On Saturday, November 18th Dushyant decided to take me over to the Sivananda Yoga Ashram in Ahmedabad to have a quick visit and to meet Swami Maharaj Adhyatmanadaji. We parked and in the distance there was a crowd of roughly 30-40 people surrounding a lone Swami sitting on a bench underneath a tree. Slowly we walked up and as Swamiji saw us, he was quick to acknowledge and greet us, gesturing us to come sit by him. We paid our obeisances and then Swamiji engaged us in conversation as Dushyant explained who I was, where I was from and my intention to take the Yoga Teachers Training at the Ashram on December 10th. Swamiji was quick to state that I must demonstrate my proficient understanding of Sivananda Yoga Asana before being given permission to attend the Yoga teachers training. Swamiji then explained how Yoga is not simply aerobic exercise as so many seem to wrongly believe in the west, quoting a story of a time when he was invited to attend a Yoga teacher training in New York, he explained his dismay at the high expense of the program and the approach of many of the western students. Swamiji then asked if I was of sound mind to demonstrate my Yoga Asana for him right this very moment. Just at the thought, I was struck with a bit of fear, as I was wholly unprepared as my mind panicked and began to race wildly at the thought of such an impromptu demonstration. Luckily, by Shiva’s grace Swamiji gave me until the next morning at 10:00am to demonstrate for him, but even with this, this meant I would be testing for my admittance to the program. After this discourse Swamiji asked if I had some song to sing for everyone, a chant or something, again I was in a bit of shock at the idea of an acappella chant in front of Swamiji and a group of at least 30 devotees. But regardless of this, I sang for him my favorite Hare Krishna chant, the Mahamantra as done by Shyamdas, as I sang through one stanza singing “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” Swamiji joined in the singing, moments later the rest of the group joined in unison, we sang like this for 3 or 4 stanzas before stopping, then Swamiji bid us farewell and sent us to go partake in lunch prasad(blessed food that has been offered to God)
Adi(Dushyant’s son) and I went on a nice walk around the ashram grounds a handful of times, the main temples were closed aside from the temple to Lord Shiva near the front of the Ashram, so we paid our obeisances and kept on our walk. There were a group of people around the sacrificial fire chanting vedic scriptures and doing puja(a form of ritual offering to God.) Overall I think many people were surprised to see a Westerner walking around the grounds, but everyone I have met or even passed has been only incredibly friendly.
The next morning I awoke, still nervous for my impending test in front of Swamiji. I went out of my room to say hello to the family, Bhumika(Dushyant’s wife) was already busy making us a wonderful breakfast and getting the kids around for the day. Adi asked if we could begin our daily harmonium lesson, so I went to get the harmonium setup for him, right away he went into playing Om Hrim Namah Shivaya, Tas Mai Shree Gurave Namaha, the first song I had taught him. Then he played the Happy Birthday song that he taught himself from a harmonium book that I have. After which we began our lesson playing the first part of my favorite song that I know on harmonium, Hare Krishna my Shyamdas. Adi played beautifully and is a quick learner. It is also fun, because I get to sing the melody of the song as he plays, assisting him with the association of the melody to where the direction of the notes will go on the keyboard, plus it helps my singing, so its good for us both. After this I began my pouring over the one Sivananda Yoga book that I possess, performing Surya Namaskar(Sun Salutation) over and over again attempting to understand the intricacies of the traditional Sivananda Yoga style. Also attempting to memorize Asana(Postures) that I had only done a handful of times at best and truly my name to posture association was rather shaky, but after some time had passed, I felt as confident as I could be with the limited time that I possessed.
Dushyant took myself, uncle(a family member from Mumbai/Bombay) and the kids towards the Sivananda ashram, the kids and uncle got dropped off to the Chinmaya Mission, another temple close by that the kids go to every Sunday for a program. We arrived at the ashram a few minutes after 10, Swamiji sat in front of a beautiful statue of Hanuman in the main entry hall of the ashram. On the floor a large rug had been laid down to put the Yoga mat on, so that it did not slip on the tile as we moved through our postures. Another applicant was up first, a young Indian man about my age named Keesha, his wife was a previous graduate of the Sivananda Yoga Teachers program and had made her husband her very first student. Swamiji instructed me to sit on the floor near to him, so that I may have a better view of his performance. Swamiji instructed Kinnar to get onto his mat and begin his performance of Surya Namaskar, after which Swamiji instructed him through a series of different postures in which he wished him to demonstrate. Keesha performed beautifully! At this I began to worry, I didn’t feel that my postures were near the level at which he has performed, you could tell the level of devotion and practice that he had put into understanding Sivananda Yoga Asana. My turn had arrived, nervously I unwrapped my rug and laid it before Swamiji, the whole time conversations went back and forth in Hindi. During my practice, they had discovered that Dushyant had been a part of the Yoga Teacher graduating class at the ashram in 1999. Swamiji guided me through each asana, correcting any mistakes that I made, imparting upon me the finer details of each asana. Near the very end Swamiji asked me about doing head stands, a posture I had done a handful of times, but had very little experience with, so I professed to Swamiji my weakness at this particular asana, he then asked about another asana in which I was unfamiliar. Dushyant spoke up and Swamiji said: “Let your teacher show you this.” Dushyant got onto the mat and performed beautifully, Swamiji expressed his approval of Dushyant’s proficiency in this asana, despite having graduated so many years earlier. After this Swamiji approved me to take the teachers program and to stay at the ashram for the next 20 days to refine my practical understanding of Sivananda Yoga Asana, before the teachers program on December 10th. Swamiji instructed me to take 3 Yoga classes per day, so roughly 4.5 hours of practice per day. Relieved and excited we left the ashram and headed for Chinmaya mission so that Dushyant could introduce me to another Swami there, who he felt I would enjoy discussing with when we both had time. The temple was a beautiful, spire like temple with a skylight at the very top, it was open on three sides, with three alters at the front devoted to Krishna & Radhe, Shiva and one other god that unfortunately is slipping my mind. The Swami sat behind a podium at the front and to the right of the alter to Krishna & Radhe, we came at the end of his program, sitting on the floor near the back of the room. After his program had ended, we briefly met with him and he expressed his interest in setting aside a time for us to meet and to discuss. Next Sunday I believe I will stop by Chinmaya mission to speak with him.
It has been an interesting journey so far and this is only again, just the beginning. So much more to share in the coming days, more than what I am able to write quickly enough. Pictures will also follow soon and I will update all of the posts with pictures. Thank you so much for reading and following along on this journey of mine.
Much love & peace to you as always,