Zohreh Sadeghi India and Beyond

A valuable lesson

I decided to spend the month of June in an Ashram studying Yoga Therapy. This Ashram that’s now turned into a university is apparently a well-known Yoga research center in India and hundreds of people attend their Yoga Instructor’s course every month. I had heard about this place from a friend of mine and after I did my research on it I was convinced it’d be a great experience for me.  My friend also decided to join and go through the program with me. So we both reserved our spots in the program and I was very excited to head there until the day to leave for the Ashram actually arrived.

I was really nervous the whole day and had this really strange feeling in my gut, I can’t quiet explain the feeling but something inside me kept holding off. I was originally supposed to stay in Bangalore for one night before heading to the Ashram but since this feeling was so strong I extended my stay to two nights. On day 2, my friend met me in Bangalore and we got into a taxi heading to the Ashram that was about 2 hours outside of Bangalore.

The strange feeling in my stomach kept getting stronger and stronger as we started approaching the Ashram. I told my friend about it but he assured me that I’d be ok and he said if at any point I started having doubts about this place that I could just leave. Well that proved to be easier said that done.

Do you know that feeling you get as soon as you arrive at a place and you immediately know you don’t belong there? Maybe I can explain better, you’re searching for a hotel, it’s 11 PM at night, you’re exhausted, just got off the train after traveling for 18 hours straight and you’re just looking for a place to crash. But even in the midst of exhaustion there’s still that one hotel you would never stay at, the one hotel where you enter and by just looking at the lobby you know it’s not for you. You know that feeling? Well that’s exactly how I felt once we reached the Ashram, my stomach was all of a sudden all twisted up in a knot, I felt this burn and heaviness in my stomach (this is the way stress shows up in my body, the first place it attacks has always been my stomach, it’s always been that way for me).

We entered through these big iron gates where we had to deal with a mean security guard who had us fill out these visitor forms. After we got through that we entered the campus, it was big, lots of trees around with buildings and huts scattered in between as if the campus was built in the middle of forest. It was a gloomy and dark day, well it’s the monsoon season here in South India so everyday is pretty dark and it rains almost all day. Our taxi dropped us off at the reception area where we were greeted by an angry lady who told us to immediately report to the Yoga office since we had missed one day of class already. We did as she told, the Yoga building was a small building with one main lecture/practical hall and 2 to 3 little offices attached. We saw everybody sitting on the floor in the lecture hall as we entered the building, there were about 70 students taking the course most of which looked Indian to me.

After we were done with the formalities, the angry lady proceeded to show us to our rooms. Since I was a foreigner I could share a room with another foreigner in a newer building but my friend who was Indian had to stay at the hostel with 35 other boys. The room she took me to looked ok at first glance except for the fact that it was super tiny, and I mean really really small with 2 twin beds crammed in there and 2 plastic chairs and nothing else. I choked for a second when I saw my roommate’s bed covered with her clothes and belongings. I was horrified at the thought of living out of my suitcase for a month. This might not sound as frightening to some of you but after being on the road for more than a month and having to live out of my suitcase in this and that hotel, all I wanted was a feeling of settlement during my time at this Ashram. I was looking forward to spending more than a week at one location, and I thought I’d have a closet or at least some shelves so I could unpack and settle down. I asked the lady if there were any single rooms available and she said absolutely not and that I had to share this room. I said I’d pay the extra fee and begged her to give me another room, but she decided to ignore me and walked out of the room while handing me the keys. I put my backpack down and sat on the bed and curled up hugging my knees while starring at the room around me. I was beginning to feel it, the fear, anger, disappointment, sadness was all building up. I kept repeating to myself “Come on Z, don’t be so spoiled, so what, it’s a small room and not a very clean one but who cares, you’ll be ok. Come on, just toughen up.”

I refused to attend any of the classes that night and instead took a walk around the campus with my friend, we talked about the Ashram and while he tried to encourage me and get me excited about the course I was sad, just purely sad. I met my roommate later that night, a Chinese lady in her late 30s I guessed who was perfectly nice and laughed a lot. She wasn’t too happy to see me cause she had thought there was nobody else joining the course and that she’d have the room to herself. She told me there were only about 8 foreigners in the whole program and that the schedule was pretty tough. I looked at the course syllabus, and I was blown away: Wake up call at 4:30 AM, 5 AM meditation and Pranayama (breathing) followed by Asanas (Yoga postures) until 7 AM, 7 to 8 AM Karma Yoga which means selfless help around the Ashram (washing, cleaning, etc.), 8 to 8:45 AM Mantras/prayers, 8:45 to 9:45 AM breakfast, 10 AM first lecture. You get the picture, right? It went on like this until 9:15 at night, back to back lectures, Yoga sessions, meditation sessions, prayers, etc. And we had 30 minutes each day to study on our own, 9:15 to 9:45 PM, and lights were out at 10 PM. For a second I thought I had joined the military.

It wasn’t so much the schedule that got to me, or the fact that I had to sit on the floor in a super dirty dining hall eating some bland food with my hands but it was the bed bug bites I saw all over my body once I woke up at 4:30 AM the next day that frightened me. I kind of knew I didn’t want to be there anymore but I put on my clothes and went to meditation and Yoga anyways. Afterwards I went back to the reception and asked the always angry lady for a single room. I couldn’t take sharing that tiny room with another girl and all those bed bugs scared the hell out of me. I told her I had trouble sleeping with others in the room and that I needed a single room. After much begging, The angry lady finally agreed and changed my room. When I opened the door to my new room, I couldn’t help the tears from falling. I completely lost it. It was smaller than the smallest bathroom with one twin bed put on an angle because it wouldn’t fit into the room if it was put straight. There was a toilet attached that I won’t even go into detail of how horrible it was. The whole room stunk; there was dirt, spider webs, and dust everywhere. I cried for a few minutes, then got up, wiped my tears and went to class. After class I went back to my room, put my gloves on and started scrubbing. My friend came to my rescue and we scrubbed for about 2 hours. Once the scrubbing was done, I sat on the bed, looked around and started crying again. That’s when I knew I couldn’t stay there. I told my friend I could handle the schedule, the food, the mean teachers/staff but I could not live in dirt for an entire month. The bed sheets and blanket were so dirty that they had turned black. My friend looked at me and said “Listen you need to get out of here because if you stay here longer you will get sick, I see it in you, you’re miserable. You’re a strong girl and this doesn’t mean you’re quitting, this place is just not for you.”

It was 6 PM when we had this talk, it was time to go to my other lecture but instead I started packing like a crazy woman. I didn’t even know if I could leave, I didn’t know if I could get my money back, I didn’t know how difficult it was going to be but I packed. And I went online and reserved a hotel room in Bangalore for 2 nights. After that was all done, I went down to the reception and told the biggest lie I have ever told in my life and I hoped that god would forgive me for lying. I already looked like crap so the angry lady felt bad just seeing me, I was still in tears when I spoke with her, I said I had to leave to go back to San Francisco because of a horrible family emergency. I won’t go into detail of what I had to go through to convince these people to let go and the procedures I had to go through but 3 hours later at 9 PM I was in a taxi heading to Bangalore.

I was miserable for the next 2 days in Bangalore, I fell sick and stayed in bed; I’d like to think I was suffering from mental food poisoning. My stomach was in pain, my blood pressure had dropped, I was completely fatigued and my whole body was in pain. I decided to stay in Bangalore for a while longer to have some down time and get healthy again. So I changed my hotel to one that had a self-service laundry. And the washing began, I washed all my clothes, I was washing like a mad woman for 2 days straight.

Now looking back I think this was a good lesson to learn for me, a lesson to always trust my gut feeling and don’t ever ignore what my heart tells me. I should have listened to the voice inside me and avoided that ashram but I decided to ignore it cause my ego got in the way. People at the ashram felt bad for me and gave me 80% of my money back which I was more than happy with. I’d probably walk away even if they had said you won’t get a refund. I just wish I didn’t have to lie but sometimes life doesn’t give you any other option.

1 Comment

I’m so glad that you decided to listen to your gut feeling Zohreh joon.

Posted by Roshi on 29 June 2011 @ 3am

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