My journey into Yoga
I write this sitting on a ridiculously cold metal bench at OR Tambo International. I have just returned to a wintry SA after six hot weeks in India. I have been studying yoga in the foothills of the Himalayas: lengthening my muscles and the magical time between thoughts. I loved India. For all the obvious reasons; the holy yet stinky cows in the street, the friendly women dressed in bright saris flitting over the garbage riddled pavements like so many butterflies. The wholesome vegetarian food and the ever-changing landscapes.
But you've probably read all that somewhere... the subtler things I only noticed after a couple of weeks. Harder to explain, impossible to forget.
It knocked on my cynically hardened skull upon arrival in Delhi. I'd had a really long night with many stop-overs, a long trip. Got some cash, needed that last coffee before hunting down a train/bus or taxi north. 120 Rupees for a latte the young Indian man in the generic Costa's Coffee T-shirt tells me. I stretch him one of the battered 500 Rupee notes the ATM had just belched into my hand. He looks at me sadly and shakes his head, he has no change for 500. Crap, I think, I guess I won't have that last coffee then, so I turn and slouch away. I was planning on cutting out coffee upon arrival anyway... But an urgent voice calls me back, 'miss, miss come back!' The young barista lifts 20 rupees out of the meagre tips basket, takes my 500, gives me 400 and smiles, handing me a warm, steaming latte. I thank him profusely as I take the first sip of the coffee that tastes as good as only kindness can. He smiles shyly and bobbles his head 'It always comes back, you know'. At first I think he means the paper cup for recycling, then my western penny of little faith drops. This is not the kind of karma we reference when we want instant justice, this is a lifestyle of understanding that no man is an island. A kind of Ubuntu Masala. Which translates roughly into ‘I am what I am because of who we all are, Hanliji'.
Spirituality in India is not a Sunday practiced set of rules, it’s a living breathing lifestyle. Hands clasped in front of the heart, palms together ‘Namaste’ I'm greeted. The divine in me greets the divine in you. That sure knocks ‘Hi there’ out the park! And every child, woman, beggar and fruit seller continues to remind me of the divine in me.
‘Yoga is a lifestyle, not the physical execution of postures’ our philosophy teacher warbles at us in his striking sing-song dialect from southern India. His earnest forehead is wrinkled by the effort of educating our underdeveloped seats of consciousness. He is doing a PHD in Spiritual Intelligence. SQ. As opposed so IQ or EQ. We are all so well educated, steeped in information, but with so little understanding and insight. From six in the morning until seven at night we learn, practice, teach and study. Non- violence, truthfulness, contentment… simple Sanskrit words with layers and layers of meaning, ideas and concepts new to me yet somehow familiar.
The guesthouse hosting our Yoga Teacher Training Course has a vast garden surrounding it. Roses, lilies, sweet peas and daisies celebrate the summer. We drink fresh ginger tea with forest honey, we eat vegetarian meals and fruit salads. My body become more flexible and my mind more quiet.
And so I start to understand Yoga.
(This was written in 2011 after my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training course north of Dharmsala, India. Since then yoga has been a constant companion as well as a teacher, and a journey. I am so grateful.)