It was sunset on Goa’s Agonda beach. I was on a black horse I’d seen galloping along the shore days earlier, yoga teacher graduation certificate casually discarded somewhere. Barefoot and hat-free, wearing only a flimsy white dress and flower necklace, I apparently looked like a hippie love child.
Can’t say I felt like one. My horse, sweaty and irritable, was shifting around impatiently. My cautious, 33-year-old self had visions of being bucked off or carried across the sand at full speed infront of 50 other yogis. I decided it wasn’t worth the humiliation.
But even without a proper ride, having a photo on horseback felt like a romantic way to end my Indian journey, and weirdly appropriate given my looming equine adventure in Argentina.
I arrived home from India a few weeks ago now, half a stone lighter, sore, mentally drained and in desperate need of prosecco. Over the days that followed, as I attempted to tell my family and friends everything I had learnt and experienced, I realised it was an impossible task. There was simply too much to tell.
There were of course, some highlights.
Firstly, India itself. Though not everyone agreed with my choice of school and location, for me, there could have been no better place. The temperature was perfect for practising, the surroundings effortlessly and naturally therapeutic, the food deliciously healthy and fresh, the teachers amazing. In fact, I can’t think of anyone more suitable than our course director and guru Sudhir rishi to teach me about yogic philosophy and history. Having worked in philosophy and meditation for over two decades and lived as a monk for eight years, he was not only knowledgeable but had an incredibly positive and inspirational outlook on life, as well as a warm, open-minded approach to teaching. He made me look at things differently, without bullying me into it, and explained things so they were easy to remember.
Facing my fear of Ashtanga yoga (the sequence) was also a huge achievement. Up until my training, I’d always viewed this yoga style as intimidating and reserved for the ultra bendy. But now, armed with an understanding of the postures (and importantly, the modified versions) thanks to our fabulous teacher Martin, I can confidently say I'm a fan. Goes to show that the more familiar we become with things, (yoga poses especially but all things), the less frightening they seem. (I just need to work on not breaking my toes when jumping through to seated from downward dog).
Making some lovely new friends, though not on my original agenda, was without a doubt another highlight. I have to admit that my exact words before I left were: “I’m not going to make friends, I’m going to learn about yoga.” But the truth is you can’t survive this kind of course without friends (if not for the emotional support, you need people to mount in partner yoga). Cyriele Piancastelli especially was a huge help to me - both when my UK bank decided to cancel my card without telling me and she generously lent me money, and also during my practical teaching exam when she very keenly put her mat at the front and tried all my poses... despite being super tired.
Last but not the least was the life advice we received from Sudhir. He explained that yoga was ultimately about discovering our true, happy nature, but far from being a simple physical practice, yoga was a way of life, something we needed to work on every day. I think the girls on the course would agree that he gave us a lot to think about, from some key life values, to pouring salt water down our noses.
Needless to say, it was an experience I will treasure forever. :)
Thank you Sampoorna Yoga for a wonderful few weeks.
Some of my favourite quotes from Sudhir below:
To say to yourself:
I enjoy the company of others, but I do not rely on them for my happiness.
Achievement should not dictate whether I am peaceful or not.
The true nature of myself is joyful and happy.
To think or remember:
When you help yourself, you start helping others.
There is nothing wrong with attachment as long as you are able to let go. You have to make room for new and better things.
Think with a smile and you will get better ideas. Whatever we do, we have a choice to do it cheerfully.
Don’t worry about things you can’t control. Good things will come when you relax and stop being anxious.
It’s important to disengage in order to engage. Develop the ability to mind your own business and ignore distractions – just for some time. It will help your life.
If you are becoming more cheerful and less disturbed, you are on the right track.
The true self is like the sun. Clouds can get in the way for a while but it never stops shining.
The way to be happy is first to understand the problem and then to break or change patterns of behaviour.
Negative things will always be there – we are not denying them – but we don’t invite them.