Pamela is a healer, intuitive, yogi, and one of the contributing editors to Earth Mamma. Stay tuned for many more exciting posts from her on tapping into your intuition, moon magic, and so much more.
My name is Pamela and I recently took a month long mind-expanding, life-shifting, heart-exploding adventure to Rishikesh, India.
Leading up to this trip everything seemed to be falling apart for me. The universe did not appear to be working on my behalf. However, India would not have been possible if I had not gone through all of the seemingly “terrible” events that were transpiring. I found myself in a really dark place. Thankfully, I was encouraged and supported by my business partner & sister (we own a craft cocktail & beer bar together) to go on a month long adventure to wherever my heart desired. The very first place that popped up for me was INDIA.
I have been practicing yoga for about 12 years. My practice has shifted greatly over the years, and I have experimented with trying different forms of yoga. Last year I even committed myself to a 200 Teacher Training Course, which was a beautiful experience and led me to discover how much I loved teaching yoga to others. A few years ago, however, I sustained a knee injury which has prevented me from physically going into some of the more challenging asanas (poses). I have only recently found out that I have a torn meniscus, a pretty common yet very painful injury sustained by yoga practitioners (at the time I was practicing Ashtanga yoga, which is one of the most physically demanding yoga practices).
Recently, my knee injury was preventing me from walking some days, and it became very painful for me, so my intent on traveling to India was not going to be on asana but rather meditation. So much emphasis on yoga in the West is placed on the physical practice. How beautiful one can look holding their leg above their head while a wave is crashing in the background via Instagram. While these postures are beautiful and we should celebrate them, this can distract us away from the complete philosophy of yoga. We are not our bodies. We should take care of our bodies, as they are our vessels which lead us through this life, but we are NOT our bodies.
To find out more of who “I” am, and what my true purpose was, I sought out a meditation course in Rishikesh. I quickly found Parmarth Niketan, the largest ashram, and they were offering a two week Kriya Yoga course. The course consisted of Pranayama (breathing exercises), Hatha Yoga asana every morning, followed by learning and practicing on the Kriyas, Aarti ceremony (fire ceremony) at dusk followed by Satsang (question and answer session about life, philosophy, spirituality with the Swamiji). Every day began at 6:30am and finished at 8pm.
I first heard of Kriya Yoga in Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. I had no idea of what it consisted of, but I quickly learned that it is greatly centered around the chakras and there are a lot of intricate steps and techniques. Everyday was so full and beautiful, I felt my heart expanding at all moments. I truly learned for the first time of letting go. Nothing in the past serves you. Holding onto negativity or regret is not of benefit for you or others. I learned so much about myself and my place in the world. I was so clear and convicted in my absolute LOVE of life and awareness of it! I came to find that my true purpose in life was that of a HEALER.
We all have such a limited time on Earth, in this form, and our purpose is to grow and expand. Everyone I met was a teacher. I was so inspired! I met a woman who had moved to India twenty years prior to dedicate her life to orphans. Now she has a beautiful orphanage school and organic garden which serves a cafe on the property….she teaches the children about organic, sustainable gardening while they are also learning everything in their courses. I found myself engulfed in tears of happiness constantly, just filled with so much gratitude and love.
India has changed me. It has a very special, magnificent energy to it. Mother Ganga, the Himalayans, the thick air, the monkeys, the cows, the bells, the mantras, the lights, the flowers, the colors, the chai, the incense… I have so much to learn from this country. And now I know why people keep going back to India, it just seems endless! I’m already planning another trip back next year. I’m even looking to host a retreat at Parmarth Niketan in the future. Life is a beautiful journey, be grateful for every moment you have.
This is my first day in India, taken in New Delhi. This was my only day in Delhi, as I spent my entire month of India in Rishikesh (the Northern part of India, known as the World Capital of Yoga and the Gateway to the Himalayas). This photo was taken by and insisted upon by my rickshaw driver (as I was solo on this adventure) for the day who graciously took me around all of the big markets to buy tea, silks and to experience the chaotic yet very systematic energy of Delhi. I have never in my life experienced traffic like that in India. /// Monkeys! This was taken on one of my first mornings in Rishikesh, whilst taking a stroll. Monkeys and cows are everywhere! Especially in the morning, these guys are always on the look out for a banana… so beware! I was smart enough not to carry fruit around on me, but I did witness some thievery on a daily basis.
This is where I stayed in Rishikesh, Parmarth Niketan Ashram. Such a magical place! It boasts of over 1000 rooms, making it the largest ashram in Rishikesh. It is situated on the banks of the Ganges River, at the foothills of the Himalayas. I was enrolled in a Kriya Yoga course followed by a Chakradance course here. There are lush gardens, beautiful statues and people from all over the world stay here.
Parmarth Niketan Ashram, where I stayed in Rishikesh. Because Rishikesh is a sacred city, it is both meat & alcohol free 🙂 so, there are TONS of amazing vegetarian and vegan friendly spots! One of my favorites is The Juice House. Everything is organic, fresh and the staff is beyond friendly. This is an avocado shake with coconut milk, mango,banana, and lime juice topped with pomegranate, mango, shaved coconut and plum. So delicious!!
Parmarth Niketan Ashram, between classes. Everyday during our Kriya Yoga course, we began the day at 6:30am with Pranayama Breathing exercises, then Hatha Yoga Asanas followed by a light vegan breakfast. After breakfast, we began lessons on the Kriya meditation for the day. Lunch was served at 12:30 followed by a short break. Afternoon classes with review of the daily Kriya, Aarti (Fire Ceremony on the Ghat at the Ganga River) began at 5:30p followed by Satsang (questions to the Swamiji about life, philosophy, spirituality, etc.) in the Swamiji’s private garden. Dinner was served and then our days were finished by 8.
These photos were from the annual Holi Festival in India. Every year, on the full moon either in February or March (depending on the year) marks the date for Holi, the festival to bring forth Spring and also known as the Festival of Colors. The night before Holi, the ashram began with a large bonfire wherein these flowers, rice and sweets are offered to release us from Ignorance & Greed. The next day is welcomed with people all over India (if you do not want to be involved, you literally cannot leave your home) spreading colors on whoever they see. People from all ages and backgrounds are covered head to toe in bright, fantastic colors. Everyone prances around screaming “Happy Holi!” whilst dancing ridiculously and laughing uncontrollably. It’s a rainbow explosion of love and light!
Early morning walks to yoga class, meeting a familiar face along the way. One of my first encounters with a cow in Rishikesh was during the drive into the city when I first arrived. There was a moment driving where my taxi was stuck in a traffic jam and we couldn’t see anything because we were behind a bus. Well, we came to find out that a cow was in the middle of the street. While these creatures are considered sacred, I was a bit discouraged to find that many of them have to rummage through garbage in order to eat. I think most of them are privately owned. Some are definitely cared for while others are not.
The famous Pyramid Salad from Pyramid Cafe in Laxman Jhula, Rishikesh. This place is a haven for fresh, organic, raw food! Many vegan options! It sits atop a small hill which boasts a stunning view of the Ganga. They pride themselves on making a lot of their own products such as: tofu, jam, kombucha, spirulina, etc. It’s a peaceful oasis in Laxman Jhula (which is a bit more touristy than Ram Jhula, where I was staying) which besides the cafe, also hosts yoga halls, meditation, a guest house, and a DJ every night.
Rainbow colored tile mosaic on the balconies of the dorm rooms. This dormitory was next to the Ganga River, and each room had it’s own balcony. You’re surrounded by trees, you can hear the Ganga flowing downstream, sunlight floods each room….you can feel the astounding, magnetic energy in each part of the ashram. It was magical.
Gathering after the Aarti ceremony in Devprayag. The Swamiji of Parmarth Niketan took a small group from the ashram to this sacred city on World Water Day. Because we were in the middle of our Kriya Yoga course, we were invited to be part of the select group traveling to Devprayag. Devprayag is considered a sacred city because it is where the Ganga River is formed from the Alaknanda River and the Bhagirathi River. It’s a three hour journey through the foothills of the Himalayas. At times it was terrifying because it’s generally a very windy and very narrow one way street, with two lanes of traffic, no barricade and a very far drop down! The drive was exhilarating and filled with exquisite views. Once we arrived in Devprayag, we were all greeted with cups of chai, cookies and dripped in marigold (since we were rolling in with the Swamiji) and then a parade like secession brought us all down to the Ganga River where we held Aarti (the nightly fire ceremony on the Ganga River).
The next day we headed down to the Ganga River again, the very spot where the two rivers form the Ganga. The Swamiji and the President of Organic India, Bharat Mitra, were beginning to dip people in the sacred river. In India, dipping in the Ganga is a daily exercise. Traditionally, you take a Ganga bath early in the morning (around 7am or so) and take 3 dips in & out of the water (in some circumstances, you take 108 dips!). The water releases negativity and stagnant energy. Whatever you wish for Mother Ganga to take away within her healing waters you offer to her. This experience was inexplainable. The water temperature at this spot was significantly colder since it was higher within the Himalayans. I could barely breathe after the dips. But then rising up from the beautiful water, I felt a huge release. It was an enormous letting go of stagnant, old energy and I was lighter and in a total state of bliss. This was my first time in the Ganga and it was absolutely perfect.
Around the ashram. The woman in the orange in was my Guruji (teacher) for my Kriya Yoga course, we called her “Mataji” which means Mother. The 2nd is a monkey on the streets.
One of my favorite days in Rishikesh was spent at the Beatles Ashram. This photo was taken in one of the small stone domes that the Beatles stayed in. The mural is by artist Harshvardhan Kadam with the phrase “When you look up at the sky and see a cloud think of me”, a message sent from Yoko Ono to John Lennon in a telegraph. Rumor had it that Lennon would visit the post office daily to find Yoko’s messages to him while he stayed at the Ashram. The Beatles travelled to Rishikesh in 1968 to attend an advanced Transcendental Meditation training session at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It was one of the most creative times for the Beatles, all together writing around 48 songs many of which appeared on the White Album and Abbey Road.
Trust in the universe, create space in your life & anything is possible! Once you go with the flow of the energy of life, magical things will happen & you find yourself in the most beautiful of places. I feel like this trip to India was just the beginning! I cannot wait what else is in store.