Perhaps arriving in India skidding sideways with excess weight due to overindulgence of beer and pad Thai in Bangkok wasn’t the optimum beginning for my yogini journey in Rishikesh… but that’s how it happened.
What a screeching halt! Strictly vegetarian and no alcohol… WTF was I thinking? Perhaps the liver booked my flight and yogic journey? Needless to say, my body and mind will thank me for the experience.Always wanting to try a detox or health retreat (with occasional bacon and pina colada) for 5 days on some warm tropical island, but super nervous about pushing my comfort zone into a state of complete health, this Rishikesh trip was REALLY going to test me.
I had a few days to myself before other students arrived and before school started so I went about exploring. Beatles Ashram – which was quite good, albeit in ruins – taking hours to get around on foot due to more family photos and offers of chai with shop owners etc etc. There was some sensational photography of the Fab 4, with captions about which songs they were writing at the time of each image, in a gallery that I wasn’t allowed to photograph, sadly.
What came first? The Ashram or the Egg man? Goo Goo G’joob (who would’ve thunk it wasn’t koo koo kachoo? – Thanks google) – Beatles Ashram
The welcoming ceremony at Vinyasa Yoga School was beautiful. Chanting, burning ghee and mango wood, plus we added a woody aromatic mix (I’m unsure what it was) to the fire that filled the room with relaxing scents. We all received our own fresh orange marigold necklaces and had to choose which class we wanted to start with of a morning – this is how the school determined which classes we took each day so the classrooms weren’t too full. We’ve since learned that there’s normally 40-60 people here at one time…. We had a total of 16. An even split of 8 per class and my group stupidly chose to start Vinyasa (the evilest of the two choices) at 5:30am!
Early to bed every night for us.The first week I really struggled with vinyasa classes.. perhaps it was my dismal ‘man-flu’ or the sudden halt in all the naughty Thai delicacies, but – if I’m brutally honest – I actually hated Vinyasa – yes, I had a melt down. Would you believe that it’s now my favourite? There’s nothing like waking at 5am, groaning, feeling old and as though all those beautifully stretched muscles from previous days have contracted further than when they started, to pushing the limits and re-stretching them.. sweating profusely, grunting and coming out of the class with shaky arms and legs but feeling like it’s a perfect way to start the day. The mental clarity after these classes is pure perfection. All this yoga seems to have helped my Fibromyalgia loads too. Hopefully I can share this positive gem with other sufferers.
Rebellious Vinyasa Yoga class escaped one morning…
Yoga classes: Philosophy – with Simon, Pranayama – with Pankaj, Health and Safety – with Leevka (super important for my nanny country of origin – Australia), Anatomy – with Kusshal – yeah, I guess we need to know what body part is going to break during each pose, Vinyasa – with Deepak (superstar guru and all round nice guy – even with his cheeky evil ‘I’m going to hurt you today’ grin) & Telissa, Hatha – with Sarita, and Meditation – with Moshka & Mandeep – 6 days per week from 5:30am to 8:30pm (incl breaks).
You know the hardest part of all this? It’s not the lack of meat, eggs, bacon, bacon, bacon, cheese or wine, or eating so much spicy Indian food to make your sphincter incompetent (or is it incontinent), or so many hours of study, it’s the weather!! Without researching the temps before booking my flight – which was spur of the moment, only booked a week before the course started – I expected the base of the Himalayas (locals pronounce them ‘Himarlia’) to be relatively cold.
Man, was I wrong. As I type this it’s just under 50 degrees CELSIUS! Geez, am I glad I purchased and packed that hoodie!? Sure, there are three air conditioners plus ceiling fans, that have regular power failures, but nothing… absolutely nothing helps reduce that kind of degrading heat. Deodorant is futile and underwear screams in panic when we start climbing the 5 flights of stairs into those hot boxes (no pun intended).
Speaking of stairs.. we average around 40 flights per day. One day I must have either forgotten lots of things on different floors or had energy to burn because my Fitbit registered 270 flights of stairs! (a flight is calculated at 10ft each) My buns are strong enough to crack walnut shells now.
So, here we are at week 3 and it’s aaaaall about the complete yoga journey. Purifying the mind and body to reach Samadhi (illumination/realisation). What a task they have ahead of them with me. Ok, maybe there’s some wonderful bonding going on between all 16 students as well, but we’re all here for a yogic (mental, physical and spiritual) change.
Now that we’re at the business end of the course there’s a mild concern about actually leaving this peaceful yet crazy haven and venturing back into the temptations of sleeping in and Singha beer on my brief return to Bangkok. I’m determined to keep up my morning yoga… repeat: something about morning yoga blah blah.
Vinyasa yoga school is such a perfect platform for sending out the wonderfully positive messages of the yogic world via us yoginis. The teachers are spectacularly calm, knowledgeable, super kind and infectiously happy. When, and if, I ever grow up, I want to be like them.
Only a few of our wonderful teachers on our Graduation Day.
If I actually gave high-fives, I’d give our marvellous man on reception, Manoj (Manu), a big high-five and even a fist bump. He looks after us all too well – he would do anything to help us students out, anytime. And a caring youngster he is.
In our yoga fees we are covered for accommodation, Sunday activities, all meals and classes. The measly sum of $1,900 USD is all they ask and a lot of that money goes back into the local community. Possibly to the cows, but it’s a great set up. Business aspirations right there.
Sunday activities organised by Vinyasa Yoga School… sunrise over the Himalaya at Kunjapuri Devi Temple – Hindolakhal Hill, meditation in a cave that JC (Jesus) apparently hung out and meditated in (I arrived too late to find out all the real goss on this one so excuse the lack of information), Ayurvedic massage and the f’ing awesome white water rafting down Ma Ganges River. We were given permission to jump overboard and body surf the milder rapids.. yup, I did! First overboard! There were times I was just casually floating on my back looking up at the foothills of the Himalayas wondering what I did right in this world to be given such an incredible experience.
Kunjapuri Devi Temple view at sunrise plus an evil Macaque monkey
I have briefly touched on the critters here in Rishikesh, and there are plenty of them, but there’s one evil monkey incident that will stay with me forever. During hatha class we were doing a move called chopping wood. You swing your arms, palms together, from above your head to down between your bent legs quickly (like you’re chopping wood) and expel air from the lungs – which causes us to make a “hah” noise – like when we were kids pretending we knew karate. Our class took that noise and accentuated it.
Two of the girls from the 300 hour class were in their yoga studio in the opposite building across the narrow lane. They heard us chopping wood, came out to their balcony and copied us – noises and all. It was really amusing so our class stopped, went to our window and watched whilst laughing.
Then out of nowhere a beautiful, huge, grey, male langur monkey raced along their balcony and used one of the girls as a springboard to another balcony! The girls moved so fast back into their room that Barbara dropped and severely scratched her glasses. It was incredible!!! The monkey would have been 3/4 of my height and thankfully didn’t have long nails. Poor Barbara was a tad shaken and is only just able to chuckle about it now. It was one of those moments where it happened so fast and yet appeared to unfold in slow motion.
Female mini versions of above mentioned evil monkey that had used Barbara as a springboard.
Here I sit in a cafe sipping my fresh ginger, lemon and honey tea watching one of the ‘cafe boys’ (that tend to have women from all walks of life falling at their feet and in love with them) burn numerous incense sticks, ring his small bell whilst praising the Ganges – I finally realise that I’m officially qualified as a yoga teacher. I’ve extended my stay by a few days and now I’m wondering why I’m leaving – especially without any specific destination in mind.
After school finished I decided to move hotels – this hotel and relocation across the bridge has already brought me some intense experiences. The lovely Kamal, who manages Seventh Heaven Hotel, upon my arrival felt I needed a hug. I initially thought it odd, but hey, when in India right!? This hug had so much energy and healing that I was almost brought to tears. There was absolutely nothing sexual about it, just pure loving energy that I’ve never experienced before. Kamal agreed that it was a bizarre experience. Wow! Confirmation that broken hearts heal and in the strangest ways.
Seventh Heaven Hotel itself is beautifully quiet and far enough away from main roads filled with constant beeping horns, no evil monkeys and no cows blocking narrow lanes. The balcony views at the surrounding green and smokey Himalaya foothills are superb.
On my way to the Beatles Cafe (fantastic vibe and food here) to meet the remaining students I got sucked in to having a brief reading from captain shady on the street. I’m impressed that he was able to write things that I was thinking on little pieces of paper, place them in my hand before he’s even asked me the questions to those answers scrunched up in my palm… but FARK! It cost me waaay too many rupees. Hopefully he’s honest enough to give that money to the under privileged kids as promised.
Enough digression, back to the yoga experience… 3.5 hours of yoga per day is going to be hard to uphold, but I’m all too keen to do it. I’ve not felt this fit, happy and healthy in years and I can’t wait to spread the loving message with everyone.
The importance of breathing properly is more apparent than ever. I always knew it was beneficial and after Pranayama classes we’re reminded just how paramount the deep, proper breath is to your whole physical, emotional and spiritual systems.
Do I really need to mention meditation? I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing me preach about it before this course, so I’ll keep quiet… for now.
My mission before this course was to complete a headstand unaided. Tick! No photographic evidence due to limelight panic and my hasty exit of said pose, and the inability to do it again under pressure.
Graduation day was a mixture of emotions for all of us I think. The excitement of completing 200 hours of our yogic journey plus the sadness of leaving all our new found and strong bonded friendships.
Such inspirational women. <3 Love and miss them loads.
Not usually on this end of the camera – but as a lean, mean, yoga machine in a pretty frock I thought I’d better show off.
If I were negatively geared mentally, I’d still struggle to find anything awful about this Vinyasa Yoga experience. Grateful and blissed out just don’t seem like strong enough superlatives.Vinyasa Yoga School, I love you.
Now hand me some cutlery for my steak and refill my wine.. it’s time to plan the next educational expedition.
What do you think I should do next? Tai chi in China, acupuncture in Taiwan, massage in Thailand, back to Rishikesh for yoga therapy? Have you had experience with any of these? Let me know.
It’s all about education of the mind, body and spirit.. and evil monkeys.