It’s been over a week now since I arrived in Rishikesh: the holy city on the banks of the Ganga and a central source of vinyasa yoga. Last Tuesday I joined a circle of strangers for a fire ceremony to mark the beginning of our 200 hour yoga teacher training journey. Together we threw pieces of wood into the fire purifying the air around us as a red and orange string was tied to our wrist to remind us of our determination throughout the course.
Since that day I’ve woken up at 5am each morning for tea before vinyasa classes, a pranayama (breath control) course, lunch, philosophy and anatomy classes, dinner, and Hatha yoga and meditation in the evening. The days are full. I don’t get back to my room until 9pm and I roll right under the covers.
My body and mind are certainly stronger for it, but more than the physical and mental effects of practicing yoga postures and teaching classes, I find I am learning a lot about myself and my connection to those around me.
It’s only been 11 days, but the strangers at the fire ceremony have already become dear friends. And all the while I have been discovering more about who I am and how I can connect with the goodness in other people. In the west we easily forget that yoga is more than a one hour workout and short meditation in savasana. In fact, it’s an entire, integrated way of being in the world. The word yoga means union: union of mind, body and spirit and union of the individual with something bigger (however you conceive of it: God, universal consciousness, goodness).
It’s about treating our bodies, minds, and souls like temples and treating others the same. The breathing, postures and approach to living give us a foundation to be able to meditate and be present to God/goodness/universality in other people and in ourselves. It helps us get in touch with the feeling we get when we’re so deep in enjoying meaningful conversation we don’t realize hours have passed. It helps us appreciate the beauty of the natural world around us after a hike up a mountain. It can show us what inner and outer peace feel like and help us bring some more of that into the world.
The course is one small part of a life-long journey, but because it is particularly intensive and focused, everything feels more acute. I am so grateful for the chance to be here in this moment with this group of incredible people.
As the yoga sutras begin, Attach yogas amushasnam. Now, let’s practice yoga.