What I Didn’t Expect to Learn about Yoga in India

 

This past November, I travelled to India with a few close friends, it was our first time there and we had no idea what to expect. We started our journey by the Ganges River in Rishikesh at a Yoga Retreat, then made our way through Rajasthan, Varanasi & Delhi before heading home. In anticipation of this trip I remember wondering what India would be like… would it be a huge culture shock? What would I learn about Yoga? What would the people be like? I imagined a place full of people practicing elaborate rituals on a daily basis with a strict and serious approach to asana and meditation. Although in some cases this was true, I was surprised to find that most of the people I met did not practice any physical asana or meditation as we know it back home. Instead, I witnessed many people practicing yoga in their day to day life through acts of devotion, generosity and commitment.

What stood out the most to me was the strong sense of pride in whatever it was that an individual was committed to in their life. I recognized this in many ways; in arranged marriages where both husband and wife were devoted to building a loving family, in a young man who works long hours, 7 days a week to provide for his widowed mother and younger siblings, a family who shared their small dinner with us on a long train ride, or a stranger at the airport whose pride in his country led him to showing us incredible hospitality as guests in his home. In my experience with these individuals, not once did I detect even a hint of resentment or bitterness in their actions, and although the subject of each devotion varied, the level of commitment and pride was strong in each.

Witnessing these acts of devotion and generosity being practiced in ordinary life reminded me that spiritual practice and yoga have depths that go far beyond asana and meditation. It is not their skill in any posture that defines someone but it is in their everyday actions and choices they make. I have read and heard many times that yoga asana is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to spiritual practice and through these experiences I now know this to be true. I love practicing yoga asana and know that having a meditation practice can greatly benefit having a sense of fulfillment and purpose in life. With that foundation of mindfulness on a physical level, I come away from this experience with the encouragement to give more attention and credit to my everyday actions; to the way that I treat my family and loved ones, the way that I interact with strangers and how I approach my tasks at work… the practice of yoga is in every moment.

 


Jacki Challenger took her 200hr Yoga Teacher Training in Spring 2013 with Natalie Rousseau. Since then she’s had the opportunity to teach and learn amongst an inspiring and close community with Coastal Bliss Yoga in Tofino, BC. She loves that the practice of Yoga is always evolving and that she will always be a Student, there is always more to learn and space to deepen. Jacki has been blessed with some incredible teachers including those found in Nature; the Forest, the Ocean, and Animals!