Ashram life

Coming to India, I wanted the real, full experience of yoga. Not only what the west has exported from it, that is the physical practice; I wanted to understand the philosophy of yoga and thus decided to stay in an ashram for some time.

I won’t lie, the first days were pretty rough. Waking up at 5am, meditating and chanting an hour and a half every morning and night, having two meals a day sitting on the floor in silence, and practicing 4 hours of asanas was no joke – not to mention the coffee withdrawal. Also, you should have seen my face when I was told that Internet only worked a couple of hours a day, “usually”.

At the beginning, all I was doing was trying to remember why I had gotten myself into this and trying to find a way to get out. I was mentally complaining about everything. “What is the point of all these rules and restrictions ? Why do I have to do this?” I thought. In meditation all I could think was my back hurting from sitting cross-legged all the time.

Looking back I realize that none of it was that bad, but for some reason whatever is foreign to us, whatever is not in the scope of our habits make us feel uncomfortable. It’s funny how reluctant to change we are –and yet, it is the only way to grow. It is easy to judge practices foreign to us but much harder to go further and try understanding them. What I saw as “painful” and restrictive, real yogis saw as a way of bettering themselves and serving humanity.

However, things slowly shifted for me too. Meals started to taste better, the chanting became enjoyable – although I still didn’t understand what I was singing. I even loved the no-internet as it allowed me to connect with the persons who were here with me and make friends.

Nothing had changed on the outside, but my state of mind had. By quieting my inner, complaining chattering, I was now able to experience new things with openness; accepting them as they were, instead of trying to resist them. Yoga is about flexibility and strength both on the physical and mental level. It teaches you that wherever you are, you always have room to go further.

 

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9 comments

  • P.S. If you are permitted to read during your stay at the Ashram, I would recommend to you The Ramayana. It’s an old Indian myth, and it’s considered to be one of the foundations of the Eastern worldview, much like Homer’s Odyssey is considered foundational for Western thinkers. As retold by Aubrey Menen, it was one of John Kennedy’s favorites. It begins with the following: “This is the story of Rama, a prince of India, who lived his life according to the best advice. He reverenced his intellectual betters, who were called Brahmins, and did what they told him to do. He took his morals from the best moralists, and his politics from the most experienced politicians. As a result he was ruined, exiled, and disinherited: his wife was stolen from him and when he got her back he very nearly had to burn her alive from the highest of motives. In the teeth of the soundest and most reliable guidance from his moral and mental superiors, he finally recovered his country, his throne, and his common sense. He lived more than two thousand five hundred years ago, but everybody will recognise his experiences.” It ends with this bit of advice from Rama’s sage friend Valmiki: “There are three things which are real: God, human folly, and laughter. Since the first two pass our comprehension, we much do what we can with the third.” And the middle is full of surprises. Enjoy!

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  • Un beau récit, rédigé avec justesse et acuité, merci de nous faire partager vos vivantes expériences, Sigrid. Voilà qui est insolite : Indiana ‘Sigrid’ Jones souffrant le martyr dans un “Ashram” en Inde avec quatre heures ininterrompues de “Asanas”, incredible experience ! ;o)… Mes muscles et mes tendons me font souffrir rien qu’à vous lire ;o)… Précédemment, je soutenais que vous étiez une véritable aventurière dans l’âme, je ne me suis guère trompé, et je rajouterai même le qualificatif de “courageuse”, vraiment Sigrid.

    Bien que curieux de nature, j’avoue ne pas avoir expérimenté le yoga, mais votre billet donne l’envie de découvrir cette captivante philosophie indienne. Par contre, je suis déjà passionné par la danse classique depuis de nombreuses années. J’admire la discipline et la beauté des ballets classiques, particulièrement les ballets russes, un grand classique du genre (ma cousine est danseuse de ballet professionnelle). Peut-être existe-t-il une petite connexion entre la pratique du ballet et celle du yoga ? (du moins physiquement ?)

    Mes meilleurs pensées et encouragements pour la suite de votre voyage.
    ~ Anton de France ~

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  • Having read your story always makes me want to travel and experience the real meaning of Life. What you are saying in every story I’ve been reading here is like quotes which make me grow and understand what I should be doing in years ahead. Thank you so much for encouraging us to be brave to find our real happiness in real life not in the internet Sigrid. See you in Indonesia (I Hope) Love you and Be Safe!

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  • Hey! Love your blog! Do keep us posted about your travels. Your point of view of the world is refreshing and it gives people stuck in the middle of the school year like me a little break to it all haha.

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  • Its great to read about your ashram experience. I had heard about such ashrams but never been to one. Even though I used to be slightly religious while growing up India, even then the 10 year old me wouldn’t have tolerated waking up at 5AM, hours worth of chanting (Don’t worry you aren’t missing out much not knowing their meaning 😀 ) or sitting cross-legged. Since hinduism and by extension yoga don’t have a single source of authority, a lot of ritualistic aspects are well a bit made up. E.g. While yoga does involves in addition to well known physical exercise things such as meditation, control over diet / intermittent fasting. Yet ritualist chanting etc. are not part of the practice and surely not essential to it. But I agree its a different experience, hope you keep sharing as you travel further. Best,

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