Rishikesh: Lessons of Yoga, Lessons of Self

“I am still not sure what set it off, but I got it into my head that this course will instill in me a discipline, a deeper love and understanding of yoga, far beyond what I may think I need.”

I wrote this very line in my previous post.

To think that it has been more than a month and I am now back home in my comfortable, familiar surroundings seems almost unreal. And to think that those words I wrote then have rung true in so many ways now is beyond my wildest expectations.

Landing in India on my own, I took the chance to take in part of Delhi (even if it was just for half a day); its myriad of people, incessant honking, très amazing food, nonchalant holy cows, extraordinary colours and everything in between seemed oddly familiar.

Maybe it was all those Indian movies I watched growing up. Maybe “The Motherland” decided to take it easy on me and let me be. Or maybe, I will never know why it was all so familiar.

As I walked about in the heat of Paharganj, perusing scores of shops tempting me to part with my rupees, I was accosted by two men on either end of the same street trying their level best to be my new best friend/tour guide.

Escaping them meant I had to walk in the opposite direction of wherever they came from. In hindsight, their presence was a blessing as my aimless escape routes led me to a temple which turned out to be the Ramakrishna Mission.

The grounds were made up of beautiful gardens, a library, auditoriums, a little shop and a most peaceful looking temple. It seemed like another world from what was just outside the gates – natural, inviting, full of warmth and safe.

I was missing my mother and home at the time, and it was just the place for me.

Temple of Sri Ramakrishna DelhiThe lovely Temple of Sri Ramakrishna in Delhi

I wandered into the lovely temple, to enjoy the peace and stillness. I thought about what I was about to embark on – what it meant to be here in India for the first time, to commit to yoga for an entire month, to be away from all that is comfortable and known.

The stillness and divinity I felt within was all I needed to feel blessed; it felt right to be there and I felt worthy of the journey I was on.

I was off to Rishikesh the next day with a bunch of women who had their own stories and reasons for coming to India and experiencing this yogic path. And what a fantastic bunch they turned out to be!

Just as I was assimilating to life with them in the “Yoga Capital of The World”, I found myself heading back home with a yoga teacher certificate in hand, life-long friendships made and a whole lot of lessons learnt – both on and off the yoga mat.

I learned that yoga is truly a path I love

There was a lot of fear and doubt about my relationship with yoga. I realised that all this time, I was merely complicating something that didn’t need complicating. Yoga is simple – yoga is about oneness, yoga is about the self.

I may be a certified yoga teacher now, but I will always remain a student of yoga for life. And that, in all honesty, is all that I truly need to embrace and love.

I learned that grace, compassion and love can co-exist with strength and resilience

My Wonderful GirlsIreland, America, Australia, London and Malaysia represented. What a beautiful bunch!

There were moments during my training that I had broken down completely, both physically and spiritually. Luckily for me, I was surrounded by some of the strongest and nurturing women I have ever met.

Their strength, compassion and sheer spirit got me through days when I thought I just wasn’t good enough. They were always there for me and we were there for each other. For that, I will always be grateful to them.

I learned to be in the moment

It’s only natural to think about things that may or may not happen in the future. Having just quit my job before coming to India, I kept thinking about what I was going to do once my training was over.

It became a distraction.

I realised that it did not serve me to keep thinking about something I could not control. And so, I allowed my thoughts to pass and focused on what was right in front of me – yoga, new friends, good food and more yoga.

It was liberating to be in the moment. I experienced everything on a much deeper level and I saw things with so much clarity that I wondered why I hadn’t done it sooner. Well, now I know.

I learned the importance of being vulnerable

It’s never easy to be emotional in front of people you’ve only known for a week or two. But that’s what we all ended up doing at various points of our time there. The training can be so taxing on our bodies, mind and spirit that we forget the need to break down and just let it go.

In no way was I made to feel lesser of a person because of that. If anything, I felt empowered, supported and loved. Once again, this was all down to those amazing women and yoga.

Yoga Quote @redbohemiaThe journey to the self is ever present

I learned how to embrace my flaws and imperfections

I came to the training with subpar fitness and zero confidence, in terms of yoga. I had no idea how I was going to perform my asanas (yoga poses) day in, day out.

It was hard at first. But little by little, I made in-roads into my self-doubt and turned them into small victories; I understood what it meant to celebrate those small victories.

Yes, there were days when I was brought crashing back down to earth by the smallest of impossible movements (cue emotions and supportive hugs). I had to learn to be ok with that, to embrace my imperfections and flaws, to let go of the ego.

As one of my yoga teachers once said to me, “You are perfect in your imperfections.” Her words could not have been more true at the time (thank you, Iris!)

Heading to India for the first time and studying yoga in Rishikesh will remain one of the most enriching, powerful and heartfelt moments of my life.

I will always be grateful to Rishikesh and its people, the wonderful women I studied and shared so much with, the troubled times we all went through, the cows I came across the roads, the lorries that hurtled past me, the lovely kitchen staff that fed us well and my yoga teachers for imparting the knowledge of yoga and its philosophy to me.

They have all taught me how to be, how not to be and how to live a life worthy of my true self.



10 thoughts on “Rishikesh: Lessons of Yoga, Lessons of Self

    1. It definitely has. India has left quite the mark on me, even if I only spent most of my time in one place. I hope to return to discover more of India one day.


  1. Hi Kavitha, I found your blog! I still remember what you had said at our meetup a few weeks ago that we don’t have to touch our toes all the time when we do yoga. Each time I do some stretching exercises in the gym, your words come to my mind 🙂 Cheers.


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