A Day in the Life of a Yogi in India

A temple in Varkala, Kerala

6 AM: Rinse
Wake up (if not by alarm, by the calls to prayer from the nearby temple). Do not eat anything, but a cup of tea is okay. Have a (cold – no water heater here) shower- although we will sweat in our practice, yoga is a spiritual event and we honour ourselves by washing first. At 6:30, meet on the rooftop shala. Begin with a few minutes of pranayama (breathing) practice before the vigorous vinyasa series. 
8:30 AM: Cleanse
Take a shower after sweating through morning practice. Then, sweep and mop the floors throughout the house. This is our karma yoga (service) while we are at the shala, and also proves to be quite meditative. Eat a pomegranate or orange for breakfast.
10 AM: Nourish
This is independent time – we use it mostly to study, but also to check e-mail (unless the power is out), chat with each other, go for walks, shop at the market. Being an Ashtanga yogi means memorising opening and closing prayers as well as the entire primary sequence – all in Sanskrit. Being any type of yogi means knowing history and philosophy. While walking, you will see cows, stray dogs, and locals hanging around the streets. They are always friendly, and often eager to practise their English with a “hello-how-are-you” or “good day miss.” If there is a festival (this week was Ganesh’s birthday), you may get caught in a parade of music, dancing, and colourful whirling flower petals. You can take a 10 minute rickshaw ride into town for 40 rupees, where there are ATMs, larger shops, and restaurants. If you walk up to the “helipad” at the top of the cliff, there are many touristy restaurants where you can try Tibetan momos (dumplings), find the only decent cup of coffee in the area, or try a curious version of lasagna – but at 180 rupees ($3), this is an expensive lunch in India. Or stay closer to home and stop by the local “restaurant” (the food is brought in from the kitchen somewhere else via motorcycle at the beginning of each meal) where you can get the daily special for 30 rupees (50 cents) or, if you’re early enough, a thali (meal) for 60. Don’t get distracted by the lack of silverware, because they will just keep refilling your plate until you tell them to stop!
2:30 PM: Listen
We go to the shala on top of the teacher’s home for afternoon lessons. We practice adjustments and teaching methods for two hours. Then, students from other yoga programs (a therapy course is running parallel) join us for philosophy. We spend the last half an hour practicing more pranayama and meditation.
6:30 PM: Restore
daily yoga study in IndiaOur classes are finished for the day, but we have a lot of reading and studying to do – each day we are tested on what we learned the day before. Cook a light dinner of vegetables and dal (split peas), have a cup of tea, take another shower (you’ll need it from walking in the heat and humidity of the day – and the cold water that woke you up in the morning is suddenly refreshing!), and hit the hay (literally – our mattresses are made of straw) before 10o’clock.