This trip has been full of unique experiences, but one of the coolest things we’ve done is get up at 6am for an early morning yoga class with a bonafide yogi. I didn’t realize how important yoga was in Indian culture. I’d gotten so used to yoga being the “hip” thing to do back in the States, done by those super health-conscious people in Lularoe leggings who carry yoga mats to work, that I forgot it had originated here. I certainly didn’t think it was necessary to get up at 5:30 in the morning for a 6am class, but I wasn’t about to miss this adventure.
We arrived at an unassuming building in the midst of a neighborhood, and our yogi was waiting for us outside. He led us down to his studio, which I’m certain is probably in the basement of the building in which he lives, and it looked very much like any studio you would find in the States, but without a wall of mirrors. He explained to us that yoga is not exercise. To me that was one of the most interesting things he said, because I think that is often how it is approached back home. He explained that yoga is a means of centering oneself and learning to focus the mind. It is an exercise in concentration and focus. I was intrigued.
The class proceeded much like any other yoga class I have attended (which are not that many), but his explanations of the poses and stretches went beyond simply how our muscles were affected. It seemed like every pose was the cure-all for digestion issues, mental clarity, breathing, joint problems, back pain, and a host of other things. According to him, practicing yoga everyday would cure all of it. Though my skeptical scientific mind would like to see some research on it, I wouldn’t doubt that at least some of his claims would be backed up.
Apparently it’s fairly common for people in India to practice yoga early in the morning before anything else. Our yogi told us that it’s the only good time to do it, and it will improve your whole day. If it weren’t so early and if I didn’t enjoy sleep so much, I might actually consider taking up the practice back home. But one thing I can always get behind is the idea of afternoon tea. It is just as popular here as it was in England, but the tea of choice is not English Breakfast tea. It’s known simply as chai here. Not chai tea, just chai. It doesn’t come from tea bags, at least not if not’s necessary, but is made on the stove where the tea leaves and spices are all mixed together and then strained out. And it’s always served with milk. But just like tea in England, chai is more than a drink. It’s a meal that takes place around 4pm, complete with biscuits and sometimes samosas (which are wonderful fried pockets of potatoes and vegetables and spices). But drinking chai isn’t just an afternoon pastime. Almost everywhere we have gone, every lecture and meeting we have had with different professionals, has included chai. As soon as we arrive, the host has asked us, “Would you like chai? I will order some to be brought up.” In that respect, it reminded me very much of British culture. As our hosts they felt compelled to offer chai to their guests. It is definitely something I could get used to.
Though English Breakfast will always be my tea of choice, I think I could get used to chai as an acceptable alternative. Especially if samosas are involved. Though I don’t know about 6am yoga…