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My trip to India and to myself- advice from a spiritual seeker

“A guest post by Lisa, who started her trip to India with a trek in the Himalayas with Chalo! Travels. Lisa did a yoga teacher training at Shri Jasnath Ashram, a small ashram in Rajasthan where Chalo-Travels offers yoga and Ayurveda retreats and Sarah teaches as a yoga teacher. In addition, Sarah met Lisa again during the ten-day introductory course in Buddhism at the Tushita Center in Dharamshala.”

In this article I would like to tell you about my long-term journey, which began in India and still takes me back to this fascinating country again and again. I want to motivate other travelers and spiritual seekers to make the journey to India and into the infinitely wide world of yoga. I would like to encourage doubters to take courage to tackle this adventure, which offers so much enrichment at all levels of life. If you are playing with the idea of learning more about yoga, meditation and thus about yourself in India, I would like to introduce some places that make a journey easy and form a great basis for further travel and spiritual practice.

How it all started…

In mid-2015, I made the decision to go on a journey. This trip should not be a small one. The end should be open, even if I only expected about half a year as a rough time window. The goal of my journey should be the following: the search for myself, for my true core and my meaning in this world. Which country, of course, comes to mind first? Clearly: India – the land of yoga and unlimited diversity. As a starting signal, I decided to complete a one-month yoga teacher training in an Indian ashram to begin this (inner) journey.

If I do not mention at this point that, apart from great curiosity, I had at least as much fear about my destination, I would miss a very important point. The beginning was far from easy. My decision was repeatedly shaken. India, a country of which I had only a vague idea about, instilled a certain respect for me as a solo traveller. In this uncertain phase, I came across Sarah’s India blog and contacted her. I received encouragement from her about my plans, so I took the courage to actually set out. I also decided to start my trip with a hike organized by Sarah and her team of Chalo Travels, which gave me a welcome security to start with.

This decision turned out to be absolutely right, as it gave me a good start. Arriving in the capital New Delhi was an overwhelming experience and India immediately captivated me. I couldn’t stop being amazed, as I had never visited such an impressive country before. After I had finished my first 16-hour night bus ride and arrived in the tranquil mountain resort of Manali, I got to know Sarah and was able to exchange personal information with her about her experience in India, which was very enriching for me.

Our six-day trek into the himalayas was fantastic and after only 2 days of hiking a stunning mountain landscape opened up, which can only be guessed from Manali. In this imposing environment, the term Himalaya suddenly took shape for me. If I had previously had expectations of the beauty of these mountains, they were now more than fulfilled here.

I spent another week in Manali after the trek, where I gathered the courage for my upcoming trip through India. Everything kind of flowed in on its own, and every place I came to, gave me unimaginable surprises. I quickly realized that once you get involved in the journey without any internal resistance, everything happens exactly as it is right. A game of energies and inputs could be said. And India is unique, it has a certain magic that cannot be put into words. I quickly realized that all the events and people I needed appeared on my own path, giving me direction and inspiration for my next journey. My stops after I left Manali were the beautiful Dharamsala region, home to the Dalai Lama and inspiring Buddhist flair, as well as Rishikesh, the capital of yoga. Both places that are easy to travel as a newcomer to India and a solo traveller and were just right for me at that time. Less than a month after my first arrival in India, my one-month yoga teacher training began at The Shri Jasath Asan Ashram in the Rajasthan Desert, near the city of Jodhpur.

This ashram may be a household name for some of you who follow Sarah’s blog. Sarah had recommended this special ashram to me before the start of my trip and it was by chance that an education was offered here at the right time for me.

In an authentic atmosphere, my passion for yoga philosophy was ignited. It was the start of my personal yoga journey – a journey of learning, finding myself, and discovering never-ending possibilities.

All this is now two and a half years old. My journey has continued since then, and in between I return to Germany again and again for some time. I have seen a lot of India during this time, I have travelled four times to this country, which has not let me go, for several months. In the meantime, I have completed various courses and trainings in yoga, meditation, Ayurveda and massage. India offers every seeker a great opportunity to learn, grow and have precious life experiences. I recommend it to all travelers who want to experience themselves and immerse themselves in the world of yoga and meditation. There is so much to discover and an infinite number of places that are suitable for spiritual seekers. For all those who would like to make their trip individual and want to have a good start to the journey, I have put together some suggestions and inspirations here.

Sivananda Ashrams: Madurai in Tamil Nadu and Neyyardan in Kerala

In the Sivananda Ashrams in southern India the so-called “Yoga Vacations” are offered and over a period of two weeks the basis of yoga is taught on the basis of the teachings of Swami Sivananda. Here the entry into India and yoga is made easy. All levels of experience come at their expense.

The whole thing is also quite uncomplicated and you can basically come and go whenever you want. A two weeks stay is recommended, but not a must. In addition to theoretical lessons in the morning and afternoon, there are yoga asana classes, which are offered for beginners and advanced students. Every day there is a certain daily routine and through the morning and evening Satsangs (common mantra singing and meditation) you get a good insight into the Indian ashram life.

There are two fixed meals a day and through this fixed routine I have very quickly come into the state of inner grounding and harmony with myself during my stays.

The ashram in Neyyardam near the town of Trivandrum in southern Kerala is the more famous ashram and much larger than the small, manageable and somewhat later founded ashram near the city of Madurai. I recommend the latter to travellers who would like to learn in a quiet atmosphere in a smaller group.

It’s a very contemplative ashram in which I felt very comfortable. Neyyardam, on the other hand, is like a small spiritual village, where there is also an Ayurveda clinic, where you can get Ayurveda treatments, such as a Panchakarma (an all-round cleansing and detoxification of the body).

Tushita – a Buddhist center in northern India

Through the deep immersion in the world of yoga, I have of course also come into contact with meditation. This was very important to me as I realized the importance of meditation to me personally in my life and spiritual practice. In meditation, I discovered for myself the most powerful means of achieving an inner balance and clarity, which I was finally looking for through this journey. In the meantime, my journey has taken me several times to Dharamsala in northern India, where I took part in a 10-day course on the introduction to Buddhism and Meditation. This course changed a lot of my perspective on the world and  getting to know Buddhist philosophy put everything I have learned so far in a larger context. I learned how the illusions and projections of our minds are responsible for our world and self-image, and that we have the right to turn them in a positive direction. As an introduction to Buddhist philosophy, I strongly recommend the introductory courses offered at the Tushita Meditation Center.

During these silent retreats, one gets the opportunity to question oneself and one’s own thought patterns and recognizes in which aspects the mind has put obstacles in one’s way in the past. For those already experienced in meditation and Buddhism, Tushita also offers advanced courses in which more specific topics are dealt with and Buddhist practices are deepened.

These are just a few of the many opportunities that are well suited for an entry into India. I hope I have been able to inspire and encourage you to embark on the journey if you are still struggling. If you have any questions, always come with it!

About the author:

Lisa-Maria Dau set off on her long-term journey to many Asian countries after completing her studies in cultural studies in September 2015. She has travelled to many places in India since then and is very fascinated by this country and its culture. Over the last two and a half years she has completed various training courses in yoga, Ayurveda and massage, most of them in India. She has also discovered meditation and Buddhist philosophy for herself and is a tireless learner in this field. She is currently launching her personal blog and shares impressions and perspectives on her Instagram account,where you can contact her if you have any questions about Travel and India.