I am the princess of expectations. It's so cute. I tend to expect a lot out of things I know nothing about and traveling to India is a great example. I had fantasized about this trip for months, we both did. Except, when it comes to travel, and life, in general, Hailey has more sensible and realistic notions of how things might be. For example, she figured we'd land in India and follow the airport signs down to baggage claim and go to our hotel. Me? I fully expected to be greeted off the plane by THIS guy, which we were not.
Anyway, I knew this trip was going to be spectacular. No question. I read our detailed itinerary aloud so many times, to so many people, some, imaginary. Hailey and I gushed over each day's plan with awe, excitement and sometimes total disbelief. We looked forward to the colors, the culture, the people and especially...the Yoga.
I had just finished Yoga Teacher Training, so traveling to the birthplace of this
trendy sacred practice was totally wild and exhilarating to me. I knew we were going to visit an Ashram and I'd argue this was what I was looking forward to the most. I don't know if you know this about me, but I've always been a soul in search of answers. I've always looked for ways to forge meaning and build identity. It's hard to do this in Los Angeles, but India? That place INVENTED meaning and meditation and spirituality and the answers to life's questions. India is where epiphanies are born. Right?! Okay.
Halfway through our trip we arrived in Jaipur, known has "The Pink City", mostly because all the buildings are pink. We awoke early one morning and headed to the Ashram for a tour and some Yoga and maybe a husband, a spiritual awakening and some Mala Beads for me. But I tried not to have too many expectations. At the very least, I expected we'd pull up to one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen; like, similar to the Taj Mahal, with fountains and marble floors and lush green plants and bright colors everywhere and birds chirping and people praying, and holy people greeting us, all dressed in white, playing the guitar and serenading us with, "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing"... you know, spiritual sh*t.
Here are some
delusions visions I had about our ashram experience, prior to going...
In reality, we arrived at an old building, like a not-as-tall Tower of Terror at Disneyland...but in a good way, well, never mind. BUT we were indeed greeted by a man all dressed in white! Perfect, I thought to myself. This guy knows what's up. He's obviously evolved. He'll tell me the answers to life. Haha! I crack myself up writing this. We made our way up the concrete steps into a large room with lots of windows. With the exception of the floor being padded and covered with large white sheets, it reminded me of Hebrew School; old classroom, pastel colored walls, weird smell, (which is why I hated Hebrew School) and posters in a different language hung on the walls. The young man dressed in white made his way to the front of the room and began, um, teaching us "Yoga"...
*Let me just say this: I am totally aware of how we've 'Westerized" Yoga. I know that Yoga, at least in Southern California, is marketed as a workout and not necessarily as a meditation practice. We've butchered it. I get it. But I don't care. I like my Chaturangas and my Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation) A and Sun B flows. I like my "inhale this, exhale that" and my Warrior II's. I like my Bakasanas and I LOVE my headstands*
Okay, so, the thirty year-old Guru all, dressed in white, --we'll call him "Bandhu"-- began cuing us to "Bread in....Bread Oooooouuuuut" (translation: Breathe in...breathe out.") So we breaded for about
forty-five two minutes and I felt lightheaded. Then we stood up and did some jumping jacks. You heard me. Jumping Jacks..in Yoga. (Again, keep in mind, I am of the species that pays $150/month to drive to a Yoga studio. We don't do Jumping Jacks. We set intentions for class and tighten our core and flow, breath to movement. Call me a princess if you like, but this is what I know). Okay, back to the ashram...
So after we did the
Jumping Jack-Jazzercise routine Yoga, we made our way to the grass courtyard for a tour and a demonstration of various ancient "health" practices performed there. By then, the head honcho lady joined us and began to narrate, as "Bandhu" started chugging a pitcher of water at an alarming rate. She explained that this is an ancient practice called "Kunjal". Kunjal is performed by drinking tepid, salty water up to the point where you feel like vomiting. The water should be lukewarm, and contain about one or two teaspoons of salt for half a liter of water. At least six glasses of water should be drunk, but if you can, drink more -up to the point where you cannot take even one more sip. At this point you may vomit automatically, if not, then put two fingers down your throat and massage the back of your tongue as far down as possible. By pressing it you will feel the urge to vomit, which is called the 'gag reflex' in medical terminology. Water will come out of your mouth in a quick series of gushes. And you continue pressing until your stomach is empty. Of course, we don't call it Kunjal in our country. We call this Bulimia. Eh, tomayto, tomahto.
After that show, we were ushered into a tiny room where all the "medical" procedures took place. This room was equip with a shower stall, a physicians table and...a steam cabinet.
The woman came up to me as I was observing this contraption and, in broken English, said, "this would be good for YOU. It's good for fat." Then she walked away. So sweet.
The bottom line is this: I was under the impression that Yoga in India would "deepen" my practice and make me a better Dancer, Tree, Eagle, Frog, Warrior, which it did not. On the bright side, I'm better at jumping jacks, I'm inspired to keep water in my body after I drink it, and I learned I don't want to be locked and slow-cooked in a tiny refrigerator. Perhaps that is all the epiphany I needed.