Holy fuck – I’m in India!
I was a tad concerned about how I’d feel when I woke up on my first full day at the ashram. Nervous? Apprehensive? Wanting to go home? But I opened my eyes and felt so peaceful. All I could hear was the twittering of birds (and the buzzing of the ceiling fan, but we shall gloss over that one); looking out the window all I could see was a sleeping India at the foot of the Himalayas.
Yoga class was scheduled for 7.30am. Located on the top floor of the building, the studio is like an oasis; fully wooden panelled with a devotional corner and evenly spaced mats for Oce, Ava and myself, it is serenity in a rooftop room. The gorgeous instructor was a tiny thing, about 20 years old to my eyes (but who knows, he could any age from 15 to 50, let’s be honest), and he shyly smiled and murmured encouragement throughout the full hour and a half class. I pushed myself to the absolute furthest I could, and came out of the pranayama feeling lengthened and dreamy.
It’s quite funny – although we are all speaking English, there’s such a mix of accents among us. With Oce’s lyrical French, Ava’s carefully pronounciated Czech, the mens’ Indian bouncy tones and my rapid Kiwi, repetition is often a necessity. The morning instructor was very softly spoken and Oce became increasingly frustrated as the class went on. With the downpour of rain on the tin roof and steady buzz of the fans, she found great difficulty in understanding him and asked him three times to please speak clearer.
Afterwards we discussed it, and she was amazed that Ava and I had had no issues with hearing all he said. We put it down to the fact that both Ava and I worked with a lot of Indian people and were used to deciphering the accent whereas Oce was not. We also laughed that at times I spoke at such a pace it was a whirlwind and some words I said had them breaking out in giggles. I found no difficulty in understanding each of them however; I believe this comes from having grandparents with thick Dutch and Polish accents that I’ve had to listen closely to my entire life.
9am signalled breakfast where the three of us congregated around the table in the lounge room. Unsure why at this stage, but the men never eat with us. Instead they watch us, constantly checking we are happy and trying to load more food onto our silver trays. It’s funny, there are no women here; it’s a male run domain. Of course there is Amrit, along with Anil (the cook), Hari (assistant cook), Govind (coordinator), Bhatt (in-house priest) and the two yoga instructors.
At 10.45 we met Amrit in the clinic for orientation. I cannot describe the joy that overcame me as he went through the syllabus, the schedule and listed the 50 asanas (postures) we would be learning. We will have daily lectures on anatomy, physiology, mediation, Ayurvedic therapies and medicines and three hours’s worth of yoga practice. It is quite honestly some of my greatest loves combined in one! And how amazing to be studying again (my inner geek continues to thrive). After the two hours of instruction, I said to Amrit, “I feel really, really good about this.” He patted my shoulder then gave me a big hug. It genuinely felt like the most natural thing in the world.
After a lunch of delicious dhal, cabbage curry, cucumber and mango, we were graced with the presence of Amrit’s father, Dr Rakeesh Raj. Running a hospital with his gynaecologist wife two hours out of Delhi, Rakeesh visits the ashram every Saturday after a stint at his Dehra Dun clinic. He is (yet again) a beautiful man. I was surprised to see his polo shirt had a golf logo on the breast pocket; so ignorant of me but the idea of these people trotting off for 18 holes seemed so alien.
We then had the fire ceremony, a ritual deemed to eradicate negative energies. Since I arrived, chanting has beena big part of each day. Three “Oms” before each meal and each class and eleven at the conclusion of each Ganeesh Aaarti (prayer). The first set of chanting I was extremely self conscious and dangerously close to breaking out in giggles. But it’s amazing – one day in and I’m chanting my “Oms” with confidence and belief. The fire ceremony was beautiful and moving, even though I had no idea what on earth was going on. All I know is that I felt good!
After another hour and a half of yoga, a shower was crucial. Stuff hatha yoga, at certain times it felt like the most intense bikram! Then dinner, yarns with the girls and onto a chat with Dr Rakeesh.
How amazing is he. Such wisdom, such passion for his work, he imparted incredible knowledge with us that had us spellbound. He talked for an hour about belief, meditation, what life should be about, then he answered medical questions we had. You said one thing to him and he just knew exactly what you were talking about and how to go about remedying it in a natural way. It was truly incredible. Afterwards he said, “Your time here will transform your life. You will find your life to the best.” And I wholeheartedly, 100 per cent believe him.
I retired to my room and wrote and wrote and wrote. I want to capture all I can on paper so I have it all documented for myself forever. Times achanging!