I wrote in a previous post that I hadn’t experienced the crowds or chaos while in New Delhi. Sure, there were lots of people, nauseating smog, and heavy traffic. But it wasn’t overwhelming… it was India, and it was expected. Traveling to Pune for the yoga conference was far away from any congestion so I continued to feel content in my bubble.
The final day of the conference, Justin and I boarded a bus with other attendees traveling to Mumbai. The bus system in India is nothing like that of the United States. The cost of the bus is fixed, and all riders split the total price. The bus was a beat-up school bus with a shoddy engine and no AC, which is generally the norm in many countries. After roasting on the lawn for two hours waiting for the bus to leave, we were finally on our way to Mumbai. I was sure the bus would break down on every hill we crested, but it miraculously persevered. There is an unwritten rule on the buses in India that everyone takes care of one another. One of our friends on the bus explained that everyone on the bus is family. Snacks were regularly passed around and jovial conversation pursued. One member on the bus was sure that I had a urinary tract infection because we stopped twice in the 6-hour journey for the bathroom. He even called his gynecologist to try and make an appointment for me in Mumbai. Twice in six hours! Are the people of India just dehydrated?
The traffic in Mumbai was absolutely horrendous. Not surprising, but what should have been a 3 hour journey was more than twice as long because of the bumper to bumper insanity. I could slowly feel the meditative effects of the yoga conference being reversed.
I booked an Airbnb in Bandra West, directly across the street from the YogaCara Healing Arts Center. I put Mumbai on the list because I wanted to visit this reputable school. Ridhika, the owner, is a brilliant teacher who was trained by BKS Iyengar. She released her new book in October called “Just Breathe.” She is traditional in her teaching, and focuses on the true root of yoga. I attended her meditation class and was fortunate to sit down with her one afternoon for a private lecture. Her ideas were powerful in their simplicity. She explained to me how every experience we have is a chemical reaction. The connectedness of our mind and body is affected by that chemical reaction, and we have the power to control the way we react by anchoring on our breath. She went on in detail about the external world being disorderly and constantly changing, but the one thing we each have that will always be constant is our breath. For this reason, the observation and awareness of our breath can help regulate our reactions. On a practitioner level, this can help with pain management and coping skills during the healing process by quieting the nervous system and activating the parasympathetic pathways in the body. The most prominent point I was drawn to that she spoke about is how breath can withdrawal our senses. Think about a time you were in pain – or maybe you are now – and how your natural instinct is to react to the sense of pain. Your mind can’t shut off the fact that you are in pain because you are continually thinking about, feeling, and reacting to the pain. The myriad benefits of breath can be found in the literature, and the study of breath is growing. The learning doesn’t stop here, and I am exciting to continue peeling back the layers of yoga.
Surrounding my school day of yoga, self-study, and working toward my certifications, there was much to explore around the city. Mumbai is very much a melting pot of cultures, where old meets new. Pish posh cafes were juxtaposed with slums and run-down alleyways. Dharavi is the biggest slum in the world, which exists in central Mumbai. 1 million people live within a 1 mile radius. Wrap your head around that for a minute.
For how busy and bustling this crazy city was, it was also very pleasant. I never felt unsafe at any time, including during the night. There are a few sights you should not miss if you come to Mumbai, including the India Gateway Monument and tea time at the Taj Palace Hotel. I’m sure there are a million more things one should do while in Mumbai, but I was mostly focused on school and yoga. I will surely be back to this lively city.
The food at the Taj Palace Hotel is obviously not Indian, there was a strong British influence here. It was a total treat to spend an afternoon here!
Snacks in India. Our daily stop at The Regal Grocery in Bandra was full of spicy finger food. The ingredients were all very simple with few preservatives, which I was surprised about. The base is usually chickpea besan or graham flour, and everything is loaded with spices. The salad on the right was a splurge... I can only go so long without a fresh salad.
My husband and I are outdoor travel junkies who like to spend our free time experiencing nature and new cultures. On Sweet World Travels you will find stories of our adventures, our lives as health care practitioners, and the communities we serve in our travels.