I first became interested in a trip to India because of my love of yoga practice and all things related. Having convinced my husband to take the trip for our honeymoon, our focus for the trip was as much for relaxation and a holiday as much as it was to experience the culture. I have never been overly drawn to practicing in the widely known yoga studios of the East for fear of being surrounded by Western people practicing under Western teachers in an Eastern studio. Instead we wanted to get out and immerse ourselves in Indian culture as much as you can on a 2 week trip.
Since it was our first trip to India, we chose Rajasthan due to its reputation as being authentic India with its diverse mix of people and way of life. We were not disappointed. It has the added bonus of being relatively safe and with good communication links, something our families at home were pleased about.
Touching down in New Delhi we were hugely surprised by the modernness of it all – a slick airport with fast service. Out on the roads of New Delhi the avenues were wide , the pavements tree lined and nonchalant attitude to driving ensued. The first place we went to was the biggest Mosque in India, Jama Masjid (Hinduism is the most popular religion in Delhi but Muslims account for 13%). We were helpfully given robes for coverage of all limbs and slippers for clean footwear we toured the mosque taking in little prayer being done but a lot of idling, chatting, sleeping (the mosque is a free and clean place for the muslims of Delhi to socialise). We then headed to the Red Fort before heading to a famous colonial imperial hotel to sample our first authentic Indian food.
I had time for a little balcony yoga practice – some pranyana , uddiyana kriya and nauli, some slow sun salute variations and sirsasana. Filled with elation from headstand we headed out for our first Dhali, an Indian meal with a tapas like selection of the chefs specialities.
The next morning we were up at 5 for our gudied tour of the Taj with Gupta. Gupta, a Hindu, was quick to explain why the Taj is sacred in so many religions. It is a monument to love and as Rumi says “be certain that in the religion of Love there are no believers and unbelievers, love embraces all”. The Taj was mesmerising, it has an etherial, still quality that is really hard to put into words.
The next day we travelled to Jaipur, a beautiful hub of textile and jewels. The next day there was time for a little more yoga practice in a lovely scenic and tranquil courtyard I found unoccupied round the back of our hotel. Ali was a very obliging cameraman as always ;-).
Our hotel was amazing, nestled right underneath the fort moments away form the bustling market. Here we did a bit of shopping, indulging in some rugs, throws, wall hangings and art. A lot of Indian people love to take photos of you, especially with their children/babies. Who were we to say no to their cute wee faces and matching sunglasses. We then commenced the full day drive to Udaipur, possibly our favourite stop of the trip. Udaipur is built around manmade lakes, making it so romantic and the perfect last stop on our tour of Rajesthan.
Our trip to India was amazing, I can’t wait to go back to visit some other areas – I don’t think you could take the whole country in in this lifetime. During the trip I was lucky enough to chat to many locals and local yoga teachers on their views on yoga. To them the yoga we practice in the West is unrecognisable. The yoga they practice is part of daily life, part of showing their devotion to their religion and their gods. Most of the yoga we have in the West has become separated from religion, mainly I think to attract and encompass all. That in itself is a good thing, however we must not forget the roots of the teachings and honour them if we wish to call the practice yoga. The other thing that came out was the focus in the West of yoga as a physical exercise. Yes there is Asana as part of the 8 limbs of yoga but it only makes up 1 small part. If we are to call ourselves yoga practitioners there must be more to it. I do think though, that if you like yoga for its physical and mental benefits and these are serving you adequately – that’s fine if you are happy to accept that what you are practising is not traditional yoga. Perhaps our modern yoga should have a different name. Time moves on and clearly the expectation to practice as a hindu or in a religious way is not appropriate for everyone. Indeed full yoga practice encompassing all 8 limbs will not be taken on in the majority. What we do know is that breathing, stretching and moving with intention is of benefit to everyone. Perhaps sitting cross legged indian style should not be expected of someone who has never sat this way because of social conditioning – why would it come easy for them. There are other postures though that can benefit this person greatly. The western definition of yoga is any practice that unites body and mind. It would seem then, that our practice is valid yoga – in our own definition. Perhaps we should honour the ancient practice by calling it something else. What’s in a name anyway.