Friday, March 11, 2011
The Yoga Capital of the World
The yoga capital of the world was slotted to be my longest stay in India. Laziness, lack of space, lack of energy, and other excuses had kept me from my typical yoga practice on the road. Also, having never taken a yoga course in my life, only learning from books, I figured a good week of cheap yoga classes would be a nice stop.
Holy Rishikesh is divided into four main centers, the downtown area, much like any Indian city, but set on the beautiful and at this point, clear Ganges river; Swarg Ashram, a collection of ashrams, restaurants and orange robed sardus smoking chillums on the bench lined streets; Laxman Julla, a tourist ghetto with guesthouses and restaurants, net cafes and a few more ashrams; and finally, where I chose to base, High Bank, a quiet group of lodgings located in the forest on the hill above town. The latter is less pretentious and new age than the rest of town, catering more to the backpackers who came to Rishikesh to see a beautiful river town instead of expanding their consciousness of reorganizing their soul. Like everywhere in town, they offered yoga.
Daan, Maartje, Nam and Mark arrived two days after I; all but Nam had never done yoga before. We planned to enter an Ashram for a few days for the experience but we found a nearby place offering free yoga and meditation, so we stayed the High Bank. My first two classes were one-on-one with a young yogi who led a very basic yoga course, mostly informal ashtanga, that though a good workout, did not teach me any new assana or techniques. The class I took with group was led by a creepy, long-haired, bearded baba with eyes that had the intensity of Charles Manson's; he scared us into pushing ourselves. He did teach me some new techniques, but he didn't make me comfortable, so we moved on. We settled on a free one-hour class led by a cute Brazilian hippie, bursting with positive spunk, accepting whatever we could do, but encouraging us to push ourselves. This had just the right atmosphere and I learned quite a bit. Sampling the courses showed me that yoga has different styles, assanas and variations on each. If the routine is balanced and stretches or aligns the body in the proper ways, it's effective. With this information, I felt much better about my personal routine and added more assanas so I could extend it.
The others, Nam excluded were quite mixed about yoga. Mark just thought it was silly, Daan and Martje, though enjoying it were quite shocked by the difficulty of it; both treated the experience with more curiosity than excitement and neither seemed too interested in continuing, which is a shame. Out of the many exorcises I've done, few encourage weight loss, maintain weight, boost flexibility, build strength and muscle that last and leaves me with a feeling of well-being, quite like yoga. In fact, someday I will get my 200 hours so I am able to work as an instructor. This is a good job for me; I can take it anywhere, it's something I enjoy, I can work with others, and stay fit. Plus, now I can claim to have studied yoga in India.