“Ohm Away From Ohm”: Part 3

Three: The Solar Plexus
The navel chakra is our source of energy. The ego, our self-esteem, and confidence live here.

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India is the birthplace of yoga. The birthplace of the studies of energy. A sacred land that is somehow closer to spirituality. I went to study yoga, the union of body and mind, in the place that invented the very idea. I went to understand the universe a little more. And I would only study in a space that felt authentic and real.

Our school routine commences with a rigorous daily schedule of yoga practice, lectures, workshops, more yoga practice, and group meditation. The first few days were exhausting and invigorating. We covered several types of yoga and my anxiety-fuelled mind immediately loved the quick dancing type of yoga called Vinyasa; there’s no time for pesky thoughts to wander in. Our first teaching workshop, Dylan was my buddy for physical adjustments. I brought my hands above my head in prayer position. “Whoa. You’re totally lopsided,” Dylan exclaimed as gently as possible. He was right. I have minor scoliosis, which is hardly an issue in everyday life; no one is completely symmetrical. But as a new teacher, I desperately wanted to be perfect and straight.

The walk from the yoga studio to my guesthouse was a narrow, rocky path down the mountain, past other little houses teetering on the hillside, and littered with the common contradictions of India; flowers and birds of paradise, trash piles and cow droppings. One day, I found two girls sitting inside the gate, singing with a ukulele in hand. They were practicing a goodbye song for two Australian friends. When I told them I could sing and play the ukulele as well, I was in. We practiced out in the sunshine until it was show time. And that is how the Ukuladies was formed; a three-piece girl band based out of a former ashram in Bhagsu, India. Word of the Ukuladies spread quickly. We were booked (meaning volunteered) to perform at the birthday party for a beloved owner of a local guesthouse, Ashooka. I was a little nervous, but Michelle and Lauren wrote an adorable, loving song about this family. Ashooka, his wife, and their daughter sat on a bench in front of their guests while we performed. Their infinitely happy smiles beamed in the dim light, and I thought this was one of those moments only travel and adventure can create.

The girls from the course had gotten comfortable in the village and went into shopping mode on our free Sunday. High up in the Indian mountains, everything had a Tibetan and Nepalese influence. Sadie, a Hawaiian woman, had been in a scarf shop for at least an hour choosing dozens of gifts for family back home. She hopefully called me over to help finalize decisions and I unhelpfully told her I liked all 20 shawls. The shop owner was attractive and dangerously charming. Educated in England and Germany, he wanted to swap European colloquiums we both might find funny. I was clearly reluctant to spend money on anything, but he gently urged me to try on some beautiful scarves for fun. I wrapped an expensive and luxurious scarf around my shoulders; it was intricately and lovingly hand embroidered in a place called Kashmir, even farther North in the Indian mountains. “This scarf couldn’t belong to anyone else now, I feel like it was meant for you,” he said sincerely. I modestly agreed, but left it on the shelf.

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By Madeleine Kelsey Levine