Chanting and chair yoga

Today was international yoga day! We started the day off by completing 108 rounds of sun salutations. We completed 108 because that is the tradition for the summer solstice. I actually have been wanting to try one of these types of seasonal traditions but haven’t had the courage. It was a welcomed challenge today and all 19 of us were able to complete it ( but covered in sweat!) We got the rest of the morning off which was a very nice surprise. It was pouring rain so I used the time to wash my clothes and take a shower. Unfortunately my shower water wasn’t running properly so I tried out a bucket shower. I filled up the big bucket with as much hot water as I could and used the little bucket to pour the water onto my body. It didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped with residual soap left on my body but I’ll keep practicing!

During my lunch break I tried to nap but the streets are so noisy that I decided to walk into town. I went into a Sari shop and ended up finally busy a traditional Indian “suit” for myself to wear when I go to the Taj in two weeks! I visited the tailor and got measured and she will cut the fabric and customize the dress so it will fit me and be my desired length and cut. I’m very excited!

Later on in our second yoga class we did chair yoga and got to work on Asana alignment through the use of tools like bolsters, blankets, chairs, and yoga belts. I will attach some pictures. It’s a really good technique for beginners to learn the proper alignment and way to enter postures.

I think meditation class today was really interesting and for the first time I could see myself practicing this type of meditation independently at home. We sat with legs crossed and back upright like we traditional do but we placed our hands on the 7 body Chakras ( the energy sources of the body) and chanted a special phrase to strength each Chakras. I posted a picture of what we chanted. The process was meant to be empowering and helps balance the body’s energy centers. On a personal note, I was able to sit unsupported for 45 minutes today which is a big win because when I first arrived I could only sit unsupported for like 5-10 minutes before my back really started to hurt. Good to see progress because as I mentioned in earlier posts… I’ve learned that my yoga poses still have a lot of growth to do! Again if you want to hear about anything in particular or more about the Chakras etc let me know in the comments. Miss you all so much

 

xo erika

Weekend #2

 

On Sunday we drove an hour to some neighboring towns called Mcleod and Bhagsu. They had a lot of little shops selling jewelry, hand made clothing, and religious Statuettes. I bought a beautiful woolen scarf for myself since it’s actually quite cold here now that the rainy season has started. My friends and all were all craving some American food but all we found was a little organic vegan shop. I got the closest thing to a hamburger… a falafel hummus burger. It was incredible being able to NOT eat Indian food for one meal. I even had a chocolate shake on the side. It was beyond dreamy if I’m being honest. I miss American food so much. After eating we continued to walk around. We passed by a local pool where only men are allowed to swim and a small hike that led to a beautiful waterfall. My friends and I have wanted henna tattoos since we arrived two weeks ago but haven’t found a spot but finally we found one! We didn’t have the 30 mins for each of us to get a tattoo by hand so we decided to get henna stamps. The two young ladies who were selling the henna on the street were very rushed and while we were figuring out exactly what we wanted they stamped our feet and demanded 300 rupees (about 5 dollars). 300 rupees for a stamp tattoo is honestly ridiculous especially when everything in India is already extremely cheap. We tried arguing and bargaining but we cut our loses, paid the money, and learned our lesson to set the prices first because as tourists the rate of items will automatically increase. The worst part of the story is that when we were in class the next day our instructor told us that the henna tattoo of the “om” symbol was disrespectful to have on the foot as that is close to the ground where lots of trash and dirty water is. Therefore my friend and I felt obligated to scrub it off our feet. Lesson learned!! But anyways, overall the day was quite fun and filled with lots of shopping and exploring.

Half way mark

I apologize for my lack of posts this week. The monsoon season in India is in full affect and our wifi is often unavailable. This week things have really been picking up. Our three hours of yoga a day are intense, very active, and uncomfortably sweaty! I love the way my body is molding and I feel like I’m gaining a lot of strength especially in my shoulders. Its amazing to see how the poses transform with the slightest adjustments and knowledge of proper alignment.

In anatomy we are covering joints, muscles, and nerves to help increase our awareness of how certain asanas (poses) affect our body. We also talked about common diagnosis and how to adapt yoga sessions to fit their physical needs.

I have officially hit the half way mark and I am really starting to miss home. India is an incredible cultural experience but it’s vastly different and living here has been truly a humbling experience. I have felt such gratitude for my life and the blessing I’ve been given.

My friends in the program and I have started to dream of cheeseburgers and meat. The vegetarian diet is not easy! Luckily I went into town yesterday and found a KitKat bar and that little bit of chocolate made my day.

This week we also have been experimenting with a variety of different chants and meditations styles. I will add a picture to this post of some of the chants we do in Sanskrit. Last week all of our daily hour long meditation took place in a very large room with everyone sitting cross legged and silent. As many of you know I’m a loud crazy wangeman and there is no doubt that I struggled to sit still and silent for an Hour. This week we tried dancing, movement based, singing, and yoga mat based meditation. It was really amazing to see how you can gain the same feeling of calmness and stillness in your mind from each style. The dancing meditation was a series of 4 songs and each song had a very different vibe. The first song was a fast paced jittery song where we shook all the tension and stress out of our bodies. The second song was soft and smooth where we let our bodies flow with the music and establish some calmness after the chaos of the first song. The third song was much slower which allowed us to focus on each individual body part and assess how it is feeling and how it communicates that with the mind. The last song was a slow typical meditation song were we all sat down and calmed the body and found stillness in the mind. The song meditation was probably my favorite as it felt very spiritual. We all sat in a circle and chanted 4 different mantras. Each one would start quiet and we would slowly get louder and faster. The pure energy of everything and everyone involved was just captivating. Some folks got up and danced and we chanted while others just clapped along and enjoyed the music. I also enjoyed the yoga meditation. We got to do some relaxation poses, spinal twists and shavasana ( lying down on the mat) which was a nice change from sitting up all day.

Besides that not much else is new. We have definitely established a routine and the days are all pretty similar but I’m learning lots and exploring as much as I can. I did wash my clothes this week. Filled a bucket with warm water and some Dr.Bonner soap and used my hand to clean them as well as I could. Hanging them up in my room was a bit of a challenge but I got creative and hung them on the window curtain hooks.

Anyways I miss you all very very much and can’t wait to gather up many hugs upon my return xo

Erika

Weekend

This weekend I got to finally leave the retreat to see more of India. For the retreat, we have half of Saturday and all of Sunday free to spend as we please. On Saturday two other yoga pals and I walked around Dharamshala and explored the shops. They had lots of Sari shops and convenient shops selling small mainstream items like shampoo, water, toilet paper, etc. I got a scarf for 200 rupees which is about $3 dollars and some face wash for 300 rupees which is about $4.50.

The pollution outside of the retreat is everywhere. There are no public trash cans and therefore garbage and thrown on the ground and fills the roadside. It’s very unsettling to see so much trash just building up with no one in charge of managing it. Most trash in India is set on fire to burn and that is there only way to minimizing the mounds of garbage. Additionally with minimal toilets available there is often feces on the ground when walking off the main road.

Somehow while walking the street we found a side road and it took us into a village. We sat and ate lunch on a small bridge overlooking some forest and got to see a baboon monkey! All the villagers saw us and started to come over. Being in India almost makes me feel like a celebrity because everyone stares and is so interested in seeing a white person. I’ve been stopped numerous times to take selfies with the locals. The villagers didn’t speak much English but seemed to enjoy mimicking us. Eventually we followed them to their village and did some yoga! We treated all the kids to ice cream for 10 rupees each (16 cents) before continuing on our walk. We got caught in another monsoon on our return but the energy of the storm was incredible to witness from outside.

On Sunday, we took a taxi an hour to the Dalai Lama’s temple. There are loads more shops there so I got some Indian clothing as souvenirs for my family as well as some post cards to send out! It was so enjoyable to walk around such a highly populated area of India because you really can feel the culture. The temple was very open and spacious but didn’t have like a common meeting area. Instead there were many individual rooms where people can gather and pray, chant, or meditate. We also got to visit a different temple that has the largest Buddha in India! We came home truly exhausted and I know I will sleep extremely well tonight!

Alignment

Last night was my worst night of sleep yet. I went to bed at 9 and woke up at 1 and couldn’t go back to sleep. I was awake all night despite trying everything. Melatonin, reading a book, doing some deep breathing. I eventually just gave up and talked to joe and my mom until the sun rose. I’m very frustrated with my sleep schedule right now and I’m not sure how I can adapt and adjust my approach to fall asleep and STAY asleep. Let me know if any of you have suggestions. I made a big batch of green tea for myself so I hopefully won’t dose off in yoga or meditation.
Hatha yoga class this morning was a workout. The exercises were held for much longer than usual and they were more advanced positions. It is amazing how many of us have been doing yoga for quite some time yet many of us are doing the incorrect alignment. It’s frustrating to know you’ve been doing it wrong but it’s also so enlightening knowing that I will leave the retreat with such a better practice than when you came.
The gods must have heard my prayers because this morning for breakfast we got pancakes…. spinach pancakes but still counts! Drizzled with a little honey, and some banana slices and it almost tasted like home. Made me happy to have something a little more satisfying for breakfasts.
The alignment class discussed posture and the common issue of hyperextended knees. This is an issue many individuals develop from weak muscles due to increased sitting. Our instructor had us measure our partners knee extension and then make recommendations for its impact on yoga practice. Additionally he introduced us to exercises we can perform daily to increase proper knee alignment. Anatomy and philosophy class were continuation from yesterday’s class.
Meditation today was really unique because a famous Indian sitar player came to our meditation. He performed for an hour as we sat peacefully enjoying the classical Indian sound.

Now I’ve gotten some requests to talk more about how India is different and major adjustments I’ve had to make so here is what I’ve noticed so far
– It is always noisy! Even in the mountains were I am, there are cars driving at all hours. Cars in India honk just about every 5-10 seconds as most road in India are either one lane or small two lane traffic with privilege to pass. Therefore drivers use honking as communication (to pass a car, to tell a car to move, to get cows crossing the street to move, to tell people to get off the road, to tell cars on a one way street that it’s there turn, when turning corners).
– Showers! Almost all the showers here are bucket showers where you fill up a large bucket with warm water and use a smaller bucket to pour the water on yourself until clean. Luckily my room has a new shower head but many of the individuals are using this technique.
– Bugs. Sooooo many bugs. All different types. In the mountains I don’t see a lot of mosquitos but there are lots of flies and bees. The flies are always landing on me when I’m in yoga class. They are everywhere.
– Weather. It’s extremely hot in india but because I’m in the mountains it’s actually quite cold in the morning. I usually have to start my day off with a jacket and scarf but by mid day I have lots of sunscreen applied and a tank top on. Additionally it is monsoon season here and I have never experienced anything close to the insane rain storms I’ve seen while in India.
– Languages. There are countless dialects and languages spoken here. Additionally almost every student at the retreat speaks at least 2 languages!!
– Food. Obviously my meals have been traditional Indian food. Very high in carbs and very basic and simple. Rice, beans, pita, lentils, curry
– Clothing. Despite the heat I have to dress very modestly and cover myself whenever leaving the retreat location
– Water: I can only drink bottled water. Never any ice therefore all drinks available are usually luke warm.
– Full mind body connection: everyone that I have met is so well grounded and connected. I’ve learned a lot about Hinduism, reincarnation, karma during yoga philosophy class and it’s incredible to see how deeply they believe in personal improvement and internal personal connection. It’s inspiring and It’s one of my favorite things about India so far. Being around such people makes me want to better myself in any way possible. I am eager to learn more about core yoga values and incorporating it into my practice and into my life

Those are the major things I’ve noticed so far. I haven’t really been able to explore the town yet so I’m sure I’ll add more to my list as I get more exposure to the real India outside of my little retreat.

Keep the questions coming! Also I apologize for all spelling and grammar mistakes. My iPad won’t connect to the weak wifi so I’m writing all my posts on my phone and it’s difficult to edit and post. Hope you all don’t mind.

Xo
erika

The Basics

Today I naturally woke up early again around 4:00 unable to go back to sleep…. I think due to adjusting to the 9.5 hour time change. I spent the time talking to some family members before getting ready and heading to hatha practice. Today’s practice incorporated a lot of different asanas (yoga poses) which was a much welcomed change from yesterday. It felt good to start the day with a stretch. The instructor also went over a lot of different breath awareness strategies to elongate your breath and increase your oxygen intake. Then I had breakfast. In America, breakfast is my favorite meal, but in India it’s pretty disappointing. We usually only have toast, occasionally some fruit, and cucumber slices. Very minimalistic and not satisfying enough for me. But I’m learning to be satisfied with the basics. After breakfast we have alignment class. This is by far my favorite as the instructor is incredible and the class is very interactive. Today the focus what on your posture and everyone postural base: our feet. He taught us how to assess individuals arches and Achilles’ tendon and how their flat feet or high aches will affect how they perform specific poses. He was so in tune on the slightest detail it was beyond entertaining to listen to him. Additionally he showed us exercises to strength the feet to increase our foot alignment and therefore changing our whole posture. If the feet are in misalignment the whole rest of the body is affected and therefore it is important to pay extra attention to your stand and posture. The alignment class always ends with a music dance session to let out the built up tension in our bodies. It’s definitely uncomfortable to dance all crazy in front of 20 other people you don’t know but the instructor encouraged us to let our “freak flag fly” and just let it out. I found that closing my eyes helps. Then we all form a circle, hold hands, and laugh to end the class on a cheerful note. After class we have lunch. I know it’s only been 3 days but the food is not a fun experience for me. Lunch and dinner are practically identical including pita, rice, some sort of lentil bean curry, and cucumber salad. I’ve basically had that meal 7 times already! But again, this whole journey is teaching me to look on the positive side and enjoy the minimalist adventure so I persist on and eat my rice and pita. Later classes focused on yoga anatomy and philosophy. In anatomy we reviewed body planes and axis, anatomical position of the body, and key phrases used when referring to body alignment. I was luckily completely familiar with today’s class due to my background as an Occupational therapist ( HI Carrie and colleen 😘) . Philosophy class focused on the beginning of yoga and it’s roots with India and Hinduism. After philosophy class we had more yoga. Again the afternoon session focuses a lot of breath techniques and chanting. Almost every class starts with OM chanting and shanti Shanti chants. In meditation we chanted OM over 30 times with our breath to feel the vibration and it’s healing affects on the body. That’s pretty much the full recap from today. I felt much better today as I was not exhausted all day long but it’s 8pm here and I’m 100% ready to pass out! Hoping I can sleep in till the appropriate time tonight. Again let me know if you have any specific questions! Xo

Erika

 

The Basics

Today I naturally woke up early again around 4:00 unable to go back to sleep…. I think due to adjusting to the 9.5 hour time change. I spent the time talking to some family members before getting ready and heading to hatha practice. Today’s practice incorporated a lot of different asanas (yoga poses) which was a much welcomed change from yesterday. It felt good to start the day with a stretch. The instructor also went over a lot of different breath awareness strategies to elongate your breath and increase your oxygen intake. Then I had breakfast. In America, breakfast is my favorite meal, but in India it’s pretty disappointing. We usually only have toast, occasionally some fruit, and cucumber slices. Very minimalistic and not satisfying enough for me. But I’m learning to be satisfied with the basics. After breakfast we have alignment class. This is by far my favorite as the instructor is incredible and the class is very interactive. Today the focus what on your posture and everyone postural base: our feet. He taught us how to assess individuals arches and Achilles’ tendon and how their flat feet or high aches will affect how they perform specific poses. He was so in tune on the slightest detail it was beyond entertaining to listen to him. Additionally he showed us exercises to strength the feet to increase our foot alignment and therefore changing our whole posture. If the feet are in misalignment the whole rest of the body is affected and therefore it is important to pay extra attention to your stand and posture. The alignment class always ends with a music dance session to let out the built up tension in our bodies. It’s definitely uncomfortable to dance all crazy in front of 20 other people you don’t know but the instructor encouraged us to let our “freak flag fly” and just let it out. I found that closing my eyes helps. Then we all form a circle, hold hands, and laugh to end the class on a cheerful note. After class we have lunch. I know it’s only been 3 days but the food is not a fun experience for me. Lunch and dinner are practically identical including pita, rice, some sort of lentil bean curry, and cucumber salad. I’ve basically had that meal 7 times already! But again, this whole journey is teaching me to look on the positive side and enjoy the minimalist adventure so I persist on and eat my rice and pita. Later classes focused on yoga anatomy and philosophy. In anatomy we reviewed body planes and axis, anatomical position of the body, and key phrases used when referring to body alignment. I was luckily completely familiar with today’s class due to my background as an Occupational therapist ( HI Carrie and colleen 😘) . Philosophy class focused on the beginning of yoga and it’s roots with India and Hinduism. After philosophy class we had more yoga. Again the afternoon session focuses a lot of breath techniques and chanting. Almost every class starts with OM chanting and shanti Shanti chants. In meditation we chanted OM over 30 times with our breath to feel the vibration and it’s healing affects on the body. That’s pretty much the full recap from today. I felt much better today as I was not exhausted all day long but it’s 8pm here and I’m 100% ready to pass out! Hoping I can sleep in till the appropriate time tonight. Again let me know if you have any specific questions! Xo

Erika