Yoga, Quiet, & My Place In It

Beginnings of a month-long advanced teacher training in the peace and wilds of southern India

It’s week two of a month long intensive advanced yoga teacher training in rural India, an hour outside of Mysore, at a 20 acre eco ashram on a river. I am asking myself: What do I want if not this one moment, this enviable moment?

What moment: I am sitting on a Western toilet, a luxurious reprieve from the usual Indian pit toilet crouch in the big tile bathroom of this two-bed cottage room I share with a woman from San Francisco who quit her engineering career and sold everything to travel Asia.

The bathroom is also the shower, so we are equipped with a giant, broom-sized squeegy to help half-dry every uneven wet surface post shower. Half-effective, we know not to walk in blindly with socks on.

I arrived from Mysore to AyurYoga Eco Ashram by taxi, shared with two other students, a bald sarcastic Brit (redundant?) and a smiley Malaysian woman who, turns out, likes to hug as much as I do. The Brit slept off a Bangalore party night while the woman and I got to know each other in the back seat, taking breaks to quietly watch the green leafy countryside pass. The cow traffic thinned in proportion to our distance from Mysore, and the silence settled on me.

A man met us at the entrance, led us to the open air dining room and served us tea while he made copies of our passports. He showed us each to our rooms and left us to settle till dinner.

Ah, the food. Twice a day, kind-eyed staff fill the compartments of our pizza-size round metal trays with warm ciapattis, flavor bomb curries, rich daals, and raw “salad,” which here means cucumber and carrot cut in different shapes each meal (greens don’t grow so abundantly in the south of India). I’m trying not to let eating be my favorite part of the day, but I have, no hyperbole, never felt so much pure joy in my mouth. And after our 2 1/2 hour yoga practices, meal times are a particular delight.

The morning after my first night’s ashram sleep I walked out of the room to a mist in what feels like jungle, fields of big leaves and chirps of strong birds. I can see the river to the left of my porch, so wide it looks to be barely moving. A crocodile lives in the river, a mythic being that proved real during yesterday morning’s practice. Our teacher spotted it mid-pose and called us over to the semi-open, window-walled studio’s edge by the river to prove to us the legend’s reality. I saw the slow angles of an ancient body moving upstream.

The Australian in my class said fresh water crocs are a joke, though, so I went swimming yesterday. Consensus is it feeds in the morning and at night, so even if it wanted human, an afternoon swim is safe-ish. I was so in need of some body movement beyond a stretch or a backbend that the risk felt worth it, though I’m not sure I’ll brave it again after seeing the thing IRL.

The first day we sat for a puja ceremony in what would become our main classroom, a round, maroon-floored, light-filled hall with a view of both sunrise and sunset. Then orientation, facilitated by the owner of the ashram, bright eyes behind rimless glasses. I’ve never seen shirts as white, as new, as those of our teachers. I wonder if we’ll see them wear and lose their starchiness over the course of the month, in proportion to our development on the yogic path.

The teachers passed out bags of books and neti pots, and let us choose from a stack of colorful cloth yoga mats that would see