Meditative Mountains: Learning Yoga and Meditation in India

Asia, Fitness & Workouts, India, Spiritual Travel, Studying Abroad — By on May 3, 2011 at 12:00 pm

by Melissa Bressler
Special to Lost Girls World

“There is definitely a mosquito on my leg,” I think to myself. “Yup, definitely there, and definitely biting me through my pants. Can I kill it? Total yoga failure if I kill it, right? There’s no way mosquito warfare is cool mid-meditation session. Resist, Melissa. Meditate on brownies if you have to, just don’t move.”

Oh, the torture of being a yogi-in-training in her first week. In my over-active imagination, taking yoga courses during my study abroad in India would mean chilling out in the lotus position while visualizing the spirit of the universe. This, of course, was before I knew about the five a.m. wake-up time, the three-mile bike ride to the yoga center and the little monkey-like man who kicks misplaced calves and yells across the studio, “Correct yourself!”

In the course of my four-month yoga teaching certification program, I have been poked, prodded, twisted, pulled, dropped and left alone with the same uncontrollable imagination that got me into this mess. Not once has anyone mentioned the spirit of the universe. Instead, Poppa Ohms, my affectionately nicknamed guru, inflicts us with self-guided meditation, during which twitching, normal breathing and, sadly, thoughts about brownies are all outlawed. In other words, it’s my personal hell. An intense devotion to my gym’s cardio loft prepared me pretty well for twenty rounds of Sun Salutation followed by twenty five rounds of Basket Pose, otherwise known as “death squats,” but nothing in my fitness arsenal prepared me to be left alone with my own head.

“Melissa you must concentrate,” Poppa Ohms says, his booming voice coming from somewhere in front of my yoga mat. He doesn’t understand that I am concentrating…on the paper I have to write for my lit class and the odds of having French toast for breakfast and the fact that I haven’t e-mailed my over-anxious mother in a week and a half. Successful meditation is, for me, the Himalayan Mountain in the middle of my yogi progress. I know it is good for me, it will relieve my near constant stress and join my body and mind into Zen-like harmony, but something in my disastrously Western mind can’t quite scale that peak.

I’m learning, though, that giving up the rolling to-do list in my mind is not exactly the point of my meditative dabbling. I may never be able to align (or identify) my chakras. I may never feel prana life-energy emanating from my body. I may never even be able to perfectly envision white light for a half hour straight. But, three-months of struggle later, I am now able to slow my breathing, put the sensory-overload that is India into perspective and stay relatively calm while haggling with rickshaw drivers. And that, I think, is an accomplishment.

The “yoga powers” that Poppa Ohms promised me haven’t quite developed yet, nor has the promised ability to cure acne with deep-belly laughter, but yoga practice has certainly sharpened my mind, toned my body and forced me into some serious, and not always brownie-related, introspection. I might not ever hit enlightenment, but at the very least I will take home a little more peace of mind. For now, that is enough for me.

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