Three months worth of GoPro footage cut down in a fun little 3 minute video!
Music: Feels Like Home by The Him Feat. Son Mieux
Three months worth of GoPro footage cut down in a fun little 3 minute video!
Music: Feels Like Home by The Him Feat. Son Mieux
On January 9th, 2016, I started my journey into becoming a yogi with the 200-Hour Registered Yoga Teacher training at Vinyasa Yoga School in Rishikesh, India. The course started off with a hawan on the Saturday night (read more about that here) to get us acquainted with our teachers, fellow classmates, and some Indian culture. We received our class schedules and were told we were starting the next day (Sunday, our scheduled day off) because we had only a short time to fit everything into the month.
Our daily schedule was as follows:
5:30-6:00am Tea and fruit time
6:00-8:30am Vinyasa class
45 minute break
9:15-10:15am – Pranayama (breathing techniques)
11:30-12:30pm Yoga Philosophy
15 minute break
12:45pm-1:45pm Physiology and Anatomy
1:45-5:00pm Lunch break
5:00pm-7:00pm Hatha class
30 minute tea break
(Thursday’s we only had Vinyasa and Hatha classes, and Sunday’s we had off completely.)
The next morning when my alarm went off at 5am, I thought someone was playing a cruel joke. As a rule I’m a morning person but getting up at 5am when you are fighting jet lag isn’t my idea of a good time. I dragged myself upstairs to make it on time for tea, made small talk with my classmates, and laid my mat out in the yogashala in preparation for my very first class. I breezed through my first yoga class with ease, marvelling at how flexible and strong I already was.
Just kidding. I thought I was going to die. I was shocked at how weak and out of shape I was. I try to make exercise a priority at home, but during the last month (okay, maybe two months) I had majorly fallen off the bandwagon of running and yoga, all the while fully indulging in the delicious drinks and eats that come along with the holiday season. During the class I was constantly comparing myself to the others, thinking “all these people are so much better than I am, I’m the fattest one here, I’m so bad at this”, and all the other things our ego puts in our heads to tell us we aren’t good enough. I left the class feeling defeated and negative. Not a great way to start a month long course.
But, as things always seem to do, it got better. Once I got used to being exhausted most of the time, and with the support of Jeff, my attitude changed and I started enjoying my time. We both had tried to come to India and into the course with no expectations, which as we all know can be harder then you’d think. The following are the expectations vs. the realities that I encountered during my time at Vinyasa Yoga School.
Expectation: I’m going to be so flexible and skinny when I’m done and I’m going to be able to bend my body into a pretzel and do the splits.
Reality: Hell frickin’ no. I’ve noticed a change in the way I look, but can’t say I’m more flexible. After the first two weeks of the course, I found myself less flexible and poses that I used to be able to do before I came (poses that stretch your hips) were really difficult. Our classes focused more on strength then flexibility, so I did notice my strength improved considerably over the month, and I am able to do some poses that I never could (forearm stand). I wish our course would have focused a little bit more time increasing flexibility, but now I have something to work towards! It will come with practice.
Expectation: I’m going to be so good at teaching after this.
Reality: I feel like I have a lot more self exploration and personal practice and learning to do before I will be ready to teach as a job. That was one of the complaints of the course and a few of us didn’t feel like we had gained enough knowledge of how to actually teach. I can only speak for this course as I don’t know if it is synonymous with teacher training in general, but I know I’ve got some more work to do 😊.
Expectation: Since I’m doing so much yoga and eating vegetarian, I’m going to feel so good all the time and sleep like a baby.
Reality: For the first week I had insomnia. If I was lucky I would get 3 hours of sleep a night, which isn’t near enough for the activities we were doing, and I could only fall asleep during class! That improved and then the second week I got a nasty head cold, and the third week I got the flu. Almost everyone got sick at some point, which is common when you are sharing a small space with so many people. At one point I got a knot in my shoulder blade that was so nasty I couldn’t practice yoga. The course kicks your ass, and during the first couple weeks your body is detoxing and getting used to the four hours of yoga you are putting it through, so getting sick is likely. Homesickness is also inevitable , but luckily Jeff and I had each other and with technology these days keeping in touch with family and friends is easy.
Expectation: I’m going to find my inner peace.
Reality: India isn’t really a peaceful place. With the pollution, poverty, horns and droves of people it can be difficult to focus on anything but. (India is a lot more than those things though!) We’ve realized that inner peace is exactly that. You do not need to fly halfway across the world to find it.
Expectation: I will learn to meditate properly.
Reality: Aside from the fact that during the first couple weeks every time I’d lie down for meditation or for savasana at the end of class, I would fall into a deep sleep, I’ve learned that meditation takes a lot of work and practice, and it isn’t really something can be taught to you. It isn’t a black and white subject and is your own personal journey.
Expectation: This experience is going to be challenging and life changing.
Reality: Finally I was right. This experience challenged me in ways I didn’t know were possible. It has helped give me the tools to hopefully become a teacher someday, and has helped put me on the path to healing the issues that we all have but sometimes don’t want to deal with. India as a country ripped my heart wide open and I’m so grateful for Jeff being there to support me through it all, and for the beautiful souls that I’ve met during my time at yoga teacher training in the little yogi town on the banks of the Ganga.
The following are some pictures Jeff snapped during our graduation ceremony.
If you have any questions more specific to Vinyasa Yoga School in Rishikesh, email me!
We’ve spent almost 5 weeks in Rishikesh, mainly the Laxman Jhula area and were able to do almost everything that peaked our interest. We agree that for someone just visiting town and not enrolled in some type of program, one or two weeks is plenty of time to experience most of what this area has to offer.
Most travelers spend their time here bent in a yoga pose, deep in meditation and/or smoking their way to enlightenment in one of the many cafes overlooking the Ganges. Bungee jumping and water rafting is also possible for the thrill seekers (sounds fun but we passed on it). Treks are supposed to be amazing as well.
A lot of our usual shenanigans we already covered here, Rishikesh: First Impressions.
Here is a few different activities we enjoyed.
Unguided Hike and Waterfall Tour
Word on the street is there are two waterfalls within walking distance of Laxman Jhula. It was my day off yoga and we decided to go find them on our own. Guides are available but really cramp our style. Heading north on the main road leaving Laxman Jhula we noticed we were being followed. Turns out we did find a guide, this mother and pup team joined us for the full trek. Here’s a picture of them napping at the waterfall.
About 20 minutes out of town we came across a small temple. This is where we were told to start walking up in the jungle to find the first waterfall. The police were setup at the temple and told us the area was closed and we cannot see the waterfall. Not really understanding why, we walked up the road a bit further. Five minutes later there was a small food stall selling chai. Just behind it was a trail leading into the jungle. We decided to explore and felt confident with mama dog guarding us. Our intuition told us it looped back to the waterfall trail the police told us we couldn’t go on. We were right, after a fairly intense 15 minute uphill hike we came to a big cave and the waterfall, which we had all to ourselves.
There is a bigger waterfall close by which we tried to check out the following Sunday but were never able to find it. Mama joined us on this hike as well, minus the pup this time.
There is nothing better then wind in your hair, one hundred and ten cubic centimetres of pure Honda goodness beneath your seat and the arms of your lady wrapped around your waist. We spent the day winding around the back roads with Macklemore’s hit song Downtown on repeat in our heads. 350 rupees ($7 CAD) well spent!
We enjoyed the road on the hillside that runs from Laxman Jhula to Rishikesh on the east side of the Ganga. It was away from the in-town crowds but still poses some safety hazards like road side cliffs, blind corners, animal crossings and potholes. Rishikesh isn’t the safest place to rent a scooter, but luckily they aren’t necessary to get around either. Just a fun way to spend the afternoon.
Ganga Aarti Light Ceremony
Every evening at dusk on the banks of the Ganga at Parmarth Niketan ashram, locals and tourists gather for the daily Ganga Aarti ceremony. Aarti is a devotional ritual that uses fire as an offering to the Goddess Ganga, goddess of the most holy river in India. The ritual takes place facing the river, where lamps are lit and circled around by the pandits (Hindu priests) while songs in praise of Mother Ganga are played. The idea is that the lamps acquire the power of the deity.
The ceremony commences with a Hawan, a fire ceremony in which we burn our ego to reveal purity, allowing us to learn without doubt. During the ceremony, the Hindi word “swaha” is chanted to the fire by all in attendance, which translates in English as “take it” (asking the fire to take our ego). During our time in India, we were able to attend three of these ceremonies, as they seem to take place quite often.
The ceremony is completely free and everyone is welcome. It is a great way to spend the evening and immerse yourself in the culture.
Hair Cut and a Shave
Maybe not the most thrilling experience but getting a haircut and shave is worthy of mention. There are plenty of salons to choose from. We managed to find this highly recommended, yet extremely small shop located underneath a set of stairs in the Tapavon area. This guy is a true master of his trade. Armed with scissors and a straight razor, he does great work and includes a head massage. Cost is “as you wish”, 100-200 rupees is customary ($2-4 CAD).
We really enjoyed our time in Laxman Jhula and the surrounding area, but as we said, 1-2 weeks would be enough time if you weren’t enrolled in a course. The town has an almost magical vibe about it, but there is as much darkness as there is magic. The more well-known it gets, the easier it will be for people to exploit the spirituality and the faster that magic will disappear. Until then, it will remain the little yogi town on the banks of the Ganga.
We will leave you with some pictures we snapped from around Laxman Jhula.
Britt and Jeff 🙂
My wife dragged me half way across the world, and left me alone while she does Yoga 12 hours a day. The overwhelming loneliness has inspired this heart wrenching short film. Enjoy!
We couldn’t help ourselves from indulging in some western pop culture while half way around the world in India. So Chaurasi Kutia or more commonly known as the Beatles Ashram, was definitely on our to-do list. We took the 20 minute stroll from Laxman Jhula down to Ram Jhula, wandering the back roads, stopping to say hi to some animal friends along the way.
Rishikesh was relatively unknown up until 1968 when the Beatles arrived here seeking peace and spirtuality in the height of their popularity. They wrote over 40 songs, some of which were later featured on the “The White Album” and “Abbey Road”. The guru they came to see Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was famously known for Transcendental Meditation. John Lennon would later write “Sexy Sadie”, a song exposing Maharishi for trying to get with one of the bands lady friends (allegedly).
Maharishi started building a massive ashram in 1961 focusing on this type of meditation practice. It operated until 1980 when he left to continue spreading his teachings around the world, at which point the Indian government took back the land. It has since been part of Rajaji National Park and left to be consumed by the forest surrounding it.
Still a popular tourist spot, up until recently people would sneak in through the unguarded fence, wander around the many vacant buildings and sit in some of the 84 meditation chambers that still stand today.
Beautiful graffiti style art is painted inside and out of the partially crumbled structures, especially in the Satsang Hall where you can see murals of the famous band and their memorable lyrics written on the walls.
The rumours were confirmed when we arrived. Sneaking into this place is no longer possible or necessary. The Indian government has recently started to clean up the grounds, cutting brush, posting signs and making paths. Realizing the popularity of this unofficial tourist attraction, they are now charging guests to get in. We were disappointed it was no longer free. They charge 600 rupees for foreigners (150 for locals), equal to our daily food budget while visiting India. Maybe it was the luck of Buddha, or our Canadian charm, but as things would have it we met a group of very friendly American tourists when arriving at the gates. Before we could decide whether or not the experience would be worth the rupees, one of them had paid our way. Feeling very grateful we joined their tour and exchanged contact info before they left. We snapped some pics of their group and plan to send them as a thank you.
We then spent the next couple hours alone exploring the living quarters, the yoga hall, the meditation chambers and the roof tops, imagining what this place was like in its prime.
We think the decision to revitalize this place is a good one, it sounds like they have big plans for it. Its a little hard on the wallet in comparison to other local costs, especially for a couple cheap backpackers. But the experience is great, there is so much to take in, and you don’t have to be a Beatles fan to appreciate this place… but who isn’t?
The tour guide explained Rishikesh is very lucky to have been visited by the Beatles. It has put the town on the map and made it the tourist destination it is today. But it is not only the band to thank, it would not have been possible without the work of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the man they came here for.
Our day wrapped up by taking part in the Ganga Aarti Lighting Ceremony at the banks of Ram Jhula (another great experience we want to write about), and of course stopping again to visit some smaller animals on the walk home.
Britt and Jeff 🙂
Its January 15th and we have been in Rishikesh one week. Rishikesh is a meat-free and alcohol-free city located in northern India, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas along the Ganges River. The river is considered holy (known by the locals as The Ganga), and the city is known as “the birth place of yoga”, and is filled with places to study and practice yoga. There are many temples and ashrams (centres for spiritual studies), and the city attracts hippies, backpackers and people seeking personal and spiritual growth from all over the world.
Britt is 6 days into her month long Yoga Teacher Training Course at Vinyasa Yoga School (she will post an update on that soon). Our time has been spent exploring most of the area around Laxman Juhla, a large suspension bridge crossing the Ganges. We have yet to venture downstream to the further reaches of town.
During the day, the streets are filled with scooters, cows, and folks eating, shopping, taking classes, and taking in the sights. Here are some pictures of our favourite things to do here.
Walking the Streets
Yoga and Meditation
Taking in the View
Dip in the Ganga
Hanging with the Locals
This is a list of our favourite things to do, thus far. We have only been here a week, and we still have about four weeks to go, there is much more to do here.
At 6:30 in the morning, our plane touched down in New Delhi, India. The air was heavy and you couldn’t see out the plane windows due to the smog. Delhi is the most polluted city on the planet, and the second largest city in the world (behind Tokyo), with a population of over 18 million people.
Delhi is not to be taken lightly. It is crazier, dirtier and smellier then we could have ever imagined. No amount of research could prepare you for how amazing and awful this place is. The intention of writing about our bad experience isn’t to speak badly of Delhi, we haven’t experienced a fraction of what it has to offer. We will go back.
By 8:30am, we were standing out front of the New Delhi railway station. We just got off the express line from the airport, feeling quite accomplished for having navigated this portion with ease. All that was left was following the hand written walking directions we had jotted down from the Smyle Inn website. A quick 10 minute walk would get us to this hostel located in the Main Baazar, a ghetto backpacker neighbourhood full of super cheap accommodations.
Things went downhill real quick from there. We started down the sidewalk flooded with people, vehicles, stray dogs and garbage. We were greeted by a ton of locals offering cheap rickshaw rides. Initially we declined, but ended up accepting an offer because 30 rupees (60 cents) sounded like a good deal and it beat walking. We loaded all of our gear into his sweet ride, and set out for the hostel. He was super friendly, spoke good English, and we felt pretty safe and comfortable. We made a couple turns and then pulled up to the entrance of what looked to be a parking lot. The guy manning the gate walked up and asked, “where are your permission passes?”. He explained the Main Baazar was holding a festival, and because of the recent terrorist attacks in northern India the city was on high alert and we could not enter the neighbourhood unless we had our passes. Sounds legit? He told us in order to obtain these permission passes we had to go to a government tourist office, show our passports, and we would receive them, free of charge. He wrote down the name of the office. He cautioned us to not have any money out, and not flash any belongings because it was unsafe. We were a little leery, but didn’t really have another choice, being that we had all of our stuff and had no idea where we were, so we let our rickshaw driver take us there.
The “tourist office” was a tiny hole in the wall storefront, we walked up some stairs to a little room where a man was sitting behind a desk. We explained our situation but he already knew what we were talking about, and he asked us if we had a reservation at the hostel we wanted to stay at. We said no, and he kindly said he would call and see if there was room for us there.
Now we are aware of the typical scam “oh that hostel burnt down/is full/is closed, I’ll take you to a better one”, which earns the scammer a commission.
He called our hostel (ya, right), and of course they said they were full. He said that there was no way we would be able to get into the Main Baazar area, and the only options for us were to get a hotel in the city center (where prices are 500 dollars and up), or to get a taxi out of the city, because it may not be safe for us anyway. At this point we knew for sure that something was up, and walked out.
Our rickshaw driver was waiting for us outside. Still trusting him, we got back into his rig, and asked him to take us back to the train station. He was hesitant, making up excuses why we shouldn’t go back there, and at this point we were getting nervous, so we were pretty firm with him. He took us to this street he was claiming to be around where the train station was, and it looked nothing like where we had started out. As we spent more and more time with him, his English got worse and worse, and all of a sudden he could barely understand us. We pulled over to the side of the road, where a well dressed local claiming to be the Delhi Police approached us, telling us the same story that the guy at the parking lot had (festival, terrorism, blah blah blah), and gave us another tourist office to go to, claiming that the one we had been at was fake. He also stressed about keeping all money and belongings hidden, reinforcing the scare tactic. Again, not having much of a choice other than getting out of the rickshaw on a sketchy street with all of our stuff, we set out for the next tourist office.
The next one wasn’t any better then the first. Same look, same style, another guy sitting behind a desk. He didn’t really seem to push the whole Main Baazar being closed thing, but he was pushing the hotels in city center or a driver to take us out of town. Our original plan was to stay at our cheap hostel, and to take the train to Rishikesh in the morning; But with the bullshit these guys were spinning, that plan seemed like a fairytale. So a hired driver striaght to Rishikesh seemed like the lesser of two evils.
That is unfortunately what we did. Booked a driver at their tourist office and worked out a price that should have included a luxury sedan, a gourmet dinner and a tour of the Taj Mahal.
Thinking about it now, the rickshaw driver, the parking lot guard, the first tourist office, the “police officer”, the second tourist office, and the bank, was a tangled web where everyone gets a cut for bringing the naive, jet lagged tourist to pay huge money for a hotel or a car ride. Even both the men saying for us to keep our belongings hidden was a way for them to make us feel that we needed to stay with the rickshaw driver because we wouldn’t have been safe otherwise, which isn’t necessarily true. Could we have walked out? Could we have booked it cheaper somewhere else? Absolutely. There is no question they wanted our money. But they didn’t seem to want to hurt us, rob us, or any of the other terrible things we thought might happen if we continued to walk around this unknown world loaded with all our belongings.
But luckily 6 hours later we arrived in Rishikesh in a run down van, driven by an old man who didn’t speak a word of English and spent the ride coughing up bits of what we could only assume to be his lungs. After reflecting on this experience, we realize what we could have done differently. We are regretful and bitter about how things went down, but still appreciate the beautiful chaos that is Delhi.
We did not manage to pull out our camera amidst all of this, however we snapped a few pics with our phone of New Dehli and some smaller towns on our commute to Rishikesh.
Britt and Jeff.