India was a distant planet for me just a few years ago until I moved to Geneva. Living in such a cosmopolitan city I quickly made lots of new friends from many, many places around the world including India. As I progressed deeper into my life as a yoga teacher, my perspective changed completely and I started to become more and more curious and needed to know more about these beautiful people and their beautiful country and culture. When I heard about the Advanced Teacher Training in Goa, India organised by Yoga Life school, to be lead by my all time favourite teacher Sanjeev Bhanot, I said yes! This is India, calling me for more, let’s do it!
My expectations were simple, the result….
My main goals were to delve deeper into my yoga teaching, learning as much as I could from Sanjeev and his team, exploring more of India, being away from the daily routine of life, emptying the mind and filling it with new experiences – this is the first time in my life I have been away from home for such a length of time! I did have some hesitations and fears about my trip, getting sick, finding myself in unwanted situations, and also some guilt of leaving my family behind for so long. Although I knew that Goa is not a typical Indian region and is a safe touristic place, I still had some preconceived ideas about the place. However, as they say, if you want something so bad, you will find a solution – otherwise you will find a 1000 reasons not to! Apparently, my willingness outweighed my hesitations, so happily, I ended up having one of the best experiences of my life.
First Days, Mixed Feelings
We stayed in a very simple resort, small huts with very basic facilities, there were many technical and practical difficulties! However, the feeling when I arrived was just so magical that the little difficulties just faded and dissipated over the first few days.
The moment I stepped foot on the beach, walking past the palm trees making my way to the ocean, I stopped, looked around me…and YES I felt like I was on another planet! (So I was right!!!) With the magnificent sunset, I just felt the bliss and was humbled and felt truly grateful for giving the decision to be there.
But I must confess, I did not sleep much for the first 2-3 nights, with all the different unfamiliar sounds of animals, the ocean, the wind, mosquitos and all others that I didn’t even recognize! Then, of course, I was so tired and relaxed that I just fell asleep and slept like a baby and woke up around 5:30 without the alarm!!
The Routine in the Training
We started our days at 06:00 with breathing and meditation, followed by Antastha yoga class before breakfast. It was officially my first time doing this long meditation! And yes, it took me about a week to really understand and enjoy the effects and benefits of it. And now, I can say that a day without meditation does not feel complete and the need is like being thirsty for a large glass of cold water on a very hot summer day!
Evening Yoga Classes
The day ended with another class of Antastha yoga, taught by one of the students who is also a very experienced yoga teacher!
In this training, in addition to a getting deeper knowledge and understanding of the meaning and guiding principles of yoga from the original sources such as Mandukya Upanishads, and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and learning to do the unique hands-on adjustments, we also learned a unique style of hatha yoga called Antastha yoga, created by Sanjeev Bhanot.
” Antastha Yoga is a holistic approach by which the human being is perceived in its integrity and is being guided deep within. It is the pure expression of a combined modern understanding of the multidimensionality of a human being with a traditional, ancient yogic wisdom integrating the body, mind and soul.”
It was a very special and unique combination of meditation and blindfolded yoga series
From the Sanskrit name ANTASTHA- “the deepest”, Antastha yoga gradually takes you to that deepest place within yourself. Using the blindfolds during a series of hatha yoga that works on your central nervous system, it encourages you to focus on your inner space, on “pratyahara”, the withdrawal of the senses. Antastha Yoga offers you the maximum therapeutical effects of yoga. It will be a privilege and a great responsibility to teach Antastha Yoga, guiding the practitioners on their own journey!
Here is a very happy teacher holding her certificate for her Antastha Yoga teaching, among her favourite teacher team and guru! Manoj, Sanjeev, Nicoletta and Micaela, who made this dream come true! You can check out this short article for more details on Anthasha Yoga, I am sure you will be surprised like me to learn how yoga can completely and utterly transform your life. I know for some of you, yoga means some kind of monkey poses, or for some, it is for getting a better body and figure or just for pure relaxation. All of these are great and I especially love my monkey poses! Do yoga for all of the mentioned reason, but yoga has far much more to offer you! Take a look at these 2 pictures, first one on my way to Goa and the second one is obvious! Look at the eyes and the smile, can you see the difference?
How it all connects to self discovery, a spiritual journey and happiness?
You might be one of these people (like me) who felt a bit weird, scared and distant to such words “Self discovery” and “Spiritual journey”. These terms made me think of the typical stereotype of hippy, woo do yoga people, sitting around all day long and chanting OMMMM! And I never ever thought that becoming one them would feel so great!!
From day 1 of this training, Sanjeev made us question everything we thought we knew about ourselves, starting with asking “Who Am I?” and then ” Is it true?”. What if the story we know about ourselves is a just story that we created in our minds, from our own beliefs, emotions and judgments and not the reality itself? But how can we differentiate the truth from a created story? And this is where yoga, let’s call it “Super Yoga” 🙂 comes into action!
Yoga is an awakening, waking up to reality.
A reality where happiness is actually there, happiness exists, it is here now! It is not “was” and not “will”. You do not create happiness, you just have to realise it is in the here and now. We, people, sometimes like to create our own melodramas in order to hide behind feelings-emotions like fear, guilt, hate and we love victimising ourselves and blaming the “bad person” who did all the wrong! Then we wait for that “bad person” to change to make us feel better, not taking the responsibility on our part and not seeing the true story. We forget the role we played and keep on playing our part in the drama as if it is the only truth. Through its 8 steps, limbs, legs whatever you name it, yoga takes you to the place where you can see your reality as it really is. The “sportive” part that is widely known or meditation and breathing part that is less practiced, is only part of these 8 steps. It (enlightenment) is a long journey and it is not the final destination but it is the journey itself which will transform you into a different, a happier person!
First and foremost, yoga has its own personal and social rules, which are the guiding principles that will make you feel better, free of guilt and bad karma! These are some of the universal moral values such as truthfulness, contentment, purity, non harming-violence, self awareness-study, commitment, discipline, non-stealing and some others that are relevant in today’s complex life.
Through breathing techniques and meditation, you will learn the power of INACTION! In today’s life, all we do is to fill in the gaps with life, social media, music, videos, messages, thoughts and to do lists! The moment you manage to silence the mind, feel the gap between these thoughts, is most valuable one, which should not be filled with anything! This is such a new concept to me and I am still in the process of learning and experiencing it.
End of Day 10, a capture of that look of seeing the light at the end of tunnel, from a talented Photographer Suresh Pattabhiraman.
Life after 2 weeks of yoga shower!
The after effect of these days are still in place, although I came back to a heavy agenda, busy days and a back-neck pain from the long flight due to carrying my heavy luggage!! However, I left a lot of my personal baggage behind and replaced it with all the good I found in India! So I would say the back-neck pain was a small price to pay!!
Since my return, I have continued the routine of my 10 day training and do my meditation and breathing every morning. After long years of denial and being very distant to this idea of ” sitting and doing nothing” it is now my favourtie time of the day – I enjoy this time of peace and quiet – to sit quietly and get my body and mind in balance for my day ahead – I wake up 45minutes earlier then usual, even sometimes before my alarm!
It goes deeper than just dedicating some time for meditation, and yoga guides you to be fully aware of what you are doing at any given time. It truly is an awakening.
Anything you do with awareness is a kind of yoga!
Try brushing your teeth or cooking with 110% presence and not thinking anything else and you will see the difference. Looking into the eyes of the person you love, being 120% present and in the moment! Listening to yourself and others without any judgement and just being an observer. Just being…
And this little yoga mat itself is like a small version of life!
Where you create yourself some challenges and observe how you react to them. What do you do when you face pain? How do you feel when you do a difficult pose for the first time? Are you kind to yourself? Are you committed for a better you? Are you awake? Are you aware of the sensations in your body? Can you be more relaxed? Can you breathe deeper? The above picture is a good example of where I think I was trying to be kind to myself, because that pose usually gives me pain!
All these questions that you can ask yourself on the mat, are also relevant off the mat! Can you see the connection?
There is so much more I can write about yoga and how it takes you on this beautiful journey, the jouney that no one should be afraid of – on the contrary – once you take the first brave steps you will just feel the bliss and happiness! I would happily support you in your own journey, if you need some further guidance in this.
I discovered that many of my own stories and dramas have been created by myself, things that I have believed in for years or maybe just recently (especially during the peroid when my father passed away). I also realised how much I have ignored ‘self love’ over the years! I am still in the process of differentiating the truth from my stories, but I am already feeling a lot lighter and happier as my journey continues.
I am really grateful to my teachers and friends in this training for helping me along this journey. It was a very healing period in addition to the training in a safe and very happy environment (and with some long waited tears of course!).
I strongly recommend any of Yoga Life Retreats and trainings or workshops, you will thank me for this amazing experience.
I also am grateful for my family, my husband, my sons, my friends and everyone who helped and supported me and my family during these days. It has been another kind of journey for them as well!
If you read until here, it is a miracle!
Not many reads this much long articles any more, except you 🙂 So I want to gift you this beautiful poem that my dear friend Kristiina from the training taught, and wish you a happy and peaceful life, where you find love!
What it is
It is nonsense says Reason It is what it is says Love
It is unhappiness says Caution it is nothing but pain says Fear It is hopeless says Insight It is what it is says Love
It is ridiculous says Pride It is careless says Caution It is impossible says Experience It is what it is says Love