Well we are now officially back in India India. That is Hindu India. Right in the heart of it. Residing in one of her holiest cities - Haridwar, the 'Gates of Heaven' - where the river Ganges descends from the Himalayan mountains down into the plains of India. It is a place that has attracted millions of pilgrims for thousands of years, to dip in the purifying waters of Ma Ganga. One drop, believed to wash away your impurities and take you to 'the far side.' Jai Ma Ganga Ki Jai!
We are staying at the Santosh Puri Ashram, right on the holy river. The ashram is run by an incredible divine family of yogis: Narvada Puri, or Mataji as we call her, and her three incredible children, named after sacred Indian rivers - Ganga, Mandakani, and Alaknanda (or Gangotri). Mataji is a German born women who came to India at age 18, and never left. She found her guru Baba Santosh Puri and together spent 12 years on an island off the Ganges, practicing intense yogic austerities and serving the cows. To be in her presence is a gift, and we are receiving so so much from our stay at Santosh. We are in the midst of an intensive 3-week Clinical Yoga and Ayurveda course. Needless to say, the schedule is full. And ashram life starts dark and early. Here's a taste of our schedule:
Cleansing Kriyas 6:00am
Herbal Tea 7:00am
Karma Yoga 11-11:30am
Ayurveda/Clinical Theory 1:30pm
Ayurveda Theory/Pranayama 4:30pm
Wow just typing that was a lot. The schedule is challenging, but actually not too bad. I'm surprising both myself and Charlotte by waking up at 4:30am to attend aarti every morning! There is something powerful and mysterious about starting the day before sunrise - a potent moment of energy in between night and day consciousness. In fact I remember reading a Yoga Journal article months back that mentioned that humans are the only species who sleep past the rising of the sun! This struck a cord, but unfortunately I was unable to make any radical lifestyle adjustments at that time...
What was particularly challenging though this week were the most 'difficult' of the shatkarma kriyas. First up was Shankha Prakshalana, the 'Supreme Movement' - which involves chugging 2 liters of warm salt water and rather quickly, letting it 'pass through you.' This kriya is to cleanse and purify our 'lower mouth.' Shankha Prakshalana is also accompanied by its helpful friend, the Ganesh Kriya - where you take your middle finger (of your left hand), some oil, and gently massage the walls of the anus. Which may seem a little weird at first - as we don't tend to give much attention with our hands 'down there' in the West - but it is actually very therapeutic and greatly helps to empty our bowels. Needless to say, when doing Shankha Prakshalana with a group, it is essential to have several toilets available at once.
After two days of Shankha Prakshalana, next was Kunjal Kriya a.k.a. vomiting. Again the warm salt water - with a little less salt - this time to purify our 'upper mouth.' Facing South.....we all lined up and.... BLAK! 2 days of Kunjal Kriya. As Gita Meta says, something to the affect, in Karma Cola, excretion is a social and communal activity in India - just like bathing and eating. Our group has certainly bonded this week.
With the little free time in between classes, I have also managed to begin some other studies... Emily and I are learning to play the Harmonium with Mandakni. Jai Ma!! I'm beginning to teach myself Hindi, learning the Devanagari Script. I'm even studying and reciting the Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit with the local 'Babaji.' While also finding time to read from the incredible selection from the ashram library... Yes ashram life is sweet, like nectar. Sundays are our one free days, so I will try and write more next week! Hopefully these mosquitoes don't eat me alive first...