On A Journey Inwards With Yoga

Sometimes exploring places and travelling is not the only option we have. At times, going inwards is also a journey worth taking, realizes this annual visitor to India
On A Journey Inwards With Yoga
Travel To India for YogaShutterstock

"We travellers," said Jakob, a fellow tourist, once, "are always busy engaging our five senses externally. Rarely do we take time to look inwards." I dismissed his comments at that time as feverishness of a restless mind. Are we travellers not lucky to experience what the world has to offer in all its forms - the sounds, the sights, the smells! Don't we gain more experience of the world around us as we engage more deeply with it? I went on about travelling to places afar, chasing more experiences, and diving a tad deeper into each sensory encounter. Years passed, and Jakob and I lost contact.

Take A Journey Inwards
Take A Journey InwardsDepositphotos

However, his comment that I had dismissed as an outcome of a hallucinatory mind stayed with me. What does it mean to look inward, I wondered. Every December, I head back to India from Sweden for a month to escape the Nordic winter. However, in Delhi, where I usually come to, I find myself wrapped in down jackets and quilts through that entire month. This winter break, though, I took a break from Delhi and headed to the warmer South. The purpose was not only to escape the North Indian winter but also to learn a new skill to help me keep fit while on the road. And that's how I checked myself into a yoga retreat in Bangalore.

The Journey Sets In

Yoga at sunset
Yoga at sunsetsoulandsurf.com

On day one, they said that yoga is a union of body and mind, a retrieval of senses inward. Suddenly, Jakob came to mind. Curiosity arose as I settled down for three weeks-long classes to learn different poses. Twenty others had joined the classes together with me. Within the first few days, we fell into a rhythm, waking up early in the morning to walk through the softly swaying palm trees before starting our daily practice of asanas on neatly laid mats. The late mornings were filled with knowledge from Patanjali's yoga sutras, and evenings focused on learning anatomy, and how yoga impacts different bodily functions. However, the regimented days at the yoga school constrained me, and set routines bored me. I wondered aloud why I shouldn't travel instead and explore new places to entertain myself.

"That's because you are looking for pleasure outside," said my teacher when I shared my concerns, "give it a few days and look into what's happening inside you when you do these asanas." I stayed, taking the course as a challenge to test my patience. I found the yoga postures basic, in comparison to heavy weightlifting in the gym back home that I am used to. However, my teacher invited me to stay in a posture long enough and watch what was happening inside. So, there I was - bent 90 degrees in Trikonasana, looking up at my other hand. Minutes passed, sweat trickled from my forehead, the drops slowly merging into a drip pouring onto the floor. I felt uncomfortable initially, but I stayed in the posture and noticed the burning sensation that had engulfed my stretched arm.

A smile appeared out of nowhere. I realised what was happening to me. Even in that not-so-difficult pose per my standard, I was burning and dripping in sweat, yet peacefully watching the flow of energy, prana, inside me. For once, I was not interested in chasing experiences or fearful of what I was missing out on by not engaging with the world outside. For once, I was calmly exploring the rising and falling contours of my breath that marked my convoluted posture.

Soukya is a holistic health rejuvenation centre in Bangalore
Soukya is a holistic health rejuvenation centre in BangaloreSoukya

The initial disquiet faded, and I completed the 21-days yoga course. On these days, I had not travelled anywhere and remained inside the enclosed campus. I stayed with my experiences, learning how my breath became my best friend in these sessions. It was a tool I had not thought much about, but here it was at my disposal to help me calm down. I am now back to my regular life, past the walled gardens of the yoga school to the open world. However, I noticed a shift, a form of peace that has stayed with me since the course ended. A thought came to me - sometimes exploring places and travelling is not the only option we have. At times, going inwards is also a journey worth taking.

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