Reminiscences from Rishikesh Yoga International Festival

Reminiscences from Rishikesh Yoga International Festival

The International Yoga Festival 2020 has come to an end. Thousands of Yoga enthusiasts visited Rishikesh to strengthen their practice in multiple styles of Yoga including Kundalini Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Power Vinyasa Yoga and Iyengar Yoga starting from 4 am and running through to 5 pm every day. CSP Ishwarya Chaitanya contemplates.

This externally enforced self-isolation has put quite a few of us in a state of panic and despair. What to do with all this time? In certain parts of the world, online shopping services are still available and people can retain a sense of normalcy. What about those of us for whom this is no longer an option? What about places where home delivery is not an option as all efforts are being put to curb Corona’s spread?

Those who were used to going to the gym now have to make-do with home workouts without the expensive equipment. In some places, the police are belting those seen out on the streets without a purpose. Let’s face it. Some of us have never been alone and feel totally lost. Some of us do not have the luxury of large apartments or homes where we have space to run around, jump around, stomp our feet in frustration or ecstatic dance (as there are people living below). There are no libraries nearby, or no habit of reading in the first place. Some of us barely have space to roll out a yoga mat or God-forbid: slow internet! We are truly in a fix.

Are we? Being left with next to nothing in an almost apocalyptic situation is a true blessing in disguise. Being forced to look at yourself could be God’s greatest gift to you. When you have nothing, you have everything to gain. And this is the time you can gain the ultimate: self-love, self-acceptance, best-friendship with yourself despite what’s happening around you. Perhaps for the first time, you know for sure that you are not alone.

Why is there so much restlessness in being alone?

Who are you trying to get away from while watching TV, reading a book, “doing” yoga or hanging out with friends? Why so much disdain that there is a constant need to “improve”, experience new people and places and “become better” in whatever sense of the term? Why this innate dissatisfaction, constant self-judgement and a need to engage in activity that helps you forget yourself and the problems you think you have? Why this chase for something other than what you have or who you are at present?

I’m not saying that we should not practice yoga or travel or experience new things (I pretty much do only this). I’m questioning the motive behind it. We spend our entire lives inside this body, yet our every action seems to take us away from being with the indweller of this body.

If boundless in nature, freedom, then, cannot lie in just being able to do what you want to do. It involves being free no matter the internal or external circumstance. In true freedom, neither the shape or condition of your body, nor the changing state of your mind, nor external circumstances would matter. Freedom implies total acceptance of the present, the ability to let go of the past and being able to give in to the winds of change without personal agenda. This is not apathy or complacency. It is the acknowledgement of the supremacy of life as a whole that is not just a sum of the parts that we can cognize.

Darker than Corona are our thoughts about ourselves. We have now, as a species, been placed at a gateway of discovery. Will you step through the door and go on this adventure into the unknown? What is there to fear when there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain?

Sitting on the banks of the Ganga in Rishikesh, this thought process has been a natural outcome of simply basking in the atmosphere and spirit of this land. Although influenced by listening to various sadhus expound the shastras through a systematic articulation, the profound healing capacity of nature and living life close to nature cannot be discounted. The sound of the flowing river, the visual beauty of untouched forests, the coo and caw of birds, the regular chanting of mantras and the desireless living that is an innate quality of this land makes it the ideal oasis for a spiritual aspirant. Even in the grips of commercialization and modernization, Rishikesh still remains a place where those who seek are likely to find.