Immerse Yourself in India With YogaFitby Kim Gray, YogaFit Senior Master Trainer | 23/02/2022
“Letting go of expectation.” This instruction that is a key part of the essence of the YogaFit® lifestyle is also one of the key pieces of advice to remember when traveling to India. As of 2019, YogaFit® has completed 10 group trips to India, offering attendees an immersive experience in the birthplace of yoga. In November 2018, I joined 40 adventurous souls to embark on this adventure. Trip facilitator Tracy Jennings-Hill’s upfront communication prepared us well with recommendations for flights, securing a visa, and even packing for a smooth trip. She reminded us that traveling to India is not like traveling in the US, and requires preparation including that practice of letting go of expectations. Expectation-free, the well-organized journey allowed for immersive experiences beyond what I could have imagined.
Most days began with a group puja (prayer ritual) ceremony at 6:15 am, followed by meditation, and later a 90-minute (or longer!) yoga practice led by our host, Anand, at our home base of the Sattva Center outside of Rishikesh, in Northern India. Our group classes included pranayama (breath techniques) and kriyas (practice sequences). We had evening Satsang with Anand, which is a truth or wisdom circle. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear and discuss the philosophical concepts from the ancient texts transformed into relevant discourse.
Our group was immersed in the culture and history of the region through trips to temples, ashrams, and sacred grounds. We rafted on the famous Ganges river, traced the steps of The Beatles at the now-abandoned Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram, participated in a huge puja ceremony along the Ganges river at Parmarth Niketan Ashram, and watched the sunrise on Thanksgiving morning at the Kunjapuri Devi Temple. Some priests made a visit to the Sattva Center and held a havan, a ceremony during which offerings are made into the fire. We each wrote something we wanted to release and something we wanted to cultivate onto slips of paper. These papers were given to the fire and a kautuka, a red and yellow ritual thread, was tied around the wrist to keep the wearer steadfast to their commitment. The threads fall off when the wearer has succeeded in the commitment.
In our free time, Ayurvedic massage and other treatments were available, and an Ayurvedic doctor came to the center for private appointments. Sometimes we hiked around the area or got a car into town for dining and shopping. (Take my advice: Bring an extra empty suitcase!) The transportation itself was eye-opening; animals, cyclists, pedestrians, and two-, three-, and four-wheeled motorized vehicles weaving between lanes and vying for the same space, while honking constantly!
The grounds at the Sattva Center are beautiful and nestled along a tributary of the Ganges, and many of us spent hours of our free time meditating along the famous river. The accommodations were comfortable and included a warm shower and a familiar Western-style toilet. Most meals were taken in our assigned dining center, and many of you will be happy to learn that various coffees could be ordered there. The food was sattvic and prepared fresh for each meal. Fresh-made peanut butter and toast, porridge, and fruit were breakfast staples. Rice, various preparations of dal, a vegetarian main dish, naan, and chapati were offered for lunch and dinner. On Sundays, we were served gulab jamun: delicious honey-soaked donut-hole-like treats. I loved Sundays!
I learned so much from the experiences of actually being in India, much more so than just reading about it. Actually sitting in a sacred cave where others before had lived as renunciates, being in a sacred temple receiving a blessing, imagining the life of other seekers as we toured through the Sivananda and Kriya Yoga ashrams, and observing a way of life far different from my own. Being among my YogaFit® tribe, guided by Tracy and Anand, provided the familiarity needed to soak in the wisdom and the experiences.
No trip to India would be complete without a visit to the Taj Mahal. On our final day, we enjoyed a guided tour through the grounds followed by a group luncheon where I enjoyed the Indian food I’d been waiting for all along – butter chicken! Soon after, we began departing in groups for our flights. Letting go of our expectations before the trip allowed us to be stretched each in our own way. and richer for the transformative experience. Until next time, Ma India!
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