What a change of pace arriving in the small mountain town of Rishikesh from Varanasi. Due to the high amount of pollution in Varanasi, the planes were unable to fly and our flight was delayed 8 hours. I swear that place was trying to hold me hostage. Driving to the airport was insane in itself, because we could not see more than 5 feet in front of the window from the pollution. It became clear through my travels in India that this is a common occurrence – not just in New Delhi which makes the news, but all over the country India’s cities are suffocating in heavy pollution.
Rishikesh was a very focused week for me. I met up with my friend and classmate who was also studying yoga therapy. It was great to catch up, brainstorm ideas, share the things we learned thus far, and hold each other accountable for our goals. Although Rishikesh has its own fair share of pollution, it does not hold the same chaos as the rest of India. The streets were calm and quiet and the Ganges River was a stunning asset to the scenery. This made studying much more conducive, and I was able to diligently work through the remainder of my yoga certification.
I want to shed more light on the certification I completed- It is taught by a Matt Taylor (PT, Phd), and is designed as a 15-week course with lecture and lab components. I squeezed it into a month, which is do-able if your are not working a separate full-time job. The certification, titled ‘Integrating Yoga Therapeutics into Rehabilitation,’ nailed exactly what I was looking for. Questions I have been toying with in how to use yoga with therapy and what that looks like in the clinic were answered in a clear manner. It was a great foundation for my future learning of yoga integration with OT. Any practitioner who is interested in bringing yoga into their practice would benefit from this certification. I can’t recommend it enough!
While in Rishikesh, we stayed at Yoga Padma House, which was just outside of the main town on a hill. They had a beautiful rooftop studio that was empty every day for my practice. For getting around we rented a motorbike for $5/day, and once the late afternoon rolled around we would scoot down to the river and watch the sun set. The food was wonderfully cheap everywhere in India, which made life easier. Our meals in Varanasi averaged .30-.50 cents, and Rishikesh was a little bit higher, but we were able to keep it under $2/person for each meal at the Indian restaurants with ample portions. I would die happy if all my meals were the same price in the USA.
From Rishikesh we began to slowly make our journey back to New Delhi to catch our outbound flight. Our last weekend in India was spent seeing the Taj Mahal, because a trip to India isn’t complete without experiencing this magical monument. The whole premise of the Taj is kept pristine (no surprise) and feels like you are walking through some kind of Indian Disneyland. Our tickets to enter were $20 USD, and I gawked at the price at first glance because everything thus far was dirt cheap. In retrospect this price is very fair, especially to help keep the premises protected.
It was on this weekend that I also picked out a wedding ring. My beloved coconut shell I had for many years as a wedding ring broke while I was grocery shopping last October. I was distraught because my ring finger was now void of something sentimental. I wasn’t looking for anything in India, but then I learned about the Indian Black Star. It is a gem with three meanings: Love fidelity, creativity, and healing from trauma. The stone has a unique glimmer under light, and is said to help shed tears of pain, thus helping the healing process. Everything about this stone called out to me, and I was certain this was the right fit for me. The detailed etchings on the Taj Mahal are made from Indian Black Star, which made our trip to Agra very special.
Nearing the end of our month in India I also began to reflect on what I gained from the experience. There was so much to process. My thoughts for now revolve around my surprise of how safe I felt the entire time. I received so many warnings about safety, especially for women, before I traveled there. But once in India, I couldn’t quite figure out the hyped-up danger. In the midst of India’s cultural rodeo, it was a gentle, and incredibly kind place. I saw community in a way I have never experienced before. From sharing meals with strangers in corner cafes, being invited into homes of those I knew for one day, and striking conversation in the most unlikely of places. I have never in my life felt so welcome as an outsider. On the flip side, the traffic, air quality, mile-high trash piles, and disorderly systems in place bent me in ways I thought would break me. But perhaps I was not actually bending, I was just opening my mind to see things in a different way. I left with a changed understanding of how most people live – as I am always reminded of while traveling. Unlike America, people endure in India with material simplicity. India illustrates the importance of family and community on an intricate level. And if you don’t have family, you are taken in as family. The vibrant street colors gave me new energy, and the ancient architecture made me feel small and useless. Let us not forget the yoga, the reason I was drawn to India’s mystique in the first place. The teachings I absorbed from yoga balanced the disorder in a way that made life possible around so much chaos. I’m not sure if I will be back to India, but it will always be on my mind.
Left: Yoga by the river
Right: Locals walking down the streets of Rishikesh
Left: Amaranth porridge with dates and coconut milk, a great way to start the day.
Right: Dosa with masala and poppy seed sauce
I am an outdoor and travel junkie who is currently completing my doctorate in occupational therapy overseas in rural Fiji. On Sweet World Travels you will find stories of my life with my husband, the communities we serve, and the many adventures we take.