Yoga in India (Part I)

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

Namaste

Namaste

You cannot imagine how tough it is to ensure there is enough time to do yoga while on a tour in India.  Plenty of potential obstacles line the road to practicing yoga.  Will you feel well in the morning?  Will you be too tired or jet lagged to do your yoga practice?  Will you have to put off the morning session because your flight to Jodhpur is early in the morning? And when you postpone the morning session for an afternoon session, will traffic or flight or train delays allow for enough time for the promised much-needed afternoon yoga session?  Miraculously, while in India, only two yoga sessions were cancelled in our busy touring schedule.

Rajasthan

Rajasthan

You cannot imagine how essential the yoga practice is while on tour in India.  The yoga practice helps us be present to witness the chaos and sweet beauty that is India. The yoga practice helps us to open our hearts so that we can reach out to everyone we meet.  The yoga practice allows us to encounter everyone at a very satisfying place of the shared human experience. The yoga practice helps us to be physically fit and flexible so that we can withstand the rigors of travel (think of the three-hour safari all-terrain-vehicle ride on bumpy dirt roads in Ranthambore, three of these rides within two days).  The yoga practice helps us to be flexible of mind so that we can truly understand there is more than one way to practice spirituality, and more than one way to live life, find love, fulfillment and contentment.

Sunrise Rooftop Yoga

Sunrise Rooftop Yoga

You cannot imagine how being in India and practicing yoga daily for 20 days (minus two) can transform your life!  It is, as the quote above says, like seeing the moon shine on the other side of the world, and you are forever changed into a new person who will never see the world the same way again.

L1280699Yoga in India brings to mind our camel rides into the desert…little kids lead the camels and sometimes the kids, being kids, let go of the camels’ tethers and go play amongst themselves, leaving us riders without a pilot!  We hold on to the camel saddle and hope the camel we are riding does not start mounting the camel ahead of us or take off running!!  We try in vain not to notice the garbage everywhere in the desert. No.  We yogis just look straight head to the orange sunset casting a glorious glow.  The sunset creates picturesque silhouettes of other camels and riders.  Once in the desert, we see musicians, Rajasthani desert nomads dancing!  We get off the camels -oh, this is so tricky and scary- and once on solid sand, I do camel pose next to the camels.  I am surprised to see that one camel turns to stare at me.  Did you know Ustrasana, Camel Pose, is very easy to do in the desert, especially after riding a camel?  Not sure why.  After Camel Pose, I easily morph into a dancer, Natarajasana, Lord Shiva’s Pose.  Like Lord Shiva, I shall dance my way into creation.

Camel Love

Camel Love

Natarajasana: The Cosmic Dance of Shiva

Natarajasana: The Cosmic Dance of Shiva

Certain times stand out when I think about Yoga in India.  Doing yoga on the sacred grounds of Sarnath, the birthplace of Buddhism, was one of the most powerful yoga experiences of my life!  In Sarnath, we practiced on the sparse grassy grounds with ruins thousands of years old as our backdrop.  We attracted an audience of Buddhist monks from Myanmar.  They were filming us with their iPads! That cracked me up!  A Tibetan woman stood nearby and watched.  I asked her if she’d like to join us in our yoga practice and she jumped in to our yoga circle.  It was as if she had always belonged to our circle.  After the yoga session, I invited a tiny Buddhist monk from Myanmar to chant OM with us.  Afterwards,  he taught us a Buddhist chant (first we said it in Pali, then in English):

May all beings everywhere be happy, peaceful, and free.
– The Buddha

Buddhist Monk from Myanmar.

Buddhist Monk from Myanmar.

Yoga on the sacred grounds of Sarnath

Yoga on the sacred grounds of Sarnath

Sacred ancient grounds of Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon.

Sacred ancient grounds of Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon in the 6th Century BC.

Yoga at Sarnath

Yoga at Sarnath

When I think of Yoga in India, I think about rooftop yoga facing the sunrise.  The mornings were chilly before sunrise.  I had to be creative in order to warm everyone up properly in the chill of the desert morning.  I have my yoga enthusiasts do lunges across the rooftop terrace again and again, adding triangles, horse pose, and tree.  I tell the group to only take their shoes off once their feet have warmed up.  Yoga practice is in full force when we hear the Muslim call to prayer and the city waking up.  We do our Sun Salutations as the traffic noises start on a nearby street.  We do twists and side angle bends as parrots chirp and chortle in a nearby tree.  My feet are clean and I hesitate to walk off my mat to give adjustments because surely my feet will get dusty from the rooftop terrace floor, but I walk off my mat knowing my feet can be scrubbed later.  I do adjustments on my students as a smoky acrid smell reaches my nostrils, cow dung patties being lit up to boil water for tea for the many families waking up to a new day in India.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.

Rooftop sunrise yoga

Rooftop sunrise yoga

While doing Yoga in India, I am inclusive and open the yoga session to anyone who seems interested in joining us.  On the first day in Jodhpur, I invited some young women we  met at our hotel. To my surprise, early the next morning, they showed up for class. The more, the merrier is how I think of it. Turns out Sarah, pictured below with me in Tree pose, is a fellow Hoosier and a soul-mate of mine. We were delighted to find out how much we have in common!  The world is such a small place, really!  Here’s to my little sister, Sarah.

Fellow Hoosier Soul Mate Sarah

Fellow Hoosier Soul Mate Sarah

Yoga in India:  Through our practice, we discover how much we share on this life’s journey.  We live, we laugh, we are moved to tears, we delight, we wonder, we judge and then admonish ourselves for judging and we make promises to be kinder, more compassionate, more patient.  We go deeply into our Inner Journey to discover and rediscover a river of serenity within.  At the same time we connect to our Sangha, our spiritual community of like-minded human beings who are all on the same path to becoming our better selves.  We feel our essential link to the web of life.  We connect to humanity and we fall in love with India, this place humming with color, ritual, history, culture, life, love, dreams, spirit, death, rebirth, kindness.

Aligned...

Aligned

Poolside Yoga at our heritage hotel, a former maharaja palace.

Connecting: Poolside Yoga at our heritage hotel, a former Maharaja palace.

Poolside Yoga...at one such place, we had a monkey audience!  The whole monkey family watched us for a good half hour.  Gradually, the youngsters came closer and closer to watch us do yoga in Khajuraho.

Poolside Yoga…at one such place, we had a monkey audience! The whole monkey family watched us for a good half hour. Gradually, the youngster monkeys came closer and closer to watch us do yoga in Khajuraho.

Yoga In India Part II coming your way soon!

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