March 12th, 2020- INDIA- 1/2 way through 300 hour YTT
I wrote this entry two weeks ago but hadn't had the chance to post on the blog until now. When you see my YTT schedule below, you will understand why.
It's impossible for me to put into words how amazing these last few weeks in the Himalayas of South Agonda, Goa, India have been. Just kidding. It’s possible.
Choosing to take my 300-hour advanced yoga training certification course with a Savarvanguna Yoga, Holistic Healing and Mediation Center will definitely be added to the file of better decisions I have made in my life.
So many times, whether I am in an asana lesson at the shala, hiking the rocks to overlook the village for meditation, or diving into the waves of the Indian Ocean for my mid afternoon break, I catch myself asking, how is this even real? How did I get here? I could have never imagined or guessed in my teens, twenties, or even early thirties, that I would be chillin’ in India in March 2020.
I catch myself humming and singing to myself quite often, something I do when I am extremely joyous and at ease.
Life is certainly a beautiful series of unexpected events and it’s true, when one door closes (and you might be super sad or disappointed or upset or heart broken at the time that it did) another one will surely open, and things will make sense again.
i decided one morning in Chiang Mai, Thailand (around the middle of February ) that it was the perfect time for me to advance my yoga teaching skills, as one of the few things I knew for sure, was that my love of yoga was not going anywhere. Training and flights to India were booked within 48 hours.
I flew into Goa airport on the 23rd of February. I was a day late for the course because of a visa issue (Umm... I never applied for one... ), and needed to rebook a flight, but was able to join the program still without a problem. Everyone in the program welcomed me with smiles and open arms.
Our tribe is 11 and is formed by people of all different ages, sizes, and backgrounds. I remember thinking, "How am I going to remember all these people's names?" But, after just a few days of getting to know each other, it was difficult to remember a time when we were all strangers.
In order to fulfill the 300 hours in four weeks, our days are pretty full.
I wake up every morning at 5:45 am. We observe silent mornings, so do not speak until breakfast.
We practice pranayama and meditation from 6:15am to 8:00am. Sometimes I sit on a block cross-legged with bolsters under my knees. Sometimes I choose a supported hero pose. Sometimes I sit on the edge of a chair with my knees stacked over my ankles. Because of the curve in my spine and constant discomfort in my lower back, my left hip, and right knee, I find it extremely difficult to sit for long periods of time, but I am still working on finding a comfortable sitting position that works for me.
Often times, I fall asleep sitting up, which is a common obstacle of meditation but is better than the alternative problem I used to have, and another obstacle of mediation, a restlessness mind. I am getting better and better at meditating on my breath each day, and now I cannot imagine a day that doesn’t begin with a long centering meditation practice.
After we meditate, we have a tea break, which is lemon juice, ginger, and honey. We sit in silence and reflect. There is something so harmonious about being in the presence of other people and not speaking with them.
From 8:15 am- 9:45 am, we practice yoga with Praveen. Praveen is the man. He is a supremely talented and hilarious Indian yogi who truly cares about our growth as human beings and yoga teachers. I could not imagine this training without him as my mentor.
Savarvanguna is a public yoga studio so our morning and evening classes are open to public drop-ins. In the first two weeks, we were taught a traditional Hatha Style, and the second two weeks we focused on Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow. I met an incredibly sweet American woman, Eileen, who lives half the year in India and half the year in New York.
At 9:45 am we break the fast, and eat. Our morning “tea” slightly breaks the fast, but at 9:45am, we have solid food. We are all quite famished by this point, as there is around 15 hours in between dinner and breakfast.
Breakfast is mixed fruit (papaya, banana, watermelon, and pineapple), yogurt, and white toast. In addition, some days we have porridge or traditional Indian breakfast rice dishes. On Tuesdays we are served thin pancakes or crepes, so everyone loves Tuesdays. We don't have maple syrup, so we use honey and strawberry jam. The strawberry jam is 80’s style hot pink and definitely not all natural, but hey, we are still grateful.
If there is leftover toast at breakfast time (which there usually is), I share it with the animals, mainly the pigs, and cows that wander the street. It's one of my favorite parts of the day. My favorite pig has one eye, a hurt arm, and a hurt leg. I think he is getting bullied by the other pigs, so I like to check in on him and make sure he has enough food and at least a little love. There is a big dude pig with a mohawk who is a big jerk and a mama pig who often times gets accosted my her hungry babies and knocked to her side so that she can nurse. I make sure to feed mama pig too. She needs her energy.
From 11-1 pm we learn either Yoga Philosophy or Anatomy relating to Yoga. I do my best to eat up every word, though sometimes during Philosophy, I find myself drawing flowers in the margin of my notebook, just like I used to do in high school.
1 pm- 3 pm is our lunch break. They serve traditional vegan Indian cuisine for lunch at 1 pm, including lentil dishes and curried vegetables. The first week, we would all eat together, but as time went on, people started going in different directions. Sometimes I am not hungry for lunch so I go to the beach on my break and get a smoothie from one of the vegan cafes down the street. We are only a block from the Indian Ocean and the water is warm and clean. Some days, I use my tupper ware and take a scoop of food and eat it a little later in the day.
3pm-5pm We go over posture cues and adjustments, often splitting into small groups, or teaching each other one on one. I have learned so much from the other students, as we all have our own special talents and knowledge to share with one another.
5pm-6pm We practice yoga, just like the morning, though the practice is a little less demanding.
We then practice teach until dinner at 7pm, though, oftentimes we just rest in savasana or have an open discussion about something related to yoga.
Three nights a week our day is completed after dinner, but the other three nights, (we have Sundays off) from 7:45pm- 8:45pm we have a question and answer session, or watch an informative movie on the joints, chakras, etc.
Once a week, we walk the beach and hike up to the top of the rocks for meditation. These mornings are my favorite. We also use a neti pot and saltwater at least once a week to clear our nasal passages to prevent sickness.
Our third teacher arrived a little late because she had a bad ear infection. She is teaching us anatomy, ethics, and Vinyasa Flow. It's nice to have some feminine energy in the teaching circle. Plus, she is also a westerner.
The anatomy classes are so fascinating. I love to learn about the human body, though the endocrine system is an absolute nightmare.
Today we learned about the thyroid and the pancreas and how important it is to take a calcium supplement if you are taking a magnesium supplement otherwise your homeostasis will be unbalanced. We learned all about how the menstrual cycle can affect your body and why you shouldn't practice yoga AT ALL in the first two days of your Period.
She showed us a YOUTUBE video using a projector on the while wall. It is called the BIG PICTURE, by Paul Greeley (I think that’s his name?) and its totally changed my perspective on how I look at my students bodies and my perspective on offering hands on adjustments. I definitely recommend you look this man up. He is SUPA SMAHT.
The cooks made us popcorn and served it in paper cones with skeletons on them. It was adorable.
We are all very close and supportive of each other’s individual journey. Jacky organizes and leads a circle on the beach each Saturday night. We light candles and incense. She plays her drums and we all sing under the stars. We take turns sharing and reflecting on the previous week. We laugh and cry together. I am so glad the universe created this community to share in this experience with me.
Something huge inside me has shifted in these last few weeks. Not every day has been my best day, but more often then not, and that’s all I am looking for at this point. I will admit I still find myself pulled towards the darkness, especially on days after a restless night sleep, but with the help of mediation, gratitude practice, and a supportive close knit group of yogi’s, I am enjoying my newfound ability to detach from my thoughts and emotions and take on the role of observer. I have also enjoyed flailing the limbs of my body, or what the average person would refer to as dancing.
We are all a little worried about the coronavirus, of course, but trying our best not to panic or get caught up in rumors or hearsay. It feels like we are in a little yoga bubble over here in Goa, India and maybe that’s ok, for now anyway. I encourage you to stay calm, yet know that’s it's ok to be a little scared. Not knowing what will happen next can definitely be an uncomfortable feeling, but all we can do is surrender to the universe and allow Mother Nature to take advantage of this time to heal herself.
Tomorrow, SUNDAY 3/22, the country of India will be on lockdown from 7am- 9pm. During that time, I will be able to share with you what the last few weeks in India have been like.
Don't forget to breathe.