| Image by Photos by Uli Loskot

After a couple of days at the Ashram things start to become more natural. The rain, which has not stopped since we arrived, accompanies us through the day like an unobtrusive, but attentive companion. At first I feel aversion towards chanting strange Sanskrit verses first thing in the morning (as well as last thing in the evening) after having gone through a half an hour of meditation, during which my focus is mostly on trying not to fall asleep. Our Yoga philosophy teacher tells us that chanting Mantras (Man=Mind, tra=free) massages the Astro Body, unblocks the energy flow, regulates breathing and makes you happy. If you chant, chant fully! Well then, I try and chant with everything I've got including a smile on my face, and I discover that I like it. It does make me feel happy, peaceful and lighter. But it's hard to let any kind of unease feelings arise when you reside in paradise, very fortunate to being able to focus on your inner growth, surrounded by kind and likeminded people and not having to worry about food or shelter or what's next on your life agenda. Besides the morning and evening chanting we also chant before and after Yoga class and before we eat. And there is always a lot of OM-ing involved. The word OM is used before almost everything. If you want to say something to somebody you say OM first, if the teacher wants to quiet down the class he/she uses OM. OM is the beginning and end of a lot of prayers and chants, and I dream of OMs and wake up with OMs.

Having Tea between the morning Satsang and the first Asana class is a treat from heaven. When it's time for lunch at 10:00am, after a two hour Yoga class, I am hungry like a wolf. Lunch, the main meal of the day, is taken in on the floor using the right hand. In India the left hand is used for personal hygiene and is considered unclean. We walk into the dining room one by one like on a catwalk, chanting. We sit down in front of our plate on long rows of simple bamboo mats and wait until everybody has arrived. There is no self-service here. With a friendly wink the folks that are on Karma Yoga duty keep bringing you vegetarian food in big buckets and dump it out on your metal plate in front of you until you are positively satisfied. Karma Yoga is a very important part of the yogic path. It means performing service to others without attachment to the result, without wanting and expecting anything in return. My Karma Yoga consists of helping to set up the big hall for the morning Satsang session. Every time I get there it's all set up as if magic hands were at work. Meals are supposed to be eaten in silence, which usually lasts like half way through and somebody has to remind the excited crowd of Yogis and Yoginis with a friendly OM to keep it down.

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After lunch I usually go and relax on my bed in the Lakshmi dorm. Beds are arranged in small separated booths of two. I share one with a newlywed Indian lady called Monika. She and her husband are here for the month long Yoga teacher's training course, which I hear is very intense and challenging. When I see her she is either studying or taking a nap. Across my booth reside Surinder and Sunitee, a mother and her daughter from Punjab. I am happy to be in the midst Indian women.

Popular spots during down times, especially amongst the western students, are the health hut and the Sivananda boutique, places to satisfy the (good) consumer in us. The health hut serves fruit and snacks and with the groovy music that is usually played there and the rustic interior it has the laid back feel of a beach shack restaurant in Goa. The boutique sells clothing, yoga mats, books, CDs, postcards, toiletries, and spiritual paraphernalia as well as more not always so healthy snacks. Less people are found in the library, which sits on top of the Siva Hall, has a modest selection of books on yoga and related topics.

Besides the actual Asana classes that I am really getting into, I very much enjoy the lectures on Yoga philosophy in the afternoons. Here I learn that Yoga is much more than the Asana classes, which is mostly what is practiced and known as Yoga in the western World. Many strange new words are floating around in this class -Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Raja Yoga, Shakti and Kundalini, Pranayama, Pingola and Ida, Analoma Veloma and Kapalabhati, the Bhagavad Gita, Hatha and Asthanga, Chakras and Nadis- to name a few. What I get out of the classes is that Yoga is a way of life that one decides to live, a way of thinking, acting, eating, sleeping and behaving. It is a path of experience, which aims for liberation. OM.

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