My guru is my environment : Dharamsala, India
After a month long yoga boot camp at Himalaya Yoga Valley in Mcleodganj, Dharamsala, I finally graduated with my Yoga TTC (teacher training certification). Woot!
Muscles aching, belly battling waterborne parasites, while hurdling through two asana classes a day and intensive schedule of studies and teaching practicums… It was a lot!
Along the way, you accept your body’s shape-shifting to it’s surroundings.
Your foreign environment molds you– injury happens, bad diets take form (aka carb-loading for lack of veggies), India initiates you with horrible toilet habits.
But good things come from it as well.
I’d found four gurus…
2. The Environment and the Challenges of Mcleodganj
Watching eagles hover gracefully over mountain ranges, while contemplating the majesty of Tadasana (aka mountain pose), to hearing monkeys scamper over the roof while in lecture.
Focusing on the distant speckle of a goat herder and his pack as I gain my upright balance in Uttitha Padangustasana or absorbing the soft murmur of Tibetans chanting on their early morning prayer walks.
In a month, I discovered that a meal costs a daily hike up a crumbling 300+ stairs just to get into town.
There are three fruit sellers (2 Indian and 1 Tibetan) I go to, depending on whose charging more or sold me bad fruits last. I try to go to the Tibetan seller more to give him and his community the business, but he doesn’t have as much stock as the Indians.
Despite it’s April and other parts of India are sweating, Mcleodganj is pretty consistently cold, which is why street vendors sell wool blankets and scarves.
And thunder storms… oh, how they howl and boom with rabid ferocity, only to pitter-patter and clear up the next day, releasing a mountain full of yellow butterflies!
I lived with occasional power outages, an eco-aware attitude about recycling and got used to the fact that a 10- minute hot shower was necessary to keep Dharamsala clean and healthy.
All were gifts to be lived.
Dharamsala has international food at it’s fingertips. Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian …and there’s also a nice selection of Tibetan and Indian restaurants to choose from.
Being anchored to a town and its restaurants options taught me a lot .
About what my body liked…
…and what it didn’t
It also taught me what I should be more careful of…
4. The Indo-Tibetan culture and its Political Unrest.
Each day, I passed… a rush of red-robed monks enroute to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama’s temple. Meanwhile, sometimes I pass old Tibetan grandmas and grandpas faintly murmur “Om mane padme om” with jangling prayer beads, eventually drowned under the cackle of Tibetan toddlers, just out of school.
I listened to stories of Tibetans who left their families behind to escape persecution in Tibet and watched as monks and nuns sat silently in daily starvation strikes to protest China’s occupancy in Tibet. Earlier in the month, a young monk was said to have burned himself in protest; a fast was performed in honor of his sacrifice.
How far can these yoga arms stretch?
Maybe you can’t change a whole world or even a community. But you can let them change you and in return, one act in the right direction, a kind gesture or word, a helping hand, all goes out to touch others, who’ll touch others, etc…until you create a chain of change.
All of my gurus were part of a humbling chapter, forcing an uncomfortable, but necessary reflection on my world’s work in the grand scheme of humanity.
Now, it was all over.
We had been initiated into the school via a lovely puja ceremony. We exited with the same.
Lalit, our yoga guru sat along a priest, through a half-hour ritual of powerful chanting, burning herbs and performing prayers.
We each received a tikka between our eyes, a red string around our wrists and prassad.
Finally, we received a big diploma!
A video summary of our graduation puja
I am now an Ashtanga yoga teacher, excited to have a deeper, more meaningful and broadened awareness into my practice. I’m thrilled to start sharing yoga wherever I go! But there’s still a handful of nagging questions querying a larger picture… I’d trained in India, inevitably to return home to live and share what I’ve learned.
But what of the larger world out there that’s searching for a yoga, which a downdog can’t fulfill?
Or can it?
What do you think?