India – the birth place of what we call yoga, the mantras, the meditation, the gurus, the beach location, and the price. All these factors drew me to the western coast of India, specifically the Sampoorna Yoga Village located on the white sandy beaches of Agonda, Goa.
Apart from the pictures of colourfully laid out cottages, beach views, and gorgeous shalas, I had NO IDEA what to expect. I knew it would be long hours (6:30 am-7 pm), and I knew it would grant challenges unlike any I have encountered in my life. What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with India, with the intricate and ever-changing pathway of Yoga itself, and with the 20+ souls I had the pleasure of meeting.
In the words of the great B. K. Iyengar, one of the most profound yoga teachers in history, ‘Words cannot convey the value of yoga – it has to be experienced.’ I not only experienced Yoga at Sampoorna, but rediscovered the deep importance of it. It was incredible to see yoga uniting a group at such pivotal moments of change; those in search of a new career path, those interested in deepening their own practice, those in need of a spiritual uplifting, and those drawn to becoming a teacher to pass on the genuine happiness and strength that yoga had brought into their own lives. It was a pretty powerful thing, and spending every waking moment with this crazy bunch was not only bearable, it was actually incredibly enjoyable.
Most people hear yoga training, and they think ‘oh yeah another vacation with a couple hours of yoga, real tough.’ And, although Sampoorna is located in paradise, accompanied with healthy vegetarian food, an accommodating staff, and inspiring teachers – it doesn’t take away from the course being incredibly mentally and physically demanding.
5:30 am // Wake up and roll out of bed – usually itchy and hot due to the season (May is usually when everyone leaves Goa due to its intense heat, most days were 35+degrees). Walk ten feet to endless refills of milky chai tea.
6:30 am // Head to the outdoor Yoga Shala for meditation with the incredible Indian philosophy guru, Sudhir. Time for meditation…What do you think of when you think of meditation? Does it scare you? I know it scared me, I knew it would be the hardest part of the course for me – to sit still for one hour a day. To sit still and be with yourself while quieting the mind. It is a tough process, one that takes far longer than one month to even scratch the surface to Samadhi (enlightenment), but Sudhir’s approach and wide array of sound based, breathing based, and dance based meditations made the whole process a lot more attainable.
Some days were easier than others – some days I could sit still, disregard the itch, the tenth mosquito bite, the sweat beading down my neck, and the tingling in my legs. Some days I couldn’t – I couldn’t sit still for more than ten minutes.
But, the best part of meditation was the focus on the breath. Realising that it all comes from the breath – it is that which is life, that which endures and preserves our stunning, strong bodies to the physical world.
And as transient as we may be, the breath is always everlasting.
7:30 am // Whew – made it through another meditation … Tea break, biscuit, and banana time! Whoa was I excited for this, a little too excited. Sometimes my meditation was me specifically trying not to think of dipping those biscuits in the beautiful, creamy mixture of chai tea.
8 am // Ashtanga Yoga time or for those of you who have no idea what this is (basically intensive yoga for 2 hours starting with sun salutations, a specific standing, sitting, and finishing series). The beautiful, curly-blonde haired Joanna was our Ashtanga goddess. Honestly – this petite Greek packed a lot of power, and her demeanour was intimidating at first. But, after a couple classes we realized she was just as cheeky as the rest of us.
10 am // The best time of day for me – a beautiful breakfast assortment complete with porridge, an endless array of colourful fruits – papaya, pineapple, bananas, apples, and watermelon, more tea, tea, tea.
11-1 pm: // Anatomy or philosophy class. Eli was our knowledgable anatomy teacher who used practical examples, kept us moving by constantly demonstrating, and always livened up our classes with some humor. Sudhir’s philosophy classes were filled with wisdom, stories from ancient scriptures, and insight into the vast depths of the Indian culture.
1- 3 pm // Lunch break.
Week 1 this time consisted of going to the beach and making new friends. During week 2 everyone was freaking out and studying like mad women for our upcoming exams. In week 3 everyone was practising their yoga flows or classes. And, in week 4 lunch consisted of a mix between studying, napping, and practicing more and more classes. The one consistent was sweat, there was always sweat.
3 pm // Alignment & Adjustment Class. This is where we were introduced to the mechanics of the poses – the sanskrit names, the anatomical reasoning for positioning, as well as the breathing cues, alignment cues, and safety cues.
5 pm // Yoga Flow Class or Student Teaching.
The nightly flow class was led by one of our incredible teachers, Marta, Joanna, or Eli. Each had a unique style and gave us a wide platform of knowledge. Marta was extremely spiritual and her intricate flows were always filled with insight, emotion, and depth. Joanna was the Ashtanga queen, and therefore created more physically demanding flows with power, handstands, and jumping. Eli was the Costa Rican yogi who brought extreme anatomical knowledge and alignment to every flow – allowing us to really feel the proper positioning in our bodies.
Our Karma Yogi’s (Glen, Jess & Lexi) were so helpful in letting us know what to expect, giving us adjustments in the classes, and were so knowledgable on the area, the course itself, and were always there to answer any questions!
On student teaching days we created different classes based on a peak pose, theme, or time limit. Generally everyone was freaking out pre-teaching, but after teaching and seeing the self progress made after each class, everyone left feeling more confident than before.
6:15 // Workshop time. This time was optional and based on different themes such as arm balances, savasana adjustments, class design, handstand playing, and business development.
7 pm // Dinner. Third favourite time of the day (after breakfast and lunch of course).
7:45 pm // Two days a week we had Sat Sun which was an optional meeting with Sudhir, where we could bring up any philosophy topics we desired, and the time when we could pick his brain for the answers of the universe.
As I look back on the past month it feels like it passed by in a flash, one lightening bolt striking the Agonda sand. Yes, some days slithered on, moving so slowly through the humid Indian air I thought they would never end. Time is so funny like that, disappearing and then dragging on.
It was a month of information overload, heightened emotions, enduring personalities, incredible energy, and a whole lot of love. I cried once – on my 24th birthday. We did a blind-folded dancing meditation, and the group sang happy birthday to me at the end, and started coming up to me one by one giving me hugs. I cried, I bawled my little eyes out, and I couldn’t stop. I can’t really describe the feeling that day, the feeling of being so loved by 20+ people that I had just met 2 weeks prior. And the whole month was like that, intense; and the intensity in anything evokes emotion, it brings people to their edge, but someone was always there to bring you back.
The entire month was composed of indescribable events overflowing with conversations, rituals, laughing, crying, and experiences that would seem silly to the rest of the world. Experiences like meditating and screaming OM at the top of our lungs, yogi playtime, running from stray dogs on the beach, cow-filled streets and tuk-tuk rides, talks of Samadhi (enlightenment) and if it is truly reachable, nights sitting listening to Sudhir tell tales of Hindu Deities, talks of reincarnation, and if a wave is in an ocean or if an ocean is in fact a wave, and so on.
“Change is not something that we should fear. Rather, it is something that we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they are meant to be.” – Words from the infamous B.K. Iyengar
We all changed this month whether we wanted to or not – some found inner strength, calm, or new passion, some gained new power, faith, or confidence within themselves. We dug up a lot of emotion and fears, and slowly began to cut through all the mess on the lifelong journey inward. I am thankful for the last month in India, for the inspiring, amazing group of people I had the chance to be surrounded by at Sampoorna Yoga, and for all the vast and rich history, culture, and shock India has to offer.