It was 5am when I woke up in the taxi from Bangalore airport to be told I’d arrived at my destination, AyurYoga Eco Ashram, India. I was tired, groggy and disorientated from the long journey I’d had and suddenly my excitement turned to anxiety. It didn’t help arriving in the pitch black, the sun yet to make an appearance, to quiet that voice in my head asking if this was the right thing to do. Shown straight to my room, the girl I would be sharing with had not yet arrived, I was left alone to sleep and recover from the journey. I stood for a moment and looked around the empty room, with only the bare essentials inside, and for a moment I doubted my choice to study here. At this point I wasn’t to know that it would soon become the best choice I’d ever made.
Our days at the Ashram were all structured the same. We were woken by a bell at 5:30am to give us time to shower before meditation at 6am. After 30 minutes of guided meditation we had half an hour to change, take a cup of hot ginger lemon water, and mentally prepare for yoga class. The morning class was all about us. Time to explore and deepen our own practice so that we could really understand and experience the effects different sequencing and Asanas have on the mind, body and emotional state. This class lasted for around two and a half hours and every day the class was different. Our teacher, Vinod, who has trained and worked at the Sivananda Ashram, used various techniques to create and change the energies within the classroom each day, to start peeling back the layers of each individual in the room. Every person had a different reaction to each class, sometimes elation, sometimes anger, sometimes sadness, and sometimes everything at once. I knew this was the case but I had seriously underestimated quite how much I was going to learn about myself during my time at the Ashram.
Once yoga class was over it was time for breakfast, my favourite meal of the day! The food here was incredible! We were on a vegetarian diet and a lot of the food is grown on the organic farm at the Ashram, with the rest coming from local sources. It only took me one day to get used to having a full cooked meal in the mornings and then it just became normal. Now I really miss it!
After breakfast, it was the theory side of the course that took over. We had two, two hour classes a day studying Ayurveda, Anatomy, Yoga Philosophy and the Yoga Sutras of Patangali. Our teachers ranged from a well-respected Ayurvedic doctor to our very own Swami. Each teacher brought their personality and skills to the classe and although at the beginning I was worried that my knowledge and experience may not have been enough, I was hungry to learn and grabbed every piece of information given with both hands.
The afternoon yoga session started as a teaching workshop for the first two weeks. Each day we took two or three Asanas and broke them down to learn the best way of teaching them to all levels of students. The last two weeks we were split into small groups and took it in turns to teach a class each afternoon. It was a very special part of the course, not just because we were teaching properly for the first time but because we made connections to the other students in our group. We were able to watch people grow and put what they’d learnt into practice. One of the biggest reasons why I wanted to become a yoga teacher is because I love witnessing people grow into the person they are meant to be.
The sun would set during this class every day and we’d finish at 7pm, ready to eat together in the dining hall. Meals times were beautiful moments, for every member of our group was a fantastic individual and it was here, over dinner, that we really got to know one and other. It never mattered what seat you ended up in or at what table because there was interesting and genuine conversation wherever you were.
Sometimes after dinner we watched an educational documentary or had group chanting lead by our teachers, and the other days we were just left with a little free time before heading to bed. The early mornings and full schedule meant we were all back in our rooms tucked up in bed by 9pm!
We had a rule of silence during the hours of 10pm to 10am, which meant we had the time to reflect inwards during our self-practice, and prepare for the day ahead with no distractions. This was the part of the course I did struggle with at times! I love to chat, especially when I want to discuss everything about the mornings classes! But on the whole, we all stuck to it very well. In the last week, some even took their silence to 24 or 48 hours to experiment with how it made them think and feel.
Being in the Ashram has to be one of the most challenging, incredible and life changing things I’ve ever done. All of a sudden everything feels like it’s fallen into place and yet been completely thrown upside down all at the same time. The simple daily structure and basic living are nothing compared to the intense and complex journey you are on whilst you’re there. I’ve met people who I have connected with in a way I didn’t know was possible. Every person had their highs and lows whilst we were there and no one was ashamed or embarrassed by it. Nobody judged you if cried through a whole yoga class or spent the day feeling like you were on cloud nine. We watched each other change and grow with each passing day and became part of each other’s journey.
It’s a cliché to say I went to India and found myself but I know there’s some truth in that. I know the quest is far from over, I’ve merely scratched the surface, but I know I’ve learnt knew things about myself that I’d never have found any other way.
Now it’s time to put my new-found knowledge into practice. Digest the information I’ve been given and discovered for myself, and decide how to use it in my own life and to help those in need. Share my experiences with those around me and bring a little bit more light to their day.
My journey is just beginning and I can’t wait.
“You have many years ahead of you to create the dreams you can’t even imagine dreaming.” Steven Spielberg