In just under a week's time I will be on an aeroplane bound for India! To say this trip has been a long time coming would be an understatement. Travelling to India has certainly been on my "bucket list" ever since I made the decision to start teaching yoga, several years ago, and finally it is about to happen.
The photo above was taken the last time I went to India which was fifteen years ago in January 2001 when I met up with my best friend and her partner who were travelling at the time. We hooked up in Goa for a couple of weeks and while I was already practising yoga at the time it had not yet taken over my life to the extent it has now, so the sole purpose of my Goa trip was to have quality time with my friend and to explore Goa rather than to do yoga. In fact the photo of the cows on the beach is an image that really stuck in my head from my trip, I couldn't quite fathom how cows could just walk around everywhere, even on the streets as you walk along but it was something I did eventually get used to. The colours are something I remember too, India being such a colourful, vibrant country. So many cultural differences and such a feast for the eyes.
However, this time round my trip to India will be ALL about yoga, in fact, I don't think there will be any time at all to explore the towns and cities as I will be heading straight for an Ashram in Kerala, South India. I will be flying into Trivandrum and then getting a taxi straight to the Ashram at Neyyar Dam.
The ashram's website describes it as "an abode of peace and shelter from the pressures of worldly life. It provides a safe space for personal development and the pursuit of spiritual ideals. People come from many walks of life and from every corner of the world to experience the profound spirituality of ancient India, and the centuries-old disciplines of Yoga, Vedanta and Ayurveda."
I am currently feeling such a mix of emotions - so excited for the adventure that lies ahead and yet nervous too about heading out into unknown territory and stepping out of my comfort zone. Also as a mum to two school-age children it is not with ease that I leave them especially over the school holidays when we would have been having quality time together, BUT this trip is really important on so many levels. The desire to have an authentic experience in yoga's birthplace has been strong within me for years, to have time to really "live" my yoga and to experience life in an Ashram is something I didn't think I'd have the opportunity to do until my children were grown up so to have this chance now is really quite amazing and I intend to make the most of it. In addition, life is so busy generally, every day full to the brim with both personal and work commitments that there never seems enough time to really devote to one's personal development, at least not uninterrupted so this time out will hopefully give me the space and time to do just that.
In terms of preparing for my trip I've read every review and blog post available about the Ashram I am going to and as such I have a feeling I will be the best equipped yogi in the place :-) Everything from mosquito nets, strong DEET repellent and hypoallergenic mattress protectors to a torch, plug adaptors and a back-up fork and spoon in case eating curry with my hands proves a challenge too far (a suggestion from a fellow blogger!). Basically if someone has suggested it in a review I've packed it! I've even squeezed my favourite yoga mat and my meditation zafu into my luggage so I know I will be able to sit comfortably for the 3 hours of satsang (devotional chanting and meditation) that are scheduled into each day.
Funnily enough though my greatest concern is whether I will be able to cope with waking up at 5.20am each day! I know some people do this on a regular basis but I have never been a morning person per se and am lucky enough to have until 7.30am in bed most days (even later at the weekends). In addition I seem to physically need at least 8 hours sleep a night or I can't usually function properly. I've always been a sleepy, relaxation-loving person so it will be interesting to see how I function on such a full schedule. I have, however, worked out that if the 12.30pm Coaching Class is indeed optional this could be the perfect time for a power nap if need be ;-) Don't get me wrong, I am looking forward to embracing the schedule but I am intrigued to see how my body will hold out going straight from busy school runs and my daily schedule, onto a long flight to India, straight to the Ashram and then into a full on schedule. No time for jet-lag or sleeping it off I don't suppose and it will be interesting to see if this time devoted to chanting, meditation and physical yoga practice gives my body enough nourishment spiritually to not NEED so much sleep physically (if that makes sense). Whether in fact it is just the daily grind and everyday commitments that cause one to feel so tired and lacking energy.
In terms of food, the ashram provides two vegetarian meals a day and as I am already vegan this is not a concern for me in terms of "content" although perhaps the two meals a day as opposed to my usual three plus snacks ;-) might be more of a challenge although apparently there is a health hut there where you can get additional healthy snacks, etc. so I won't starve. However, I expect for people joining the ashram who are meat-eaters this might prove much more of a challenge. In truth, I'm just looking forward to not having to cook for myself. This in itself will be a treat! I believe also that a healthy clean vegetarian diet should - in theory- make one feel lighter and less sluggish so this might be another aspect that contributes towards not needing so much sleep (hopefully!). It will definitely be a detox of sorts though. No junk or processed foods, no alcohol (obviously) and in fact the Ashram is also an Ayurvedic Wellness Centre so apparently all the meals are prepared in accordance with ayurvedic principles so will be SUPER healthy.
A minimum of four hours of yoga practice are scheduled into the day so again I have packed my knee supports to prevent me from having to hobble back onto the plane home at the end of my stay. Touch wood I haven't had any major pain in my knees for a couple of years - aside from a bit of pinching here and there - but I don't do four hours of yoga a day either so I am hoping that they will hold out!
All in all I am excited to see what this experience will bring, both on a personal level but also in terms of how it might add to my teaching and what I can bring back to my classes. I am hoping it will provide me with fresh insight and inspiration too even just from the point of view of practicing against an Indian backdrop and according to the website: "12 acres of tropical splendour...forested surroundings, cool green coconut tree groves and colourful flower-filled views". Doesn't sound too bad does it!
I look forward to reporting back upon my return and letting you all know how my adventure unfolds.