answering the call of adventure: how I ended up 15,000 KM's away from home in a South India ashram...

To have had asked me even a few months before I left, I would never have expected to say that I would be setting out for travel to India--especially not a 6 week trip to study yoga at an ashram but, in February of 2013 that's exactly what I did! And, as I have every year since then, when February draws near I am reminded of  this most profound adventure-- truly, a trip of a lifetime that took me geographically farther yet, emotionally and spiritually closer to myself, than ever before. 

This year as I reflect, I am so excited to have The Light Side as an outlet to share this journey. So excited, in fact, that after looking nostalgically through my travel keepsakes from India, I now find myself now sitting at my computer, in a saree, wearing my favourite bangles, sporting the prettiest, most-sparkliest bindi, while sipping a cup of chai and tapping my toes to the sound of Bollywood beats, feeling so happy and inspired to share about how this journey found me. 

...setting the scene to write in some of my favorite travel keepsakes from India 

So... why India? Well, it really all started with my return to Calgary in 2010. With a lot going going on in my world then, I embraced my yoga practice like never before. I felt more aligned with my path and my heart than ever before... My practice left me feeling inspired and connected. During this time, I had such gratitude and respect for the instructors that I was so lucky to have in my world; I would get lost in the ingenuity of their approach to teaching and the experience it left me with. "What a gift!", I thought. I was in awe of the ability of  instructors to create this connection and how they so meaningfully touched the lives of the practiontioners. How amazingly fulfilling and humbling it must be to resonate with another's Being the way that they do/ can. 

...this got me thinking about the other side of the yoga class experience--- that of the "experience creator", i.e. the yoga instructor. I began to wonder how instructors planned their classes and how they balanced and managed said plan with whatever energy showed up in their class that day....which, in my opinion, inevitably had to have an affect on things. I wondered how instructors determined what sequences became the sequences and how they pulled it all together with the perfect music and the insight... or, maybe the music and insight was the inspiration behind the sequences? I wondered about who taught who and where they might have studied? And, as I wondered these things, I began to realize and really appreciate the deeper level of knowledge of yoga, and the various components beyond just the asana's, that created such an epic, meaningful flow. 

I then wondered about different yoga experiences...what was the practice of yoga like in other cultures? How did they differ from what we know/ practice in the West? I yearned to understand more. 

I yearned. I pondered. I thought about these things constantly. When I am passionate about something, it has a way of consuming me- it will take over my thoughts and whatever it is becomes the obsessive topic that I drive my friends crazy with. Being a bit of a quirker though, I admit I am not the type that researches something to death to become the expert--no, no,no. I am more the obsess-about-it-and-leave-it-to-the-universe-type: I talk about it, ask all kinds of questions to myself about it and then just sort of stay open and trust that if what I seek seeks me, that it and I will be connected in due time.

I imagined different yoga experiences-- workshops, retreats, teaching programs; with an enchanted heart, I pictured myself on a wellness retreat in Bali--indulging in a daily yoga practice and enjoying a detoxifying diet and the amenities of a tranquil spa, or joining a studio-hosted group workshop and going to Mexico or Hawaii. And of course, given yoga's historical roots in India, I had wondered what it would be like to travel there-- it was like my own little "eat, pray love" adventure in my head.  To be honest though, the thought of India, at that time, was completely intimidating!! I hadn't done much traveling and, especially not alone; I was just so clueless about the geography and culture at this point that I struggled to picture myself there...So, in typical "me"-fashion, I planted my seeds and then resolved to be patient to see what would grow, prepared to embrace where this curiosity would take me. 

Over the next few months the (Divine) plan started coming together. I was cooped up at my favourite local spas one Sunday afternoon (during this time in my life, this was a common occurrence for me to hide away alone in quiet places among the calm...). It was busier than usual that day, so my post-massage steam felt a bit crowded. But, I was a seasoned-steamer and was all too familiar that most ladies would enjoy their few minutes of indulgence and would soon move along; I would invetibly have the place all to myself. Except, this time I seemed to be among a fellow seasoned-steamerette: the room cleared out, as predicted, except for her. I am normally a pretty outgoing person but I do take my spa (quiet) time pretty seriously and as such, try to talk as little as possible when I am there. So, when this gal started chatting to me, I admit that at first I wasn't as engaging as I normally would be when she said "hello". But, then to my surprise, she followed with "Urgh....That's way better- there are too many people in here today!" I laughed, appreciating that she "got it". We got to chatting and I rather enjoyed her. She, (we will call her "S"), was a petite and beautiful Indian woman, around my age, with a bubbly personality, new to Calgary from Toronto. We clicked almost instantly...she liked yoga, had a similar head for business as I and was curious about the best places to eat and shop in the city (two things I was very familiar with). Before I knew it, she and I had migrated from the steam shower to the spa lounge and ended up talking for hours. I know what you're thinking: what a meet-cute, right?! LOL! Well, yes it was. She and I exchanged numbers and planned to meet up the following week for brunch. 

The months following that, S and I spent quite a bit of time together; our friendship blossomed and I learned many wonderful things about the Indian culture as she shared about her family's heritage in South India and the yearly trip her and husband take there each year.

One night, after an invigorating (and always awesome) class at Santosha (I hope you don't mind the shout out Santosha, but you really are THE best studio I've been to in Calgary!!!), S and I were hanging out in her apartment when I shared with her my curiosities about yoga retreats and teacher training. To my delight, she was really excited about this and said that she also shared in my wonder! As we enjoyed our tea, together we considered the possibility of something like this in our worlds and we made a plan to seriously consider planning this adventure for ourselves, together. My heart flickered with joy as I realized my intention was taking shape.

As we imagined what this yoga adventure looked like and discussed timing, S suggested that we look into options for when she returned from her annual trip to India in a few months and <insert light bulb over my head!!> I had a eureka moment (which, usually includes some sort of high pitch squeal and overly-dramatic gasp!); I threw my hands up in the air and said S!! Why don't we look for something IN India?!?! You're going to be over there already--you and your husband can go on your trip, as planned, and we can piggyback on it... I'll meet you in India!"... And, in that moment I knew this wasn't just something I was curious about anymore: this was a divine wink that my curiousity was a product of my intended path. This was the universe presenting me with my opportunity: my opportunity which, coincidently (but not really a coincidence at all) happened to also relieve my fears about travelling alone to such a foreign place; I now had a friend, who was familiar with the culture and geography looking for the same things I was. 

Wasting no time, we go in touch with S's mom to help us pull the plan together; she spoke Hindi and was so familiar with the different regions that she was the obvious first call to make...And, having her Mama Bear instincts on our side as we set things in motion was a factor that I was so grateful for. As we did, S's mom wanted us to have a safe a reputable place to stay and thus was an integral part in helping us research, making countless calls on our behalf to ashrams all over the country. Later, after weighing many options we decided on the Sivaysoorya Divine School of Yoga in Kerela (South India). Within just a few short weeks of that night we had our apres-yoga tea time brainstorming session, there we were: flights booked, spots held at the ashram and the "omergahhhh-this-is-really-happening" high. S was set to leave three weeks before me and I was to meet her at the ashram where, together, we'd embark upon this 6 week, 200 hour yoga teacher training adventure into the unknown. 

I've never felt so daring before- I was thrilled! I remember after booking my flights, I paused... and cried... as I reflected and appreciated just how wonderfully this all came together. How all the pieces just seemingly fell into place... How two girls, otherwise strangers, who met at a spa one day were exactly what each other needed at the time and how their mutual curiosity and love of yoga forever changed their path... I believed then and, still do today, that there was something bigger at play here; I delighted in the guidance I was given, the certainty that we were two girls whose paths were definitely meant to cross and how thrillingly brave I felt answering the call of adventure when it rang it me up! 

Stay tuned for more of my adventures in India where I'll talk about the day in the life of a yogi and share what a typical day in the ashram was like, my trip to the foot of India--Kanyakumari,  my solo adventures in Bangalore and my most-favourite day: feeding, bathing and riding elephants at the elephant sanctuary!