My 2nd week of yoga teacher training in India is complete. It's hard to believe that we are already half way through the course. In a short time I've noticed myself getting both mentally and physically stronger. I am learning more about my body and self awareness. My posture has improved and I am learning for the first time how to breath correctly and attentively. Breathing may not seem like something that one should have to learn. Though after 2 weeks of pranayama classes I truly feel like I am actually breathing correctly for the first time in my life. I notice my breath going inside as I inhale. My spine and stomach expand up and out. Then as I exhale my spine and stomach contract and my breath releases completing the cylcle of inhalation and exhalation and returning the breath that the world gave me back into the world. Learning to pay attention to and control my breathing has allowed me to gain clarity and put my mind at ease. I have learned several mantras. A mantra is meant to free the mind from uneccesary thoughts. Mantra is a sanskrit word where, man= mind and tra= to set free. During mantra repetition you train the mind with awareness and breath. Out of all of the mantras that Ive learned my favorites is The Self Realization mantra. Self Realization Mantra Om Asto Ma Sadgamaya; Tamso Ma jyotirgamaya; Mratyorma amritamgamaya. Om shantih shantih shantih. This mantra is short but it is packed with meaning. In a nutshell this Mantra is an invocation to the universe to lead you from untruth to truth, from darkness(ignorance) to light(knowledge), and from mortality to immortality so that you no longer fear death but realize that you are more then just your body.

Its also important to note that when the universe is mentioned that you are the universe. We all have the universe and life inside and outside of us.    

I feel a strong connection with this mantra because one of the reasons I went on this journey was to connect with myself and realize who I truly am. What I have most learned in my time here in India so far is that the only way to me is through me. 

Here I am at the beautiful wedding of one of my teachers sisters. It was nice to experience suchba great part of Indian culture and amazing food, music, and dancing! 

This is a continuation of my previous post about my first week in Rishikesh, India. As mentioned before it really has been a great week and I have had great experiences in my classes and out and about seeing new sites and trying new things. 

On Sunday 2 friends from my yoga school and I went to visit the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram, sometimes better known as "The Beatles Ashram" This Ashram is no longer active and only the remants are left. Additionally the location also happens to be a tiger reserve according to several signs that I saw leading to and at the location. Though I did not see any tigers while I was there. 

Sign indicating tiger reserve but no tigers in site. 

As we continued to walk we saw many small dome shaped buildings. These buildings were used as meditation huts to help yoga practitioners meditate in a quiet space and to keep the energy of their meditation enclosed in the circular shape of the dome. 

84 of these meditation caves are spread all over the property. We went inside a few of them to look around and when we climbed the stairs to the 2nd level of one of these caves we found this beautiful message painted on the wall.

Life goes on within you and without you.

This message really struck me as meaningful to my own personal life journey. To me it means that life is a continuos force that exists both inside of you and outside of you. Everything that exists in the outside world exists inside of each of us. It also is a good saying that sums up a lot of what I've been learning during my Yoga Teacher Training in terms of taking the time to connect with your true self. In one of my classes the teacher asked each student what yoga meant for them. I said that for me yoga is like a dance or competition with myself. It's a way for me to take time out of the day and connect with my true inner self. I started out doing yoga when I was a kid. I found a book at my local library called Yoga for Children. It was a brightly colored book of other kids just like me in various yoga poses. I would spend hours looking at the pictures in the book and doing my best to put my body in the same positions. After a while I wanted more then just what was available in the book and lucky for me there was a yoga show available on a local tv channel. This was before all of the yoga videos that are now easily accessible online. For 1 hour a day at the same time everyday I would flip the tv on and follow along with the yoga session that was shown. I really enjoyed this but eventually I wanted to learn more so I would look for yoga classes around my community when I could. These were free or low cost community yoga classes. There were no fancy yoga studios and branded yoga mats, clothes and equipment. Though I really enjoyed yoga I did fall out of it for a while. Looking back from where I am now I noticed that I would start and stop yoga for various reasons on and off but would constantly always come back to it. 

As we continued to walk through the property of the Ashram we came across this room that had pictures of the beatles during there time spent at the Ashram back in the mid 1960's. There were also various posters displayed about transcendental meditation (TM)

The song "Across the Universe by The Beatles" was inspired by their time spent at the Ashram. 

A brief synopsis of TM 

Photos of the Beatles at the Ashram. 

Next thing I knew I had spent so much time inside that room reading the various posters that when I turned around to leave my friends were no where in sight. Oh no where could thehave gone I thought to myself. After asking someone if they saw the way that my friends went it wasn't long before I found them. The place where I found them also happened to have this awesome mural painted on the wall. 

Along with this awesome quote which is absolutely true for me. I will always believe in love. One big theme that I am learning about in my yoga training is the importance of self love. It is not until someone can fully love themselves that they can love others. Furthermore when you fully love yourself there is only room in your heart to love others because you realize that everyone is connected as a collective conciousness. The love that you feel for yourself is really love for everyone. 

To sum up my trip to the Ashram I think these 2 pictures are perfect. It is a beautiful view of the Ganga River and the city of Rishikesh. Seeing the Ganga and the city from this perspective was quite breathtaking and this photo honestly does not do any justice to the magnificence of the view. 

My first week in India and taking part in the yoga teacher training at the Ekam Yogashala/ Vinyasa Yogashala is nearly complete. It has been a great experience so far with wonderful teachers and classmates. Just a few days ago I boarded a flight from the USA to India which took about 20 hours with a 4 hour layover in the Ukraine.

On the Plane

When I arrived in Delhi I took a taxi for 6 hours to the town of Rishikesh where the yoga training is located. The driving here is unlike anything that I have ever seen before. Lots of congestion, honking, cutting people off, driving on the side of the road to get around traffic. Basically everyone drives like they have to be at their destination yesterday. This probably doesn't sound much different then NYC driving where I am from but trust me it is. 

Maybe if you put a ton of motorbikes, tuk tuks, and rikshaws into NYC, added in some random cows and horses trotting about and also took away all of the pedestrian crosswalks and pedestrian right of way rules. Then maybe just maybe it would begin to get close to what driving in India is like. 

Taxi ride from Delhi to Rishikesh

So there I am for 6 hours in the taxi amazed at all that is going on around me. Even stopping for gas was a new experience because the gas fill up looked like.

Taxi driver stopping for gas. 

Finally my taxi driver arrives in Rishikesh but is not able to find the school. I begin to panic some and all types of thoughts enter my mind. The driver is shouting out the window and asking locals for directions when finally a local ends up making a phone call to the school for further direction. Next thing I know I am out of the taxi and sitting on the side of the road with all of my belongings. "Wait here, the school will send someone to pick you up", I am told by this man that I have only spoken to for 5 mins. "Ok I think to myself, this is strange to me but probably not unusual around here. " So I sat and I waited. 5 minutes went by and I began to panic. "Oh no what if that guy tricked me and just dumped me to the side of the road", "what if this school is fake", "what if no one is coming"... 10 mins pass, "maybe I should go try to find a phone or talk to someone." ..."But if I leave this spot and someone does come for me I will miss them." 15 mins pass, and finally someone shows up. We confirm that I am the student for their yoga training and then I hop on the back of their motorbike. Yup on my first day in India I rode on the back of a motor bike. It was a very brief ride. Luckily I packed all of my stuff for the trip into a backpack. We arrived at the school, I complete some standard forms and I am shown my room. The room was very nice. I had my own space with a private bathroom and a balcony.

View from my balcony at Ekam/Vinyasa Yogashala

It is now about 7pm and I have the remainder of the night to get some rest before the day begins in the morning. The first morning was orientation. We met our teachers, learned briefly about our classes, and went down to the The Ganga (Ganges River ) to experience the Ganga Aarti.

Ganga Aarti

We all return to the school and begin to prepare for the next morning when classes will really begin. The first few days of classes were both physically and mentally challenging as well as invigorating. The schedule consists of a full day of classes from 6am to 7:30pm. 

 Class schedule

As mentioned earlier all of the teachers are excellent and really have in depth knowledge of their particular disciplines. I am extremely greatful that I ended up at this school. I am looking forward to learning more about yoga over the next few weeks and using yoga as a way to better understand myself.  

Oh and I also spent a nice afternoon at this beautiful waterfall and was kindly greated by a cow as I was sitting and reading my book!

Waterfall and cow saying hello to me.