I slept well the first night, for the most part, but I did have a very strange dream that my clothes had somehow offended the local villagers. The dream was so vivid that I found it highly disturbing, and it woke me up early in the morning. I fell asleep quickly after and slept soundly the rest of the night until I got up at 5:15AM. I was under the impression that there was a 5:30AM yoga class and I didn’t want to miss it, so I quickly got up, dressed in the dark so as not to wake up Dimitris, and headed outside. It was very dark and quite cool, and almost completely deserted, save for some people working in the kitchen. Deciding that maybe I had made a false assumption, I went back to the room and crawled back into bed. I wasn’t able to get back to sleep so I sat up and meditated for about a half hour before getting up for the day. After freshening up I headed down for breakfast which was very similar to lunch and dinner the previous day, but they did serve some chai which was nice. At 8:30AM I met up with Sumit and Madhukar and walked back up to Akhara where we would have a chance to meet our teacher for the Kriya Yoga class, Swami Yogakanti.
Arriving a little early, we were directed to sit on a circular bench that had a tree growing through the middle, where a few others were sitting.
Once Swami Yogakanti arrived she sat us all on the “grass” which really was more dirt than grass, and much harder than in Central Park. She introduced herself and told us that she had no preset agenda, but that she just wanted to take the opportunity to meet all of us and take any questions we had before the course began. She took several questions and over the course of the next 30 minutes explained that this year they timed the Kriya Yoga and Tattwa Shuddhi (chakra purification) course to occur during a yajna (pronounced yag-ya, a ritual involving the burning of various herbal preparations and reciting of various Vedic mantras). That this was requested by Swami Satyananda before leaving his body. The expected effect of combining these three practices would be to amplify each other. Following our talk with Swamiji, we were told to clean the Yajnashala, the building in which our class would take place.
As the day progressed and we went back to Patanjali for lunch, only to return to Akhara for a puja (ritual) later in the evening. I came back earlier to retrieve a set of keys I accidentally stored away in the safe deposit box. I had to wait before I could collect my keys, so I visited the Christ Kutir, a shrine that was setup for Jesus. I was told that Swami Satyananda would say that this is where Jesus came to rest because everyone in the west wanted something from him. While waiting I met a woman named Atma Lily who was from California and Sweden. She came to the ashram two years ago and never left, loving it so much. I was shocked and fascinated, unsure if I would ever do the same. After finally being able to retrieve my keys I was tapped to help bring some blankets over to the Yajnashala which were rolled into large burlap bags that couldn’t be lifted by 4 strong men. A group of people decided to roll one over while another group including myself opened up a sack and each took as many as we could carry. We set up the blankets in the room as requested and then headed across the street for a Havan Puja (Fire Ceremony) was about to begin honoring Lord Rama, hero from the Indian epic Ramayana and incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu. As part of the ceremony, the 1000 names of Rama were chanted which took a while.
After the puja we headed back to Patanjali for dinner and bed. Before I headed to bed I pulled out my water filter, which is what I needed the keys to get at. Earlier in the day I discovered that the water on campus is not filtered, despite being told that it was and drinking it for the last day. I filtered enough water to fill a 1 liter bottle and a little more left in a plastic container I had brought with me. It was a fairly laborious process so I was very ready for sleep after I was done.
During the night I began to experience some stomach discomfort and had to visit the bathroom a few times. Trying to remain optimistic I figured it would pass, but woke up at 6AM, unable to sleep any more. Breakfast was still an hour away, so I did some yoga asanas and took a freezing cold shower. By the time it was time for breakfast I still wasn’t feeling well, so I only ate a small amount, and followed it with some Pepto Bismol which helped quite a bit. We had our first class scheduled at 9:30AM, but a group of us were asked to help peel carrots in the kitchen first, and then walked back to Akhara. I was still uncomfortable before class so I went find a bathroom. The only toilets available in this area were of the Indian variety, a squat toilet. I was not impressed and decided to take an Immodium to avoid excessive bathroom runs.
In class, there were about 40 of us. I got there last because of my stomach woes, but found a spot in the back right in between Madhukar and Sumit. The class was interesting consisting of meditative techniques that required us to move our awareness between senses, and then around the chakras. I left class feeling quite a buzz and headed back to Patanjali with a group of people. At the ashram they have a lot of rules to follow, one of which is no walking unless you have a group of at least 5 people. We broke that rule quite often, sometimes with someone yelling after us “Namo Narayan”, the standard greeting at this ashram. At Patanjali we ate lunch and rested for a bit before heading back to Akhara for our second class. This back and forth continued throughout the run of the course.
In the afternoon class, we did a practice called Yoga Nidra which is a state of sleep where the mind is still conscious and alert. We were lying on our backs and moving our awareness around our bodies and given various directives to feel our bodies get heavy, or light, or warm or cold. I found the experience exhilarating, and the rest deep and energizing. Despite the positive feelings I had about the experience, it was somewhat marred by how my stomach was feeling. There was another Havan Puja scheduled for after class, but I decided to skip it and head back to my room to rest. I crawled into bed around 4:30PM and slept all night.