Something stranged is happening in India. It’s raining. In March. You’ve heard of monsoon season? Well, it usually doesn’t start for at least another month. Chalk it up to GW or pretend it’s just a little spotting. Either way, it’s raining, and it’s wet.
It had already started to rain during my 30 km rickshaw ride to Sivananda Ashram in Kerala two weeks ago. I arrived with the brilliant and shining hope of beginning my lifelong yoga practice here. A Kenyan guy with dreadlocks said, “I tink you brought de rain,” as he showed me to my dorm in the first of many downpours.
The Ashram runs two-week “Yoga Vacations” (as well as month-long yoga teacher trainings.) There’s an exacting schedule of 5:20 wakeup with three daily gatherings for chanting, meditation, and, puja and four hours of yoga per day. It was exhausting until I fell in with a Bad Crowd and learned I could skip the boring stuff and sleep in! Waves of contentment and displeasure would pass over the entire ashram from day to day. One day, people would be complaining and talking about leaving, the next day, the louder voices were from excited Yoga Vacationers who finally achieved a headstand.
Much of the time, I was severely shaking from a deadly combination internet and telephone withdrawal and too much chai. My relaxing Yoga Moments were occasional. It would rain during yoga classes, overnight, while we were lining up for a meal outside, and miraculously clear up for a moonlight walk to the lake. The rain, thunder, and lightning, which are a delight to the senses, are also quite hellish on one’s clothing. The sweaty yoga shirt, once washed in a bucket with some Tide, would hang on the lines next to our beds, fan fan running day and night, damp for three days, turning into a lush resort for some special Indian mold reunion. The clothes do not dry. I began wearing damp clothes hoping my body heat would cure them before the mold took root. And forget about dry feet or sandals, ever. (It’s amazing I’ve come out of the place with all my toenails intact.)
Something about being in an ashram, lax as it was, made me agitated and anxious, and I think it has nothing to do with sitting with myself and having to listen to all those inner voices screaming things like, “Why are you doing yoga?” and “Your foot doesn’t belong behind your shoulder.” and “Who is this elephant god we’re praying to?”