5:10am and my alarm goes off, I snooze it for 10 minutes before finally rolling myself out of bed and into the bathroom. I wash the sleep out of my face with cold water, brush my teeth and put on my yoga pants.
For those who want it there is ginger tea at 5:30am, for those who want an extra 15 minutes in bed you can skip the tea and just go straight to class at 5:45am (this an increasingly popular option as the course goes on; sleep is precious!).
First lesson is Hatha yoga, the perfect way to wake up the body and start the day. The stiffness quickly melts away and the sun salutations become smoother and more fluid. We move into a strength building sequence, working on our shoulders and upper back, asana follows asana and before I know it we are in savasana and its 7:15am- time for refreshment and a bathroom break.
7:30 – 8:30 am is Pranayama, we’ve focused our bodies, now it’s time to focus our breath and balance our energy. The first half of the lesson is studying a new technique and the second half is putting that new knowledge into practice. Most of our group of 17 people have never done pranayama like this before so it’s great to all be learning together.
My tummy is rumbling as we chant our food mantra before queuing up for breakfast, I’ve been up 3 hours already! Every day breakfast is different but always an amazing selection of fresh fruits alongside something a little more traditional for India, this morning it’s onion paratha and here just enough for a second helping too!
Some of the group sit and chat over a cup of sweet chai, others head off into town for some retail therapy in Laxman Jhula where trinkets, handmade jewellery and colourful clothing adorn the shop fronts. I head to my room for a shower and then to read my book in the hammock that’s hanging from the mango trees in the garden of the school.
The time flies past and suddenly it’s 10:30 am and lesson time again. The first week, in this middle set of lessons we had teaching methodology followed by mantra chanting but these have now been replaced with anatomy followed by alignment and adjustment as there is a lot to fit in. The range of topics on the course is amazing, it’s hard to keep up sometimes but I’m taking notes along the way.
A welcome tea break between classes also gives us a change to stretch our legs. You get used to sitting cross legged on the floor but it’s good to get the blood flowing again! The heat is building and by the end of our alignment and adjustment session we are all melting again! You soon give up trying to stay refreshed as you realise everyone is in the same boat!
Lunch at 1pm is another buffet spread of tasty dishes. Rishikesh is a holy town so no meat (or alcohol) is available meaning that lentils, curried vegetables and rice are a staple but always with a slightly different twist and served with a colourful salad and fresh roti breads.
With a full belly and feeling the afternoon heat I fight the urge to have a nap and instead go for a walk and a change of scene with some of my fellow students; we end up in a local cafe, watching the Ganga and indulging on treats like iced coffees and mango lassies!
The clock rolls on to 3 pm and again we take our places on the classroom floor for yoga philosophy. This was one of the subjects that I had no idea what it would entail and I’m getting ever engrossed in it. The ancient Sanskrit texts that explain the true meaning of ‘yoga’ are so enlightening. This subject has been a real eye opener for me and has helped me understand so much more of the workings of my own mind and what I want out of the whole course.
A 15 minute break after philosophy gives enough time for a quick glass of sweet rhododendron juice and a chance to get back into my yoga clothes before Ashtanga Vinyasa. Our amazing teacher Prashant instructs us like an army of yogis, giving us firm instructions to keep us in sync and ensuring we are pushing ourselves to the maximum. It’s a tough, non-stop class and we are all making pools of sweat on our mats by the end of the 1 hour 45 minute hour class but my god, it feels amazing!
The day’s classes are closed with meditation. As with pranayama we work our way through a variety of different techniques and styles of mediation, each person starting to find out what works for them. For me its trataka, (concentration on one point or a candle flame specifically) that I find a connection with. Be sure to put mosquito repellent cream in before mediation class though as when dusk settles and you are sat peacefully you become a prime target for biting and these distractions can really test your commitment to the mediation!
7:30 pm and finally its dinner time, the whole group gathers in the dining area for one last chanting of the food mantra for the day and over dinner we share conversations of our experiences and feelings that arose from today’s learning. Sometimes it’s a buzzing atmosphere, other times more subdued but always with enthusiasm for the journey that we are all on, individually and together.
My second shower of the day days gets me ready for bed and I have an hour or so to read through some of my notes from today and make sure my alarm is set for the next morning before I can’t fight sleep any longer and I drift off.
Eat, Sleep, Yogi, Repeat…
Written by Sophie Stuttard
Student at Rishikul Yogshala, 200 hr YTTC