Day 2 through Day 14:
Day 2 was the official start of the Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy training, which in total was a 13 day course. After that glorious 5:30 wake up bell and 6am-8am satsang, we had our opening ceremony, which included a puja (this is a traditional Indian prayer ritual to celebrate an event or deity). It involved some chanting, being initiated into the training by the priest and teachers of the course.
After this the 14 or so enrolled in the course gathered with Dr. Marc Halpern and Marisa Laursen, as they explained what we would be partaking in for the next 13 days, as well as introducing ourselves. I was feeling quite uneasy that morning and still felt like jumping out of my skin with this mysterious experience I was about to venture in to. In fact, I was feeling so uneasy that after all the other students left, I personally approached Dr Halpern and Marisa in tears explaining to them how I was in a very fragile fearful state and so much of me wanted to leave the ashram. They were immediately healing and receptive and told me that I have been called her and the universe would not have brought me here if I wasn't meant to have the experience. They understood my discomfort, but I could see in their eyes they knew (and I knew) that this was exactly what I needed. Im honestly glad I had this conversation with them so they knew where I was coming from emotionally and so they could be aware of my sensitivity. So off I went to a delicious brunch feeling a little bit better and ready to start learning.
And now a variety of topics, thoughts, and "ah-ha" moments,
The reason I am writing this blog is not necessarily to share with you about Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy, but more to share the life lessons that I learned during my ashram visit. I shall share these random lessons/topics in their own sections. Feel free to read the ones that interest you! I will start in brief with a touch of ayurveda to wet your appetite or my future sharings Enjoy...
On Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy:
What I can say is how amazingly connected I feel to ayurveda and how i am really looking forward to integrating this into my practice and teaching. It is as simple as why we would want to do an invigorating practice when we have been feeling sluggish or why we would want to do a grounding practice when we have been feeling agitated and unstable. This is the medicine. It is what the body needs, not wants. And this can be a difficult battle between the ego and the all knowing self. The ego may say, "but i want to move more and jump around," however the soul says, "what you need is to relax and be still." One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Halpern during the training is "The ego shouts, but the soul whispers." How many of us can't hear the soul because the ego the "me" self is screaming so loud that you can hear authentic voice of your soul. I personally am raising my hand, are you? By continuing with our toxic habits, eating toxic foods, being around toxic people, thinking toxic thoughts, breathing in toxic air, etc we are only maintaining the imbalance we created. In order to heal this imbalance, we must do the opposite and the ego's cravings, and instead do what the soul needs us to do. This is hard, no doubt about it! But creating new ways of being is the only way to break the chain that binds us. On the very first day of our training, in our very first pdf slide we were learning from, we were taught that our true nature is spirit. When we don't honor this, it causes the imbalance, then in time disease. The work of an ayurvedic yoga therapist is to use our yoga teacher training and apply the ayurvedic principals to the yoga postures to help bring balance to the individual students. Each yoga posture contains energetic qualities that can help enliven or soften the elements inside us. For example, chair pose is a grounding pose that will allow us to feel more stable and closer to the earth. It also can be heating depending on how long you hold it for. If a student is very anxious and spacey this would be a great pose for them. This example is how an ayurvedic yoga therapist uses asana (postures) to balance the client. We also use meditation and pranayama (breathing techniques) as well. I am really excited to start sharing workshops and private sessions to bring healing and wholeness to you my friends. I hope you will join me to create your most balanced self!
The Daily Schedule:
Each day from there on out our schedule was something like this. 6am-8am satsang (optional, but i wound up participating in most mornings). 8-10 lecture, 12-4 lecture, 4-6 asana practice, 8-10 evening satsang (once again optional but the evening satsang was something i really looked forward to to complete my day). As you can see this was a full day!
Many of you know I have a bit obsession with exercise, which is a main factor leading to my "energizer bunny" brain and feeling burnt out. Because of this I added my yoga vinyasa flow yoga practice (mixed with high intensity cardio), for an hour-75 min after morning lecture. Some days I did not want to add this in, however most days it helped to keep me "sane," for lack of a better word. Typically at home, I workout for about 2 hours a day, so the one yoga class in Sivananda style (which is not flow and consists of 12 or so postures) did not satisfy my quota for the day. Ayurveda is all about balance and practicing in my own way kept my 2 hour workout obsession at bay. This is a big accomplishment for me to limit the amount of intense exercise daily, which I knew would be a little bit of a struggle for me during the training. One can't go cold turkey from massive workout to minimal, as it would lead to high stress, so I was doing what served me the best.
On Beach Walks:
Who doesn't love a sunset walk on the beach? This was part of my personal daily routine before dinner. Our group asana practice would end about 6 each day and after a good two hours on the mat, I enjoyed waking from savasana and strolling to the beach. We were the neighboring beach to the Atlantis (you couldn't have two more contrasting places sharing the same beach). I would walk from the ashram, past the atlantis, to the rocks at the end of the beach. This was usually about 25 minutes and I treated it like a walking meditation. I would enjoy watching the patterns of the waves. Some days the water was so so still and then other days the waves were rather turbulent. This is very similar to how the mind is. When we are still, clear, and content the mind is still, however many of us live in a mental state of agitation, where the thought waves are rather active. I would ask myself as I was walking how my mind was that day and compare it to how the waves were. It was an amusing little question and led to moments of contemplation.
When we arrived at the ashram we are given a welcome packet which stated a few rules about the ashram. Well, the one that caught my attention the most was NO COFFEE at all! Caffeine is said to be a toxic stimulant, so the ashram clearly does not serve it. What would I do without my daily coffee? For years I have grown accustomed to having a grande cup of coffee and knew this would be a challenge. To my surprise, I actually did not have any withdrawal symptoms throughout my 2 weeks of coffee free diet. I craved it yes, but i was shocked I did not have any migraines or anything. The Atlantis was a short distance away and had a starbucks but i made a vow to myself that i would try this no coffee experiment. So instead I would walk and get an iced green tea, which was satisfying for the time being. Of course, the day I came back to florida I went back to my coffee routine, but i was proud of myself for the no coffee accomplishment. I honestly didn't feel much different, although I'm sure my body appreciated it and enjoyed the break from my beloved java juice!
On the Irony of Disney Cruise Ships
The Sivananda ashram happened to be located within a short distance to the Nassau cruise ship Port and I would see the variety of cruise ships dock daily. On the second morning, i noticed the Disney Dream docked and I smiled to myself. You can take the girl out of disney, but you can't take disney out of the girl. Even though I was not working for 2 weeks, seems like disney had followed me. The most amusing part of this happened around 5:30 or so on most days when the horns would blow alerting passengers to come back to the ship. Other cruise lines just have an ordinary horn, however Disney's horn has a few reminiscent tunes of "When You Wish Upon a Star," "A Dream is a Wish your Heart Makes," "Be Our Guest," and a few others. Well, around 5:30 every day most of the ashram community was at the end of their yoga practice, aka savasana time. I would crack up to myself when the horn would blow while the entire spiritual community was resting in relaxation. I kept thinking, "Oh they are calling me!" I have to say it was a warm hearted feeling and made me feel connected to my Disney family more than ever. Just a sign that I am exactly where I need to be in the world and how much I like my life balancing making fantastical magic at Disney and magic on the yoga mat. Its my own personal way of balancing out two magical career paths!
On the Lovely Yogis I Met:
The group of us participating in the Ayurvedic training were from all over the world from Ecuador, to Ibiza, to Canada, to various US states, and one quite close to me in Winter Park. After about day 3 we all started to bond quite well and it felt like a cohesive little family by the end of the training. Lots of deep conversation, laughs, stories to share, some tears shed, chanting together, life experience, etc. Thanks to Facebook it makes it super easy to stay connected to this wonderful group. Not to mention other people I met at the ashram from all walks of life. All of whom were on this spiritual path and seeking something greater...or maybe not even greater, but seeking to be connected with their true nature. I think I enjoyed the satsang so much because of being a part of this community of like minded people. I have always been a pretty independent person and one that enjoys her alone time a lot, however when I was at the ashram I found myself wanting to feel a part of the group more often than wanting to be in my own space. My individual self needed the support..reminding me of the life lesson of small self integrating with Universal Self.
With our daily schedule, I probably was meditating for over an hour each day. For most of this time I was certainly having a difficult time being a witness to the thoughts and quieting the mind. Many think that the purpose of meditation is to stop thinking, however the purpose is to still the mind and become an observer of the thoughts rather than become attached to them. Our minds are extremely active and meditation is a powerful technique to help calm down this activity. Easier said than done for sure! I was hoping by the end of my 2 weeks, I would have been a little more of an accomplished meditator able to still the mind and have moments of clarity. From day 1 to day 14 I rarely had an experience where I didn't sit down and have the flood of thought waves rush in, out, and around. I was very aware of how often the thought would try and pull me into the ocean of attachment, so that is a positive! I would notice the thought and maybe linger on it for a while, but did not buy into the drama or the story that it wanted to tell me. Now that I think about it, that is huge. Our ego is always trying to tell us a selfish story about oneself, which creates unwanted drama and pulls us further from our true selves. To recognize the ego at work is a step in the direction of mindfulness and clear perception. Many of our worlds are colored by the lense that we look through, which can be quite colored at times. Meditation is one way we polish the lense and remove the dirt, grit, and grime so we can look at the world and look at ourselves with pure unaltered reality.
On venturing out to Nassau and the Straw Market:
We had a few hours one day mid program to do whatever we felt like. Some "time off." Time off with no agenda was still scary to me. I cried, yes I cried because i didnt know what to do! Do I go with some of the ladies to Nassau and experience Bahamian culture, do I go to Atlantis and have a mini vacation, do I just relax on the beach for a few hours since I didn't do that at all? I was torn! I was fortunate that one of my new yoga friends embraced me and told me to join them at the straw market...so with her guidance I went. Wow, what a culture shock. After spending some time in a peaceful ashram and then going to a high sensory environment it was like, hello over stimulation! And the straw market is just a huge local shopping flea market with hundreds of bahamian vendors trying to get you to buy from there shop. You seriously can't escape without getting bombarded. "Hey pretty lady, see something you like?" As soon as we got there I wanted to leave. Most of what they sell as you can imagine most of the same souvenirs like shirts, bags, hats, seashells, and ummm wooden carved sculptures (some extremely phallic..yup a wooden penis keychain anyone hahah or maybe 2 dogs doing "downward dog" in a not so yogic fashion)! Definitely something to smile about. Anyway, i got a few things as souvenirs and was happy to leave that toxic environment! Returning back felt like a return to wholesome living.
On the Last Evening Dinner Out Celebration:
The night before the last day, all of us including our beloved teachers went out to the Marina and went to this fun bahamian restaurant. It felt good to get out (although the food was certainly not as good as the amazingly nourishing ashram cuisine). The highlight of this night was not the restaurant but the fun that occurred after. About 3/4 of the group went back to the ashram, but there were about 8 of us that stayed to dance outside to the bahamian duo band...just classic island songs that make you smile. This was seriously the most fun I have had in a verrryyyyy long time! We kicked off our shoes and were dancing not only with each other, but it seems our energy was magnetic and we drew people of all ages into our circle. Yes, maybe one or 2 drunk people but we were all having a freakin great time dancing and taking turns showing off our moves in the center of the circle. Our teachers were both there with us too and were dancing up a storm! It was this feeling I have not felt in a while where i just didn't care (in a good one)! Light hearted and carefree julie was feeling like how she felt when she would dance at a family celebration. I was dancing with these 2 little girls..jumping and twirling with them (kind of nice not being my disney alter ego and dancing with them as myself). It was getting late so we left only to stumble upon a one man band and we stopped and danced there for a bit too! Then as we were leaving we were all singing a few songs that Dr. Halpern had taught us, "I am not this body" and another one called "Life is a game." Just fun catchy little tunes. Many people thought we had a few, but as Dr. Halpern said we were "drunk of yogic love." So true! And I felt that! Wow, such a great night!
On the last Day:
So my blog is getting quite lengthy and its time to publish this for you all to read. Our last day of the training we had our graduation ceremony, which brought a lot of tears and a huge feeling of accomplishment. Prayers and blessings were said, songs were song, intentions were set, and a feeling of gratitude for the experience flooded us all. We now had the training to go out into the world, into our communities and beyond sharing ayurvedic yoga therapy! Later we all ate dinner on the beach together and went to satsang that night as one collective. It was a very auspicious way to close out the training and spend the last evening at the ashram!
Leaving the ashram the next morning was a bit surreal. I arrived at the ashram wishing my experience was over before it started, and as i was leaving i wanted to stay a few more days. I actually looked into changing my flight, but that was a pricey plane ticket! Who would have thought I would want to extend my stay after 2 weeks! A few of us left at the same time, took the little boat back to the dock, to the half hour cab ride and to the airport. The Sivananda ashram chapter of my life was at its final page as I left the Bahamas, however only to open up the next chapter immediately after. The post ashram chapter...The Button has been RESET!
Transitioning and Moving Forward:
I was lucky that my good yoga friend Mike from One Yoga came to pick me up from the airport, which was great because I was able to share yoga stories with a fellow yogi. Honestly, I knew coming back was going to be difficult for me because of the extreme opposite environments, so Mike was a very calm presence to come back to florida to. After he dropped me off back at my place with my mass amount of luggage, I took at deep breath and was like, "well now what?" Before I left, I was so distracted by preparing and packing for the trip that it kept my mind active. Now I was back with all this experience embedded in me and I didn't know what to do next. Well, unpack for one thing which took me quite a long time. I wound up going to a warm flow yoga class that evening because I wanted to flow and cleanse. With my ayurvedic knowledge, I knew this was probably not the best choice to take after flying and wanting to get settled, however it felt right in my heart and I listened. Personally, it felt really great to flow that way again and the warmth felt cleansing. I did have a lot of energy after, it was a nice energy surge! Ok and i admit, i went to starbucks after to do some journaling and had my first coffee (decaf) in two weeks. Ahhhhh, sweet java juice! It didn't have a decaf response in my physiology though! My heart was racing!
Before bed that night, I meditated and listened to a recording of my favorite chant from the satsang. My intention I set for myself is to practice meditation daily, honor that i need to slow down, and remember that the work i do is an act of service. Whether I teach, perform, or just work on life it is all service...to bring goodness to others, to not create waves, but to create calmness.
Its been a week and 2 days since I have been back and I'm doing well with my intentions. I do a short meditation in the morning, one in the evening and if i can one in the afternoon. Total is about 2ish min a day. I only have had a few days of crazy 2 hour long workouts, and other days i split between an hour of workout accompanied by an hour yoga practice. It has definitely helped to slow me down and make me feel satisfied in movement, without burning myself out.
I feel so much lighter, clearer, positive, uplifted, and hopeful upon my return. I don't wake up with the clenching feeling at my heart, or wake up in fear of the day or dreading the day. Instead I wake up knowing that I am exactly where I need to be, that i have work ahead of me that is both magical and real, whatever i do it is divine work ( i try and remember this each day which can be difficult especially when faced with a frustration, toxic person, or toxic energy...but this is life). Many people have said to me that I look so much happier and glowing once again. I lost this glow for a while there feeling gray and dim. Now I can honestly tell you that the spark has been lit and I do feel the light is bright once again. To type these words and see them on this blog in front of me is miraculous. It has been quite a journey and i have so much gratitude for the Sivananda Ashram experience. In the near future, I will be teaching workshops and private lessons in Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy, which i am excited to start. More important than the course itself though, was the path back to my heart. To feel like me again, someone who i thought i lost. I had to take a little downward plunge for a bit, but now I have climbed up and out, and on my way toward climbing the next mountain in my life. I honestly don't know the destination of the peak of this mountain. My goal is not to go from point A to point Z. My journey is to go from point A to point BE!!!
Dr. Halpern shared this with us about life as a human being and our ultimate dharma (aka life path)..
Question: Who are you?
Answer: I AM DIVINE
Question: Why are you here?
Answer: I AM HERE to EXPERIENCE
Question: Where are you going?
Answer: I AM GOING HOME
To this I say,
I HAVE ARRIVED, I AM HERE!
Thank you so much for reading dear friends! See you on the path...
Thank you thank you thank you Mom, Dad, and Jeff for encouraging me and supporting me on this journey. It wouldn't have happened without you! No words can emote the amount of love I have for all of you. You are my heart and i love you!