Namaste friends ~ I hope you are all doing well!
Here are some of my recent experiences/thoughts/insights:
Last Friday I went on an optional excursion offered by the Ashram. A large group of yoga vacationers (like me) and teacher training course (TTC) students loaded into the bus at 6am. We drove for about 2 hours and arrived in a city called Kollam for breakfast (we ate a delicious dosa meal!) then we drove a little bit more to take a boat ride on the backwaters. The backwaters is a popular attraction in Kerala. The waterways spread through canals, past villages, and provide an overall view of beautiful landscape from unique boats. The ride was so peaceful and it felt very refreshing to be on the water. We then went to yet another spectacular meal, lunch. We were served white rice with about 10 different extremely flavorful sauces to pick and choose from. After lunch, we drove through the busy city down south to the beach town of Varkala. It was such an amazing view to arrive upon the Arabian Sea! Located on the cliff above the beach was a strip of nice restaurants and lots of small shops. Varkala is a very touristy area with a relaxed and upbeat vibe. I swam in the warm sea with some friends and enjoyed laying on the beach. I felt like I was in Hawaii again! Oh, and by the way.. I keep finding so many similarities between the nature here and in Hawaii. Southern India feels like a mix of Mexico and Hawaii to me. After the beach, we walked around and did some shopping and grabbed a quick dinner before meeting at the bus again and heading back to the ashram. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the outing, I found myself feeling extremely drained from all of the stimulation of the day. This outing was the first time I had left the ashram since I arrived in India. Being away from the ashram for the day gave me a deep appreciation for the experience I am having here and it also provided me with insights into the teachings of yoga.
I was specifically thinking about yoga "off the mat" - A concept that I learned from my Mom after years of hearing her saying (in her yoga classes) "we take the benefits of what we gain in our yoga practice off of our mat and into our lives". We discuss this concept at the ashram as well~ we ask, "How can I practice yoga in daily life, How can I practice yoga away from the structured environment of the ashram, what does it mean to be committed to a yogic lifestyle?". It can be easy for me to say "I did yoga today" after an asana class or even after a meditation session. But what about my daily choices? My thoughts? It is VERY difficult to consistently stay in a heightened state of awareness. I am learning that yoga is truly a 24/7 practice. It's a mindset. It's the lifestyle of staying conscious all the time.. especially when i want to escape.
Yoga is honesty (satya).
Although I love the structure set in place here at the ashram (and I have experienced it in places like Kripalu and Omega as well), I don't want to live in this environment forever. I want to take what I learn and apply it to my life wherever I am living. I hope to remain an eternal student of yoga by asking myself ~ who am I? Am I living with compassion and truth? Am I aware of my thoughts and actions? Am I practicing yoga from a place of ego/accomplishment/habit? Or am I really living yoga? For me, true yoga is practiced in the face of challenge... when impulses and habits are usually running the show. Yoga takes discipline, integrity, truthfulness and lots and lots and lots of practice.
On the flip side~ with all of this, I have also noticed that there is a point of overwhelm, heaviness, and over -analyzing. Too deep. Too serious. I need to be able to laugh at myself too! To recognize the humor in the human experience. Be be light- hearted and carefree at times as well. Aiming for moderation and balance in all aspects of life ~
Back to my story.... ~ Going to sleep that night (after the outing in Kollam and Varkala), I felt so excited for all the regular activities that would follow upon waking up. I have heard some people comment about the ashram being like a boarding school or even joke about it being a prison. It can definitely feel intense and rigid at times. The only day that we really have enough free time and access to leave the ashram is on Fridays. The rest of the week, we are expected to attend all classes and lectures. There is a very strong focus on the workings of the mind and it can become a heavy experience. But I love being immersed in an environment of self- reflection and growth. It is not all rainbows and butterflies for
me... there are definitely emotional ups and downs. However, i believe it is intense in a very positive way ~ fostering profound changes through the traditional teachings of yoga. The ashram is an ever- evolving multicultural community. I never know what accent I am going to hear upon meeting someone new :) Ashram guests are from Japan, Iran, Israel, all over Europe, South America, North America, Canada, Australia...everyone is gaining knowledge and experience in yoga to take into the rest of the world.
Another recent outing experience:
my friend Lonneke (from Holland) and I took a rickshaw to a nearby village to deal with some phone issues. She needed to recharge her SIM card and I was hoping to buy one. I was not able to buy a SIM card because I am not a local (the rules change depending on where you go to buy a SIM card), it seems that I will have to wait until I go to Trivandrum to buy one. It has actually been quite refreshing to have limited use of the internet for now. Anyways, after we were done at the little phone shop, we wanted to cross the street to buy some treats. Lonneke crossed the small street right away with confidence and ease. I stood waiting, waiting, waiting.. being overly cautious to cross the busy little village street. Our rickshaw driver was sitting in his vehicle behind me. He started up the rickshaw and drove up directly behind me and motioned for me to get in, I was confused and tried to communicate that I was trying to cross the street and that we needed to wait for Lonneke. Again, he said to get in, so I did. He made a U-turn and delivered me right in front of the little shop! (About 15 feet away from where I had been standing on the other side of the road). He drove me across the street, since I was having a hard time crossing! I felt equally embarrassed and SO touched at the same time. It was such a simple gesture, but very heart-warming. Namaste to that taxi driver ~ a little act of kindness can really go a long way.
Thanks for reading! I love, miss, and appreciate you all ❤️