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An ashram, a guru and the hot sun of Rajasthan

Puja mit Guru ji

More than 2 hours teh bus takes over the almost straight road through the flickering heat of the Rajasthan sun. I sit sandwiched between an elderly gentleman with a goat on his lap and a young woman in a pink Rajasthani outfit and a long dark ponytail and beautiful face, both covered by a thin scarf. My feet are placed on sacks filled with grain. At least I have a seat. The sweat runs down my back and again and again I wipe my face with my scarf.When I look out the window, I see nothing but sand, from time to time a few shrubs, then herds of goats, a camel.

Then again, nothing but sand. We are in the middle of the Rajasthan desert Tharr. Every now and then we pass a small village. Then the old bus comes to a halt. Old passengers get off, new ones are added and sellers offer their goods through the windows. I get a bottle of water and enjoy the cool liquid flowing down my throat.

The Shri Jasnath Ashram

The next stop is mine. Two and a half hours from Jodhpur. The bus stops in front of a brick gate and I get off.

3 days later

It’s still dark when I walk across the ashram area to the yoga terrace at 5:30 am. My Indian students are already waiting for me with their yoga mats.

I greet them with a namaste and start with the Shanti mantra to start the morning yoga class. For the next ninety minutes I stumble through my broken Hindi. But my students are eager to participate and are grateful for the guided yoga class. With the first sun salutations, the red sunball actually appears. A new day has begun and already the first warming sun rays announce another warm day.

The class closes with a relaxation in Shavasana. Then I go to the dining hall. It’s time for breakfast. On the way I meet Ritu, who quite meditatively sweeps the floor  broom stroke by broom stroke. She raises her head and greets me with a nod, then sinks back into her karma yoga work.

In the dining room I sit down on a pillow, in front of me a small low table with a round metal plate, which the eager kitchen helpers quickly fill with fresh fruits, yogurt and a grain porridge. Together with the other ashram dwellers, I put my hands together in front of my chest in a Namskar-Mudra, close my eyes and we sing together the Bojan mantra out of gratitude for the food in front of us. Then we start with the meal.

To my left, Guru ji sits slightly elevated on a seat cushion and in an orange robe. He asks me about my yoga class and listens with interest  how his deciples are doing. Then he tells me that in three days’ time there will be a big celebration at the end of the Navatri Festival, to which more than ten thousand pilgrims will come and the Jasnath Comunity will perform its famous fire dances and sacred chants here at the Ashram.

I’m looking forward to the festival and I can’t even imagine so many people here. At the moment, there are perhaps about 20 ashram inhabitants living  in the ashram.  They do their Seva work (spiritual service) permanently or on a temporary basis.

Guru Ji is the head of the Ahram and spiritual leader of the small Rajasthan Jasnath community with Hindu tradition. The line goes back not only to Shri jasnath, the first Guru of the sect, but till Shiva through Matsiendra and Goraknath actually.

Everyone is welcome here to live, work for a few days, weeks or even months and participate in the regular daily routine consisting of yoga classes, karma yoga and evening ceremonies. I myself will be staying for a good month this time. My yoga trail has often led me here to the little Shri Jasnath Ashram. The quiet and regular everyday life, the powerful atmosphere of the place, healthy full-fledged food and the friendly people create a beautiful environment for my own Yoga practice.

After breakfast, I also go straight to one of my favorite karma yoga works: the preparation of lunch. For this I accompany Pappu, the chef,  to the adjacent neighboring house. Here Nita cares for the welfare of the five handsome ashram cows, who generously supply the ashram community with milk.

All kinds of useful and tasty products from Nita are made from the milk and Pappu and I come to get fresh yogurt.

Of course, this is not possible without a small stopover with delicious masala chai (spice tea) and a little chat. Then we move on to Ranu in the garden.

Ranu is a retired soldier and now passionatly takes care of the organic ashram garden.. He proudly presents me and Pappu  his thriving eggplant, beans, tomatoes, pumpkins and, and, and.

A large bucket of freshly harvested Okra-Beans is ready for us to be taken to the kitchen..

Back in the ashram kitchen, I sit down with a group of women who are already busy cutting onions. I myself attack the Okra Beans and start snipping. We are a funny group. The Indian women are happy about my company and are at least as much interested in me as I am in them.

In Hindi we start a funny conversation. They are all amazed that I am still not married at an age of twenty-seven. I myself ask them about their life as a Rajasthani wife, marvel at their permanent headgear and learn Hindi diligently.

After a delicious lunch consisting of the fresh okra beans, millet bread, yellow lentils, salad and yoghurt, it’s time to rest..

In Rajasthan it is generally hot, but now around noon the heat is almost unbearable.

On the way to my room, I pass the “Ayurveda Oasis”. The newly built small cottage in the middle of the ashram area actually resembles an oasis. Inside it is pleasantly cool, it smells of aromatic herbs and in the background sounds gentle music.

Ranu, a co-worker, is in the process of folding white linen towels, and Nani, an elderly woman and our good soul in the ashram, prepares a paste of herbs and spices with a large heavy stone in the kitchen. Hmmm, hence the pleasant fragrance.

I am invited to an Ayurvedic herbal tea, which suits my Dosha, and in the meantime I discuss my treatments for the next few days with Dr. Shrejan, the local Ayurveda doctor. In addition to Abhyanga, a full-body massage, I also want a facial that Shree, the Ayurvedic oasis manager, is specialized in. She is currently training two girls from the surrounding villages as therapists. That’s luck for me, because the girls need practice and so I get an impromptu free foot massage. Completely relaxed I immediately agree to another appointment for a Shirodhara, an oil-head casting…

Now I go to my room for a short rest. But I don’t have too much time to sleep. In the afternoon I will teach a small group of  ashram inhabitants in English. The Ashram hosts regular welcomes guests for yoga and Ayurvedic group retreats and the Ashram people want to improve their english to make communication easier.

Teaching in a small group is fun. The students are motivated and I learn at least as much from them as they do from me.

Karma Yoga: English Lessons for Ashram Members

By now it’s 5 pm and the hottest time of the day. I am meeting the children from the surrounding houses  for a children’s yoga class in the Ashram Garden. The last days we practiced a yoga mandala dance, which they present to me today. We also play yoga memory, make the children’s sun salutation and end the lesson with some partner yoga.

Then there is food time again. Since it is now so wonderfully pleasant outside, we decide to move the meal to the garden.

Slowly the sun goes down and from the temple complex we hear the first drum beats. It’s time for the evening fire ceremony. We all gather in the temple, and while the priest performs his rituals, we sit with our instruments, chant mantras and sing Khirtans. It is a beautiful ritual and at the end of the ceremony I stay for a few minutes in the temple for a short meditation.

Afterwards we meet with Guru Ji for a little satsang in the garden. We talk about yoga, the ashram and the world. It is a nice exchange with some “aha” moments.

Now it is time for some sleep. Because the next day starts early again.

Our retreats at Shri Jasnath Ashram can be found here.