My experience in India was everything I hoped it would be, even though NOTHING about the experience matched my pre-trip expectations. In fact most turned out to be exactly the opposite of expectations, not because they weren't present in India, but because of the unique lens Ashok Tree, Tiger Lily Yoga and the group of individuals who went on the journey provided.
It was an amazing and horrible, wonderful and painful, emotionally draining and spiritually affirming journey into another culture. One that blew all of my preconceptions out of the water, negating a slew of my assumptions about 'basic human needs,' that I didn't even realize I was making.
This is my favorite photo that sums up the experience and is likely how I'll remember India.
A yoga retreat was always on my bucket list, and when the chance to travel to Askok Tree in India with the amazing Emily, Daphne, and other Tigerlilys presented itself, I knew that I could not pass up the opportunity. I went for a physical challenge, a digital and political detox, and a chance to both calm and energize my body and spirit. Lucky enough to have traveled to India twice before, the things that weighed on my mind pre-trip were not about the impending sensory overload or the difficult things I might see in an impoverished nation, but it was more about the Southeast Asian heat and humidity, and the twice daily yoga. Coming from 8 years in mild Seattle and a year of not prioritizing down dogs, could I do it? And do it joyfully? And without bacon and beer?
What I can say is that from Day 1 to Day 12, I felt like a different person both on and off the mat. I discovered depth and ease in poses that I had never experienced before, and enjoyed documenting it in my journal, as Emily had encouraged us to do. One day towards the end of the retreat when we were doing a partner exercise, my heels touched (and stayed!) on the floor in down dog, and I exclaimed: “Holy crap! Do you guys see this?!” Yoga had become something I looked forward to each day and was actually fun! Each session with Emily was thoughtfully prepared, and the sense of camaraderie we cultivated together each morning and evening in the beautiful open-air Yogashala, enriched my own personal journey. The constant flutter of butterflies and dragonflies, Ayurvedic treatments, along with delicious healthy and organic meals, was the perfect complement to my practice.
The yoga retreat was a true self-care gift, and I can say that I have continued some of my practices back in Seattle. While I may not have all day to read, write, color, nap, play with the cows, and swing in a hammock, I have harvested a quieter sense of being, and my intention of “acceptance” of myself, others, and the world around me is paying in spades. Whenever I begin to question something, I think “what is my truth cord saying?” And it is definitely telling me to stop obsessing over the news or wasting time on Facebook, and to get down to Tiger Lily more often. Learning to trust myself, while remembering that I am not alone in this world, is just what my soul needed.
We look forward to our next opportunity to return.