Yoga. For me it started with a weekly class to rehab a tag rugby knee injury and it worked, but it didn’t stop there. I continued with my weekly class for years and so followed workshops, weekend yoga retreats, week long yoga retreats and eventually I found myself in India doing my 200 hour teacher training course.
While researching the course I had been given the very useful advice that just because a yoga course is expensive doesn’t mean it is good and vice versa. The practicalities of work meant the month of December would suit best for a condensed course. I eventually found a hatha yoga teacher training course at ‘Samyak Yoga’ just outside Mysore in south central India. I liked their ethos, their speedy and helpful response to my inquiry and their reasonable fee included tuition, individual accommodation and food. Their maximum of 18 students per course was the cherry on the cake.
As soon as I signed up I was sent a sequence of exercises, which I was instructed to practice everyday to prepare. I took an ‘ah sure it’ll be grand’ approach to these. If I could have done one thing differently it would be to actually practice that sequence of exercises EVERYDAY.
The taxi journey from Bangalore airport to Samyak was truly unforgettable. It was like a cross between wacky races and mad max. Cars veering everywhere beeping relentlessly, random cows wandering across the road, people hanging off buses, bikes, each other, piles of rubbish along the roadside – a mad hotch potch of colour and chaos.
Samyak in contrast is located in the peaceful countryside beside a river and surrounded by rice and sugar cane fields. The yoga shala (studio) is situated on the top floor, palm treetops gently waving outside the windows, a frequent playground for a family of monkeys – providing students with a great source of distraction and entertainment. The dining room is on the ground floor which we all galloped along to gleefully three times daily.
The students on my course were a great bunch - mostly French, mostly female and mostly had practiced that sequence of exercises much more than I had. Our teachers Rakesh, Trupta and Arvind taught asanas, pranayama. meditation and yoga philosophy. We were all looked after by the house manager, the ever smiling and always patient ‘Raj’.
We greeted the sunrise each day with yoga practice for two hours from 6.30. After breakfast we had yoga philosophy class – this was completely new to me and drew the occasional furrowed brow. Directly after was asana clinic where we examined the individual poses. Lunch followed and then a much appreciated break for a couple of hours. We returned to the shala at 4pm for teacher training practice with time for a quick shower before kirtans / chanting along with pranayama and meditation. Dinner was at 8pm followed by falling into bed. This was the schedule six days a week.
Physically I found it really challenging. With so much yoga everyday there was little time for the muscles to recover and I found it hard to see progress because my body was in a constant state of ‘what are you doing to me?’!
Thursday was our day off. We all piled into taxis bound for the dusty, buzzy hustle and bustle of Mysore. Much appreciated massages were had, markets were explored, sights seen, many shops visited and purchases made. The highlight for me was sitting in Devaraja market sipping deliciously hot, spicy, sweet, milky masala chai tea.
Christmas week was our fourth and final week week and exam time. Apart from an incredible Christmas dinner put on by the Samyak team it was heads down for the week as we practiced for our practical teaching exams. Happily we all passed. Graduation day arrived with a 6 am start to create our mandala with fresh orange, yellow, red and white flower petals for the event. Speeches were made, certificates presented and many many photos taken. By 11.00 we were all bidding fond farewells and departing for our next destination whether that was home or further travels.
The visit to India made me realise just how privileged and lucky I am in my daily life. It was an incredibly intense experience, but a wonderful one. I made some dear friends and it took my understanding of yoga and perhaps of myself too, to another level. I’ll admit that my yoga practice is not an hour a day as my teacher recommended, some days it’s just ten minutes but even that makes a difference to me and to my yoga. It’s been quite a journey and it’s only just begun.