Its hard to believe we are in our second week of Yoga teacher training here in Rishikesh Yog Peeth. As I previously mentioned, the time here has been flying and trying to take in every moment of it, is on the top of our agendas right now. Live for the moment, in the present moment- a little something Philosophical which makes a lot of sense to the way we are living right now. I find myself becoming more aware of the present moment and have found myself not thinking about previous events nor future plans, which is certainly a step in the right direction. I also feel very much on the road to universal understanding, having figured out from last night’s meditation class, I experienced a glimpse of the Kundalini Awakening, which I will explain a bit more later on. So at the end of our last week, we had a very chilled weekend to look forward to. We had Saturdays morning Asana class but this time, we had Dani, a previous student turned teacher who has returned to Rishikesh to teach workshops to us. I personally found this class very helpful when it came to breathing correctly, correct alignments and altering routines for different level yoga students. It gave me a great insight into the postures we do regularly and how altering them can make a routine easier for a beginner or more challenging for an intermediate student. We had group discussions and we learned a lot about this through each other’s input and ideas which was great.
Later on when it came to having our usual Philosophy and Anatomy/Physiology class with Roshan, we were told it was cancelled due to a power cut. We had planned to watch some documentaries to do with Philosophy to add to our chilled day, but with the cancellation, it made our free time longer. We had a long gap before we had to return to Krishna Cottage for meditation. It was during this free time, that we headed to the Ayurvedic clinic near our school, for some fish pedicure pampering and some yogic massages- stretching/breath massage, which we really enjoyed. I took some of the free time I had to go to my usual salon in Laksman Jhula and get some waxing done, which is great in India and super cheap – just an fyi for all you girls out there. Afterwards, when we came back we had our dinner as usual and went to Surya for the meditation. This time, we had a candle meditation where our teacher put a candle in the middle, arranged us in a big circle around it, and turned off the lights. We were to watch the yellow of the flame, with our eyes half shut, eventually closing our eyes and visualizing the same candle in our minds, continuing the meditation. As per usual, my thoughts kept distracting me and I couldn’t fully settle my mind, even though the candle was very relaxing to watch. Meditation never seemed to be something I could do, but I guess I would prove myself wrong.
Sunday was our day off and so some of the group had arranged hikes or day trips to the surrounding areas. Some of the others, including us opted to take a walk to see The infamous Beatles Ashram located very close by. Some of the girls had opted for a pay as you go yoga class that morning at 6:30am which the night before, I had opted in for, but when the time came the next day, I opted for sleep. I felt slightly guilty but felt slightly deserving of it though. I felt very refreshed at breakfast! After breakfast we got some directions from the reception at Krishna Cottage, and began our journey towards the Ashram, which only took us 20 minutes to walk to, despite the scorching heat. When we got there we were in awe of the location and the stillness of the atmosphere around the ashram, which sat, slightly hill side, beside the banks of the holy Ganges. The story behind this famous visit was that in 1968 The Beatles, who had met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in London during one of his seminars, decided to take him up on his offer to come to his Ashram in Rishikesh, to study Transcendental Meditation under his guidance. Many of their companions, wives and other celebrities came on the journey and they all left at different times to go home. It was here that they meditated for long periods daily, ate a pure vegetarian diet and wrote tonnes of songs, many of which are on their album ‘The Beatles’ aka ‘The White Album’. Their visit here, gained a lot of followers and interest in The Maharishi during this time, and even with the Ashram in abandonment at this moment in time, It still draws backpackers and yoga students to see it. It wasn’t until later on that evening when we talked to some of our friends that we realised there was a ‘rabbit hole’ we could have used to enter the inside of the ashram, but for us, we just got to see the outside. We are planning our next trip to see the inside of it. It is always so incredible to be somewhere that people so famous have once been, which happens every day around the world, but to be here had a very spiritual significance. It seemed as though we, as yoga students were standing here on the grounds where The Beatles once came, to find exactly what we are looking for. Peace and universal understanding. This was something special for me to experience. I couldn’t help but imagine them there at that very site, looking out over the Ganges searching for sheer tranquillity and it seemed like the perfect location for it.
Our plan all week had been to set lunch at our school aside on our day off which is Sunday, and instead, indulge in something we have been craving such as pizza, crepes or veggie burgers. When we returned from The Beatles Ashram, we did just that! We headed to Kanaan, a local rooftop chillout restaurant where most off us ‘yogi’s’ hang out. The service is crazy slow though, even for Indian standards, and with seven of us there, each receiving our meals at different times, I of course received my pizza 2 hours after we arrived. One of the girls who had a massage booked, even had to cancel her order to make her massage on time. Nevertheless, the food is beautiful, the lassi’s and lemon nana’s are amazing and the sweet owner is always so friendly and welcoming, so yes, it has become our local eatery! It goes without saying that we each enjoyed very single bite and savoured every single smell of delicious food before It was time to leave and get ready for another week ahead. The food at the ashram, is amazing, but because it is pure vegetarian and very health conscious which is so great for us I know, we still can’t help but miss our little luxuries, for Franzisca that would be her love for Gin and Tonics and for the rest of us it varies a lot. I was super happy with my pizza and it almost becomes one of those routines where you feel great eating healthy during those 6 days that treating yourself for that one meal on a Sunday seems very doable in real life. Maybe not so affordable for a backpacker though, but I’m determined to keep it up when I leave here. For breakfast at the ashram/school, both groups (us from Krishna Cottage and the other half from Surya Palace) meet in Krishna where all our meals are served. We would generally have fruit salad, noodles, porridge and herbal tea in different combinations, which we will have after our two hour yoga session in the morning from 6-8am. For lunch we will then have a cooked selection of vegetables, sometimes curried sometimes plain, some curried lentils or chickpeas and maybe a salad. For dinner, we will generally have a similar meal to lunch but in different variations, sometimes it will be chickpea or lentil soup with rice, a salad and a desert like rice pudding (which is a lot different to Irish rice pudding) and other times It may be the same combination but in different forms such as veggie meat balls. On a Saturday we are generally given a completely different meal as a sort of ‘treat’ I guess, for example last Saturday we had pasta with a beautiful tasty sauce and cheese dressing. Before our meal in Kanaan we also had some amazing homemade guacamole with giant deep fried ‘crisps’ which were amazing and afterwards we opted for some chocolate balls with ice cream which were also to die for. It goes without saying that Sunday is probably our favourite but most guilty day.
On the other hand, there was no need to feel guilty considering we were going to the Puja ceremony down by the Ganges river with our classmates and teachers that evening, where we could wash away all our sins. The Ganges Is well known worldwide for its holiness , spiritual history and ceremonies, so when we were told we would be attending the Puja ceremony to give thanks to Mother Ganga, we were so excited. That evening, we gathered at Krishna Cottage and we all walked to the river where we waited ten minutes for the gates to open. We passed the time by posing for pictures together and with various Indians who yet again approached us saying ‘Photo photo please’. Once we entered the ceremonial space, river side, we all took seats along the steps and before we knew it the place was packed full of locals and tourists, all here to give thanks and witness this daily event. It was easier to see the location of where the Lord Shiva statue once stood out in front of us on the river, before It was taken away in the very harsh floods, back in June 2013. Just before my arrival! You can notice a lot of reconstruction and excess deposits of sand around Ram Jhula and Laksman Jhula from the floods and it’s hard to think about how many people died in the small mountainous villages so recently from the flooding and landslides.
The ceremony kicked off with various mantras and relaxing Hindu music, enough to send me into deep meditation, something I thought Impossible for me. We sat there as more and more people arrived and not long after, the familiar scene of worshipping Mother Ganga with candles. As the candles moved around the crowds, everyone reached out to grab the handle of it before the swaying began. When it got closer to us, we managed to get our hands on it and helped to move it around with everybody. It was such a nice ceremony. Once this was done, everyone rushed to the water were they put their feet in, prayed and even drank the holy water. We got our feet in, but afraid of falling into the fast current of the river, we didn’t stay there too long. Afterwards, we gathered, put our shoes back on and headed back to Krishna Cottage. After dinner, some of us went to bed and some of the others played games in Surya Palace. It was a really great weekend and we can’t wait to experience more events like this, especially with such a nice group of people.
During our second week, our schedules changed once again and this time, we would have a normal class in the morning with Jeet, and then in the evening, our other teacher Nirendra would supervise two 300hr students as they taught us the class. Both evenings were quite intense and fast paced but It was great. I don’t think any of us have sweated that much in our lives. Literally swimming in sweat after a 90 minute class. Its always great to get different experiences and we are now having an Astanga yoga class every Tuesday with Jeet, from this week on, which gives us some more variations of yoga and routines. It also keeps Franzisca happy, as she loves Astanga yoga. Oh and have I told you that she gets everything she wishes for? We think she is supernatural. We keep telling her to wish for chocolate, potatoes or pizza someday at Krishna Cottage, but I don’t think that would ever come true. As I mentioned earlier, I was finding meditation quite annoying, which is quite normal I hear for beginners. I was never good at keeping quite let alone keeping thoughts out of my head and my mind still but nevertheless I tried it. We have meditation at 8:30pm every evening after dinner for half an hour, in which we try out different methods. First there was just silence, then there was the candle to watch, then we chanted ‘OM’ 108 times and finally the past two nights we tried a new method of counting from 100 down to 1 on every exhale. Here we go again I thought to myself. We talk about The Kundalini awakening in Philosophy a lot and about getting deep into your mind through meditation, by preparing with yoga Asanas (poses), Pranayama (breath control), Neti Pot and a good healthy diet. Basically we are all living in the external world and we do not understand the universe nor ourselves living in this way. Every human has the capacity to delve into the deep subconscious of the mind to find out the worlds answers, the universal understanding and most of all who you really are. They call this an ‘enlightened’ person. As an enlightened person, you have released the energy in your body to flow up through all seven chakras and finally power through the crown of the head, meaning that you have finally understood the world and you can live your life in peace with fearless expression of yourself without any doubt. I wouldn’t say I am a sceptic, and I am always open to new things and hearing about peoples experiences but I just felt like meditation to me would always just be me, sitting in a dark room in silence just waiting on the time to pass, only with incredibly numb legs to sow for it at the end. Taking all we had learned in the past week and all the insights into this experience into account, I once again went into my meditation class on the first night we did the numbers method. I got into a comfortable cross legged position on my cushion, placed my hands on my knees once the ‘Om’ and mantra were said and I began to relax into my position. I counted down from 100 without getting lost and noticed that I was starting to drift into a state of thoughtlessness where I could no longer feel the pins and needles in my leg, nor hear any noises around me. It felt almost like nodding off to sleep but I was awake, just without any thoughts, and anyone who has tried to meditate knows how hard it is to not think. Think about it! But in all seriousness, there I was in or around my second countdown, feeling my breath go deeper and more relaxed just like before you go asleep, when all of a sudden a huge force of energy swirled up my back from the base of my spine through to the top of my head pulling me up into an even straighter position. I quickly opened my eyes unaware at what was happening and slightly scared, thinking I may need to leave the room. Suddenly I closed my eyes again and embraced the feeling, letting it continue to tak over my body, heat up my back and power through to my crown. When I felt it push through my head, my mind felt so settled, yet so full of awareness and I had an incredible burst of joy and happiness within me. Still unaware at what had happened to me, but still knowing I hadn’t imagined it, I walked out of the room saying ‘That was an amazing meditation’ and continued on into my room where I lay in bed for the rest of the evening researching my experience. I had in fact come to realise that this was Kundalini awakening. After a few conversations with friends the next morning about this, I was encouraged to discuss this with Roshan our Philosophy teacher to see what his thoughts were on this. I thought this would be easier than standing up and telling the whole class my experience as had been previously mentioned to me. At the end of Anatomy I queued up, as you do when in one of Roshan’s classes (everyone always has questions for him) and when It was my turn, I explained my experience, which to him seemed like the start of Kundalini awakening. He told me not to dwell on it in each meditation class and that every time is completely different, the key is to sit still, and see what happens. The next evening IA couldn’t help but wait for something to happen, and so It was not anything special but I definitely felt energy and the start of something but I guess I wasn’t as thoughtless as I had been the night before, to encourage these feelings to happen. I have no doubt in my mind though that this feeling exists now, and It only gives me more hope and faith that something will come again when I am ready. From researching I noticed that it takes some people along time to release this Kundalini ‘serpent’ (energy in your spine) and it as to be done under supervision and with preparation such as the Asanas, Paranayama, diet and the right mind set. I have been living in the present moment since I got to India and since being in the Ashram, I am even more devoted to living my life, living for the present moment, and when the time comes -finding out who I really am!
-Here is something we say after our mantra’s every day.
‘Shanti Shanti Shanti’- which means ‘Peace to others, Peace to everything around us and Peace to myself’