Five Things I Learned from my Trip to India

My partner, in an episode of mild mania (which I’m sure he quickly regretted) excitedly suggested, circa 2012, that we should up-sticks and travel the world. “We could do anything and go anywhere we want. What do you want to do?”

How often do you find yourself with the door of possibility flung wide-open being honestly asked what you really want?

Turns out I wanted to spend six whole weeks at the Anand Prakash Ashram doing my 300-hour YTT.  Oh, and to travel around India too.

Having uncharacteristically avoided buying my own yoga mat for the first two years of practice for fear that this might be another passing fancy; it was well and truly apparent by 2012 that Yoga was no passing affair. This was the real deal.

I took the plunge and went for it.

Here’s what I learnt from that trip.

Listen to your Heart

In that moment of being asked what I most wanted my heart knew exactly what I needed to do.  But if I’d listened to my head I probably wouldn’t have gone. We were in the thick of a recession; people were losing their jobs left, right and centre. I was lucky enough to have a great job. I felt guilty; who was I to ask for 3 months off to go gallivanting around India fulfilling some crazy dream when so many people around me were struggling?

Fortunately, yoga has taught me to see these mental dramas coursing through my mind for what they are and to lean into fears and shake off limiting beliefs.  Whatever your heart is calling for, don’t let your mind get in the way.

Invest in Yourself and the Experiences that will Enrich you

I took 3 months out of work to go on my asham-adventure and explore India. I was nervous about asking for a sabbatical from work and the implications of leaving my life and responsibilities for this length of time. It seemed like such a big time and money investment back then. It seemed like a ‘big deal’.

The reality is that when it was all over and I came home, I slipped right back into life where I’d left off.  I hadn’t missed anything.  Within two weeks I was back in the flow of my usual routine and it was like I’d never been away. Except, I had been away. It was life as usual with the addition of a multitude of new memories, experiences, knowledge and friendships that will continue to make me smile and enrich me for the rest of my life.

Community is Mega Important

Immersing yourself in a community of people who are on the same journey as you is such a gift. Before my trip I didn’t really know any other yogis that were at my level of passion/obsession. I was the ‘weird one’.   At the ashram I was totally normal. At home. I could be myself and have the sort of conversations that really make me tick.

There is no substitute for being immersed in a supportive group.  The momentum this creates in your personal evolution can’t be underestimated.

I was so inspired by the community aspect that I started a meetup group on my return to try to recreate this at home. My naysaying mind once again threw up all sorts of objections as to why this wouldn’t work but 3 years on and the group has nearly 500 members.

The Power of Chanting

I don’t consider myself to have a good voice so I’m a bit averse to chanting, or anything song like. But at the ashram that didn’t matter. I got over it. I had to. There was chanting pretty much constantly. In class, out of class, before breakfast, lunch and dinner, in the hallways, in the garden. Morning and evening.  Standard.

I remember sitting down to dinner one evening and chanting a few lines of a particularly awesome mantra to myself because, you know, when you’re that happy breaking out in song is totes normal. Next thing my friend next to me is joining in. We’re singing together. Sweet! The chanting spreads around the room. Everyone in the room is now chanting. New people are pouring into the room and joining in. The room is full, everyone chanting together. There is clapping and creative use of platters and cutlery for added beats. We are having a blast and creating some seriously good vibes.

I still don’t fully understand how it works, but it sure does something magical. Whether you believe it or not, it feels undeniably good. For someone who spends a lot of time in her mind and in rational thought this was a big revelation, to not understand how it works but just let go into the experience anyway.

Animals are our Friends 

In the West order is the name of the game. Life is compartmentalised.  A place for everything and everything in its place.  If you want to see animals there are specific places, farms, zoos etc…where you can have an orderly encounter. The animals are kept firmly in a subordinate position.

India on the other hand is a wonderful reminder that life’s not really that orderly and we’re not the only species on the planet. Encountering animals in the most unexpected of places (cows strutting up the motorway onto oncoming traffic anyone?) was a welcome reminder that we humans don’t own the planet above other animals, we’re co-habiting. We share this earth and if cows and goats want to stroll through town and into shops, well why not?

What stood out in Rishikesh in particular was just how friendly the dogs were. They were all of the proverbial bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed variety.  When we tried to feed them assuming this was what they were after they didn’t seem very interested in the food at all. They were merely saying hello!

Caveat: The monkeys are perhaps less interested in friendship and more interested in pickpocketing, so watch out!

Written by: Sam Prakashni Vale Noya