India is called The Motherland for a reason. She clutches you with warmth and love, and in that very embrace will push and challenge you to grow and be your better self. Here are just a couple of ways on how a journey to the source of Yoga provides the opportunity to live and breath yoga:
1. Simplicity. “It is the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.” Paulo Coehlo.
We all like external luxury and comfort, but the ability to find contentment in simplicity is a true blessing. Last year, when I first entered my accommodation in India where I would be living for 10 weeks, all I saw were barren walls crumbling with chipped paint. I initially felt sad. The next day I went to the market and bought a small inexpensive Buddha statue and a tree of life rug. I put the statue on the dresser along with incense, mala beads, and a candle. With these small simple additions, my room became my sacred space. Through simplicity we find independence and freedom from the need and dependency on material objects and external comforts. We experience true peace and contentment from within. We discover that less is more and we experience that peace comes from within.
2. Beauty. “Everything has beauty but not everyone will see it.” Confucius
The cliché that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is strikingly evident in India. It’s a country of stark and vivid contrasts where you see everything and anything. India provides us the opportunity to see beyond our limited idea of beauty, our personal preferences, and our conditioned beliefs. As we awaken our senses through meditation and understanding through experience, we expand our contracted perceptions to see, feel, and experience the beauty, divinity, and purpose in all things. We dismiss our prejudices. Through the right lens, with an open heart and an open mind, everything from freely roaming street animals, cow dung in the street, challenges, perceived obstacles, hardships, and longstanding disappointments become a beautiful teacher full of lessons.
2. Patience. “Patience is not about how long you can wait, but on how you behave while waiting.” Author Unknown
In India you will frequently hear the term “slowly, slowly.” In the West, we are often conditioned to strive towards speed and efficiency. It quickly becomes apparent when you land in India that patience is more than a virtue, it’s a necessity. Things run at a slower pace, customer service can be an unheard of concept, language can be a barrier. Off of the mat, India provides us with the opportunity to practice grace while waiting and maintaining, behaviour that is kind, respectful, and patient with a positive attitude.
3. Self-Realization. “You are very powerful provided you know how powerful you are.” Yogi Bhajan.
With the mantra “Anything and Everything is Possible,” India is extremely resourceful. Witnessing this wisdom in action and changing our limited belief system propels us forward with confidence and conviction. This radical change in our thinking allows us to step out of the box and the power to step into self-realization (the goal of yoga) and self-actualization (the goal of life).
4. Acceptance and Gratitude. “The attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga.” Yogi Bhajan.
Acceptance does not mean approval but acceptance is the doorway to peace. Gratitude is the doorway to abundance. Spending time in a country where poverty is visibly apparent and not easily avoided helps us connect to our compassion and to become aware of reality. In the West we can easily create bubbles and worlds of comfort. In India the division between the wealthy and poor is stark, yet the two remain within arms length of each other. Witnessing the hardship and poverty will challenge you to need less and to do more by contributing to the sick, needy, and poor. We leave India more humble, grateful, appreciative, and hopefully inspired to lead by example as we make our difference.
6. Letting Go. “You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.”
Control is an illusion. In India this becomes quickly apparent. Plans change all the time and it takes tremendous effort for things to run smoothly. Rather than planning, it quickly becomes apparent one must set intentions. As I ran yoga retreats in India this became a great practice in the ability to let go. For people that tend to be Type A and need control, they realized that they have the ability to use their coping skills to relax and manage their anxiety. To their surprise and shock, they were able to tolerate situations, places, and experiences that they did not believe they otherwise could. They left feeling empowered, re-energized, confident, and inspired. They learned how to truly flow and practice vinyasa off of the mat.
The true practice is living yoga. A journey to the source provides the opportunity to leave a long lasting impact in changing our lives for the better. India is the ultimate teacher, mirror, and a beautiful mother.