India is Yoga

I titled this Blog It’s all Yoga.  When I decided on that name I selected a photograph from my trip to India last Spring as my title banner. 

This is the vacation diary I made to share with friends and family on my return from the trip:

I had imagined that I would go to India and have a Yogic experience that involved meditation and asana in some way. The reality couldn’t have been further from my expectations.

My Yoga wasn’t in my asana practice. In fact, the closest I got to what felt like my normal practice was a Ganesh mantra with my new mala beads during a very (make that VERY, VERY) bumpy portion of our return flight.

My Attempts at Yoga Practice

I was not welcomed at the Sivananda Ashram in South New Delhi. My hotel’s concierge video included a segment on the a.m. practice at the Ashram. I checked with the concierge one last time, who assured me they would welcome walk ins. I woke up at 5 a.m., hired a taxi, and headed over. The attendant at the desk (who I am pretty sure was a westerner) assured me that I had been misinformed and walk ins were not welcome. This from an Ashram, who on their website, solicited donations for much needed renovations. I’m thinking that might not be the way to get them, but who am I to say?

So.. after my experience with the Sivananda Ashram, I went back to the hotel to take the a.m. Yoga class in the health club in the lower level. The class was taught by a nice Indian Dr. (what kind, I am not sure.. Ayurvedic, I suppose). There were two students in the class, including myself. I received very personalized instruction, but much more focus on breath manipulation than asana. Then, after the class was over – just like almost everything else in India – came the up-sell. Didn’t I want to come back for private lessons? One class couldn’t possibly be enough for me to get the real benefits, etc. etc. He was a kind man, but I was already beaten down by the hawker mentality that pervades nearly everywhere.

The REAL Yoga in India
The sanskrit word Yoga means union. Union with the Self, Divine, or union of the mind, body, and spirit; it depends on one’s personal interpretation of the word. Namaste’ means “the divine in me honors or recognizes the divine in you, or as my daughter prefers “My God is sayin’ “Hi” to your God.”

So…these are the places I found true Yoga in India:

In the bright smile of our tour facilitator, Sunil, every time he met us at the train to take us back to our hotel from our daily excursions.

In the kindness of Skylab, the waiter at our hotel, who was so impressed that Hannah remembered his name on our second visit that he took special care to make us feel welcome each and every time we saw him.

In the smiling faces of the Indian couple we met on the train to Haridwar who were visiting from San Francisco, who didn’t mind that Craig was nearly sleeping on the husband’s shoulder!

In the sweet way that the swami gave me permission to take his photograph (and that of Ganesh) in the temple. He smiled sweetly and cocked his head to one side – then smiled brightly for the photo. It warms my heart each time I see it.

In the hotel staff, who were so proud of their country and its customs that they were willing to allow us to crash an Indian wedding on site and even take pictures if we wanted. It turns out Indian weddings last all night, so we didn’t.

In the newly married couple on their honeymoon at the Taj Mahal who were so curious about Hannah, never having seen a light skinned child. The wife could not stop smiling.

In the Swami at the temple who took great care to explain to us the history of temple, the legend regarding its spot and gave us meticulous instructions on the customs at the tree of life.

In the sweet Sikh gentlemen we met at the airport in Delhi awaiting our flight home who had the warmest smile and greatest sense of humor. He told us funny jokes and had an aura of calm about him that was grounding. One of the jokes was about a young Marine he met who, before the Marines, used to steal cars and he called BMW(s) – “break my windows”. Maybe you had to be there.

In the laughing porters who manually lifted tons of luggage from the train, performing their jobs with zeal and joy, even though it looked as though it could possibly be a pretty crappy job.

In the way that Lakhi, our elephant taxi, leaned toward me and looked me right in the eyes with her own when I spoke softly to her. Laugh if you want (everyone else has), but I made a real connection with that elephant!!!

There are so many more…. but, everyone we met was proud of their country, happy we were visiting, and anxious for us to share our good experience with others. In the words of our sweet guide in Agra, “I hope that one day India is the place that everyone in the world wants to visit”.

I hope so, too.


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