I’ve intended to do an in depth travelogue of this trip since my return to the USA in April. I want to share all the minutia with you, but I’ve had writers block. I finally realized I had to preface that with the meta story of why the trip was so powerful.
My deep dive Into the Heart of Yoga with Allie Sibner was the greatest vacation of my life. That may sound crazy as I am an atheist, and had never even attempted yoga. I went primarily to visit the Childrens home at Ramana’s Garden and to experience the food and culture of India. (Which we did) But the trip was so much more than that.
Allie Sibner is the most enlightened, peaceful, mindful person I know. Allie’s personal spirituality reflects a deep understanding and respect for not only the customs and mores of Hinduism and lndia, but also traditions and teachings of Christianity, Judaism, Native American and other indigenous cultures. We learned not only about Yoga and Meditation, but so much more. Altho I am a senior citizen, this was mostly new information for me. Most of the other travelers were Yoga teachers themselves, but they all seemed as enthralled as I was. Even if you have no interest in India or Yoga, take the time to follow Allie on Instagram.
Nepalese Yogi Veer Shahi worked closely with our group almost daily, teaching not only various forms of yoga, but also the history of the British Colonial era and India’s caste system. His warmth and infectious smile was a pure delight to all of us. Veer and I became very close.
Allie’s selection of the Santushti Yoga Vini guest house as our home base was perfect. I have never enjoyed a hotel stay more. They provided 2 delicious vegetarian meals each day, cheap and expert laundry service, as well as vast local insight. The utilitarian rooms were clean and comfortable. Their filtered water service was essential to me as I don’t use sugar drinks, fake sugar drinks, or alcohol. The fourth floor Yoga studio was large and well executed. But it was their care and attention to our every need that went way beyond what I have come to expect as hotel service. The proprietors Vishal and Sunit often participated directly with us in Allie’s program. Both have become true friends that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
In addition to morning meditation, learning mantras, and yoga in the yoga studio atop the guest house, we did a lot of exploring and experiential learning in and around Rishikesh. Visiting various shrines, temples, and waterfalls. Experiencing Aarti and Puja ceremonies, and spending time on the banks and in the waters of Ganga Ma, the sacred river that energizes the region; Allie expertly wove the entire experience into a seamless celebration of our own lives and spirituality.
We celebrated the Indian Holiday of Holi. Rishikesh was bursting with joy and colors and love and music. Words can’t capture that experience, you have to be there. We did Dance meditation with Daria Stoian. And of course we ate and shopped and did the full tourist experience as well. The food was great and the shopping fascinating. I had several dinners at the Beatles Cafe. If you like bargains, the food and shopping was super inexpensive.
I saved the best for last. We spent a lot of time at Ramana’s Garden, bonding with the children and staff that make it such a beacon of hope in a region struggling with poverty and homelessness. In addition to the children who live there, Ramana’s provides a daily education to another 200 children from the surrounding community. They finance their mission by growing their own food and selling organic, vegetarian meals in their delicious on site restaurant, as well as thru donations. Paying extra attention to the unique needs of young women, traditionally marginalized in India’s patriarchal society, they provide skills and education critical for these women to achieve their full potential. The joy and love that permeates this community, the laughter and smiles of the children stole our hearts. They recently received a grant to expand their dormitory space and add a couple of classrooms, but this grant doesn’t cover their increased operating expenses. They could use your help.
The trip exceeded my expectations on every level. The people who chose to join are incredible human beings and I love each of them. Though only in her mid 20’s, Allie handled our group masterfully, responding to our feedback and interests on the fly, constantly adapting our daily schedules. It was all so much Fun in addition to being educational and emotionally enriching. Because we were based at the guest house, no activity was mandatory. Each guest could prioritize their personal objectives and slip away at any time for a massage, some Ayurvedic therapy, or just some personal time to absorb what we were feeling, with no fear of “missing the bus” and becoming disconnected from the group.
Allie checked in with us daily to see where everyone was at. I won’t lie, it was a powerful emotional experience, life-changing for me. Emotions were intense. Waves of tears and joy. A deepening sense of connection to my self, my body, Ganga Ma, all of nature and even mankind as a whole, and a love affair with our entire travel group. In a world that encourages us to anesthetize our true feelings and disconnect from the cacophony around us, this trip brought into sharp focus for me the true joy of living and breathing on this beautiful planet. The joy and wonder each day can hold for us. And the richness of deep human connection.
Now I’m back home in the USA and telling everyone I meet about what I have learned. I’m counting the days until I return to India next year with Allie and the group. Best of all, the cost was lower than I ever expected, putting participation well within the reach of most people. To learn more about Allie, yoga, and India, visit her website http://AllieSibner.com I hope you can join us in the experience.
Here’s a youtube music playlist I shared with the members of our group.
A small sampling of the many photos we took while we were there.
A taste of Satsang with the kids from Ramana’s Garden