So we decided to stay in an ashram and find our what Yoga is all about. We chose one called Phool Chatti Ashram which is a very structured 7 day course. And we had no idea what we were in for.
We wake up at 5.30am every day for 6am meditation. Meditation is all about shutting up the chatterbox in your head so it is completely silent and you are simply The Awareness. We both found it difficult to get to a space of no thoughts at all but after a few days we could both do it and the more we did it the easier we found it.
The purpose of getting into this state is investigation. To ask your intuition anything you want without the mind and all your silly beliefs getting in the way. In this state you are also in the present moment. We both realised how we normally spend most of our time thinking about the future or the past or an infinite number of pointless thoughts, wasting our moments.
The present is the only moment that actually exists so we both decided we want to live in the present more and meditating is the way to get there.
We have also been taught that you can make a meditation out of anything you do. We are in silence until after lunch every day which helps towards staying in that meditative state.
After morning meditation we do chanting of Sanskrit prayers for 15 mins. We both found it a bit silly at first as we don’t agree with following religious rituals. But when we read the translations they were quite profound and discovered that chanting was an excellent meditation as it’s easy to not let thoughts enter your mind. All the birds are out singing away so we decided we were singing along with them.
Then we do Yogic cleansing. We get a little bottle with a spout, fill it with warm salty water and stick it in your nose. The water runs out your other nostril and cleans out the boogers. Then you blow all the remaining water out into the garden.
This is preparation for Pranayama or breathing exercises. This opens the airways and gets heaps of oxygen into your brain and body. Your buzzing by the time your done.
By this time it’s 7.15 and we do Hatha Yoga for an hour an a half. These are the more gentle Yoga Asanas (physical postures) but trust me they still give you a good work out.
We learned that the main purpose of the postures is to prepare the body and mind for meditation. So after the initial struggle to figure out how to do them we made doing them a meditation. They also say the asanas prevent diseases from arising in the body and are used to treat existing ailments.
Then at 9 on the rooftop we get a yummy breakfast of porridge, fruit, tea and a little something else which changes every day.
Every single meal is taken in complete silence. Which is great as it makes it easy to make eating a meditation. Every mouthful you take you completely focus on the taste, texture and smells and it’s awesome. The food tastes delicious. You feel so content.
So we are learning to make everything a meditation which simply means everything you do, do it with 100% of your focus and attention. Shutting out the little voice in your head that wants to comment on everything or label things or make judgements.
This comes in great for the next part of the day, Karma Yoga. Which states that every day we should do things for others or for the greater good and never expect any thanks or reward. So this is where we spend a half hour cleaning up the ashram and you do it with a smile on your face because you make it a meditation.
Then at 10.30 is the meditative walk. A guided walk to many of the beautiful places here. Up the Ganges for a ceremonial dunking in the fresh glacial waters or to a little bubbling brook you sit in and easily meditate to the water sounds or there’s the magical waterfall that seems straight out of a fairy tale. Otherwise we might just find a spot within the beautiful and massive ashram gardens. There must be over 100 mango trees here and some of them are over 100 years old.
12.30 is lunch. Back home we ate meat mostly twice a day. It’s completely vegetarian here and we absolutely love it. Dahl’s with so much flavour, delicious veg curries, some salad or coleslaw, maybe some fresh yoghurt from the half a dozen cows out the back, rice and chapatti and as much of everything as we want. Every meal is something different, we definitely have no complaints about the food.
Free time until 3 which is then lecture and discussion. Here we learn about the eight principles to Yoga and discuss how we could incorporate them into our lives. These principles were culminated from Buddhism, Jainism and Brahmanism (Hinduism) back in the 2nd century B.C.
1. Yama – social restraints like do not cause harm; do not steal, covet or hoard; be genuine, honest and search for the truth, especially within oneself; be dedicated to God; and do not be attached to material possessions, emotions or fixed beliefs.
2. Niyama – personal observances. Keep your body, mind an environment clean; be content with whatever life brings; follow regular spiritual practices; develop an intelligent and informed understanding of truth; and live with an awareness of Divine Presence in everything.
3. Asana – practice the physical postures for the reasons described earlier.
4. Pranayama – life force energy received by sunlight, veg food, rest, air and being in nature.
5. Pratyhara – withdrawal of the mind from contact with objects of desire. Directing the mind inwards releases it from the tyranny of the senses and becomes calm.
6. Dharana – complete focus of attention.
7. Dhyana – when concentration dissolves into meditation and you live in a meditative state.
8. Samadhi – liberation. When you become one with all that is.
Then at 4 we have an hour and a half of Astanga Yoga, the more intensive asanas where we get ourselves tied into all sorts of knots and use muscles we never even thought we had. After the first few days we were pretty sore, but a couple days later we feel great! No knots anywhere. Our bodies feel loose, free and a lot more flexible.
We finish off with some more breathing exercises then have some free time until 7 which is Temple Pooja, a little ritual the Indians perform. From here we go to Kirtan (sacred singing.) This is great fun. Everyone sings along bashing away at our tambourines getting right into it. You really feel the energy of the group here.
Then we get another delicious meal at 7.45 before our 8.30 guided meditation. This gets all the thoughts of the day out of your head and puts you in the perfect frame of mind for sleep, which comes very very easily.
It was awesome that my birthday landed on the last day and Jill even organised for a delicious choc banana birthday cake to be delivered to the ashram :). I found a coin at Everest base camp near where Jill and I got engaged. I thought I lost it and I was devastated but Jill had it made into a necklace which was an awesome present.
From this experience we have both learned a lot and feel quite sad to leave the peaceful ashram and a little apprehensive to go back out into the crazy world. At the same time we are super excited to be living this life. And it will not be the same after this.
If anyone wants more info on the ashram you can visit http://www.phoolchattiyoga.com or http://www.phoolchattiashram.org or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s a wonderful experience which we highly recommend.