A return to India,
I first went to India in 1996 to work as an intern with the Taj Group of Hotels in Chennai (Madras). I received this opportunity through an undergraduate student organization, AIESEC, that I was a member. Because of AIESEC, I made many good connections and lifelong friends. One AIESECer, Rajeev, came to Cleveland to do his internship and a friendship developed. Through my connection with Rajeev I was able to join the Taj Connemara for an internship that changed my life and gave me a greater appreciation for our vast world filled with diversity and culture.
I had promised to return some day as India held a special place within in my heart. Friends suggested that I lived in India in a past life. I am not so sure of this but I can say that India, with all is complexity, is an amazing place.
In the fall if 2016 I had just completed my 200 hour yoga teacher training and a week at Kripalu when an opportunity to study Ayurveda emerged at the Ayur Yoga Eco Ashram(hyper link) near Mysore India. I seized the opportunity to apply for the course and immediately connected with Rajeev to tell him I was coming “home”. You would think that 20 years would change a lot of things, but I have to say that when I landed in Chennai that feeling, the smells and the sites seemed to have not change a bit. Yes, there was development, new roads, trams, and buildings but the city itself was still that busy congested caordic system that I have grown to love.
Seeing Rajeev and his family was one of the best parts of the trip. Life long friendship is rare and I am grateful to have a few whom I cherish. Rajeev and his wife Rinku knew my interest in yoga and ayurveda and helped set up some sessions at the local Isha center in Chennai. I had a private lesion that taught me the foundations of Inner Engineering (hyper link) and experienced some ayurvedic treatments for the first time in India.
My time in Chennai was short as I had to make the trip to Mysore and then down to the ashram. With Rajeev’s help I decided to take a train to Bangalore, a city I loved to visit when I lived in India back in 1996. I spent only one night in Bangalore but was able to take in some markets and walk around to see a lot of the sites. My train ride to Mysore was relaxing and when we arrived, the ashram had arranged for a driver to pick me up. The trip from Mysore was about an hour and when we arrived at the ashram it was just beautiful. The staff was welcoming, the rooms (cabins) were simple and well-appointed and the grounds peaceful. The ashram is situated in the middle of small family farms and along a river. Not only does it specialize in the teaching of yoga and Ayurveda but it also follows sustainable practices by grows its own food and generating electricity through the use of solar panels
Between the yoga classes and Ayurvedic instruction I felt I had just been given a gift so special that I had to cherish it as long as possible. The yoga instructors were mindful of our limitations, the practiced a classical form of Hatha and offered assistance. Each day started off with 6:00 AM meditation followed by a 90 minute yoga class. These classes were taught in a variety of spaces around the grounds. Our morning practice gathered in a very large circular pavilion near the river. It was dark when we started our meditation and we watched the Sun rise during our yoga class. The class itself was filled with warm ups, sun salutation ( about 15) and a series of asanas that were both challenging and rewarding. After yoga was finished, we enjoyed a large breakfast and then had a break to prepare for our classes. I was in the first Ayurvedic Foundations class which has 5 students. Our teach, Dr. Neel Vengupal was an amazing instructor. He gave us a solid foundation of Ayurveda the two weeks we had together. His style was both theoretical and practitioner based. Our AM session was all theory and the afternoon was all practice based in the Ayurvedic Hall. The entire two weeks together was full of valuable lessons with a consistent flow each day.
In the middle of the course we had a day trip which took us to visit Ayurvedic gardens to view different plants and learn about their heath benefits. That day was full of eye-opening experiences and amazement. This journey had us going into and out of a national forest. On the way out the car in front of us was charged by a bull elephant. Never underestimate the power of these great creatures.
The two weeks seemed to move by quickly as does anything that you truly enjoy. This trip was unique in that it was over the Christmas and New Years holiday season. We celebrated Christmas in the classical Indian way. It was simple with a birthday cake and a special meal. The nights were cool and the days were warm. We saw a full moon, clear star lite nights and the most amazing sunsets that simply took my breath away. It was a needed renewal at that time in my life and I am glad I took advantage of the opportunity.
I returned to Chennai around the 3rd of January and spent a few more days with Rajeev, Rinku and the family before making my way back home. The last few days in Chennai after being at the ashram were different. The ashram allowed me to see a different side of India and I have grown to love it even more. On this trip many relationships were strengthened and new friendships were formed. Spending time to heal is always important. Learning to let go and detach from feelings, thoughts and emotions was the lesson of the trip. A lesson I still, to this day, have a hard time absorbing. But with this awareness, I start each day with a silent meditation, watch the sun rise in my back yard and give thanks for another beautiful day.