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I went to India and Didn’t Do YOGA!

by Friday, September 25, 2015
thewanderlustyogi.net

Qutub Minar

WHY INDIA?

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
  • temples
  • 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

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Ganga Aarti, at Parmarth Niketan ashram, on the banks of the Ganges River

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.

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rickshaw ride in Old Delhi

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.

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Taj Mahal, Agra, India


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.

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me doing yoga on vacation in Southern California- namaste!

All I had to do was step on my mat.

 

GOT INK, WILL TRAVEL

by Saturday, August 22, 2015

Everyone knows that tattoo discrimination happens all the time, but did you realize it can happen while traveling and it could alter your trip and experience drastically?

Let me digress a bit:

The reason this subject interests me is yes, I have tattoos, seven actually. I used to be one of those people who said I would NEVER get a tattoo, and then something changed. I got one, then two, then three, you know how it goes. Like they say, once you get one, you kind of get addicted. I mostly got each one for a very specific and important meaning in my life, a few, not so much.  And although I may regret one or two tats that I am not in love with, I think of it as my journey.

My tattoos tell a story of my life and where I was physically, emotionally, and mentally at that time.  It’s like a timeline of events and a snapshot of art that allows me to remember that chapter, just with a glance. 

I knew when I got my last tattoo, that this was going to be the one that shows people’s true colors.  I was considering it for a while and it was at a time in my life that I was going through a huge change. I was in the midst of leaving my job as a dental hygienist and was going to pursue traveling, yoga and blogging.  I loved yoga-inspired tattoos and I fell in love with the idea of getting a Hindu Goddess on my upper shoulder, specifically, Goddess Kali.  It was a Goddess that I resonated with the most.  This was going to be very difficult to hide ( I was still a dental hygienist at the time), not to mention, people wouldn’t understand it.


Kali is the Hindu Goddess associated with empowerment, or “shakti”. Kali is the manifestation of the Divine Mother and represents the female principle. She is the destroyer of sin, ignorance, and decay and destroys in order to recreate. She removes ego and liberates souls.


The tattoo was discussed for a long time with an amazing tattoo artist named Elle, owner of http://www.bittersweettattoo.com in Manchester, NH. She was highly recommended and was a female tattoo artist! How fitting!

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the finished product of my Goddess Kali tattoo-by Elle L’ Estrange www.bittersweettattoo.com

We had 2 appointments before even starting. How she works as an artist is to discuss the piece and what you want from it. She doesn’t just copy a picture out of a book, it is her art, and reflects her and her artistry.  She works on your inspiration by drawing up a sketch  (sometimes taking days or weeks, or even months!) and then she reveals it on the day of tattooing. I was a little nervous to not see it until the day of, but I trusted her and I knew that we were very aligned and both felt a spiritual connection. She also said that she was extremely excited to do this particular piece. It was Kismet!

We explored my thoughts for the tattoo. I explained to her that I was a yogi and loved Hindu artwork and was drawn to Hindu Goddesses.  I guess I could call myself a sort of feminist, but I also just loved the fact that in Hinduism women are the ones who are looked up to as the most powerful.


 

I can’t stop thinking of the lyrics sung by Beyoncé now 😉


 

The more I got into tattooing myself, the more I appreciated the true art it is. Some tattoo artists have talent that should not only be recognised but applauded.  It just doesn’t seem fair that the paintings hanging in the Louvre in Paris are World-renowned  and visited by millions of people every year,  while a talented tattoo artist is looked down on by much of society. Hopefully things will change in the future, it already has come a long way, but the prejudice still exists, very much so, here today without a doubt.


The trigger:

Last night I was scrolling on my Facebook page and saw a post from a friend with a picture and a quote that read, ” Sometimes the nicest people you meet are covered in tattoos and sometimes the most judgmental people you meet go to church on Sundays.”  This picture really struck a chord with me and I decided I needed to address this subject in a post. I have thought about writing about it for a long time, but always stopped myself because of worry of the “judgement of others” ironic huh?

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I digress a little more:

Working in the dental field is very stuffy. This is so unlike my personality. I had to be something I was not. When I knew I was planning on escaping this life of someone else’s, is when I decided the time was right for this tattoo. It was like a rebirth (just like the meaning of  Goddess Kali) I got to shed the “ego” (of being accepted) to being “reborn” into who I really am.   It was an empowering feeling, just like how a Goddess should feel.  I knew then, there as no turning back, and for those in my life that judge me for it, I will forgive them and let it go.  If they don’t like my tattoo, it was their problem, not mine.

One day at the dental office (after my tat) my manager was looking at the schedule of who was coming in.  She mentioned a patient that I knew very well, after talking to her every 6 months about her life for the past 3 years, was on the schedule.  I said, “Oh yes, she is very nice. It will be good to catch up with her today.” My manager responded, “She has sleeve tattoos and looks so gross! She scares me!” I was kind of taken back on that comment, but then thought about how judgmental she was about everyone. It kind of got me angry, I mean, she didn’t even know her or would bother to, just because she has tattoos. I so badly wanted to show her my tattoo. She had no idea that I had seven, one being very large and on my arm. She only was aware of one, and I know she judged me for it. I decided to do nothing. There is no reasoning with a bigot.  She really wasn’t worth the time or effort.

By the way, this so-called scary sleeved tattooed patient, was an environmental lawyer with a degree from NorthEastern…..super scary, I know!


 

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In the process of getting my tattoo, just the outline. I was still working as a dental hygienist and had to worry about it showing (luckily I normally wore long sleeves anyway) my hair was much shorter too 🙂
*the image is a bit blurry, but you get the idea (11/14)


Many in the dental field are prejudice about tattoos (as well as the health field in general) , most offices will not hire a tattooed person.  Although I temped one day for a great dentist, who, when he took off his lab coat at lunchtime, was covered with tattoos.  I yelled out in laughter and told him I loved it. He laughed too and said, “You should see the reactions of my patients when I bump into them at the beach.  They are shocked!!”  But that was an exception.

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“This delinquent could save your life”


Where does this all lead me you ask? Well, since I left the dental field to pursue travel, yoga and blogging I came across an article that talked about a British women who was stopped at the border of Sri Lanka. She was not allowed to enter the country because of a tattoo of the image of Buddha!!! I was shocked and never even considered that. Some countries are very conservative and religious, especially when it comes to women.  It just never dawned on me that a tattoo would hinder you from traveling.  Oh, oh. Here I thought I was finally free of tattoo discrimination at the workplace when I left the dental field, and now come to realize that in my new career of travel blogging it is still present. Go figure!

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A British woman named Naomi Coleman was deported from Sri Lanka for having an image of Buddha tattoo on April 29, 2014.

Here is the link:http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-27107857


There is really nothing I can do about this now, nor would I, but just like with anything else, when you go into another country, you need to be aware of their cultural differences.  For example, when I went to India and Thailand, I always covered up, especially in their temples, out of respect. Incidentally, I did already have my large tattoo at the time, but even if I didn’t, I would have covered up out of consideration for their culture regardless.  I didn’t have any issues.

With this being said, just because you have tattoos doesn’t mean you can’t travel the world. Just keep in mind that you may be discriminated against especially in countries like Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Japan (being rumored as the most prejudice against tattoos) . Lets face it, if you are tattooed you already know how that feels anyway.

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my Goddess Kali tat today

This is surely not going to stop me from traveling all over the world, even Japan. I just plan to be very mindful of respecting other cultures and their beliefs.  I intend on doing some volunteer work on an upcoming trip and I am gravitating towards programs that work with underprivileged women in countries like, Africa, India, Morocco and Brazil, where women suffer gender inequality.  There are many great organizations that are involved with just this, such as gooverseas.comeliabroad.orgvolunteeringsolutions.comcrossculturalsolutions.org, and many more. With my new-found freedom of embracing the Feminine Divine in me and the Universe, working with  “women empowerment” will only help mine grow too.


At the beginning of this month (August 10,2015) in New York City, the image of Goddess Kali adorned the Empire State Building. Here is an article by http://yogadork.com that helps explain what the message was. http://yogadork.com/2015/08/10/kali-goddess-of-darkness-lights-up-empire-state-building-photos/

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Goddess Kali adorns the Empire State building in New York City (8/10/2015)

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