite, but I was just happy to finally be making my way to Nasik. I was supposed to check into the yoga course at 4:00pm, so I called the ashram before leaving to inform them that I was running late. Throughout the five-hour bus journey I worried about Chris, hoping he was luckier than I in finding his way to Nasik (even though I had all the information and he was letting me take the reins)and worked at calming my nerves and preparing myself for what was to lie ahead for the next thirty days…intense yoga action!

Outside the main yoga hall. Posted by Picasa

I finally arrived in Nasik around 8:00pm, and after a frustrating cab ride by a stubborn driver, I was brought to the Yoga Vidya office in downtown Nasik. I immediately was greeted by Chris, and I gave him a huge hug and nearly fell into tears. He had managed to catch a noon train out of Bombay and had arrived around 4:30pm. The other students had left for the ashram, which is located forty-five minutes outside of Nasik, but he had stayed behind to wait for me. Eventually, we hired a cab and rode out to the Yoga Vidya Dahm ashram.

We had missed the orientation meeting, so after eating some food that they had kept out for us and being shown to my room, I fell asleep. The next morning, at 5:30 am, I awoke, got dressed, and went down to the kitchen for the morning herbal drink. I finally got to see some of the other faces from the course, but I could not speak to anyone as all meals and herbal drinks are under a strictly-enforced silence rule. After the tea, we thirty-six participants went down to the studio for our first yoga class, which involved two hours of stretches and introductions to various poses. Thus began our first week of our yoga teacher training course.

My roommate Cecilia, from Mexico. Posted by Picasa

Our daily schedule is pretty much the same every day, and I quickly got into a routine. I wake up at 5:30 am, quickly get dressed, and head down for the morning herbal drink (no caffeine, which was definitely a killer those first few days!). At 6:00 am we have a thirty-minute meditation session…now, I am going to have to be completely honest here. When I signed up for this course, I knew that it would involve some meditation and chanting and other various fruity what-nots, which is fine and dandy, but I will be frank: I am in it for the fitness aspect and to teach, not for a life-changing spiritual experience. Therefore, during said meditation sessions, let’s just say I do lots of day-dreaming and mental shopping lists. Anyway, after the meditation at 6:30 am we have a two-hour yoga asana class, followed by breakfast at 9:00 am in the dining hall. At 9:30 am we have a forty-five minute theory lecture, followed by thirty minutes of “Yoga Nidra” (basically a deep relaxation/nap), followed by another lecture that ends just in time for lunch at 12:30. After lunch we have free time, in which I go for a power walk/girl talk session with some of the others. We down another herbal drink at 3:00pm, and, depending on the day, we either have another theory lecture at 3:15pm or “Karma Yoga” (doing good deeds/chores…like cleaning the kitchen or bathrooms). At 4:30pm we attend the second yoga asana class, which ends at 6:00pm. After the class I usually do a little abs workout (some of the others are starting to join in) and wait through the excrutiating hunger pains until dinner at 7:30pm. At 8:30pm we have a group discussion, which involves stories, songs, and learning Sanskrit. I take a “bucket bath” after this and am asleep by 10:30pm.

So this has been what my life has consisted of for the past six days. I easily adapted to the early mornings, but it was hard not having a cup of coffee to jolt me into action. It only took a few days of falling asleep in the morning lectures before I overcame that, thankfully! We usually imbibe in rice or couscous and fruit for breakfast; vegetables, curry, rice, and chapatis (Indian tortillas) for lunch and dinner. The food is terrific…strictly vegetarian, no eggs, but I am wary about what seems to be a lack of good protein…I get excited about finding lentils or nuts in the curry. They have a strict rule about no outside food in the ashram, so it is their food or nothing.

My other roomie, Yuri, from Japan. Posted by Picasa

Anyway, so far, so good…this is just what I needed after six months of traveling. The yoga is fantastic exercise, as I am feeling myself getting more and more lean, flexible, and fit everyday. I can also recognize the detoxification my body has been going through…no meat, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, or fat…all the vices to which I am happily (although a bit begrudgingly) saying goodbye! Obviously, due to the schedule and silent meals, we do not have much social time. There are about forty of us in the course, most of which, predictably, are girls, but there are about ten guys, so Chris is not completely alone in the tides of female hormones. I have three roommates: Cecilia, from Mexico, and Yuri from Japan. They are great, and Cecilia and I instantly bonded. We have also clicked with a few other girls from the States…with forty people, it is easy to form cliques, and there are definitely little micro-groups, which is absolutely wonderful because we all get along.

So that’s it. Today was our first weekly day off from the ashram, and after breakfast we all came into Nasik City. Most of the others cheated, ie. ate chocolate, ice cream, drank coffee, and smoked cigarettes, but I decided to stick with it…my special treat was getting my roots bleached! Today was a much-needed excursion from our little yoga compound…and I was shocked to find tons of emails from people who were worried about me because of the bombings in Bombay. I am okay! I was on the very train line that got bombed that very morning (and the night before!), but fortunately was already on my bus to Nasik when the bombs exploded around 6:00 pm that evening. I feel very lucky, and thanks to everyone who worried about me! I am safe here in Nasik!

Well, it is off to the Ashram again…one more week of intense yoga, lectures, and organic food before I get another day off…yay!

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