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Published: March 6th 2011
A woman cleaning her pots while her kids look on
After 7 months in Montreal, I again saved up the money to continue my adventures. But this one takes me back to a familiar place. I contemplated traveling through Central America, but something was missing....I wanted more this time than a backpacking experience. I looked for jobs abroad, tried to think of different ways to experience a new country, I even looked for a regular, normal old job! But my heart kept pulling me back to India and yoga. So, here I am...after researching many different courses throughout the country...in a relatively unknown town amongst tourists, studying the life of a yogi. After one intense month, I'm a certified yoga teacher. Yay!
I flew to Mumbai before coming to the ashram and was able to spend some time at the orphanage I visited last year. It was amazing to see the girls, who I thought I would never see again.
Bollywood shootings are always looking for foreigners to be extras in their movies so I went to a shoot one day. They actually pay....$10! Oddly enough, I was quite happy with that...it's 2 nights in the dorm! The scene was at a cricket match so we basically sat around all
day pretending to cheer. Not the most exciting but the free lunch was good!
On my way to the ashram I stopped in Pune, a relatively big city...it's where the call center for TD Bank is....they tell me every time I call! I was walking around one day and this guy pulled over in a rickshaw and offered me a lift...since there are no doors, it's not exactly dangerous to take a ride with a stranger since I can always jump out (don't worry Mom, I think of these things!) So I got in and he took me to the area I was going to but of course, he wanted to have tea. I was appreciating the free lift when I realized nothing is free in India. So I had tea with him and of course told him I'd be happy to be his facebook friend and meet his family next time I was in town....so we're practically engaged now by Indian standards!
I came to India with expectations of learning what yoga really is but what I got was the knowledge that that cannot be learnt in one month! Instead, I got a taste for everything yoga
Filming a commercial we were the token foreign fans in the stands of a cricket match. I actually got paid for this!
encompasses and the yearning to know more. I realized that to know enough yoga to teach others in a one and a half hour class, can maybe be learnt in this month. But to know how to live my life in a yogic way, will take years. There is just so much to know about yoga itself, how to practice a "yogic" lifestyle daily, that everything I learn just creates more questions and more curiosity. It's been more than just study, it's been a process of understanding myself, being content with expectations not being met (because some weren't met and some were exceeded) and changing some of my preconceived notions about yoga, meditation and life.
I'll try to briefly share some of my experiences in the past month, so I don't bore you. When I first arrived, I was quite shocked (along with the 8 other students), because what we found was nothing like the information the ashram's website provided. It appeared to be this sort of paradise, with multiple facilities, huge meditation rooms and lush gardens. But it turns out this paradise is a future ambition and the reality is a single building with an uncared-for lawn. Not
we got a flat tire and came here to have it changed. Instead of using a jack, 3 guys lifted the car!
quite paradise! We felt slightly deceived by the overselling of the site and didn't know if that meant the course would also not live up to our expectations. Slowly, we all learnt to surrender to the place, the course and the teacher. That was a big part of the course...to learn to surrender and not be dissappointed by expectations not being met. At times I still questioned it because being in India, the schedule changed daily. But the wonderful teacher proved to be exactly what I wanted in the person who would be guiding me through this journey. I wouldnt quite say he's my guru....I dont think I have it in me to be completely devoted to someone like that. But he's a true yogi, has spent his life studying yoga and devotes his time and energy to imparting his knowledge on others. Whether it's teaching westerners to be teachers, or providing a service in the community through free yoga therapy. He has also lived on 3 other continents, has great command of the English language and understands a bit about where we all came from. So his experiences are well-rounded, not limited in the least. And I at least
felt confident that I was being guided by someone I respected and who could really teach me something. This is something I assumed I could only get in India, which is why I chose to study here. We studied the ancient yogic scriptures, the philosophy of yoga, tons of meditation, breathing techniques and of course asanas...the postures. It was great to be immersed in the lifestyle and practicing and learning all day. I was able to absorb it better, with it captivating all of my attention for a full month.
Those 8 other students I mentioned came from all over...from Russia to Europe to Australia. Another thing I imagine wouldnt happen studying in Canada. It was cool to combine all our backgrounds and ages (from 24-65). And we lived the experience and learned together. And as for the website, for my karma yoga I worked on changing it and making it more honest.
What's changed most for me in this past month is my understanding of what yoga really is. I always understood that it was more than just the postures we do in most classes, but I never fully understood the extent of how much farther it really goes.
Essentially, postures are just one small step in the process of learning how to meditate, which will bring you to the ultimate goal of yoga....enlightenment. I've also learnt what enlightenment is and have acknowledged that I don't want to achieve it!!! It means giving up all attachments in life....relationships, money, material things and simply being content with that. Not for me! Which is good cuz I doubt I would have come close to achieving it anyways! I also now know thatjust because I'm qualified to be a yoga teacher, it doesn't mean I'm a yogi...despite the title of this blog! My teacher, with his lifestyle is a true yogi....us westerners who study a little here and there and maybe even teach yoga ourselves, but still have 9-5 jobs, eat meat and shop endlessly are not (what I consider) yogis...sorry guys!
Studying in India I've been able to experience a lot of the culture throughout the course. It's less organized that I imagine one would be at home, sometimes I don't understand the teacher's accent (we have had about 7 different teacher for the different topics like anatomy, yogic scriptures, asanas).... But on the good side, the main teacher (the
the ashram where I spent a month studying yoga, to be a certified teacher. On the roof are meditation huts.
master) has taken us to so many events around the town. Every time he gets invited somewhere, he takes us along. It can be interrupting to our studies but we would never go to these events without him. We went to a housewarming party that was bigger than a wedding. We went to an actual wedding that was bigger than Montreal! and we went to a temple opening where we did a morning yoga class with 10,000 people!!! We went to a small town for the temple opening and visited an even smaller village just outside it. All the huts are made out of cow shit...which is considered very auspicious and to have healing powers. I'm still not sure I'd want to sleep on it. The whole village was very basic, most people worked in the cotton field nearby. The biggest house (made out of concrete), where we were invited for lunch, belonged to the village doctor.
As soon as I got here, I felt comfortable and at home. Not too much had changed since last year! And my memories and expectations were pretty accurate. But I have been able to pick up on some new things
that escaped me last time. Wanna hear....good, so I'll tell you!
Indians have complete insensitivity to all their senses. This is extremely hard for me to comprehend because most of my senses are quite sensitive. So for them, intruding on these senses is not disrespectful or impolite because nobody's affected by them. For example, everyone drives with their brights on all the time. I get blinded every time I'm in a car at night while they think it's normal! It's actually considerate to honk when you're passing someone. If I cut you off, you're not gonna honk me because it can't change anything, but if you want to be courteous, you'll honk me when you're about to cut me off to let me know.
Crossing the street is hard enough when suddenly you have to look right first (cuz they drive on the left side). Try looking right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left! Vehicles sometimes drive on the wrong side of the road. If they're about to turn right, they simply vear into the right lane 300 metres early. If they are a large vehicle, they'll pass all the smaller ones until they're satisfied, which means
Just being silly with the new postures we're learning
taking up the oncoming lane for a while. So I think I'm safe looking both ways and it turns out a motorbike comes out of nowhere going the wrong way, almost hits me and then I get yelled at cuz it's my fault!
I came straight to the beach from the course...a few weeks of relaxation and swimming in the ocean seemed like the only smart choice. So I'm back in the south in a city called Varakala. I spent about 2 weeks here last year and its as great as i remember. I met an Ayurvedic doctor here last year from England who's living here now and he's offered to teach me about ayurveda. So everyday we sit for a couple of hours and talk about it. And from here who knows!
Hope its not too cold there.
Get ready for some free yoga classes when I get back...I'm gonna need lots of teaching practice.
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