A Yogi’s Transformational Journey through India
I’m not your typical world-traveling yogi. There aren’t too many 40-year-old women leaving everything behind for a taste of adventure. I mean, unless they’re having some sort of mid-life crisis, which I am not. No, really.
However, after recently becoming an empty-nester (I started young!), and after recently divorcing my husband, I felt the need to explore life differently, a new way to think, a new way to be. (yes, I’m aware that part does sound a bit mid-life crisis-like)
Yoga was a big catalyst for this new way of being… I had been practicing daily for a couple of years and was getting stronger by the day- mind, body and spirit. I felt the next step was obvious, to become yoga certified.
So I began the search for teacher certifications. Initially, I wanted go to Bali, Indonesia. Maybe it was because of reading Eat, Pray, Love– but I had this image of Bali being this goddessy-glamourous place to study yoga, and who knows maybe I’d find love there. I wasn’t looking for love, I was (am) already in love but the man of dreams didn’t (doesn’t) love me back. Anyway, I digress.
I found a few options for yoga training in Bali, but for whatever reason- doors kept closing. So I thought, maybe that’s my sign to stop looking so far away and just find training nearby in Florida where I live. But again, doors kept closing and nothing seemed to be working out. As I was taking a long walk on the beach one day- a thought became crystal clear: I needed to go to India to study yoga. Duh! Why wouldn’t I go where yoga originated?
I have a friend who quit her job, sold all of her possessions, and is now travelling throughout India. I remembered her telling me about a small ashram that offered yoga teacher training AND it was cheap. So I found out the name of the place, emailed them, and almost too-perfectly everything just sorta lined up. Tuition- check. Airfare- check. Indian Visa- oh, shit. No one told me how time consuming this part would be and after all the waiting there’s a chance I could be denied a visa. But just in the nick of time, the FedEx guy showed up at my door with my visa-stamped passport. Whew! (By the way, I highly recommend anyone traveling to India to get their visa FIRST. This will save a lot of stressing out!)
I read all kinds of blogs from people who had travelled though India. I spent a lot time working myself up over a bunch of stuff I didn’t need to be worrying about… but it did help me to prepare for my trip. And somewhere during this time of searching blogs, I came across an awesome blogger “This American Girl”, and that’s where I heard about Yoga Trade. I signed up and immediately found a posting for a yoga-exchange opportunity in the Andaman Islands. I had never heard of this part of the world but as it turns out, it’s a cluster of islands between India and Thailand but it is considered part of India. Perfect! I’ll be getting my teacher certification about the time they need an instructor at this resort on Havelock Island.
I remember telling my friend, the one who quit everything and moved to India, how I planned on going to Havelock Island in the Andamans after my training at the ashram. She responded with “are you sure you’re not just wanting a cookie at the end of your India trip?” I hadn’t looked at it that way at all. I saw what looked like this amazing paradise where elephants swim and the water is the loveliest iridescent turquoise, yes, but it was also a wonderful opportunity to get some hands on experience after my ashram training.
After weeks of going back and forth, and trying to organize the travel from the mainland to the islands (it’s not easy to get there)… it was finally set. I would be going to an ashram in south India for three weeks, then I would make the journey to one of the most remote places on the planet- the Andaman Islands.
As I write this, it’s now been two months since I’ve been back from the most exciting adventure of my life. And here’s my observation. Life at the ashram on the mainland and life in the Andamans on Havelock Island, couldn’t be more different.
At the ashram, we had a disciplined schedule. Up at 5am to “shower” (it’s a bucket with a cup for rinsing) and get ready for our asana practice, yoga history and philosophy throughout the day, volunteering at a rural school-house, and an all-vegetarian diet with little to no sugar or caffeine and definitely not any alcohol.
Whereas, on the island, 8am for yoga but many times people missed class because they were up too late drinking the night before, Nutella pancakes for breakfast, prawns as big as your head on the barbeque, the wine is flowing and cigarette smoking is quite common.
The ashram life allows you to reflect on everything, why am I here, what am I doing? I had dreams of conversations with goddesses, I faced my demons head-on, and I came to peaceful conclusions of letting some things (and relationships) go. Spirituality thoughts seem to overtake any thoughts of the flesh.
On the island, all I could think of was how unbelievably grateful and happy I was to be alive. I met new friends, I met a very young, very attractive Indian man, made out in the ocean and on the beach, had totally different kinds of dreams and felt lots of love.
Now as I reflect on these two experiences, I would like to somehow be able to balance my life somewhere between the disciplined schedule of the ashram in India and the carefree frolicking on Havelock Island.
Vegetarian diet with almost no sugar or caffeine most days, but sometimes Nutella crepes and espresso for breakfast or a late-night dinner feast and the wine is flowing.
Practice yoga and meditation for hours but occasionally skip the mat and go swimming in the ocean with a gorgeous boy as we kiss with the crashing waves on us.
Get up early most mornings enjoying peaceful solitude but not missing birthday celebrations, nights on the beach watching the full moon, and staying up late talking with new friends about love, life and God.
How can these two places be so close and yet so far away? But I think the drastic contrasts of the two helped me learn something about myself. I’m not a typical yogi. I’m not a typical anything, really. I’m just me. I’m somewhere in between these two lifestyles. I’m not following “the path”. I’m making my own path as I go along. Yes, I could stand to incorporate more discipline into my life but I also need to make time for carefree living too.
And as it turns out, my friend in India was right, I did get my cookie.
Angie is a yoga certified instructor with a passion for traveling and learning about new people and new cultures. She teaches yoga on the beach at sunrise in Florida, USA and organizes yoga retreats around the world.
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