Last April I went to New Delhi, India with my daughter Maddie for a mother/daughter trip. Why we chose India as one of our stops on our bonding journey you ask? Because of YOGA. India is the birthplace of this physical, mental and spiritual practice or discipline. Ever since yoga entered our lives three years ago, we have been drawn to visit this auspicious country of its origin. When we started to plan our trip and searching destinations to visit, India was on the top of our list.
India not only had YOGA, but it had so many other things to offer us by visiting:
- Taj Mahal
- Indian food
- Indian culture
- the people
- broaden our perspective
WHAT YOGA DID FOR ME
I can go on for days, like my friends and family know, on the reasons why YOGA can benefit a person’s overall health and how it has improved my life. When I took my first “official” yoga class in 2012 (I have done yoga through the years using at-home videos), I knew that something special was occurring in me and I embraced it wholeheartedly. I actually didn’t even know or understand what was happening when I experienced this phenomenon, as they call it, the “yoga high” and it was an epiphany. I felt a complete connection with my physical, mental, and spiritual body and my surroundings. It was like I was one with the Universe. I know this sounds very hippie and over-the-top for some, ( and most will think I’m crazy, they do anyway) but its my truth and what happened to me.
It was then, that I realized what all the hype was with yoga, and really began to understand its purpose. This practice wasn’t just an Indian, turned American-style fitness program to get rock hard abs and a firmer butt. It has actually nothing to do with that. Yes, practicing YOGA will strengthen your muscles and aid in weight-loss, as well as many other things, but it was so much more. It was love. Universal love.
Due to this incredible experience I went through, I had to learn more about what was happening to my body, mind and spirit through YOGA. So, I went to google (as any other person would to find information). To my surprise there were boat loads of studies and research on this exact subject. I began reading everything I could. I read books, listened to podcasts and watch TED talks. I felt like I was a researcher myself and I had to do something with my findings.
I enrolled in yoga teacher training.
I felt like I was receiving a calling that I had to share with the world. I knew I not only received the gift of YOGA at the exact time I needed it, but I was drawn to take this gift and give it away. I felt like there was a higher purpose of why this all happened to me and I wanted to help others, in the same I was helped through YOGA.
Here are examples of just some of the proven benefits that YOGA can do for the body:
- supplement cancer treatments
- soothes insomnia
- lowers blood pressure
- prevents heart disease
- alleviates arthritis
- improve circulation
- balances hormones
- lower triglyceride count
- improves respiration
- combats osteoporosis
- relieves diabetes
- engages the autistic
- relieves fibromyalgia
- treat bronchitis
For me, yoga healed me of depression and anxiety. Another condition that yoga can treat, proven by science. If you think I am making this up or its all in my head, I will show just one study of many. This study I wanted to share with you was done in 2009 by Harvard researchers on how yoga aids in the treatment of depression and anxiety. Here’s the link: (http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression).
Just for fun I wanted to also share a youtube video of another Harvard researcher’s study, Sara Lazar PhD, on how yoga and meditation can effect the brain. (below)
Dr. Sara Lazar PhD (Harvard), discussing “How Meditation can Reshape Our Brain” in a TEDtalks presentation 2011.
I used to be embarrassed or ashamed, and not want to share why I fell in love with yoga and what it has done for my life, because of the stigma, still today, of the subject of depression. Then I realized that if I share this with people and if it helps, even one other person, I am spreading the joy that yoga has brought into my life and possibly be bringing into others’ lives. For this reason, I had (have) to.
I am aware that not all people will have this kind of experience. For instance, I told one of my friends how much I love yoga and was bubbling over with excitement about it, and told her how it has literally changed my life! Her response was, “Oh, I hate yoga. It’s so boring” Clearly, not the response I was hoping for, but we all are different and some things work for some people, that don’t work for others.
My daughter may not have had the life-changing experience as I did through yoga, but she definitely did love it as well, and knew the benefits yoga could bring to her overall wellness, not to mention, she felt great doing it! She also saw what it has done for my life and knew there was something special about it.
THE PLAN TO VISIT A YOGA ASHRAM IN RISHIKESH
When we set India in stone on our itinerary, we knew we wanted to do the tourist-type things for our first visit. We had to, of course, check off a bucket list item, Taj Mahal, but were super excited to visit an ashram in Rishikesh, in hopes to have a magical experience there. We thought about how cool it would be to take a yoga class, right in the World’s epicenter of yoga and sit along the banks of the Ganges, while being part of the Ganga Aarti, nightly ritual, and thought that this might be an experience of a lifetime, possibly even be a spiritual one.
We made arrangements to stay at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram (www.parmarth.org), probably the most well-known one. We were to stay two nights on our five nights in India. The other days we would sight-see in New Delhi. We thought it would be the perfect balance of getting a glimpse of the spiritual side and cultural side of India.
Problem: Rishikesh happened to be a 7-8 hour drive from New Delhi, or even more if you understand the road conditions and driving in India. Our hired driver didn’t go that far. We could, however, take a train or a flight, but it wasn’t going to be an easy task to accomplish. When considering the dangers of taking an overnight train (being females) we thought that may be too risky to do, not to mention, time-consuming. As far as taking a flight, we really weren’t anticipating that kind of expense, especially being only one of the stops on our 3 part (three country), 2 week tour .
It wasn’t going to happen this trip.
OUR TIME IN INDIA
Although on this trip, we didn’t get to visit an ashram and do yoga with the descendants of historical yoga gurus, we did however, enjoy the other things that India showed us. We got to see the magnificent Taj Mahal, that no words can justify its awe-inspiring beauty. We got to visit temples and historic sites, and eat the fragrant and uniquely spiced foods of this land. We got to see poverty up close and personal, which to most, seems like a bad thing, but to us it gave us an overwhelming feeling of compassion, empathy and gratitude. We got to meet amazing people like our driver, Ramen, that we got to know over the five days we spent with him, whose story was so touching.
Ramen had to leave his wife and family behind in his tiny village, so he could work in New Deli, because there are no jobs where he lives. He worked in 4 month stretches and missed them so much. He was counting down the days until he would see them again. He loved talking about his babies and when he spoke (with his broken English) of them, the smile on his face and the sparkle in his eyes, were enough to understand what he meant.
We got to drive in rickshaws and be driven to places that I’ve only seen in books or in movies. All of these experiences and special humans we got to interact with, made this trip to India worthwhile and unforgettable.
UNTIL NEXT TIME INDIA
Visiting India was an incredible experience, that has only made me want to go back again. After being fortunate enough to visit a Wonder of the World and being in a place that is so unlike my home, it solidified some of the reasons why I love travel so much. It’s to learn and grow. The next time I go to India, I will plan it to be at a yoga ashram and allow the magic of yoga to engulf me.
Until then, I will practice yoga wherever I am in this world. I have learned that I didn’t have to travel thousand of miles away, to far off Holy Lands, to gain the knowledge and benefits of yoga. It was always right here. In me.
All I had to do was step on my mat.