It was 7:45am and our 1 & 3/4 hour yoga practice was coming to a close. Having been silent since 9pm the night before, we prepared for our first public sound in almost 11 hours. Led by Yogi Vishvketu, we breathed in deeply and exhaled a beautiful ohm. We did it a second time – in, out. And then, with our third slow inhale complete, just as we were ready for our final ohm, a cow outside expressed it for us. Yes the moo of a cow actually sounds surprisingly like ohm. The entire class broke into laughter.
This little story sums up my experience at Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram in Rishikesh, India. There was the physical challenge of 3 & 1/2 hours of yoga each day, spiritual relaxation through silence and meditation, and laughter. Beyond the laughter yoga that was part of many classes, there was the laughter of friends sharing meals at the Ashram, chai masala at tea rooms, and excursions in the town and Himalayan foothills.
The Ashram routine.
The day starts early at the Ashram. Rising at 5:15am I would make my way to the yoga studio by 5:45 – time enough to relax and meditate before class began at 6. The class runs until 7:45 which provides 15 minutes, just enough time to get your dishes from your room and go to the dining hall for breakfast. After breakfast there is a fire puja for about a half hour. Then, free time until lunch and free time again until 4pm when there is another 1 & 3/4 hour yoga class. Dinner at 6 and Kiirtan & Chanting on some evenings at 7. By 9 silence is observed until the next morning after breakfast.
Yes, the morning is completely silent. As the students move to the yoga class, get their dishes, have breakfast, no words are exchanged. Smiles, yes. But no words. It's surprisingly pleasant.
Time between classes is used for journaling, meditating and reading. Ashram life involves solitary pursuits within a communal context.
Adjusting to Ashram Life
I slipped into the pattern of Ashram life very easily. This was a surprise to me. I had never done anything like it. I have been self-employed forever with no one telling me what to do and when. I wondered if I could adjust to a pre-set schedule. But I did. And I welcomed the routine. I welcomed the early mornings (me?), the silence, the simple but satisfying food and three and half hours of yoga a day. The only real challenge was sitting cross-legged for meals. I had hoped, by the end of my stay, to make it through a complete meal without stretching my legs in front of me, but it just didn't happen.
Enjoying Rishikesh and surrounding area.
I probably didn't do as much reading, meditating and journaling at the Ashram as I should have because I was so taken with the surrounding area. Located in the foothills of the Himalayas, I teared up when I first saw this view from the rooftop patio of Anand Prakash. It is far more stunning than the picture above presents. But, more important than the view, I was in (or near) the Himalayas. I couldn't believe it!
If I'd had a second week at the Ashram, I'm sure I would have settled down to the more contemplative activities but there was the market to explore, the Rajiji National Park where I went on safari and saw an elephant in the wild, hiking nearby and many wonderful garden cafes where I relaxed and enjoyed chai masala.
The Ashram, Rishikesh, the mountains, the routine… I was taken with it all!