I arrived at the ashram that would be my home for the month of May, at 6:00 a.m. on May 2. I was an hour late to start the day. Seriously. If we are being really specific I was a day and an hour late, but I thought that had been worked out. “Thought.” I am still deep in the learning stages of coming to understand Indian organization and systematic approaches to things. And while at times those phrases appear to be oxymorons in the extreme, I believe I just have to learn how it goes over here and then I will see the logic. One thing is for sure, this country is way heavy on the bureaucracy. Way.
Anyhow, I am here for the full experience and I am getting it, that is for sure. I have no time to blog, and no real access to computers anyhow, (I have some time this morning as we are be given a little break following our initiation into the cleansing techniques of the yoga kriyas… more on that presently.) Our days begin with yoga and pranayama at 5 a.m. At 7:15 we participate in the Maitri milan, which is something like church in the closest approximation. Or maybe I am just saying that because my attitude is similar to when I was little and went to church with my grandparents, just biding my time to get to go to IHOP. Either way, after some chanting and prayers and sermonizing, we go to breakfast.
Meals are interesting, the food is good, but really carb heavy: rice, chapatis, aloo gobi, dahl, you see what I mean. I am pretty much always full. You enter the canteen and wash your plate, then take a seat in rows on the floor where you are served (and at lunch I do the serving). I negotiated for a spoon after day one as I seem to lost the art of eating with my fingers. I have not sat in a chair save for right this minute as I type since I arrived here.
After breakfast we do karma yoga, which is task oriented, character building stuff. It is hot and while not back-breaking work in the literal sense, we are wearing fairly inconvenient attire. Yeah, we wear very cumbersome, err… modest attire. All of my contemplating over how many yoga pants and tops to bring was pretty silly. Cannot wear them here. I wear something like this. Only it is a little more rustic and I would say that we are not looking so sultry as that model. Sweaty, yes. Sultry, no. So, I am basically doing yoga in a dress. I am trying to be okay with that. Trying. Like I said, it’s only been a week.
After karma yoga we have 45 minutes to clean up and then we head to a lecture for an hour, then yoga for an hour and a half, then lunch. Then lecture and workshops for two hours, followed by an extremely cool yoga practice with the unfortunate name of SMET. It is an acronym for self management of excessive tension. It is very, very welcome after nine hours of activity. Then we have an hour, which I am now using to take a yoga class. Then a lecture from 6-7 followed by Bhajan, which is singing. You all know about me and singing? No? Well, there’s a reason for that. In the West we might call it “torture.” Anyhow, it is a lot of Sanskrit and as of yet I am unclear on most of the meanings. At 7:30 we eat again. Then at 8 we have another lecture or more recently training in kriyas. Then at 9:00 or 9:30 we are set free. To pass out and do it all again.
It is intense. I have been incorporating more and more yoga into my day to balance out all of the theory, which amounts to a lot of spiritual training. Though not totally resistant to that element of yoga, I am finding it a little overwhelming. We are now doing kriyas several times a week and these are yogic cleansing methods. Suffice it to say they are nothing so tame as showering or fasting. You can google jala neti, sutra neti and dhauti vamana if you are interested. That is my Tuesday and Thursday morning regime following the 5:00 yoga session. It is intense, did I mention that already? We have added trataka in the evenings too, this is pretty interesting and likely the most difficult thing I have done here so far.
The group is nearly all Indian – there are five or six Westerners and it has been really interesting getting to meet all the people, most of all the younger brother of my yoga teacher in Hong Kong, who like my teacher is one of the most endearing humans I’ve yet encountered. One of the Westerners complains all the time about everything and how she is never learning anything, which is interesting. She says she was a teacher, but I cannot see it. How can one teach if one cannot learn? I guess that is her trip to be on, I just sit far away from her as much as possible. I am learning tons about the history of yoga which is what I wanted to do and lots about the theory too. I am glad to be here, which is NOT to say it was not some sort of serious adjustment.
I miss fresh vegetables and coffee, though I was impressed that I did not have a headache going off it cold turkey. I also miss having a shower that does not involve buckets of cold water and a washing machine that does not entail a concrete slab for hand scrubbing. Did I mention that is how we keep clean around here? It s authentic, yo.
Now I have to go… more soon – or probably not that soon. I have no idea when I will get photos up. But keep checking.