FOR THE LOVE OF TRAVEL
Traveling to India in February 2018 was a blessing. During our trip to India, we visited New Delhi, Agra, Vrindavan, Rishikesh, Haridwar and the Rajaji Tiger Preserve over a total of 16 days. Travel is a great way to get out of routine, thought patterns, sleep cycles (12.5 hour time change!) and immerse yourself completely in other cultures and communities.
I have always had a strong desire to experience how other human beings exist on our planet. I am curious about their daily routines, diet, work, relationships and families. And I am particularly curious about their experience of life's greatest joys and struggles.
A few years ago I decided as a student/teacher/practitioner of Yoga and Ayurveda that when the time was right I would travel to India where they share their roots.
Alas, the time to travel to India was ripe in 2018. My experience revealed how India embodies all that is life: life, death, love, devotion, beauty, grime, disease, chaos and calm.
My travels evoked a question that I frequently contemplate: What is the purpose of life?
THE ESSENCE OF YOGA + AYURVEDA
My devotion to learning and teaching Yoga and Ayurveda is strong. During my trip, an underlying desire surfaced. I want to continue learning and sharing the most authentic essence of both Yoga and Ayurveda.
The reason I say this is because I believe things can get lost in translation - just like in the game of telephone.
The ultimate aim of Yoga (according to Patanjali's Yoga Sutras) is to reach samadhi. Samadhi is a deeply connected state where the mind is resting peacefully on presence. It is oneness that is experienced between us and the world. In the West, a general perspective is that Yoga is asana (physical posture). Yes, asana is part of Yoga, but it is only one of eight limbs of Yoga. The physical postures are a tool used to bring focus to the mind and prepare the body to sit for meditation or deeper forms of concentration so that we may achieve oneness or samadhi.
YOGA EXPERIENCE IN INDIA
We had the opportunity to practice Yoga with local teachers while in India and this was a blessing. There was one teacher and class experience that I would like to share.
We were in the basement of the hotel we stayed at in New Delhi. The basement was generally used for small conferences, so the banquet tables and chairs were stacked and moved to one side of the large room. On the other side of room we laid 13 mats out for class. It was chilly in the basement, and there were a few lights on over the stacked tables and chairs. Our teacher had taught Yoga for 13 years. He was very direct with his cues to get us into various asanas (postures). If we weren't in the right alignment he would come by and verbally cue us or adjust us manually. He paid close attention to everyone's breath. If we weren't breathing properly, he would come by and offer verbal cues to encourage us to breathe deeper. He also spoke about how reactions in our body resemble reactions in our mind.
The next two hours went by quickly. Our practice was slow and deliberate. The postures and breath we practiced were simple but effective. Our teacher held space for us to experience shifts and sensations in our bodies. He struck a balance between breathing with movement and pausing in a posture to breathe deeply.
It was time for the final relaxation posture, savasana. Traditional savasana is practiced by laying flat on the back with feet splayed open and arms by sides with palms flipped toward the sky. I felt calm and relaxed, but the room was noticeably chilly. I was curious how savasana would be since I usually cover myself with a blanket and/or put socks or a sweater on, but didn't have anything else with me! I figured we wouldn't be there too long so hoped for the best. It was time for the real test to see if the Yoga worked.
It seemed like we were in savasana for 5 minutes. I dropped into a space of vast inner peace. I experienced a feeling of warmth and being at home in my body. My mind was calm. It was bliss amidst the cold environment.
After class, our teacher sat down with us and discussed our experience. The group had similar comments of being cold to begin with, but during savasana the sensation of being cold disappeared. We were shocked to find out that we were in the final posture for 25 minutes!
As a group, we could feel the peace that pervaded in our minds and bodies. We dropped into the ultimate space of union where mind, body and spirit are deeply connected. This connection is the purpose of Yoga.
Yoga brings us back to our natural resting state of pure bliss. I say back because it is always there. We are never disconnected, but yet we find ourselves disconnected.
We may find ourselves disconnected from our body. We may be self-conscious or loathing of it, not feeding it properly or running it into the ground. The truth is that we can't exist in this world without our body.
We may find ourselves disconnected from our heart. We aren't sure what brings us true joy and contentment.
We may find ourselves disconnected from true love. We may hide or diminish the value of giving and receiving love freely to all beings without attachment.
We may find ourselves disconnected from our real work here on earth because we get distracted with shiny things.
Yoga reminds us that we are already deeply connected. We are already whole. Deep connection is the sensation of warmth when you are cold. It is the oneness that is experienced when you let go of your stories that keep you separate. It is trust that the experience of your journey is right for you in this moment and every moment.
Most importantly, deep connection is already within you! It is always there. There is no single path or experience that brings you closer to feeling or realizing the connection. It is an exploration that only you can uncover, and you certainly don't need to travel half way across the world to find that deep connection. With that said, traveling to India to immerse in a new culture and practice yoga may just be the right journey for some of us to find deep connection within! ;)