Here I am, in Rishikesh, Northern India – the home of yoga. A hub of creativity where locals and tourists thrive together in a community built on the foundations of the spiritual practices of yoga, meditation and Ayurvedic therapies.
Tourists (referring to the Internationals mainly) seem to come here seeking to find themselves. On a spiritual pilgrimage to rediscover self-awareness, with the hope of finding their path back to their true selves. A community of seekers from across the globe, gathered on the slopes of the Himalayas and the banks of The Ganges, can be found hidden in sweaty yoga studios, meditation shala’s and the dimly lit therapy rooms dotted along every street. Shop fronts offer ways to massage, sleep, sweat and breathe your way through your pains, traumas and resentments.
Let’s not forget the masses of bars, vegan cafes, Germany bakery’s, restaurants and street vendors, where guests line up to meet each other, talk through their life experiences and share what brings them here at this exact point in their lives.
You also get the odd few who’s body language is closed, directed inwards and I’ll put my hand up to say this is me. Here with my own agenda to go inwards and reflect. Happy to be alone and make friends with myself. I have however, met and seen more like me, and we silently nod to each other acknowledging our own journeys with a little love and respect.
For the local people of Rishikesh however, yoga and the spirituality of this place is in their blood. It’s their daily routine, livelihoods and a tradition of devotion. Less a means of self-discovery and more a vital part of their lives, inherent and passed down through the generations. The people here are kind. They are genuine and refreshing, especially compared to the hustle of life in the main cities and all the walks of life I have come here to leave behind. The constant over stimulated environments of work and play I’m accustomed to, where the priority is more, more, more with little to no time devoted to quality rest, play and stillness. Here the opposite is on offer on every corner, if you really look and remain open. (Even more true with the internet constantly offline, as if helping you on your journey… hehe!) It’s a welcome step into a space where stillness, breath and living with gentle curiosity is key. A breath of fresh air, with every mindful inhalation and slow deep exhalation vital to living in the now.
We all undoubtedly experience life differently, and the constant noise and buzz of energy present here may stimulate something on the contrary. It’s natural and is what makes us unique. Yet, each day after morning practice I take myself to this little Germany bakery perched up on the banks of The Ganges and watch. I admire the tourist and locals as they dance their way across the suspension bridge dodging a steady stream of cows, motorbikes and carts weaving their way through the crowds, tourists and the photographers in everyone’s way. The constant blaring of horns and the shouts of Indian tour guides directing groups this way and that. Yet above all the noise and movement, I see and feel there is something very peaceful, tranquil even, about this place. A stillness and space away from everything and everyone I know, that allows me to find some peace to think and enjoy my own company.
Whilst here I’ve read a wonderful book, Do Your Om Thing by author and yoga teacher, Rebecca Pacheco (highly recommended for any yoga teachers or seekers out there). Rebecca talks about how to Be You Bravely. An idea that overlaps with the ideas of author Brene Brown (if you haven’t already, please read her books Braving the Wilderness and Daring Greatly, they are life changers)!
All of these books have narratives that suggest if you are ready to stop and listen to your intuition, that although inevitably we will have our own battles, ‘each time we stand up and triumphantly face our fears in any small or epic expression, our spirit brightens’. They believe that at our very core, each of us is doing our best. That to be brave we require faith, and that we require faith to trust our journeys and let go! Knowing, accepting and living these truths is the path to living wholeheartedly, aligned with our true purpose and meaning.
I’m not saying that simply being here, in this place, has ignited my TAPAS (yoga terminology for a fiery resolve), it has simply offered me the opportunity to use the tools of yoga in a safe and supportive environment. A place for me to use my yogi ways, in a place built on its rich history, to develop daily routines to ground myself, quieten my mind, move inwards and slowly through self-study (Svadhyyaya), develop my own methods to refocus on how to be me bravely, every single second of every day. Rediscovering my courage and allowing me to take up space in my life to be, speak and move as me! To live wholeheartedly and embody the kind of person I want to be and am.
I do find it interesting, sometimes challenging and disheartening, that it takes removing myself from that constant stimulation of London to feel truly alive. Have we missed something? Have we forgotten what truly matters? Have we forgotten or lost our once innate abilities to connect inwards and be kind to one and all? I know people have written about this a lot, so I’m not saying anything new! What I have come to believe however, from my time here and my journey, is that yoga, its multi-dimensional philosophy and practice (on and off the mat) can teach us to master ourselves. It can provide us with the tools to rebalance when we lose sight of being wholehearted. And finally, it can give us the grace and patience to forgive ourselves and others when we fall down.
Which brings me here, to these very simple and brief questions for you, the reader. I ask:
* Where, who and what helps you feel alive and awake in your life?
* Write a list and make time for one of those things today
* Say NO to something that isn’t on this list and give yourself space to say YES to something that is
You may not need the space I found here or the distance from your everyday life. You may have your own tools to help maintain balance, when life throws you the unexpected. No matter what, who or where helps you, I simply suggest you take a few moments to acknowledge what these are, so you may always find a way to make more space to BE YOU BRAVELY.
Huge amounts of love