City of Varanasi, India Travel

A beautiful chaos called Varanasi

I have fallen in love with the holy city of Varanasi. It’s chaotic little labyrinth streets and the crazy crowds and the strange people. Everywhere i look, there is something to see. Every corner i find is full of color, every time i go out i don’t know what i will see and experience. It’s a place where people come to die because dying in Varanasi brings salvation. It’s a city with estimated 23000 temples. It’s a place where philosophers, poets, writers and musicians lived.

Ganga Aarti, City of Varanasi, India
Ganga Aarti by the river – magical

I sit inside shops filled with handmade notebooks and watch the shopkeepers pray and sing mantras.
I sit by the ganga, watching people wash their clothes, pray and dip in.
I watch men dressed in orange carry ganga water to temples in big crowds, i hear them sing on the streets.
I get escorted by excited twelve-year-old schoolboys.
I get followed by men who whisper to me time after time: “madam, please buy some fresh weed. Madam, i have opium. Madam! Opium! Ketamine! Marijuana??” and get saved by shopkeepers who say: “do not disturb this madam, this madam is very shanti.”
I sit on the rooftops at night and watch people on the other rooftops – they dance, chat, put up their clothes to dry, eat and wave at me.
I sit near temples and spy inside, watch people lighting candles and listen to them chanting.
I sit in cafes drinking sweet black coffee and watch the spectrum of different people walk by.
I see old people in wheelchairs on their way to wait for their death.
I see people carrying bodies in the streets, covered in orange and flowers.
I visited an ashram and had tea and cookies with a big guru dressed in a bright yellow robe.
I have taken yoga classes that make me smile like crazy afterwards while i walk back to my hostel.

City of Varanasi, India

I love the chaos. I love how everywhere i look, there is something. So many colors, so many little details. So much intensity in one place. This is a place that’s very hard to put to words. When i sit down somewhere and observe, i try to write it down, but i can’t. To describe the colors, the people, the buildings, the crowds.

City of Varanasi, India

For me personally, traveling is very tiring. I mean the kind of traveling where you stay couple of nights at one place, see it, the sights and all, and then move on. I like to stay for longer. I don’t like to pack and carry my backpack. I am a really bad backpacker. A lazy one. But i love the way i travel – that’s why also i decided to stay and enjoy Varanasi until it’s time to go back to Delhi. I tried and tried to make a plan for myself to see at least one more place in India. But what can i do? Varanasi got me with it’s intense energy, amazing yoga classes and endless life that keeps on going everywhere.

City of Varanasi, India

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Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh Travel

200 hours yoga teacher training: the experience III

19th of July

“I stopped counting days gone and started counting days left. No no no nono. I want to stay. I want to submerge myself into this world of yoga and being and learning. And never stop. Never, never. I can’t believe it has already been two and a half weeks. Now the teaching practices start, now i need the confidence and the bravery. I feel like i live in a world of blessings coming towards me, one after another. Surrender. Everything will come. I let myself into the surrender. To get the 100% out of everything and to make the 100% out of everything.

Where do the hours go because i don’t know? Every morning i wake up and see, it’s a new beautiful day. Every morning i have my morning tea outside with Irene, wave to the local lady on the rooftop across the street. And every morning i pour salt water into my nostril and out of the other nostril. I practice breathing in different ways, i sing, i practice rough Vinyasa flow. I eat big breakfast of oatmeal, lay down for 30 minutes and then study anatomy and philosophy. I eat a big lunch of rice and veggies, nap and try to study for 2,5 hours. Then i learn about asanas and body alignment, i do 1,5 hours of intense Ashtanga. Then i look out the upstairs window for 30 minutes. The people downstairs, the people across the road, children playing, cows on the field. And then i learn a new meditation technique or a new mantra he makes us sing one by one again. Then i have a big dinner of veggies and chapati, have tea outside with Irene again. And relax, sleep, and do it all over again.”

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

27th of July

“I just cannot wrap my head around how fast this July has been. It’s just… Gone. Suddenly it’s gone. What a strange thing time is. I feel like going out to the world will be scary and strange. Like a baby bird flying out of it’s nest for the first time.

“This is it for the month” said the philosophy teacher and i was ready to cry then and there. Every single day he used to say “this is it for the day.” Suddenly, it’s gone. Suddenly, it’s ceremony day. Suddenly i am a certified yoga teacher. Fastest month of my life.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

And wow how many hard things i faced. Speaking truthfully to people, showing my weaknesses. This experience shaped me in so many ways. I did so many scary things. Sang in front of the class. Faced my hidden emotions. Meditated to painful memories. Let go of the grip of the past and the illusion of the future. Taught a yoga class. Used my voice. Found my voice. And my voice was heard, it is calm and it is steady. I am not shaking anymore, i am not scared anymore. My heart is blown wide open. It was all so hard. None of it was easy, really. But i did it. Yesterday i danced in the kitchen not caring about anyone who was watching. This is how i want to live my life. I am ready to dance and sing and play like no one is watching.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

My journey has now begun. I am excited, nervous and in love. With life and the world. The new me that’s coming out from behind the clouds. Never ever in my life have i learned this much. Never.

I look outside from my open door, look at the people chatting, the girls i got to know from all over the world, the indian boys who turned out to be so sweet and funny. And i feel so so much love for this little yoga family. So much good energies, so much love.

Yes, so never in my life have i experienced anything like this before. I am not ready to let go. But i know i have to, soon. Two nights left and i am going to be all here, taking it all in, as much as i can, as deep as i can. My heart is bursting. Of gratitude, joy, love, happiness, all the good pure feelings in the world. No matter how hard i try i can’t put this feeling into words.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

Basically i just cannot believe the course is over and i can’t believe i did it. Best decision of my life. The most beautiful, growing experience. To come here. I was so scared, i will never forget how scared i was. How i cried and screamed “i can’t go, i can’t go, don’t make me do this”. But i did anyway. And i am so, so proud of myself.

Here i am… Staring at the mountains from the big glass windows. A little black cat sleeping under a table outside. I am fully in myself. So fully here. Not waiting for anything, not needing anything. Things will come, on their own, when it is time. No use in waiting or expecting. Be here now, be there later. This is how i am now. Here. Oh the feeling of bliss and joy. The lightness. Lightness of being here, in myself, in my moment, not waiting or needing anything. Like i am being freed of something.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

Why did i keep waiting for something, all the time? Why did i always forget to enjoy myself? Always waiting for something or someone or some different time. It was so wrong. As if i was not enough for myself so i kept waiting for something else. And when i got what i was waiting for, i was joyful for a while, but damn what a fleeing feeling. The next moment i was waiting again.

So now, this one… Being so fully in myself. Full of myself. Wow. I am enough. I am not needing anything or anyone. Everything is here, everything. I think this might be the first time in my life that i am feeling like this. Full acceptance, full knowing that everything will come when it is time, i do not need anything. Everything is here. I am letting everything be. This is what happiness is like.”

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh Travel

200 hours yoga teacher training: the experience II

6th of July

“Twenty minutes in meditation last night. I hear the soft sound of the teachers voice and see where my mind is going. I tap in and observe. Outside to the streets, in Rishikesh, cows, cars, motorbikes, honking, dust, dogs, teachers voice, breathe, remember to breathe, candles, dogs, everything feels like a movement, it feels like i am flying, this is amazing, so amazing. Remember to breathe, women in sarees, teachers voice, focus on the breath, singing, i will have to sing, oh shit, he will make me sing, but why worry, why worry…

And then he said this thing: if you don’t laugh at the same joke for seven times, why do you keep worrying about the same thing for a hundred times? Yes, it makes no sense, no sense at all. So i had a bad day yesterday, but i chose to keep smiling and i chose to not worry. That’s all we have. The choice. I can be paralyzed by my fear and my worry or i can simply choose to drop it. And now i choose to drop it. I accept myself as being nervous and being scared, i don’t need to hide it. I can show my weaknesses to people. I can be open. I don’t have to hide it. Because it’s ok to feel like this. It’s being human. I don’t need people to see me as this strong, tough person. I want them to see me as i am so i can be fully myself. A human being who feels. Scared and nervous from time to time, but accepting it, overcoming it.”

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

7th of July

“Today is the day of Kunjal. Throwing up. A cleanse for the stomach. So i drank warm salt water, glass after glass after glass. And more. Some people, they drank, they threw up and they left. But i was there after one hour, trying to throw up the water and get it all out. I was left with a sore throat and sore muscles. The teacher touched my shoulder and told me good job Essi, every single time i threw up a bit. Honestly one of the most strange experiences in my life.

Now i am tired but strangely happy. And very thirsty. Weak on the knees and the effort of trying to throw up. My body just shut down and resisted it until it couldn’t anymore. Anyway, now i am strangely light, as if i can breathe easier. Cleansing like this. So so many things i have never done before. And more keep on coming. Every day feels like a new exciting beginning of something else.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

And it feels so strange i was supposed to be in Finland by now. That i left in December and i am still away. “Don’t worry”, said my intuition when i was stressing over a summer job. You don’t need to worry, the inner voice said. And i stopped worrying. And all this happened. India happened. I am here now, having life changing experiences. Emotions are trying to take over me and control me, there is just too much emotion in me, i want to scream them out. But i try to focus. Tap in on the moment, again and again, every time i open my door and step outside. I try to focus and breathe, and sing and chant… Oh, all the emotions. The bliss. The joy.”

Maa Kunjapuri temple, rishikesh Travel

200 hours yoga teacher training: the experience

First of all, i have to say traveling to India, to Rishikesh, to take my yoga teacher training was completely spontaneous: this one day i was having salad with a friend and got a text about a training in India that’s affordable and good. Could i do it? I remember thinking this over and over again, while sending out my application, and while paying the deposit, i was still thinking “could i do it?” as if it hadn’t been decided yet. And two and a half months later, i was there. Sitting in the office, filling up forms and papers, seeing the first glimpse of people who would be my classmates for the next month.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

I remember so well looking at the welcome papers. I read them over and over again as if i couldn’t believe i was there. This is what the schedule was like for me:

  • 05:15 Wake up
  • 05:30 – 06:00 Morning tea
  • 06:00 – 06:30 Pranayama (yogic breathing) and shatkarma (yogic cleansing practices)
  • 06:30 – 08:30 Vinyasa Flow Yoga
  • 08:30 – 09:30 Breakfast
  • 09:30 – 10:30 Anatomy and Physiology
  • 11:00 – 12:30 Yoga Philosophy
  • 12:30 – 13:00 Lunch
  • 13:15 – 15:00 Rest / self-study
  • 15:00 – 16:00 Body Alignment
  • 16:00 – 17:30 Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga Asana
  • 18:00 –  19:00 Meditation / Mantra Chanting
  • 19:15 –  20:15 Dinner time
  • 20:15 Self Study – Rest time.

It felt so good to have a serious routine for a while, because for seven months my life has been nothing but a routine. I felt sucked into it. To the world of learning and yoga. I feel like i can’t simply put it to words so i will write parts of my journal here to share, one post every day for a couple of days – enjoy!

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

Pieces from my journal

2nd of July

“The butterflies in my stomach are calm after so many days and so many tears and so much thinking i can’t do it, i can’t do it. But i am here, laying on my soft thick blanket, casually peeking out my window to see who is outside. For one month i will be here, for one whole month this will be my home. There is 30 people in my course, half of them boys from India and a few from Nepal, half western girls and one guy. First day of studying is halfway, we are doing neti cleansing every single morning, then pranayama, vinyasa flow, anatomy, philosophy… And i am so excited, every single thing excites me, all the new things i am going to learn. So much feelings.”

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

4th of July

“Today i am a bit tired for the first time. Cats kept meowing loudly outside. I kind of wanted to relax and close my eyes and fall to the deep sleep again. But i sat up. Started breathing. Remembering the words of the meditation teacher: “promise me you will do this first thing in the morning. Promise me.” So i did. And breathed. Observed. And breathed. So many thoughts in my mind, Bohemian Rhapsody giving a soundtrack to them. Fat dogs. Cow poop. Should i wear a hoodie? Will the boys be looking at my butt? I wonder if the salt for cleansing is made from tap water because i swallowed it. So many thoughts. And i observed all of them. And the upper back pain, the sighs of frustration i let out, the light creeping in between the curtains, sounds of the kitchen boys making tea, the urge to crawl under my blanket again.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

And then i opened my eyes and adjusted myself to the dim 5.30 am light, slowly slowly started drinking my water, rose up and went outside to get my morning tea. Drank my tea, did the neti cleanse, did the pranayama, did the vinyasa flow. Chanted. Aligned myself, used all of my muscles, looked up to the sky, down to the earth, straight forwards to the hills with mist. Ate my breakfast mindfully. Did not nap, Changed into comfy clothes, came upstairs to the yoga hall to think. And wait. Next up is anatomy. Skeleton. Indian boys are slowly coming in. Back is hurting again but i have a strange joy that is bubbling out of me. Yesterday i had a strange joy also, i smiled and giggled and i chanted a mantra in sanskrit while everyone listened. Joy is bursting out every way it’s possible. So much good, deep feelings.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

And this morning class of philosophy was the most beautiful, i wanted to stay and dwell on it, i wanted him to keep on talking for hours and hours. The way he described life, modern life, how we have lost ourselves – now and just now i know what “finding yourself” means. How it doesn’t mean you find your personality, or what you like and what you don’t, what you act like or how you communicate. It’s not you. Finding yourself means going back home, to the you that is the witnessing presence of all this. And he said, you are ready to return home. To you. You think you chose to come to Rishikesh, but the reality is that Rishikesh chose you. Because you are ready.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

The only way i can describe how i feel: beautiful. I feel simply beautiful. I am understanding everything better hour after hour. And it’s only day three. I feel like this, bliss, joy, love. I promise to myself, to keep up with everything and anything i will learn. To keep returning home, day after day. I might lose myself, i might go wrong ways, but i will always, always keep on returning.”

Street art in Rishikesh India Life thoughts

Week six in India

Every time i set off to go somewhere on my own, i have this certain feeling. Of fear, anxiety, aliveness and excitement mixing together and making me feel like i have never been in the moment as much before this. It feels like every breath i take is the most important breath of my life. Things feel surreal. That is exactly how i felt when i left Thailand towards India, and that’s exactly how it felt when i boarded the night train last night and my dear friends left me there, alone. Alone in India.

So full of adrenaline. Excitement. Secure feelings of safety and confidence. I sat there, alone, accompanied by seven indian men who didn’t know exactly where to look and how to deal with the fact that i was there.

A night train in India

From my journal today:

“Rishikesh is to me like a dream, details are slowly fading away from my memory, like a dream i had couple of nights ago, or a movie i saw last weekend. I still feel it and i remember it, but it doesn’t seem real anymore. And now, and now… Open heart. Trusting my gut feelings. Trusting myself. Being brave, being courageous. Having faith. Because i am alone in India.

Two weeks, me and India, open plans. I will greet myself with love. With caring. With smiles, with forgiveness. I will read, study, yoga, wander, sit by the river, breathe everything in, the colorful chaos that is India. I have a feeling, a wonderful, secure feeling, that not only everything will go well, but i will have an amazing time.

A butterfly in a himalayan temple

I am ready to take in all the rest India has to teach me. I can’t even believe how strong the calling is. To go on my own. If i had the choice to go with someone, i would still go on my own. The calling is stronger than the fear that lurks in the background. And that’s how i know i am doing something very right.

And here i am… Sitting with the men. They shared their snacks with me, helped me make my bed and offered me a turn to charge my phone. I am in a country where it’s recommended i travel only during the day. ‘Don’t take the night train or the night bus’, i read this line so many times. Yet.. Here i am. Feeling safe. Chatting casually with the men. I am in a country where instead of everyone saying “enjoy your trip” they said “please be careful and stay safe”. When i first landed, the pilot said “good luck” instead of “enjoy your stay”.

A monkey alone in india at maa kunjapuri temple

And this is exactly what i needed. To be alone in India. To be as brave as i am right now. Not to let the world make me scared of something. I needed to come here and see for myself. And the people.. They look at me because they are curious. They are interested. They don’t look at me because they want to hurt me. They are people. Just… People. For every bad one there is a hundred with a good heart. And that’s what i sincerely believe. I know the feeling in my guts if someone is not to be trusted. That’s what i am listening to.

I needed to prove myself i can have an open heart like this. To believe that this man who is sitting next to me does not want to harm me. I can trust my intuition, i can trust the world, the universe. I can travel in a night train alone in India, in a compartment full of men, and still feel safe and secure and good.

A wall text in Beatles ashram, rishikesh

These are the things that change me. I need to dig so so so deep into myself to find the trust, the courage, the strength, the confidence. In moments like these, i have no choice. It is the only option. To look into myself, find everything that’s already inside me. And when i know i found it once, it will be forever with me.

I did it. I did it. Here i am, waiting for the train to move the last kilometers towards the holy city of Varanasi. What’s there, i don’t know – taking it easy, studying, letting go and accepting the fact that all the people i met in Rishikesh are gone now and i am alone. Alone in India. Greeting myself with love. And new beginnings.”