Teaching in India
This is my fourth trip to India, and while I had a fair amount of things I wanted to do during my six months of travel, spending a huge chunk of time in Rishikesh was at the top of the list. Thus far, my time here has been more transformative than I could have thought possible… which is saying something considering how incredible it is each and every time I’m here. But amidst all the seriousness of learning and deepening my own practices, one of the funnest things I’ve done so far was teaching a yoga class on the banks of the Ganges!
All along the river there are numerous staircases, called ghats, which lead down to the water. Some of these ghats are small and simple with enough room for only one or two people, others are huge platforms that sometimes lead to expansive beach areas, which are frequently used for devotional ceremonies along the riverfront. Above all else, the ghats are a place of activity… whether it’s social, devotional, contemplative or functional. It’s a place people go to talk, socialize, pray, bathe, worship or just sit and watch the world go by.
This particular ghat doesn’t get a lot of “official” use, but it’s a favorite among the locals due to it’s location right next to one of the bridges… and over the years has become a favorite of mine as well. Walking off the platform and down to the water front itself takes you to a sandy, rocky beach, and it is here most mornings that I (along with the companionship of my local dog friends) do my morning yoga and meditation practice.
Mornings bring mostly yoga, meditation or puja (worship) to the riverfront, while the late afternoons bring more social activity, such as friends coming to drink chai and chat, people making their evening offerings to the river with their families, yoga practice or small informal jam sessions with a variety of beautiful instruments. Both times of day are equally beautiful here. Dawn, where the rising sun cuts through the early morning fog as it climbs over the hill on one side of this river valley… or dusk, when the sinking sun glows huge and red before it sets on the other… bring something incredibly special. The river in general, but this spot in particular is a place where I have met so many interesting and beautiful souls, which is undoubtedly why I am drawn back over and over again.
This particular yoga class was part of an initiative called The Free Yoga Project, put together by a local woman here with the intention of making yoga affordable (free!) and accessible to everyone. Although yoga in India is much cheaper than in the U.S., it still remains an expense, and with all the tourism in Rishikesh one still pays more for a class than you might expect considering how inexpensive everything else is.
The initiative welcomes guest teachers to lead the class, and most teachers I know will generally look for ways to fulfill their practice of karma-yoga… the act of giving back… by teaching for free, which is how I hooked up with this project.
The project is still new and getting off the ground, so when I saw their post looking for guest teachers I didn’t have to think twice about signing up while I was in town. That it happened to be taking place at my most favorite place in the city was just icing on the cake!
We had about 12 yogi’s show up to move and breathe while watching the holy Ganges float by, and while there were a few challenges like wind blowing the mats and exuberant pups wanting attention during our downward dogs, overall it was such a pleasure, and one I hope to take part in again in the future!