Finding Yoga

by AnnHunt on September 25, 2009

Since leving Delhi I spent 2 days in the town of Haridwar. Haridwar is a very significant pilgrimage site for Hindus. It just so happened that there was an important festival occuring during my time there. That said the town was very crowded with people heading to bathe in the holy waters of the Ganges and participate in the sunset aarit/ceremony along the river. What an incredible site and experience. Chanting and blessings by Hindu priests fill the air. Bathing in the river or tossing water over oneself is part of the ritual as is the passing of fire in a chalice like dish. And westerners are welome to participate then asked for a healthy donation afterwards. I got the sense that Haridwar is not a common destination for westerners as I very often found myself the only one in the busy and crowded streets. Interestingly the first people I’ve met on this journey from the US happened to be from Waashington, DC. What a small world!

Now I am in Rishikesh which will be home for the next 6 days. I am staying in a very large ashram right on the edge of Ganges. This is home to a large Indian community as well as to hundreds of orphaned boys. Here too a beautiful sunset aarti is performed every evening. Typical of these ceremonies is to see flower filled leaf boats floating down the river with a candle lit. These ceremonies are beautiful and filled with so much heart and devotion.

So upon my arrival here in Rishikesh I took a long walk from where I am staying just south of the Ram Jhula suspension bridge along the 2 km path to the north end at the Laxman Jhula bridge. Knowing that Rishikesh is known these days as the “home of yoga” I was searching out places to study. Interestingly the teachers that have been recommended to me are not in town right now. So with that in mind I thought I’d try the yoga offered at the ashram. I arose at 5 am eager for my first yoga class in India. As I approached the yoga hall an older Indian woman who was just leaving after morning prayers turned to me and said “no yoga”. To my disappointment I returned to my room with my yoga mat. I decided I’d take a walk in search of a cup of tea. What I found was magical and moving. As the sun rose I was witness to the locals performing their morning pujas/rituals. At the many temples people were lighting candles and incense. They were bathing the dieties and offering them prasad/food. As well there were many in deep meditation and practicing pranayama. This is what I really came here for. Yes, it would wonderful to find an inspiring yoga teacher. But I am realizing that this journey is not so much about practicing asana but witnessing and learning how a yogic life is fully experienced. It is such a gift to get a glimpse into this culture filled with such faith and devotion.

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