|Written by Sarah Carson, Photos by Leela Sharon|
Yogis from across the globe make the pilgrimage to India, seeking to drink from the streams of the origin of yogic tradition. Whether looking for an introduction to ashram life or to complete training intensives, journeying to the land of cows, call centres, and the worship of Shiva has become an all-too-clichéd rite of passage for the Western practitioner. But as for this Prairie Yogi, I embarked on a journey to the land of yoga to complete my master’s research – which consists of more agriculture and anthropology than alignment and asanas.
I knew going in that my corner of rural India was a far cry from a yoga hot spot – it was certainly no Mysore, Goa, or Rishikesh. But as I approached the move for my six month stay in Araku Valley, Andhra Pradesh, I held onto hope that I would indeed find a teacher and a space for my practice. I asked around, and asked some more, but to no avail. I wasn’t fully surprised: the women and men here start their day at 4:00am to gather firewood and prepare for the day’s work in the fields, not to drive to their morning hot power class.
I became aware the of anxiety that began to creep in my body without a daily yoga practice. While I could go on about the many ways in which I’ve grown and changed over the course of the past year in cultivating my daily practice, those ramblings are best reserved for another day. Fellow yogis know the rewards, as well as the challenges, of sustaining a daily practice. But the challenge I face now is in finding my feet in a home practice here in India, the motherland of yoga. Irony aside, my reluctance has allowed me to reflect on the role my home studio has had in my practice.
Back home my beautiful, spacious studio had all the fixins and was truly an urban oasis, boasting some of the city’s most inspiring instructors. Thanks to them, my yoga practice has grown leaps and bounds, but now I can’t help but wonder to what extent I’ve been coached, coddled, and lemon grass-toweled into inviting yoga into my life. My enhanced posture, general clarity of mind and much improved energy levels suggest that it is indeed me that has doing been the legwork, but the coming months will reveal whether or not I can invite yoga into my daily life without the guidance of an instructor or the immediate gratification that comes with studio practice.
From what I’ve read (believe me, I have no problem reading about home practice), this is a common issue for yogis like me. There is, or so I’m told, a tendency for some to get addicted to yoga classes, workshops and retreats, only to find that they lose focus once they try to put their practice into practice upon leaving the studio. Many of the folks you see at the studio day after day, present company included, are not likely to be spotted holding a five-minute headstand if one were to drop in on them at home.
Excuses and anxieties aside, this time, I’m going to have to go it alone. But rather than gripe and grumble about a lost opportunity (‘why couldn’t I just have just chosen to study closer to Mysore!’), I choose to view this as an opportunely timed chance and challenge to find my very own practice. Being my own student and teacher will be more than a test of holding postures – and for that I’m thankful and looking forward to breathing it all in and out in my little house here in India.