What I Learned During My 10-day Yoga Intensive in Tamil Nadu, India
Especially -- What My Yoga Practice was Missing
For my whole life I have been practicing one-sided #yoga. I've toyed with #meditation and half-heartedly tried to understand the connection between myself and the greater universe. It wasn't until I came to India and enrolled in an intensive yoga course that I realized that meditation is to yoga as strings are to a guitar. The guitar is a beautiful instrument to look at, but without the strings, where is the music?
My yoga course was just outside Auroville in Tamil Nadu, India. A community founded in the 1960’s, Auroville’s mission is to transcend the pitfalls of humankind by living together, guided by ‘a transformation of consciousness’. Their goal is to evolve the human race from following the impulses of the mind to following impulses of the spirit. The community was a 10 minute bike ride from the retreat center, and their extensive array of homemade eco-products, delicious vegan food items (including ice cream) and a zen feel meant that they were very good neighbors to have!
The retreat center itself was ideal. A large property exploding with leafy trees, flowers, vines, and grasses, far from the noise and chaos of every Indian town and cities. Peace was everywhere: in the well-maintained temples and shrines to Krishna and Ganesh around the center, in watching the vibrantly colored chickens cluck around, or sitting by the pond and strumming ditties on the ukelele to the frogs and water lilies.
Waking up at 6am on the first morning to meditate in the temple house for 30 minutes was the first sign that this was going to be unlike anything I had ever experienced. Meditating is hard. Time goes by excruciatingly slowly and your legs start to cramp while sitting in cross-legged position (known by yogis as ‘comfortable position’ - ha!). Even worse, it can be near impossible to silence the mind’s rapid-fire thoughts. We meditated for half an hour right after waking up, and half an hour before going to bed.
Though it was difficult, I was so glad meditation was a part of my yoga retreat. I had some transformational moments during meditation when I felt like I was pleasantly wrapped in a cocoon of stillness and in total control of my fickle mind.
After only a few days of meditating regularly, I began to train my mind to quiet its silly, random, inconsequential thoughts. And I remembered more and more to remain conscious and ignore any silly, random, inconsequential thoughts that did pop up.
It bewildered me that I, someone completely new to meditation, was able to grasp such moments of universal peace and awareness. These moments were very conducive to me approaching this twice-daily yoga practice with clarity and intention.
After practice was over and we lay in savasana, I was able to fall much deeper into a feeling of bliss than I had been able to before. During the poses that were difficult to hold, my practice of meditation helped me to calm my panicky thoughts and racing heart, and to remember to breathe slow and deep.
I also felt the positive effect that yoga was having on my meditation practice. My body felt so vital, my capacity for breath increased, my limbs and joints felt loved and cared for. I was removing harmful toxins and finding my center. These changes helped me to better appreciate those deep dives into my inner consciousness, where I was beginning to learn to open myself up the positive vibrations of the universe.
As meditation become a part of my life, yoga became more meaningful. It was no longer just a means to a healthy body, but a stepping stone to developing a more receptive mind.
Other positive aspects of our yoga retreat lifestyle included eating delicious vegan sugar-free food, playing with animals, drinking loads of water, and spending lots of time doing absolutely nothing.
I am very grateful to have had such a transformational yogic experience, and I give thanks to #Thavathiru Yoga and my kind and capable teacher/chef/friend who started the whole thing, Thiru.
My mother and Franklin have both spent ample time learning about meditation. Here are their recommended books if you are interested in enhancing your yoga practice:
Be Here Now by Raam Daas
The Untethered Soul, The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda