As I watched the monkeys chasing each other in the treetops ahead, it occurred to me this was the most surreal yoga class I’d ever attended. I was supposed to be concentrating, focusing on my breath, drowning out external stimuli. But there were just too many distractions. The gentle sound of the early morning waves, the noise of the jungle as it started to wake up and the dim light of the sunshine as it began its ascent into the sky. It struck me that the people in Goa were very lucky. They could practice in a shala overlooking coconut palms and a tropical beach everyday if they wanted to, whereas I would soon be back in the north of England, warming up my hamstrings in a dark room with neon lights and the sound of Cheshire chitter chatter (well, at least until I go to Argentina).
That said, India is far from perfect. I'd sum up the first few days here as a bit of a logistical nightmare, with hot water, reliable wifi, and a flushing toilet very touch and go. There was also the wild dog that barked for what seemed like an eternity at 2am, not exactly ideal on a complex full of jet-lagged yogis. But my favourite bit was when my toilet kind of exploded and the guy in the yoga village suggested sending someone to look at it “tomorrow”. (I’m talking about a mini Niagara Falls cascading into my bathroom from the flushing mechanism).
And yet somehow, the drama, the chaos – it all has its place here. This is India after all. How much fun would it be if everything was perfect and familiar? If, from day one, we'd had a consistently strong internet connection, the promised mosquito nets in our rooms, a steady flow of non-scolding hot water and - in my case - a non-exploding, flushing toilet, then we wouldn’t appreciate the simple things as much as we do now. It’s also forced me to have more patience, and to practice letting go. That’s what yoga’s about right?
There have been some tears from the other girls, and I get it. In all honesty I think I was so concerned about my physical abilities and getting packed the week before I left that I too underestimated how psychologically and emotionally difficult this kind of course could be. Apart from lacking home comforts, you’re thrown together with a group of total strangers for more than three weeks while expecting a lot from your body and brain. It’s tough.
But overall, I feel happy. The challenges, both physical and mental, the adventure of being in an exotic place, the opportunity to learn, to be immersed in everything yoga – that’s what we all came here for. It’s a bit like the Indian weather: dramatic, but weirdly therapeutic. A thunderstorm that woke the entire yoga village on the first night also kept me sleepy and relaxed. The Asian humidity I thought I could tolerate after five and a half years in Hong Kong has made me sweat profusely but warmed my muscles nicely for practising. The lightning we (irrationally) feared might strike us in the street was actually pretty incredible to see flashing in the sky.
And the best thing? I get to practice with monkeys. :)