Jun 30 2018

Yoga and the monsoon in India

Yoga guru, Deli, International Day of Yoga

It is the summer solstice (June 21st) and the start of the monsoon season. I am in Delhi for the day to attend the 4th annual International Day of Yoga, which is celebrated by millions of people around the world. Founded by India’s Prime Minister Modi, International Day of Yoga was created to take the message of yoga’s healing properties for mind-body-spirit wellness to people the world-over.

Qutub Minar Complex in background of stage
Me, doing yoga in in 40C

While Prime Minister Modi leads a yoga practice with a mass outdoor group of about 50,000 in a sweltering 40C, covered by international media, I attend a special VIP event at the ancient Qutub Minar Complex (UNESCO) of monuments and buildings, providing a powerful backdrop for our activities. On a stage, a real-life yoga guru speaking in Hindi, along with some assistants, takes us through a group meditation and yoga session, and although I do not speak the language, I manage to follow along and do the poses — thankfully without hurting anything.

Yoga, the ancient tradition born in India more than 5,000 years ago, has become increasingly popular in my home town of Toronto. While I have been a fair-weathered yoga person, taking classes sporadically at studios and gyms, I am inspired by the authentic guru on stage, who has probably the calmest demeanor I have ever witnessed. I want to learn more and wonder how I could incorporate yoga in my daily life. I mean, who does not want to be that calm?

Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees. ~ BKS Iyengar

Later in the day, our group flies to Pune, Maharashtra, on the country’s west side to begin a tour of several renowned ashrams and yoga institutions over the course of a few days. Our first stop is the legendary BKS Iyengar Yoga Institute, created by Iyengar who is considered to be the founder of modern yoga. Here, I observe students in rigorous training, using all sorts of tools to stretch their bodies to the limit. If I did not know better, I would say it is torture.

Then it is on to a nearby village, Uruli Kanchan, where we visit the Nisargaopchar Ashram, founded in 1946 by the legendary Mahatma Gandhi, which is a unique example of the field of naturopathy and it attracts people from across India for healing. Next is the Kaivalyadham Ashram, a research institution and yoga college set on a lovely property, where I attend a presentation on the benefits of yoga — more food for thought.

Since it is the monsoon season, it predictably begins to rain — and hard. On the drive to our final stop of the tour, in the town of Lonavala, a stunningly beautiful area of the country with hills and waterfalls, the rain slows down our coach due to visibility. Through the window of the coach, what I see is not only rain and puddles, but a beautiful landscape in deep, crisp colours — as green as green can be. There is so much beauty in the monsoon.

Finally, we reach our last stop, the Vedanta Academy in Lonavala, which is founded by the legendary Swami Parthasarathy. Set on a lovely modern campus, the institution focuses on teaching the “truths of life.”

And if there is a truth I have learned on this trip it is this: the monsoon is worth experiencing and to do yoga in it is…divine.

Shannon Skinner is an award-winning creator/host of ExtraordinaryWomenTV.com, author, radio host, writer and international speaker. More information at ShannonSkinner.com.

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