After my first introductory day of my yoga program at the Chandra Yoga School, Inamovible moré tan happy with my decisión to come héroe, and to have chosen this school. When this school was founded, there were only 14 schools of yoga in Rishikesh; now there are a couple hundred. While the instruction has not started, I can tell from how things were conducted in the first day that there is a high degree of professionalism, a great deal of knowledge, and high expectations for how we embody and integrate this experience into our lives as students. Also, the food is good.
There are 12 of us students. We are from 4 continents, and many countries. There are the two Beatrices (best friends, same age) from Sweden, a young German couple, Helena and Toby, who are studying textile design and geology, Laley, an aerial silk dancer from Mallorca, Spain. A couple who teach acroyoga in Indonesia, Julia is a lawyer by day and Alex is originally from Ukraine. Saren from Singapore who has Indian heritage, Claudia from Peru who has studied in Prague and worked three winters in Aspen, Colorado. There are two other Americans: Joseph is a music teacher in Michigan, Leslie is a body worker from Colorado. And me. The collective energy as we gathered for the first time was very positive, easygoing. It promises to be a good group.
We gathered sitting cross-legged around the meal table and a a great spread of Indian lunch: rice, okra, a potato and pepper dish, yogurt, daal, some raw vegetables, chapatti, and tea. We met our hosts, and then they took us to another ashram on the other side of town which is currently under construction.
After a quick tour of the building being constructed, we had a fire ceremony to initiate our time together as students and to call in the deities bless our practice. A Hindu priest led us chanting Sanskrit, reading out of pages of a torn and battered book scarred from countless ceremonies around a fire. Garlands of marigold flowers were draped around our necks by Kali, a teacher at the school. We symbolically cleansed our hands and our inner bodies with water, and then repeatedly offered a collection of earth, herbs, incense onto the marigold-ringed fire as the school's leader, Sushil, poured ghee and small portions of food offerings into the flames. This represents giving nourishment to the deities; as they have no physical bodies, the way they take in the offerings is through the smoke. While there was a lightness to the energy of the ceremony, and laughter was allowed, you could feel a definite vibrational shift from the beginning to the end of the ceremony.
Afterwards, we walked around the land surrounding the ashram, which is a national park where elephants, tigers, buffalo, cows, and all sorts of other creatures roam. It is a beautiful landscape and I was more than grateful to be out of the the city bustle and surrounded by the lush greenery of the countryside. As we drove back some sort of small peacock took flight in front of is which was the most beautiful sight.
Snacks of samosas and sweet honey balls were served back at the main facility and that's when we got an outline of our coursework. There are just me and two others who are doing the more advanced 300-hour training, the rest are completing a 200-hour course. For everything, it was like this: "for 200 hours, you will learn 2 mantras a week, for 300 hours, you will learn 3. For 200 hours, you will do all of these uncomfortable practices like snort a string up your nostril and exit it down your throat, for 300 hours you will do all that plus stick a pipe down your throat and pump water out of your stomach." I am sure my colon will be so cleansed by the end of this (Sushil said we won't have any gas problems for the following 6 months! 😉), but these things evoke the most resistance in me. Overall though, it looks intense and I am elated to begin learning.
The alter, covered in marigold flowers