Things can get very interesting when you trust your instincts and follow your sense of attraction. Last month exactly this took me to an Ashram in Indore, central India, called Paramanand Institute of Yogic Sciences. I lived there for a month, a period of deep learning and transformation, and I left with so much more than a yoga teacher qualification. Rediscovering yoga 4 years ago, an interest quickly became self motivated daily practice, encouraged by the physical and mental health improvements I was experiencing. The idea of being a yoga teacher had occurred to me, and when I heard about the idea of training in India, and about this particular school, it just felt right.
I had never been to India before, and driving through the chaotic streets of Indore from the airport to the ashram, families of 5 on a single motorbike dodging cows on the freeway, was an eye opening experince. The Ashram, although close to the city, sat on 6 acres of land busting with organic crops, an injured cow nursery as well as temples, a monastery and age care facilities. My roommate Ramon, from Holland, was going into his third month at the Ashram and although already a qualified yoga teacher was in no hurry to leave. We became good friends over the time sharing many amazing experiences as well as a prolonged bout of street food poisoning.
Getting into the course, it was a blessing to only have 5 people in my group, and it didn’t bother me at all that I was the only male and aproximately double the age of my fellow students. Every day was intense, starting at dawn with yoga, pranayam and meditation before going into classes in Yoga Therapy, Yoga Philosophy, Ayurveda, Pranayam (yogic breathing) ,Yoga Asanas (poses) and teaching techniques. Every day we were also required to perform acts of Karma Yoga, selfless acts without expectation of reward. My photography became a key part of this practice as I documented all aspects of the Ashram life for my fellow students and the institute and by the end people were lining up to commission work. Each day finished with Bhakti Yoga, devotional singing and prayer which often became a fun and spirited jam session on traditional Indian instruments.
The Ashrams founder and guru was Guruji, Dr Omananad, a charismatic, fun and deeply wise yogi who inspired all his students to do their best. The author of many books and the teacher of tens of thousands of students, his knowledge was steeped in the ancient traditions of Indian yoga. He never seemed to sleep and was always available to us to answer questions or deal with any concerns. On top of taking classes, twice a day he would lead us in group pranayam and mediation. These were always intensely physical and spiritual experiences; some students might end up crying hysterically, others laughing whilst others might go into involuntary full body shakes. I experienced all of these states at various times. Towards the end of the course Guruji issued us with a personal mantra and a yogi name in an ancient ritual. You can now call me Madhav Ananad- Divine Compassion- Sweet Bliss.
I left the Ashram with my 200 hour teacher qualification feeling energised, inspired and ready to face the world. Arriving in Mumbai however, I discovered that my travel visa would run out just hours before my return flight, no hotel would allow me to check in and I spent the night on a couch in a hotel foyer wondering if I would be sent to prison. My mediation practice and recently learned prayer techniques had never been so critical as I slowly untangled the mess and negotiated my way through the chaos and confusion of Indian bureaucracy. Strangers came forward at key moments to help me out and although I missed my flight I left India the following day wiser for the experience.
Back on Kangaroo Island Ky was definitely into the idea of having a yoga teacher as her boyfriend and I started taking her for classes straight away. Within a week I took my first real class, a group of seniors sitting in chairs at an aged care facility. I made them chant OM but spared them reciting the Sanskrit prayers and chanting Shanti. I think they all enjoyed the experience, only one student fell asleep. I loved it.