A big fat Namaste from the holy town of Rishikesh!
I am still in northern India and I just successfully completed my Yoga teacher training here. Yay! The last five weeks passed like I was in a trance which might be due to the fact that I was completely inundated with yoga. Yoga in its full extent. Postures, mantras, philosophy, anatomy, breathing practice and meditation. Nine hours a day which was exhausting at times. Also we had quite a bumpy start because the yoga school was still in the process of finishing constructions during the first days of the course and everything was quite unorganized which caused some irritation among the students. Most of the students underestimated the cold weather too. Everybody knew that it wouldn´t be warm, but nobody expected that you would need to put on clothes before going to bed. In this part of the world heating a room is not common so it was cold outside and inside which was especially tough during the morning classes. The worst was probably the fact that some things were changed last minute which led to us having a different schedule and different teachers than advertised. That was quite a bummer.
Luckily I quickly learned that I had some amazing fellow students. People from all walks of life and different countries and with very interesting backgrounds and life stories. I think if it wasn´t for some people I met I would have struggled more than I did, but we quickly became a family and took care of each other. I can say that I found friends here and I am sure that I will see some of them again. This whole course was a very bonding experience. Not only because of the many hours we spent together everyday but also because of the sometimes extreme and unusual things we were expected to do in order to get a better understanding of the different yoga practices. Many times I thought or even mumbled to myself “What the hell am I doing here?”. For example one yoga practice is the so called Shatkarma which are methods of cleansing your body. One we also know in the west is the flushing of your nasal cavities with warm salt water which is actually a very nice thing to do when you are having a cold. A more extreme version is inserting a rubber catheter into your nostril and shoving it all the way in until it comes down at the back of your throat where you can then catch it and pull it out of your mouth. It`s basically nasal flossing. A third one we practiced was the stomach cleansing in the morning. We chugged a liter of warm salt water and then induced vomiting with a certain posture and by the use of fingers (all together in the yoga hall). My buddy Saul stood next to me and cheered me on because I had trouble getting anything out. I was gagging and laughing at the same time. Nothing I am planning to practice on a regular basis, but definitely a bonding experience.
We practiced yoga postures twice a day. Two hours of vinyasa yoga in the morning and two hours of hatha yoga in the afternoon. Especially the morning classes with our drill instructor Vikas were physically challenging. The traditional Indian training methods are not necessarily in line with modern sports science and anatomy. One cold Monday morning we began the 7 am class with an hour of intense stretching and in my mind I could literally hear my thai boxing coach Jan (who is also an accomplished physiotherapist) yelling “Stretching is not a warm up!”. Especially in the first two weeks I was in pain and sore most of the time but it got better after a while.
The teachers were of course all Indian and some of them were quite special characters. The philosophy class was taught by a guru who lived as a travelling monk for several years. I can not say how close he is to his goal on the path of enlightenment, but I can say it was a spectacle too see him teach. His lectures were constantly interrupted by his either spontaneous room shaking laughter or almost childlike giggling which always were very contagious and made the whole room laugh. Luckily I am a quite skeptical person and I usually don`t take anything, especially not spiritual theory, at face value. Otherwise I would now believe that there are only four thousand suns/stars in the milky way and that I will be reborn as a politician if my life consists of 90% good deeds or as a dog or cow if it only consists of 49% good deeds. One of my fellow students just commented “He`s just trippin` his titts off” which still makes me laugh when I think of it.
A class that really surprised me in a positive way was the mantra class. I didn´t really care much about mantras before started the course but I quickly realized how effective and powerful the monotone chanting of some of the mantras were. Especially when you do it in a big group with a good teacher who has a great voice. Whether it was just a psychological phenomenon, the physical vibrations of my own voice resonating in my body or an actual spiritual process I do not know, but after chanting I always felt very energized and emotionally balanced.
I definitely learned a lot. Not in a way I expected but more through the process I went through in this course. It was mentally and physically very challenging and it showed me where I need to improve. It also made me appreciate the way we practice the physical yoga in the west. It too made me realize how much bigger and richer yoga is than that what we practice in the west. It showed me the importance of introspection and meditation. I learned a big deal about self-acceptance. And… it showed me how much I am longing to go home now. A couple of times when I lay in the relaxation pose at the end of a yoga class, my mind started processing the past one and a half years of travelling. Pictures of places I have been, situations I was in or people I met just flashed up in my mind and it started to dawn on me how big all of this is. I am humbled by and thankful for who I met and the experiences I made. It’s all good and I am looking forward to what ever may be next.