I never dreamed of India…

by Nicole Smith on May 17, 2012

I never wanted to go to India. In fact, I clearly remember telling several friends that India was probably LAST on my list of places that I LEAST desired to travel to. To their surprise, and even my own, I changed my mind and booked a flight to India on September 1, 2010. Why the drastic change of heart? Was it because my mom always told me that a girl is allowed to change her mind at anytime…or was it that I have always had a burning need to explore different branches of each subject that I was passionate about so that I can mold the information together to help me understand a rounded view on it? Probably a little of both!

That summer, I had the honor of doing my 200-hour yoga teacher training at Kusuala Yoga, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I loved the program and the teachers immensely and had chosen the school because of their Vinyasa and Buddhist focus. However, there was one day that my teacher Melissa McKay had said something about how what we were learning was similar but different to the Indian-Yoga philosophies and sutras. It was right then that I knew that my destiny was changed forever. I have never been one to be just told something; I had to experience it and learn for myself.

So I applied to and was accepted by the World Conscious Yoga Family School in Rishikesh, India for my 500-hour Akhanda yoga teacher-training course with emphasis on Hatha, Raja, and Kundalini yoga with Yogi Vishvketu. Most people would have read a guidebook or asked around more about India before just heading there, but not me. I knew that if I put too much thought into it I might change my mind, so with the exception of getting any vaccination shots required of me before leaving and my Visa, I really did go in with no expectations.

Well…India is VERY different from the USA and the easiest way to summarize how I handled the transition was: I got TMJ from my mouth being open in shock. Even after moving to New York City from a small town in Illinois was nothing compared to this. There were people, cows, monkeys, cars, buses, scooters, carts, etc. everywhere. It was so congested that the pollution and noise where incredible and overwhelming to me. I had that “Oh God, what did I do?” movement the second I got off the plane. However, I knew that there was no turning back, remember, my destiny was sealed. I HAD to learn these ancient yoga teachings and I knew that there was no better place to do that than at the source of the knowledge.

I joined my group at the meeting point in New Delhi and the next day was on a bus for a 9-hour bumpy journey to the ancient city of Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga. My first two weeks there were some of the roughest days of my life. I was sick with a sinus infection from the pollution, and couldn’t sleep at night because of all the noise from firecrackers (there is always some festival/wedding going on in India and firecrackers are a requirement), dogs barking, cows mooing, 24 hour construction sites of new buildings, and a the snoring of sleeping roommate. I was adverse to the kriyas (cleanses) that we were required to do, and felt insecure about myself because all of the other students were seasoned yoga teachers who were much more advanced than me, a yoga teacher with no experience who had just finished her 200 hour teacher-training. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, I got diarrhea that lasted for days.

Looking back, I find it amazing that now if someone asks me what I think about India, I say, “I love India.” I find it incredible that through so much suffering I changed in such a spiritual way that I will never be the same again, but I did. I realize now, that because of the dichotomies and suffering around me and that I had to endure, as well as the love and support from the other students and teachers that were there to help promote growth and change, I finally saw how there is BEAUTY in EVERYTHING. The sick movements had a beauty because of the caring people who came in to take care of me. The filth and pollution became a teaching of what I didn’t want to do to the earth and really helped me open my eyes to the ignorance of human consumption. The yoga teachings opened my mind and heart in ways that I never knew possible and LOVE entered in to my heart to make me feel whole again.

It’s been a year and a half since I was in India, but the teachings are still with me today in my everyday life. Friends and family have noticed the change, I have found a boyfriend who respects and embraces my spiritual lifestyle, and I have even begun to teach and council many people on ways to see outside our foggy vision of ego-eyes and begin to trust in love and bliss that is the true nature of our soul. If I had to do it all again, I would in a heartbeat. In fact, I am looking forward to the time when I can make a journey back.

Namaste, Nicole

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