A quiet, somewhat religious reverence permeates, as we walk to the yoga center in the early mornings …. very peaceful here and even my body has become quietly and slowly receptive to the rigors of yoga asanas …. had no idea how stiff my body had become over these last five years … I felt like, well, an old lady at first ….. as I am still in slight denial about that recent birthday …. the big 60 …… I somehow thought I would swim through effortlessly right from the start … Needless to say, I felt every decade, and then some, last night 🙂 …. but the sun did rise again this morning in Rishikesh …. and strangely enough, I do believe I managed a centimeter extra depth during stretches and held poses a few seconds longer …. things are looking up! Yoga is so much more than postures … there is a mystery to this practice that is slowly revealing itself. Indu, our teacher is an intriguing young woman. I am looking forward to getting to know her over the weeks to come.
It is a full day we put in …. up at the crack of dawn, on the mats by 6:00 am with prayers and Vedic chanting before the postures … topped off with a meditation ….. and all this before 7:30!! A silent breakfast break follows but we generally break that rule …. women are just like that …. a half hour cool down in our air conditioned rooms and back at it for 10:00 am …. more Vedic chanting, asanas, and then, the big surprise ……. Shrama daana ……. Loosely translates as community service and in our case, ‘cleaning the floors’!! … Sweeping, washing and mopping using the garden keeper’s outdoor hose! Yup I came here to clean house ….. actually with fourteen of us working, it is jolly good fun, surprisingly, or rather, not that surprising! We got carried away in our clean zeal and washed all the yoga center mats and then started on our feet, rather dirty from the floor before we washed it! …. we were just having silly fun at that point … Hilarious … yes, we were on a roll, that first day!!
What was even more amusing was watching the four Indian men chip in …. Believe me, they looked as astonished as we did when our teacher, Indu, told us what we would be doing from 11:30 – 12:30 …. very comical … the men took turns taking pictures of each other to share, presumably with their wives who will probably drop dead from the shock … men in India do not do ‘women’s work’ as it was referred to during the dinosaur age …. it is an old fashioned society here to a large degree …. all in all, I was secretly thrilled about cleaning out the yoga room and I almost looked forward to it today …. what a freak I am!!!
Afternoons are a quiet time for lunch and a welcome rest ……. then back to more asana practice followed by a long guided meditation, in turn followed by a mandatory presence at the Aarti until 7:30!! …… Shortly after, we all stumble into the dining hall for our plate of rice surprise, coupled with a potato vegetable surprise or dal, washed down with water …… tea is only served during the breakfast meal, which is, surprise surprise, a rice surprise!! …….. not quite a bread and water diet but close 🙂
Madeline and I decided to break from routine today and walked to a little cafe on our ‘ashram street’, as I call it .. not many streets here in Rishikesh ….. and devoured or rather, inhaled a mushroom curry …. a delightful change for our taste buds …. it was ‘to die for good’ and I see us heading back there again tomorrow if not tonight 🙂 With our new restaurant discovery, Madeline is convinced we will be the only people to come back heavier from an ashram stay in India …..
More about our group of 14 beginner yoga students in the next few days, once I learn everyone’s names …. we are almost a mini United Nations ….. Totally loving the cultural variety!! Yesterday, a small group (20) of American university students and their profs arrived to add to our mix of Westerners here at Parmarth Niketan Ashram …….. They are here on a credit course on Comparative Religious Studies ……. friendly nice kids …. good youthful energy floating at the Parmarth.
A few pictures of our day and surroundings below, room at the dorm and gardens …… the monkeys are everywhere once late afternoon sets in, jumping on cars, grabbing food from people … or sometimes cameras, so one must be vigilant as they can be extremely aggressive especially with food …. bites and scratches are not uncommon …… I carry nothing but a water bottle for sustenance when I walk around the ashram to avoid just such an encounter ….. in the early morning, a zillion of them enjoy an early morning game of tag on the plastic roof over the open air corridors of our dorm ….. on my first morning here, I woke thinking it was a drumming group summoned to rouse all the pilgrims 🙂