AN ASHRAM STINT
On Tuesday this week, I didn’t have the slightest inkling that i will be traveling on Wednesday to spend a couple of days in an Ashram for some meditation and for seeking solace. It was a last minute decision but a wise one. I arrived and was happily surprised to see a very green Ashram that looked like a resort. I wonder why i hesitated all these years to visit one. The first thought that comes to mind when one talks of an Ashram is of basic accommodation, lack of comfort and hardship. However SWAMI RAMA SADHAKA GRAMA ASHRAM was like an oasis in the desert. The sprawling gardens, dense trees all around and beautifully lined cottages seemed very inviting. It took me less than three minutes to register myself and reach my room.
The rooms are basic but air-conditioned, provide clean beds and a comfortable shower. Its no-frill accommodation but doesn’t lack anything when it comes to comfort.
For me, Yoga doesn’t mean any religion as it is a mere practice to purify one’s thoughts and to learn the art of peaceful living, to be balanced in all that one does, to be able to smile in every situation and to surrender oneself to nature. I also read that Yoga was to destress, to take life comfortably as it came, to never complain and to live how it is meant to be. With these positive thoughts in mind, I attended all the sessions on breathing, stretching, meditation etc. and was slowly getting to like the place. They asked me not to be harsh on myself as meditation, despite looking so easy, was never a child’s play anyways.
The Ashram is a getaway for anyone looking for a break from a strenuous lifestyle. I met people here who came from all continents to stay for 7, 14, 21 nights and even for a month. No one comes to take back anything tangible, but a healthy lifestyle, a relaxed mind and a happy oneself.
Lea and her husband John, both from Switzerland, have dedicated years to this practice and have finally found an abode in this Ashram, which they professionally and voluntarily run together. Just speaking to any of them is such a comforting experience that all negative feelings one has been harboring in his mind, vanish within minutes. Lea takes one through the Ashram’s schedule as a part of the induction/ briefing session.
The schedule, to be followed by the guests is easy, relaxed and gives one plenty of free time to write, explore the temple town that is only a short tuk-tuk ride away, photograph the nature or simply walk in the lush well-manicured gardens and listen to chirping of birds. An Indian Koel always responded to my whistling, every time i walked towards the dining hall. She was perched on a huge tree that stood between my room and the hall. Here you are literally on your own and no one questions you if you miss a session. One has to figure out what one wants and then go for it. Prayers were never my scene so I missed all the early morning sessions and showed up at 6am for the stretching and breathing exercises.
One of the first induction classes by the in-house Yogi, Mr. Adhikari was to find the right sitting posture for each student. Mine was to sit on a zen stool while some heavier ones were prescribed a chair. Contrary to popular belief that one has to sit cross-legged on the floor, the Meditation class saw each one siting according to his convenience. We don’t want to keep changing our position as we try and meditate hence the realization of what makes us comfortable is imperative.
The session I enjoyed most was on breathing. In the end it all boils down to how we breathe, that can lead us to our goals. A healthy breathing style also guarantees ease in the meditation. It’s as important as the sitting posture. The theory class was amazingly easy & educational by John, who explained the difference between Diaphragmatic, Upper Chest and Abdominal breathing- which was totally Greek to me before i came here.
Similarly, another theory class by him on Meditation talked about the ‘pathway’ to ‘the inward journey of awareness’. Its about awareness of stillness, whole body awareness, awareness of present moment, basic breath awareness, whole body breath awareness, systematic relaxation, whole body breathing, breath at naval center, navel to nostril breath, and awareness of breath in nostrils. These ten different steps in the ‘pathway’ may sound similar and difficult to understand, but the class explained it so beautifully that everything finally seemed easy and quick to grasp.
Afternoon meals were always followed by a short session on digestive breathing. Here you are taught to lie down on your left, as supposedly breathing from right nostril makes you digest your food faster, then lie flat in Shravasana and simply breathe. They were like afternoon siestas, easy like a breeze.
Toughest for me, as mentioned earlier, were the meditation sessions. I tried my level best to concentrate but my mind took me to situations and places that i had forgotten about. Many were beautiful memories so i can’t complain. But i even had a nightmare that has haunted me every now and then, of sitting in a Math examination in school without having answered any question and the time was running out. This startled me completely and i woke up just in time, when every one else was through with one hour of deep meditation and preparing to fold up.
The Pranayama (breathing) and Hatha Yoga classes are interesting and teach basic exercises that one must follow routinely. These are key to an active and healthy lifestyle and there is a feelgood factor about them.
One afternoon i decided to go to the riverside, a comfortable 5 min walk from the Ashram and it was quite a welcoming change. The mighty Ganges flowing full was too meditative. I then hopped onto a Tuk Tuk (a 10-seater Auto Rickshaw, that can also be hired privately) for a short ride to Rishikesh. Having walked for 2 hours from one Ashram to another and past hundreds of temples, i crossed both the famous suspension bridges (Lakshman Jhoola and Ram Jhoola) and returned to the Ashram, in time for the supper. This is a ‘must’ side trip, even recommended by the management.
In the end, i recommend a week’s stay here to anyone who wants and deserves a break. It is indeed a life-changing experience and quite an eye-opener; an answer to many of our fears. What we crave for back home but never find is something we have too much in hand here and we don’t know what to do with it. Yes, talking about “TIME”. It indeed comes to a standstill here and it is the ultimate luxury.
I am glad that i managed to get this stay in an Ashram off my bucket list sooner than ever.
26 June’ 2016