The Road Back Home in Mother India

By: Emilia Arenas

About to finish 2017, a miracle of a year for me, with all the good and the not so good every year has to bring. I feel lucky to end this year in magical and intense Mother India. In Gokulam, the neighborhood that becomes home to hundreds of Yoga students and teachers who gather to practice at the source of Ashtanga Yoga and under the supervision of Sharath Jois, the head of this amazing system. 

Mother India being intense in colors, smells, tastes, and as intense as Indian people’s eyes, shows its magic as you never go back home being the same person. It’s the quiet place where you walk in the middle of the night to go practice, in the “Main Shala” as they call it, where you have the chance to practice with people from all over the world.

As you enter the shala people are waiting to be called to start their practice after others finish backbends. Sharath is there for all of us… he remembers when his students need help during their practice. Even though we all take this practice very seriously he seems to enjoy every single moment of it. He reminds me of a little boy playing with his beloved new toy trying to put together parts of a puzzle. He assists his students so mindfully, so present. His vast knowledge shows in the way he teaches, he doesn’t talk much and his instructions are always very short, his adjustments strong and always precise. A simple man, young and very humble. Being the head of Ashtanga Yoga, Sharath teaches from his heart.

I have been here during different stages of my life. The first time being single and just wanting to practice with the Teacher, the second one preparing to be a teacher, and the third and fourth already teaching a Mysore program at the beautiful MLC. Every single trip has its own charm, but these last ones have moved me to the core, as student and teacher. I’ve come to realize the responsibility of the yoga teacher. Being around yogis from all over the world, some of them very kind, some of them not so much, I can see that the practice needs to be done with the heart and that devotion towards something greater to us is crucial at the moment of practice and teaching. 

Coming here for the fourth time to India, has been an opportunity to observe what a real teacher is, and why I love so much my own teachers back home. Being part of this lineage is such a privilege and being a link in the chain of Ashtanga Yoga teachers is the most beautiful gift.

Being here has also shown me more than ever that this is a challenging practice not only physically but also emotionally. It shows you how the mind works and it gives us a glimpse into how the ego manifests in the form of different feelings and sensations like frustration, fear, and sadness or power and courage. Being in Mysore has been an opportunity to observe myself. Ive learned from the way Sharath carries himself as a teacher and as a yogi, and from observing other practitioners, as we all contain a bit of each other within us. So there is no room for judgments but for a loving observation that will eventually lead to change. 

With all this extra “free time” (if there is something like that when you travel with your little 6 years old princess), I have had the chance to be more present with myself, since I don’t have to run to the next class or pick up my little one somewhere. Some days I have found myself sad somehow, or extremely happy or grateful, or even mad; feelings that sometimes I don’t have the chance to even see when I am back home.

I’ve understood once again why I still practice yoga. It is so simple but being here I have had the opportunity to really see myself and realize how much work needs to be done if I want to find inner peace, and ultimately happiness. They say happiness is the road and not the goal, but now I feel happiness is something that you need to work on every single day. It comes from being mindful, it doesn’t come from grace. Just like a couple needs to work on their marriage, the relationship with ourselves needs to be worked on constantly, with compassionate observation. It’s the key that leads to peace and happiness.  

And yes I came up with all this during my current trip to Mother India. I guess years and years of practicing asana does something that becomes more tangible when we have the time to actually see it. The concepts and ideas, the stories read in books become personal experiences. Traveling to mother India, going so far from home, has shown me that being home I have been so far from myself, and that being so far from home I have been able to become more in touch with myself. 

I don’t know how long this is going to last when I go back home, but either way I am forever grateful to this practice that has taken me to this magical place, where time seems to stop to give you the gift of finding a slower pace, to enjoy every single moment. 

The wondering cow, walking so slowly, the playful dogs, the woman walking in her beautiful saree, the crazy traffic with scooters that carry a whole family and maybe their dog as well; The negotiation with rickshaw drivers, the Indian girls trying to take a selfie with you, because you are a rare animal here, and all those moments are just part of a simple day here in India.  

And still all these external experiences being so exotic to us, are just like the flowers in the garden that decorate a symphony of deep experiences and realizations that happen inside the house of our own selves as we touch this land, the land of Intense Mother India.  


3 Responses

  1. Swaroop Kagli says:

    Being away from home, I am happy to read your kind words about my home. Peace.

  2. Luzita says:

    Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  3. Bodhi says:

    It’s really a magical country, full of surprises. For the first time traveler to India, it’s like a cultural shock. But slowly as they become familiar about it, perception starts to change. India is full of surprises and contradictions. Still beautifully maintains mysterious balance.

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