I hope this email finds you very well. Guess what! I'll be home in less than a month! I leave India on May 1st for Portugal, and then get home on May 10th. My adventure is over halfway over already!
This week my classes have gone well and I'm learning a lot. I saw an Ayurvedic doctor for a consultation on Thursday afternoon and it was so cool! I've seen Ayurvedic practitioners before, but never an actual doctor of Ayurveda. I also really wanted to experience that here, in its birthplace.
I love Ayurveda and plan to study it when I get home. It's the sister science of yoga, originating around the same time, over 5,000 years ago. While Rishikesh is the supposed birthplace of yoga, Kerala in southern India is the birthplace of Ayurveda. Ayurveda means "the science of life" and is a surprisingly accurate approach to holistic health.
My consultation revealed imbalances that I was already aware of, and the doctor suggested I try a 3 day treatment called panchakarma. The treatments were wonderful! They consisted of a lot of massage with luxurious oils, steam baths, and various other treatments for various major body parts. For the eyes, they place some dough around the entire eye area, and then drip hot medicated water inside the eyeball. After that, they pour melted ghee in. Ghee is clarified butter, and is considered very pure, healing, and even holy here. That experience was pretty unpleasant, but I did feel the intended result of cleaner eyes the next day. My least favorite treatment was a nasal one that started out pleasantly enough, with warm oil being dripped into the nostril. I tend to have a dry nose, so that actually was quite nice. Unfortunately, after that they set a bouquet of herbs on fire and place it near your nose, telling you to inhale the smoke through the nostril, then exhale it through the mouth. It. Was. AWFUL. I thought the ghee in the eyes was torturous until that part, then it seemed comfortable in comparison.
One of the biggest parts of panchakarma is the colonic portion of the treatment. It happens each day of the cleansing, and surprisingly, it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd imagined.
I'm so glad I took the time and spent the money to do that, even with the uncomfortable parts. I feel much better in my body, and my understanding is that I will continue to for the 30 days following it as my cells continue to regenerate with new life.
On Sunday, my friend Sushila and I decided to go to the beach (at the river - it feels weird to call it the beach!) to read, relax, do some yoga, and swim. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and we had a great time. I got a little too much sun and wound up with one of the few sunburns of my life, which surprised me. I think that the altitude here may make the sun stronger than in Florida! It's turned into a tan now, but it was pretty painful for the first couple of days.
We spent most of the rest of our day off outside of the school, wandering around the city. We found an adorable puppy to play with at a cafe, ran into some friends, and just had such a nice time together.
The next day, I woke up feeling more tired than normal, only to discover by lunchtime that I have food poisoning for the third time since arriving in India. Since Monday I've been taking it easy, trying to recover, and I went to the doctor today to for medicine. I should be back to normal in no time.
I'm starting to make plans for once I'm back, and so far it looks like I will be hosting a yoga nidra (yogic sleep meditation - it's AMAZING) workshop at Yoga Lemon toward the end of May. I will keep you posted on the details and hope that you can make it if you're local!
Thank you for following my adventure.
Lots and lots of love to you,
Another week down, and a lot has happened in a week!
The 300 hour portion of my course started on Monday and it's going really well so far. Last month, I was in a group of over 35 for most of my classes and activities, and it was a lot of fun. This time though, there are only 8 students total in my group and it's such a nice change. There's a completely different dynamic in my classes because of that, as well as for the fact that everyone has already been teaching yoga for some time, and two ladies even own their own studios. Everyone is more mature and focused overall.
I really like my new roommate as well. Her name is Aino and she's enrolled in the 200 hour course. She's from Finland, I'm pretty sure she's the first Finnish person I've ever met.
On Friday Raj (the school's chef) taught me how to make Chana Masala. It was fun learning from him and hearing his stories as we cooked. He told me that he's never been married and doesn't have children (I think he's around 40, but I didn't ask just in case he doesn't know, as not to embarrass him), that he's the oldest of 5 brothers, and they and his mother all live in Nepal where he's from. He never learned to read or write, besides what he taught himself. He is really interested in improving his English, and being able to read and write it, so he studies every night for an hour before bed.
As we were finishing making lunch, the owner of the school's mother, two sisters, and a niece and nephew came for a visit. I invited them to have lunch at school, explaining that I'd cooked, and they agreed. I ate with them and they were so lovely! They offered me little gifts and invited me to their home.
Over the weekend, I saw the owner on the street and said hi. He stopped and told me that his sister had called him and insisted that he bring me to see her at some point. I felt so honored!
On Saturday I was crossing the bridge with a girl who just arrived here, and we were talking about the crazy monkeys here as we were passing one. She was kind of scared, so she slowed down, and I was behind her. I had my school bag with me because I was on my way to the river to read, and all of a sudden I felt something pull my bag backward as I walked forward. I immediately realized what was happening, and shouted "HEY" as I spun around. A thief had his hand in my bag!
I reacted pretty aggressively and must have shocked him, because he looked like he couldn't believe he'd gotten caught. I demanded he show me his hands and yelled at him, asking what he'd taken. I made sure nothing was missing as he stammered that he hadn't done anything. That was my first and hopefully last negative encounter here. Thankfully, he didn't take anything (the only loose items in my bag were pretty big -- I had important things like my phone and wallet together inside a smaller bag). That experience reinforced why I normally walk fast, and also reminded me not to look like an easy target with my school bag around town.
There's not a whole lot else going on besides that my days are full again from 5am to 9pm. My first class of the day is Hatha yoga with one of the same teachers I had last time, and it's one of my favorites. My leg is still healing, and everyday I'm able to do more and more. This injury has been an opportunity for me to re-learn some postures that I may not have been doing correctly previously, so I'm glad that after this my body will be accustomed to the proper way to perform asanas.
You are in my prayers and I hope that your week is going great and that all is well with you! Please let me know what's new - I love hearing from you!
God bless you. Hari Om tatsat!
Lots of love,
It's hard to believe how quickly time is flying, that I've already been here for a month, and that it's already time for the weekly update!
This past week has been really good. We had our final exams for the 200 hour portion of the course on Monday, and our graduation ceremony on Tuesday. Everyone did really well and the ceremony was lovely. There was chanting and a fire pit that we threw herbs in, saying "swaha" as we did, to represent letting go of the old and welcoming the new. The same day as our ceremony was the Hindu new year, as well as a new moon. All symbolic notes to end one course on and begin anew!
No one else who completed the 200 hour course is staying for the additional 300 hour one, so I've been saying "farewell" to all of my new friends since Tuesday evening. Some of them are staying in the area for a little while longer, which is nice. And the new group of students will arrive here by the 2nd, when the next round starts. I'm looking forward to meeting new people, but I already miss my first friends here so much!
In the meantime, I am one of the only ones on campus for a couple of days and I have my room completely to myself. As much as I adore Ieva, it's really nice after an intense month full of people at all hours of the day, during every activity, to have a little space and quiet time to myself.
I was very social last month, and for the next half of my course I'd like to be a little more introverted and focused. Since I'd already completed a 200 hour course a few years ago and I've been teaching since, educationally the past month for me was a lot of overview and just a good refresher. I didn't have to study in order to excel. The next half will be more of a challenge though, and one I'm looking forward to.
Not too much has really happened since last week. Ieva's birthday celebration was really nice. We bought a cake for her and several of us had dinner out. The next day, one of my yoga classes took a field trip down to the river and we did our class on the beach and then went swimming in the river. It was gorgeous!
On Sunday we had a group outing to a waterfall, and that was very nice! We hiked up to it and although the water was cold, it was great for swimming. It was really a beautiful day! The weather has been consistently hot and sunny, which is my favorite! Even at dusk, it's still above 95 degrees.
Today was the first day that didn't have much going on, as Ieva and several of the girls I normally hang out with relocated to a hotel across the bridge yesterday. I visited them this morning, then had lunch with my friend Charmaine from New Zealand, and relaxed a lot after that. Now I'm getting ready for bed and I don't have much planned for tomorrow, either. I did speak to the chef here though, and asked if he could give me an Indian cooking lesson since the kitchen will have a little break from cooking for the masses over the next few days. He happily agreed, so tomorrow after breakfast I will be learning how to make my favorite Indian dish, chana masala. It's chickpeas in an amazing, spicy, tomato-based sauce. It's something that is never served at school because it's not considered sattvic.
"Sattva" is one of three "gunas" that foods and even personality types can be classified under according to Ayurveda. If something is sattvic it is considered pure. A sattvic diet is vegetarian, as organic, locally produced, and fresh as possible, and the food should even be prepared with love.
Chana masala would be considered "rajasic" which is heating and possibly aggression-inducing. Rajas is anything full of passion, and has the qualities of activity and change. Salt, chocolate, caffeine, spicy, and acidic foods are all rajasic (all of my favorite foods belong in that category!)
The final guna is "tamas." If something is tamasic, it means something is of a heavy, dull quality. Tamas is toxic by nature. Dairy, meat, and alcohol are tamasic, as well leftover food.
By this time next week I will have started my next phase of the course and I'm sure I will have lots to share.
You are each in my thoughts and prayers and I hope all is well with you.
Lots of love,
I hope that this week's update finds you well. It's been a fast week for me! Thankfully, my leg is improving little by little and all is well.
My 200 hour course, (the first part of my training), ends on Tuesday, so I've had some final presentations and exams to prepare for. My classmates and I have been busy to the point of exhaustion.
We were informed that we've been disrespectful to the school's management and teachers, because we are too loud as a group and most of us have slept in on occasion instead of going to our daily 5:45am chanting sessions. We are no longer allowed to talk to each other in the dining hall, which has actually been a rule from the beginning that has been neither followed nor enforced.
We were also told that we are not allowed to laugh, and that any of us could be expelled at any moment should we "misbehave." Basically, we were given three separate lectures on this matter by different management personnel in the span of about 12 hours. It made most of us aware of some major cultural differences for the first time. As frustrated as we all were initially, we are trying to take it in stride and obey the rules more strictly.
That news really put a damper on things, but I've completed and passed 3 of my 5 exams. The biggest one was yesterday and I got really good feedback about it.
I had an experience this past weekend that I'd like to share with you. On Sunday, my roommate and I went on a walk and wound up buying a bunch of bananas on our way home. I was carrying the bag, and when we were a few feet away from campus, rushing back for our afternoon class, a little boy who lives on the side of the road (yes, you read that correctly) enthusiastically ran toward me and shouted, "Banana! Banana!"
He couldn't have been more than 4 or 5 years old.
Having given money to a little girl who asked me for some just a few minutes earlier on our walk, and then taken by the hand by a little boy immediately afterward, who wanted me to buy him something, only to pry myself away from him with tears in my eyes, I was a little jaded. I did not give the last little boy a banana.
When we bought the bananas, we asked for 6 and the guy at the fruit stand who spoke very little English tried to sell us 8. We wound up buying 8, but at a discount: 8 for the price of 6, just 60 Rupees. So each banana was 10 INR, which is equal to only 15 cents.
That night, I went to meditation class and as soon as we were getting centered and mentally prepared, I began experiencing extreme conviction to the point that it made me cry. Why hadn't I given that happy, sweet little boy, who is living the reality of a poverty I can't even begin to fathom, a banana? Heck, why hadn't I given him two? Or the whole bag??
I was confronted with my own character, and disgusted by my choices and by my privilege. From now on, I want to be someone who doesn't hesitate to give, whether it be a banana or the shirt off my back. I found out later that one of the girls in my course brings that little boy fresh breakfast from our kitchen every morning and was so relieved. I'd like to go with her one day.
On Monday I got to speak to her and know her a little better. We wound up spending time together out of the convenience of each being alone at the same place and time. We had dinner together and I told her my plans for working with survivors of sex trafficking. She said that out of everyone she's met in our program, that she is most impressed by my plans. She went on to tell me about her personal history of working in the sex trade, and attested to the importance of spiritual and physical healing through various forms of therapy. It was a great confirmation that I'm on the right path.
The weather has changed over the past week as well. It went from being very cold in the morning and night and warm in the day, to being slightly cooler in the morning and night and very Florida-summer-like-hot in the daytime. I think I'm the only one in my course who isn't complaining and miserable in the heat, but I have a feeling that over the next month the temperatures will continue to rise.
Today one of our yoga classes went on a little field trip. We took a walk down to the beach of the Ganga and held class there. It was beautiful! Afterward, we jumped in and it was SO COLD that I swam to shore and got out as quickly as I could. The Ganga is said to have many healing properties, and you really do leave it feeling different somehow.
Today is also my wonderful roommate's 27th birthday, so tonight a few of us are going to her favorite cafe for dinner. It's so convenient to be within walking distance to everything. I love not having to depend on a vehicle for transportation around town -- anywhere you'd like to go you can just walk. Rishikesh is too large to walk the whole thing, but there are tuk-tuks and taxis for farther away adventures. I've also been on the back of my instructors' scooters a couple of times, and that's a really interesting, exhilarating experience!
Love, light, and a big hug,
The time here is flying!
Early last Friday morning, just hours after I sent out my email to you, I got very sick with food poisoning. I guess it's some kind of rite of passage when you go to India... everyone is doomed at some point.
My roommate took very good care of me and my school even had a doctor come check me out. He gave me some medicine and thankfully I was a lot better by the next morning.
The Holi Festival is a Hindi festival of colors. It was on Monday, and we got Sunday and Monday off to celebrate. My school threw a big party for it on Sunday and it was a blast! We had a time of devotional music, painted each other's faces with bright, colorful powder, and danced. Then the music changed to Indian dance music and we danced and played outside like children for hours! The best part was that it was before noon and no one was drinking or on drugs -- we all just had a blast completely sober!
On Monday everyone went into town to celebrate and that was really fun as well. Everyone in the street puts colors on you as you walk past, some of them give you hugs, some ask to take pictures with you, and everyone says "happy Holi."
My friends and I wound up at a cafe that was only open for certain people, and we were lucky enough to get in. They weren't serving anything off the menu, just a special smoothie concoction and French fries, and the top floor of the place was quickly converted into a dance-floor. It was very entertaining to watch from our seats, as there were a ton of men (mostly Indian, with a few tourists), and maybe 3 women, and the men were having a pretty good time just dancing with each other.
We walked around the town after that and the festivities had already begun dying down. Holi Festival is really neat, and I'm so glad I was here for it! It was definitely worth the process of washing those colors off of my skin and out of my hair and clothes.
The yoga has been really challenging but good as well. I've been learning some great "advanced" postures, and unfortunately I got injured in one yesterday as my instructor was demonstrating on me to another student how to adjust someone in that particular pose. He lifted my leg higher than it wanted to go, and there was a really big, loud "POP" -- it was very painful. It seems to be a ligament or tendon injury, and will take a while to heal, but I'll be able to practice normally very soon.
So this week has had its ups and downs. The Holi Festival was amazing, but getting sick and injured definitely put a damper on things.
I'm optimistic that this coming week will be much better. Thank you for following along on my adventure! I haven't figured out how to attach photos from my phone, but if you'd like to see some, find me on Instagram: @yogicdossantos
Lots of love and as they say here, "Hari Om",
Namaskar! Greetings from India!
As you may already know, I decided to come to India for further yoga teacher training. I completed a course back home in 2014 that was great and equipped me to teach in the capacity that I have been so far. However, I plan on developing a specific type of yoga therapy for victims of trauma (specifically for working with human trafficking victims), and knew I needed more education. So I found a reputable 500hour program in Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga.
I arrived a week ago yesterday and will be here until May 1st. I will send you a weekly email with updates on how my training is going and what I'm up to.
I've traveled to many places so far, and India is definitely unlike anywhere else I've been. It's crowded and noisy, vibrant, dirty, and just beautiful.
Along the roads there is all kinds of traffic and it takes forever to get anywhere. The streets are busy with cars, trucks, buses, motor bikes and scooters, pedestrians, and cows!
Monkeys are everywhere! On Sunday evening, I went on a walk with some of my classmates and while we were crossing a bridge, some monkeys that were hanging out there started attacking people! I don't think anyone got hurt, but at least a couple of people were intimidated into surrendering their ice cream or whatever snacks they were carrying. It was hilarious and also kind of scary!
I am in an area that sees a lot of tourism, and yet it doesn't feel "touristy" or Westernized one bit. I also feel very safe here, even more so than when I've traveled to Central and South America, where I've blended in a little more seamlessly, both by my looks and being able to speak the language. (Here I'm told I look Indian until I open my mouth).
Rishikesh is located in the north of India near the Himalayas, and the view from my room's balcony is a wall of green mountains. We are also less than a five minute walk from the Ganges River, which is very clean here and is a gorgeous light blue-green color.
Rishikesh is also a vegetarian zone, and meat and alcohol are completely prohibited.
My course is intense but so much fun. I have the most wonderful roommate, Ieva (pronounced like Yay-vah), from Lithuania. My classmates come from all corners of the globe, and it's so much fun being in such an international group. There are about 45 of us all together.
Our days start at 5am with a morning bell to wake us up, and we have group chanting at 5:45. After that, we have breathing, meditation, and physical posture classes until 10 when we have breakfast together. We aren't allowed to speak at breakfast, which has been a really difficult adjustment for all of us (and no one has been particularly successful). The rest of our day is full with classes and we are free after dinner around 7:30pm until "lights out" at 9.
On Thursdays we only have school for half of the day, so today my friends and I got caught up on laundry and cleaning and then went on a quest to find dark chocolate. We've been eating a strict "Satvic" diet, which has been carbohydrate-heavy, pretty low on protein, and a little bland. After searching in several little shops every time we've wandered off campus, today we finally found some! It's expensive here, as one bar cost 250 Indian Rupees (for context, I bought a brass and real turquoise ring for 100 INR), but we were so glad to find it that we didn't care.
I am having a great time! I miss home for the people but I can already tell that I'm not going to want to leave in two months from now. It's still pretty hard to believe that I'm actually here!
Please feel free to reach out to me at any time. The internet isn't as fast here as it is there, and we have a 10 and a half hour time difference, but I'll do my best to reply promptly.
Thank you for following along!
Welcome to my blog!
This is the first time I've ever tried blogging, and though I've been a daily journal writer for as long as I can remember, it feels a little foreign putting things "out there." However, I have plenty to share and I believe that if I've experienced something that can help someone else, I have an obligation to do so.
I was fortunate enough to spend two months in India earlier this year, and I recorded the highlights of my trip as emails to some family and friends. I am going to share those emails here, as they give a lot of insight into my experience as well as to give you a good feel for my personality. And in case you're planning a trip to Rishikesh, India for a yoga teacher training any time soon, my subsequent posts may give you some things to think about in planning your trip.
Other than the adventurous start to my year, I will also be sharing the various ways I try to live my healthiest, most balanced life. I am still learning, growing, and healing, and invite you to come along side me.
I hope you enjoy my blog and my site, and I'd love to hear from you if anything resonates, if you have feedback, or just want to say "hi." :-)
Lots of love,
w e l c o m e