My first trip to India…some things I learned.

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I’ve now been back home for two days after travelling for two weeks in India.  Re-entry is challenging–I am exhausted and trying to figure out when to sleep, have trudged through my e-mails, and, most importantly, have caught up on missed episodes of Nashville.  Images of my trip continue to play in my mind like a great movie you want to remember.  Life here in Austin seems very organized, and overly sanitized after the chaos of New Delhi and Jaipur.  The food at the grocery store looks bland and processed, compared to the intensely flavorful Indian dishes I’ve been eating.  I’m so very happy I took the leap and went on this journey–and now it is time to begin to process the experience and see what I’ve learned–about India, yes, but really about myself, my practice and my teaching.

As a Yoga teacher, I have been intrigued by India and interested in traveling to the source of the teachings of Yoga.  So, when I saw that Jogi Bhagat, of Yoga Solutions, was taking a group for a “Spiritual India Trip” I decided to check it out.  While I had not been a student of Jogi’s,  we had met before at one of my workshops and he has a stellar reputation in the Yoga community.  So I signed up.  While not exclusively a “Yoga trip” he seemed to offer a great combination of daily practice and meditation, lecture and touring.

The trip delivered beyond my wildest expectations. The first week we were based at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in New Delhi, which provided the perfect antidote for the intensity of the 17 million person city surrounding us. From there we took day trips to temples and other historical sites, a family Diwali celebration, and, of course, the Taj Mahal. Next we spent 3 days in Jaipur, continuing to explore historic sites and the modern shopping mecca that is the Pink City (although it looks more terra cotta to me). Our final stop was in Rishikesh, on the banks of the Ganges in the foothills of the Himalayas–a gorgeous, yet still congested and chaotic setting for the “ashram capital”.

I will be processing the trip for a very long time. I have a new perspective based on what I saw and experienced–but here are a few things I learned.

1. Don’t be afraid to “go for it”. There were a million reasons for me not to go to India right now…and yet I went. I missed some family time, my daughter’s half time football game performances, a friend’s wedding and about 15 classes. That pales in comparison to what I gained from the experience, including knowing that it is okay to step off the treadmill for a couple of weeks–the world goes on.

2. Life is precious and divine and should not be taken for granted. I found that the Indians that I met had a real sense of appreciation for life. Life in India certainly is more challenging than life in the U.S. We are so attached to material things, and are constantly concerned about our comfort. In India, in spite of the problems of a developing country, everyone speaks with a real reverence for life itself. They certainly recoginize the divine in all, and are not afraid to talk about it.

3. You are as happy as you decide to be. Travelling in India is difficult. Very difficult. The traffic is crazy, the air is hard to breathe. The overnight train we took from Jaipur to Hardiwar was in no way clean or comfortable. Sometimes it was very, very hot. Sometimes your bed is as hard as a rock and there are ants all over. Sometimes you drop your cell phone into a squat toilet (this really happened to someone in my group. in a separate blog, I may reveal how she got it back). However, throughout the two weeks we all made a choice to be happy, and allow that the opportunity to be in India superceded everything else. Why can’t we do this everyday? Well, we can. We can allow that the opportunity to live the lives we have can supercede all the little and sometimes bigger troubles in life.

4. Daily practice changes everything. Sometimes I was tired, sometimes my back hurt from sitting on a train for 12 hours or sleeping in a hard bed. Sometimes I was cranky, congested and overwhelmed. Almost always I was out of my comfort zone. So even more than when I practice here as part of my daily routine, I noticed the changes that happen when you simply “come to your mat”. Within moments, as my breath became more measured, as my mind became quiet, I had a profound sense of coming back to myself. Sometimes I was so stiff I could barely fold forward, but then I would begin to feel my body soften and regain some elasticity. In Rishikesh, we practiced overlooking the Ganges river–the sense of peace and wholeness was pervasive and centering. I will remember the changes that happened on my mat in India that helped me come back and feel comfortable, so that whenever I travel, or am far from my routine, I will make time for practice because practice, quite simply, makes everything better.

5. Peace exists within, despite what is happening outside. Yoga, of course, is a study in opposites. I felt the “dynamic tension” constantly. And yet, even in the chaos of the cities, with the crush of people and traffic and noises and smells and tastes, I felt calm and serene throughout the entire time I was in India. I don’t know if I was just so happy to be there, or that I felt comfortable in the energy there (I really did), or if it reminded me of times in my life when I was much younger and had travelled to other developing countries. I don’t know what it was, but I felt as calm in the crowd at the Taj Mahal. or on the crowded swinging bridge over the Ganges as I did at the Ashram. And more calm than I typically feel on a routine day.

Even as I write this, my mind is swimming with other details and learning from the trip.  It will take some time for me to process, and to share.  In the meantime, I already feel some change seeping into the way that I view each day, and how I approach my classes.  I will be interested to watch how it evolves and will take you along on the journey with me as much as I can!

Lisa Feder, founder of Being Well Yoga, loves teaching Yoga and Mindfulness anywhere—studios, offices, and the rainforest! Her company, Being Well Yoga, brings Yoga on-site to the workplace so employees can work well and be well

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