By Kelly Tobin

Our day on October 17 started bright and early with a visit to a travel agent in Rishikesh to work on our Student Directed Travel plans. We then proceeded to take a 20-minute Jeep ride on a mountainous road to Phool Chatti Yoga Ashram.

At Phool Chatti, we had the opportunity to participate in a seven-day yoga, chanting, and meditation program along the Ganga river. Our mornings started at 5:30 every day followed by meditation at 6. After meditation, we do a series of chants and yogic cleansing using netti pots. More breathing exercises to clear our airways and morning yoga energized us. We then get a delicious breakfast of fruit, porridge, and a third hot option which varies daily, as well as chai or ginger tea.

After breakfast, we clean up around the ashram before heading off on daily nature exploration and walking meditation. We have walked and sat along the river, hiked to a waterfall, and participated in a ritual bathing in the Ganga. The Ganga is considered holy and the ritual three dunks in the cold water are said to wash away bad karma so that your soul’s next life starts better. The bathing was one of those experiences when you stop and think “I can’t believe I am here doing this.”

Our afternoons consist of a lecture/discussion, yoga, breathing exercises, and finally temple pooja (ritual), and more chanting.

We have more meditation after dinner and then head to bed. Everyone is silent for almost the entire day, even during a meal.

We have beautiful views of the Ganga River, forest and mountains from the dining area. The food is delicious and we have met people from all over the world (Israel, the Netherlands, Russia and Switzerland to name a few).

The last week has been incredibly special and spiritual and had allowed us to connect with nature and to our own core. It is a busy schedule but never have I felt more grounded in reality and present in the moment.

Next stop, Mcleod Ganj.