Rishikesh is known as the world’s capital of yoga. It’s a holy city, so there is no meat or alcohol served in restaurants or markets. Monkeys and cows freely roam the streets.
Right now it is 9am and 95 degrees. I am sweating my way through the fourth and final week of yoga teacher training at Rishikul Yogashala, and a monkey just walked past my balcony window. I am exhausted and overheated, but absolutely loving every minute.
Let’s run though a typical day:
5:30 | 82 degrees | WAKE UP
Just as the sun barely peeks over the horizon, you shimmy into your lululemons and brush your teeth. You sleepily descend the ashram stairs for a glass of tea with honey in the courtyard and inhale your first breath of the day. Invariably, it is the intoxicating aroma of burning trash and cow shit.
Buenos diaz, hombres!
If you’re still having trouble waking up, may I suggest clearing things up with the good ole neti pot? We kicked one morning off with a vigorating Jala Neti group sesh:
6:00 | 84 degrees | HATHA YOGA
For the next 90 minutes, a sprightly Indian with a handle bar mustache and man-bun will make you hold decievingly easy poses for ungodly amounts of time. You’ll feel muscles flex and cramp that you didn’t know you had. You quickly realize what a mental game yoga is, and once you conquer that connection you’ll feel strong as hell. Your body and your mind will gain flexibility and endurance. You’ll be impressed to see the changes happen so quickly.
7:45 | 91 degrees | PRANAYAMA
Pranayama is the process of controlling the breath, which is a significant portion of the practice. You’re lucky to have an OG of the subject as your instructor: Prana-Ji. He has a white beard and often wraps a white cloth around his head during class. Prana-Ji sees something in you that you don’t see, and you don’t ask questions when he gives you instructions. You sit in a semi-circle with your classmates and breath quickly then slowly, through the right nostril and then through the left. Rinse and repeat. You get a little light headed, but are told that this is a good thing. At the end of class you somehow feel both energized and relaxed. You chant a few oms and bid “Namaste” to Prana-Ji until tomorrow.
9:00 | 95 degrees | BREAKFAST
Since you’ve been up for about 4 hours, by this time you are famished. Your tummy was hella active during pranayama, so you’re very much looking forward to the meal ahead.
After you finish singing the meal prayer, you line up and serve yourself porridge, a savory starch (possibly chopped noodles, polenta, potatoes or tapioca), and fresh fruit with a tall glass of chai tea.
10:30 | 102 degrees | MANTRA CHANTING or ALIGNMENT
Your vocal chords are getting way more action than your standard singing-in-the-shower routine back home. You sing-chant “om” and a Sanskrit prayer three times to start and end each class – typically with a “om shanti, shanti, shanti” sprinkled in (shanti = peace). That’s a minimum quota of 30 oms per day. But for now, you need to channel your inner Sascha Fierce as the spotlight turns on you to lead the class in a Sanskrit mantra. (Because you totally speak that language) Sing, mama. SIIING!
If it’s alignment class, you’ll watch a classmate pretzel up to get prodded and pulled into correct position. The rest of us are instructed to stare at his/her butt to scrutinize the positioning of their hips. It’s a bonding experience. When it’s your turn to demo, your teacher will nudge his foot into your left hip joint while pulling your right shoulder with a belt so you can lock in on that triangle pose. You have no choice but to obey.
11:45 | 104 degrees | YOGA PHILOSOPHY
The heat is creeping up to its apex, which means it’s clearly the best time for a mind-fuck. Enter yoga philosophy! I actually really enjoyed this class as challenging it was to concentrate as beads of sweat traveled down unmentionable crevices. For the next hour, you dismantle Patanjali’s (OG) Yoga Sutras that poetically break down yoga and propose the mindful lessons that arise from its practice. You will also doodle a lot.
13:00 | 106 degrees | LUNCH and REST
Time to fuel up again, but this time on rice, curry and veggies. After lunch, you savor an hour of down time before the day picks back up. A nap is advised at this time.
15:00 | 104 degrees | ANATOMY
In anatomy class you’ll learn about the finer points of the nasal cavity and the respiratory system. Your mind will flash back to those units in your AP Bio class that you’ve since forgotten. You’ll momentarily curse your long-term memory before relinquishing the negative thought because you are zen as fuck and are practicing non-attachment.
16:15 | 100 degrees | ASHTANGA YOGA
After all this sitting on the floor, your hips are wailing for some dynamic movement. Lucky you – it’s time for ASHTANGA! At the end of the next 90 minutes, you’ll be dripping in sweat from the countless chaturangas, downward dogs, forward bends and side extension poses you’ll twerk out even despite the 100 degree heat. You didn’t realize your forehead could reach your knees, but they will soon become close friends: you’ll use your knees constantly to wipe the sweat off your brow as the two meet while in standing forward bends during vinyasas. As thoughts of “WTF am I doing to myself” subside, you’ll seamlessly slip into a medatative rhythm as your breath syncs with your movements. This feels like the quickest class of the day.
18:15 | 92 degrees | MEDITATION
Just as quickly as you dialed it up, now it’s time to hit the breaks and dial it way, way down. You’ll spend the next hour either staring at a candle, channeling lunar energy, or in a conscious sleep state from Yoga Nidra. You’re exhausted, so it takes all your remaining energy (lunar, solar, Martian, Plutonian…) to stay awake during practice. When you succeed in doing so, you’ll reach a happy-hearted stupor. You’ll wonder if it’s merely dehydration or because you drank too much of the Kool-Aid. You want to bathe in this Kool-Aid.
19:30 | 86 degrees | DINNER
Every night you debate between having dinner or going straight to bed, but your stomach always wins the battle. You chant the meal mantra for the final time of the day and ladle out iterations of lunch’s provisions onto a plastic plate. If you’re craving something sweet, you pour more honey in your tea or sneak out for an ice cream.
22:00 | 82 degrees | LIGHTS OUT
You take a cold shower and lie in bed with the fan on, your body aching. You think about the homies back home just now waking up to start their days, and how totally different yours has been. Feeling accomplished and happy-hearted, you set your alarm for 5:25am to do it all over again tomorrow.
Physically and mentally it’s been a rewarding but tough month. The heat did a number on our group and we’ve all succumbed to iterations of the dreaded Delhi Belly. Four of my classmates had to go to the hospital. I’ve often wondered how the experience would be different had my primary concern not been hydration. But, as memories of the sweat and general stank subside, I’m left with an immense feeling of gratitude and pride. We fucking did it y’all! Hari om!
For more information on the 200 hour teacher training at Rishikul Yogashala, head here. If you have any questions, please send ’em my way! 🙂