I randomly met a friend in Chiang Mai last November who told me about this yoga teacher training she’d signed up for in India in February. “I’d love to go to India to do yoga”, I sighed absentmindedly. I’d been practicing yoga most days since leaving Canada in January 2014, but it never occurred to me that my practice was strong enough to consider a teacher training, and this was not part of my plan anyway (in hindsight I realize that I did not actually have a plan – and I still don’t), so my words didn’t really mean much.
“So come”, she said.
The idea sprouted quickly and before I knew it I was signed up…
Ironically, my friend flaked out at the last minute. So I was off to India on my own (I hadn’t been backpacking alone since meeting my ex in a youth hostel in 2005), to a yoga school that had found me rather than the other way around. I was petrified and ecstatic.
SMRITI YOGA: THE SCHOOL OF SELF REMEMBRANCE
Smriti Yoga is a brand new school located on an organic spice farm in the Goan jungle. The grounds alone are the perfect settings to disconnect from it all and concentrate on the here and the now: the sounds, the smells, the tastes and the colors all lend themselves to a meditative state of mind – easily one of the most soothing and healing environments I have been given to live in. The school has room for twelve students, but 2015 was their first year of operation (we were the second group to tread the grounds), so we were only eight students. Eight women, to be precise. Much estrogen.
The curriculum at Smriti has vinyasa at its core, but we also explored Ashtanga (and I discovered that I was very fond of it!), Yin (a bit of a nemesis I am trying to conquer), acro, and even Kundalini. Days went like this, expertly led by Siddharta, Claire and Chris, our three mentors:
7:00am – asana practice
8:45am – chanting, pranayama and meditation
10:00am – breakfast
11:00am – alignment and teacher training
1:00pm – lunch
3:30pm – anatomy and philosophy
5:00pm – asana practice
7:00pm – dinner
This went on Monday through Friday, with Saturday afternoon and Sunday off. As daunting as it seemed at first, it quickly became a comfortable routine, days morphed into weeks and, before we knew it, we were all crying and hugging and it was all over. The weekends were used to explore the surrounding areas, including the Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary and Agonda, Patnem and Palolem Beaches.
I was catered for extremely well as a vegan at the spice farm who hosted us. In fact, all the meals except for breakfast were fully vegan, and I was offered a fruit bowl for breakfast in replacement of the fruit and yoghurt everyone else had. Food being an inherent part of why I travel the world, I was not disappointed by the home cooked food of Gauri, Chinmay and his mom: the ever changing self-service buffet of South Indian specialties was phenomenal and a reason alone to visit Tanshikar Spice Farm if you happen to be in the area. The farm is open to the public for day tours and is a fascinating place to visit, eat to your heart’s content and stock up on organic spices, coconut oil and raw cacao to bring home – the masala chai and garam masala being top priorities.
A TRANSFORMATIVE JOURNEY
I did yoga before Smriti for the physical benefits only, because it’s an inexpensive and convenient way to keep relatively fit whilst traveling. Yet, when a family member passed away last January, I saw this teacher training as an opportunity like no other to take time out by myself – time to forgive, to accept and to let go, amongst other things. And I did that. And so much more, which I simply cannot put into words right now. The physical act of daily yoga practice evolved into a powerful healing and empowering tool and I discovered strength inside of me I didn’t know existed. I became in tune with everything. The idea of saying I’m on a spiritual journey is very novel and alien as I am still learning how to undo, how to meditate. My mind is still a jumble that I am trying to tame, but something shifted within me while I was at Smriti.
Beyond that, I opened my heart to a group of people that I now love dearly, who have allowed me to be myself and reminded me that it was an amazing thing to be. Miranda, Anna, Claire, Sheri, Anika, Julia, Corona, Martina – my sisters, thank you for your acceptance, your strengths, your weaknesses, your love and you wise words – they have resonated with me so much and made me into a better person. Sid, Chris – thank you for the yang, the giggles, and thank you for pushing me way out of my comfort zone. I truly feel like a new journey has begun, and I am so grateful for this fortuitous encounter with a friend in Chiang Mai last November. Life does amazing things, if you let it.