Life’s little learning experiences

I’ve just returned from India where I stayed in ashram for a month living the yogic lifestyle. That means 5 a.m. starts, 4 hours of daily yoga practice, maintaining a strictly sattvic diet, undergoing cleansing techniques, chanting, meditation, karma yoga and so much more.

It sounds so cliched, but in this short time I feel like I’ve learned so much, not only about yoga, but about myself.

But can a month-long experience really change you? Can it really break old habits? Can it really give you a new perspective?

I think it can.

These may seem small but they’re a step in the right direction. Here’s what I’ve learned from the yogic lifestyle:

The Sattvic diet
The Sattvic diet is based on Ayurvedic principles. It involves eating foods and using ingredients that will help keep the body and mind balanced.

I have a sweet tooth. Scratch that. I have sweet teeth. I didn’t know how I was going to cope a full month without desserts. The first week of ashram life, I had indulgent thoughts about a river of ice cream and a flowing chocolate waterfall. However, as I got into the program, I realised that although I love my desserts (and always will), during the time I had gone without them, I felt great – physically and emotionally. How many times have you eaten something fatty, oily or fried and hated yourself after for it? Sattvic food is not only nutritious and delicious, but also works on a deeper level to raise our consciousness and inspire us toward positive action.

Another great thing is that the sattvic diet involves very simple ingredients (fresh fruits and vegetables, pulses, grains and so on) and preparing the meals is so easy. Therefore, even a complete dunce in the kitchen (i.e. me) can enjoy cooking and master sattvic recipes.

What I’ve learned: Snacking on fresh papaya drizzled with lemon is better and more refreshing than ice cream!

Karma Yoga
Karma yoga involves doing selfless work without recognition and reward. Some translate karma yoga to mean chores. Yes, a lot of it does involve cleaning. However, it can be any service that is done with the intention of helping others. At the ashram we sometimes did an hour of gardening, swept the meditation room or helped prepare meals.

Although karma yoga is supposed to be selfless, it has taught me something valuable when it comes to helping out.

If you were to simply look at the state of my car or work desk, you could tell that I am not exactly the tidiest of people. So, this morning after I finished eating my breakfast I went to place my dishes in the sink. My logic has always been “I have to get ready for work. Someone else will wash this for me.” But then I stopped. I picked up a sponge and washed, dried and put the dishes away myself. It wasn’t an inconvenience and all up it took maybe an extra minute.

What I learned: Everyone is busy. Helping out even in the smallest way, lessens the load for someone else.

During my time in the ashram we had three days of silence. I’m a naturally quiet person. However, being quiet or silent I’ve found can sometimes be seen by others as an almost a negative, unfavourable attribute. Silence days at the ashram allowed me to feel entirely comfortable and relish in the quiet. The ashram is surrounded by lush, green, rolling hills and on our silence days I would always notice something new about the environment around me. On one day, I noticed a waterfall cascading from the mountain in the distance. On another day, I noticed the soft warbling noise I could hear from my room was actually a call from a kingfisher bird.

What I’ve learned: Appreciate your surroundings. Would I have noticed or valued these things without the silence? Probably not.

Some experiences allow us to appreciate things and teach us about life or even ourselves- no matter how big or small.

Has there been an experience that has allowed you to learn about yourself, taught you something about life or changed you for the better?

Veronica Joseph

Veronica Joseph

Veronica Joseph is an accredited yoga teacher who loves to share her yogic journey from travels in India, cleansing techniques, her favourite poses and their benefits and tips to remember when practising.

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