On Sunday, November 1, 2015 I arrived in India to begin my 200-hour yoga teacher training course with Samyak Yoga. For four weeks, I’ll be living at the Samyak yogashala in Mysore, Karnataka and learning what it means to be a yogi in mind, body and spirit.
In this series, I’ll be sharing the day-to-day details of my life in training, along with the mental and spiritual discoveries I make on this new path. To see the rest of the series, click here.
I arrived at the shala at 11:30pm on November 1st, and getting there was a journey. Little did I know my flights would be the easy part.
I’m glad I have experience traveling in India because without it, I might not have been able to keep my anxiety in check during my four-hour taxi ride. At the Bangalore airport, I was instructed to watch for a taxi driver who would be holding a sign with my name on it outside baggage claim. The driver was there as promised, which was a huge relief. The sun was completely down by this point and my body was exhausted, heavy and confused after my two long flights. I was in no place to arrange a ride.
But even though meeting my driver calmed my nerves in some ways, it made me anxious in others. For the first time (perhaps ever), I felt utterly alone and vulnerable. Yes, I’d been to this airport before, but not by myself. All my valuables, identification and communication devices were in a single small backpack, which my driver happened to be carrying. No one really knew where I was in that moment. What would I do if he decided to take off with my bag? Where would I go? Would someone help me?
I didn’t allow myself to let these thoughts sink in. I crawled into my driver’s small Toyota and focused on how grateful I was to be on my way. I tried to make small talk but his English was pretty limited. I gazed up at the rows and rows of unfamiliar billboards flanking the road and smiled at how small my world suddenly felt.
After a few minutes on the freeway, the road narrowed and the streetlights stopped coming. Rickshaws, livestock trucks, busses, cows and motorbikes joined the flow. With them came horns, blinking lights, eight-inch potholes, unmarked roundabouts, pedestrians, speed bumps…
I had barely made it off the plane and I had already learned my first lesson: let go. The best thing for me to do in this moment was close my eyes and breathe. My attention on the road wouldn’t change the traffic, and I was certainly in no position to get out of the car. I was on the fastest route and all I could do was wait.
I laid my head down on my big backpack and tried to rest. I put on a podcast but couldn’t focus on it. Just as I felt myself drifting to another place, we turned onto a dusty dirt road and the car horns began to fade.
“Miss, miss. Almost there,” the driver said.
I perked right up and took a look out the window. All I could see were the 20-foot palm trees lining both sides of the narrow road. The sound of our tires on gravel comforted me. Up ahead I saw a bobbing flashlight and then a curly-haired silhouette approaching our car. She waved and smiled to the driver, motioning him to turn into the car park.
I rolled down my window. “Hello, do you speak French or English?” said the woman (with a French accent).
“English,” I said with a smile.
“You are Grace?”
“Welcome, I’m Stephanie.”
She helped me out of the car and walked me through the open-air dormitory building to my second-floor room. The air was heavy and moist and the crickets chirped loudly. Tiny flies circled the lightbulbs on the wall.
I’d never been so grateful to see a clean bed. Stephanie walked me around my room, which opens to a large balcony and has a private attached bathroom. After sleeping in hostels for the last two weeks in Ireland, I was in heaven.
The first thing I did was peel off my clammy travel clothes for a shower – and it was hot! Clean, warm, dry, crickets, palm trees, overhead fan. I was so happy I just about cried. But I was too tired.
I went to bed feeling a sense of belonging that I can’t quite explain. Already I knew my decision to come to India was the right one.