So I made it to India in one piece…. As the conveyor belt at the airport went around for the final time, a lump started to form in my throat… I was pretty sure my luggage was still in Abu Dhabi where I had to sprint to make my connecting flight. Promising it a day later by 3pm at the latest, Etihad left me reassured….perhaps they meant to say 3 days later rather than 3pm as that’s when it arrived….. at 6.15pm !!! I was so incredibly relieved though as if I hadn’t received it that day I would have had to have waited 4 more days due to a public holiday in Kerala!! Phew . Luckily I was staying at the ashram during those days and the ladies there were soooooo lovely. They offered to lend me clothes… my roomie even lent me a pair of her knickers!!….. the travellers life just got real
So my first stop in India was to the Sivananda ashram in Naayer Dam, Kerala. It was my first experience of an ashram and from what I’ve heard from other guests each ashram’s philosophy is quite different. What can I say it was an interesting experience and one I’m glad I took part in.
The schedule was pretty rigid see below…
5.20am wake up call
6-7am-meditation and satsang (chanting)
10.30am- karma yoga (selfless yoga)
12.30-1.30pm-optional yoga coaching
2-3pm- yogic philosophy
8pm-9pm- meditation and satsang (chanting)
Who needs to set an alarm clock when you’re woken up by loud gongs at 5.20am?! Turned out that my karma yoga wasn’t cleaning the toilets after all but laying out the morning mats for everyone to sit on during meditation and satsang at 5.30am….
Although early, I surprisingly really enjoyed this as it meant I got a longer break in the middle of the day to catch up on life admin or have a little sleep….. much better than cleaning the toilets….. saying that the marigolds I had brought with me just in case have come in handy for washing my clothes so they weren’t a waste of my precious baggage allowance.
After this came meditation and satsang, any one that knows me well knows that I have been really getting into my meditation over past 3 months which I religiously did every day before I left for India. The strange thing was, while at the ashram I really seemed to struggle to get to a place of mind-stillness and in the end, although everything was supposed to be mandatory I ended up sacking it off and went to my room to do my own 20 min meditation on my balcony which was so much better. I realised during this week that I like to beat to the sound of my own drum (is that the right saying or have I got it muddled like usual, hopefully you know what I mean any way) so to be “told” I “have” to meditate just didn’t work for me, they also burnt this really strong incense that smoked out the whole place so I just sneezed constantly! As for the satsang I was initially really interested in this as I’d never properly chanted before, turns out this kind of chanting was all a little too religious for me. It was sung in Hindi which was fine but they didn’t really explain what we were chanting and I just felt a bit of a fraud chanting unknown words to a god that I didn’t know much about! In some ways I felt disrespectful so I also put a gentle pause on going to this too after partaking morning and evening for 4 days… I felt I gave it a good chance! Some people seemed to really enjoy it though and don’t get me wrong I wasn’t against it but for me it I found it definitely wasn’t mandatory for my well-being. The one time the practice blew me away though was when we took part in a silent walk to the lake and meditated and sung while the sun rose… that was just breathtaking and I could just feel the natural energy surrounding me. The picture below just doesn’t do it justice.
The yoga offered daily was great. I’d never done Sivananda before and it was quite different to my usual vinyasa flow practice, perhaps if I had done it for a while though I may have found the same sequence a little repetitive but I really loved immersing myself within the practice and learning the reasons why we did each exercise. Doing it twice a day also made me feel really strong both in body and mind, my body generally became much more pliable especially my spine which can get quite tight these days. Although they recommend you closing your eyes during the practice I just had to continuously drink in the view from my mat, it was too special to miss so I kept my eyes open until we lay down.
The daily yogic philosophy classes I also found fascinating and complimented my understanding of yoga well. I’m now looking forward to learning more while on my yoga ttc.
As you can see from the schedule you eat twice a day…. For someone who adores her food and is quite used to eating 3 meals a day with snacks in between this proved rather challenging initially and I lost quite a bit of weight in the first few days but I stuck with it and slowly I got used to eating that way, in fact since leaving I’ve predominantly stuck with eating at around 10am and 6pm, perhaps it’s easier to stick to due the tropical weather. The food was fine during my stay but pretty basic (as was the accommodation best not to think you’re staying somewhere luxurious as it’s not, it serves a purpose and that’s it. Saying that the location is absolutely stunning), it was pretty plain vegan food, no onions garlic or chilli (they believe they excite the mind…. my question is what’s wrong with a little excitement in your life from time to time…. but I got used to it) but it was all organic which for me was fabulous. I’m not going to lie it has been strange getting used to using my right hand to eat (becoming a pro at this now and it really does taste better so don’t knock till you try it I say) and being served curry for breakfast but by 10am I was ravenous so I was up for eating pretty much any thing placed in front of me! We did get a real feast one night though during my stay as it was the Onam festival (which entailed the 4 day public holiday I mentioned above). The whole town celebrated and we had a wonderful celebratory meal. There was something equivalent to around 24 small dishes to try. It was quite beautiful and when I saw it, my eyes literally popped out of my head…. Saying that after having such simple food for days my tummy had quite a shock and it wasn’t too happy for a few days after… I think it was just too rich.
The meal above was what we basically ate twice a day…the meal below was the feast, my taste buds were having a party!!
So I had initially planned to stay at the ashram for 2 weeks but I decided that a week was enough for me, I just got itchy feet hearing where other guests had been and so I wanted to get out there and see India for myself. I learnt so much about myself, therefore it was a really positive experience and I met some wonderfully like-minded people from all over the world whom I’m still travelling with now. This was definitely my favourite aspect of the ashram for sure. So although there are areas that weren’t my cup of tea I would definitely try other ashrams out but I think I would suit one that’s more based around self-inquiry and perhaps less religious, which I have found so I may try that ashram out for a few days at the end of my trip if I get the chance.
This blog has taken me sooooo much longer to write than I expected, I seem to have so much less time than I anticipated… what do I do with all the hours… perhaps I’m just surrendering to Indian time… it’s not a bad thing!! I’ll try and fill you in more as I move on.
Next I continue to travel up the Keralan coast to Varkala and Alleppey……