Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why study abroad in India?: at a Yoga Ashram (pt. I)

Many of you might be wondering what's happening to me and why I've not updated my posts in the last few months. Before looking for another teaching contract, I decided to take the next half of the year off for travel (you can follow my travels here) and to continue my personal studies.

Just because I've momentarily taken a hiatus from teaching English doesn't mean the teaching and learning has to end. Traveling through Asia and SEA is a learner's goldmine! There are many schools
and certifications you can get at a much cheaper price than the U.S. It's something to take advantage of.

Yoga is one of my loves and something I find spiritually, physically and mentally valuable to my life. There are times, I think studying yoga is more important to me than my master's degree for the type of inspiration and wholistic healing it brings. Thus, spending time in a real Indian yoga ashram (read here) and getting my yoga teacher's certification in India  (read here) were things at the top of my bucket list.

I spent a week at the Sivananda Yoga School in Neyyar Damn, Trivanandrum, India and it was very rewarding experience. Yoga enthusiasts from all over the world come here to practice yoga, to train as teachers and to take various ayurvedic treatments and certificate trainings.  I even met up with some fellow English teachers from Daegu!

I took a local bus ride to Neyyar Dam from the Trivandrum station. Neyyar Dam is on the outskirts of Trivandrum and is part of a wildlife sanctuary park. At night I'd find myself lulled to sleep by the
echo of humping tigers residing across the lake at the Tiger Sanctuary.

The ashram/school is large with several dorms, shala space, dining hall, ayurvedic center, meditation halls, snack bar/gift shop... the works! And the park surrounding it offers peaceful solace and removal from everyday Indian hubub (and lets face it... in the cities, it's pretty noisy).

The yoga ashram program was a full and intensive schedule. Two yoga classes a day, meditation sessions in the morning and evening, satsang chanting, philosophy classes, ayurveda classes, Indian rituals, karma yoga and occasional events.

For instance, while I was there it was Holi Festival.  While we weren't able to leave the ashram grounds to go into the city, the ashram put on it's own Holi event near the lake!
It was a chance for me to learn more about Indian culture and philosophy vs. the white-washed notions of the West. Invaluable, was the experiential factor of celebrating aarti (prayer/worship rituals), festivals, practicing an ayurvedic lifestyle and eating Indian style.

A priest conducts an initiation ceremony for the start of a good practice.
Recieving prassad after an aarti cermeony

Two main reasons to study abroad:

1. Experiential learning

There's an experiential aspect to learning abroad, which we don't always assess enough credit to when we think about schooling outside of our own country.  Abroad, we learn through the osmosis of environment, food, lifestyle, language, it's belief and it's intuitive understanding. The latter sounds cryptic and new agey, but we forget that even as children, we learn through intuitive sense.

2. Cultural learning

Studying abroad (especially in India where yoga originates) the environment really took on a large role in sculpting and enlivening my sensibilities for my practice. Understanding Indian culture, helps you to understand the discipline of learning.

East vs. West concepts of yoga

If you've ever been to India, you'll come to see how much the "spiritual" aspect of life takes priority in everyday ritual. For India, worship perfumes the air everywhere you go... neighborhood/home altars,  you'll hear priest chanting satsang over loudspeakers in the direction of temples in the morning and evenings and there is always a lining of incense to waft of your day.  The concentrated western belief and practice of yoga is primarily physical. Westerners think of yoga as enhancing physiques, getting a good workout, measuring our body's flexibility and occasionally, training the mind to focus on peace (aka meditation).

In India, yoga as a physical goal comes last. For rishis and true yogis, the focus is spiritual attainment. Other practices such as meditation, philosophical studies and translation of spiritual texts play a heavier role over. Physical yoga is used to aid not only physical health but mental and spirital health as well (ie. postures are for chakra alignment and for healing physical imbalances in the body). By disciplining the body, one can have control over their thoughts and earthly desires and thus, "transcend" bodily matters.  In fact, it's said that some great yogis have such powers to transcend their human form to reach samadhi, that some have out-of-body experiences and have even left their bodies completely (aka death) to remain in samadhi.

Interesting huh?

To read about my experience with ashram life, click on this post.

1 comment:

  1. Hey..

    You can look many different collection in this site. Not just this album its a really very nice pics. They also have an album about Yoga Ashram India, Schools in many place. I like to check all the activity they have.
    Thanks too!!!