India was everything I’d imagined and more. It was dirty, loud, crowded, chaotic, hot, and sometimes you had to bring your own toilet paper. It was, in fact, dirtier, louder, more crowded, more chaotic, hotter, and more toilet-paper-less than I’d ever imagined. It was fantastic. It was hard. And, in a twist that I (perhaps shockingly) hadn’t anticipated, I got very, very sick.

Forewarned by everyone who’s ever been there or heard about it, I tried to be careful. I only drank bottled water; compulsively checked the sanctity of the seals. I held my breath and clamped my lips shut in the shower. Despite the fact that it was 110°F and all I wanted was salads and fruit, I resisted these temptations and instead ate only thoroughly cooked foods, served at a bacteria-killing steaming hot.

Note: Steaming hot is not what you want in 110° weather. But steaming hot is what I ate.

I avoided hand-shakes and touching public surfaces. I washed my hands frequently and then amped up an extra level of protection by compulsively spritzing with lavender-scented hand sanitizer. Yet in spite of all these precautions (and many more which I’ll refrain from sharing lest I appear obsessive, compulsive, germ-phobic), I still got violently sick on my third day in Delhi.

Because I was too sick to move—heck, I was too sick to leave the bathroom let alone the hotel room—we had to postpone traveling from Delhi to Rishikesh. So while I convalesced for three unanticipated days in a darkened hotel room in the middle of India’s third-largest city (Delhi has a population of roughly 16 million), I tried not to think of how this wasn’t what I’d imagined, or planned, or wanted. Most of all, I tried not to think about how I wasn’t doing yoga in the small holy city of Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world.

When I was able to keep crackers and bottled water down, we hired a taxi (in India, it is somehow normal to hire a taxi for four days) and I vomited my way along the seven-hour drive north. Definitely not what I’d pictured.

Even after I stopped getting sick, I was too weak to stand the heat all day, let alone the physical exertion of yoga in said heat. So we’d basically wander out in the morning, exploring the town and taking pictures of the sacred Ganges River, the Himalayas in the background, and the locals, head back to our hotel for an airconditioned siesta, and then back out for dinner.

All of which is a very long-winded way of trying to explain away the fact that while I was in India, the yoga mothership, the grand poohbah of my professional career, and, even more mortifying, in Rishikesh, the yoga capital of India and…oh yeah…the entire universe, I did yoga a grand total of…once.

I cringe to admit this. If I wasn’t busy typing, I’d assume a mortified child’s pose.

I had imagined doing yoga twice a day, every day. I had pictured connecting with some yoga grandmaster and practically levitating under his tutelage, achieving new heights and depths of poses, attaining some inner spiritual luminescence, and maybe getting a tan whilst doing it. The reality looked instead rather puke-y and pallid and exhausted.

It was, perhaps, the greatest demise of my expectations that during the one time that I did undertake a physical practice, I got kind of injured. The practice stretched to nearly two and half hours (including a 20-minute Q&A afterward, which was actually my favorite part). There were a lot of hands-on adjustments. At some point, the teacher cranked me a supine twist and my lower back hurt pretty intensely for a few days.

Obviously, I’m glad there wasn’t any major damage, but getting hurt (even a little) was one more strike against my good ol’ expectations.

Somewhere between puking and the teacher tweaking my back, I got to thinking about expectations. And that whole yoga thing about not having any, being present, letting everything just be as it is, blah, blah, blah. Shouldn’t that also apply to doing yoga in India? Shouldn’t I practice what I preach even if I can’t practice yoga?

Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was hunger, maybe it was all the OM symbols, but it occurred to me that even though I couldn’t practice physically (in the way that I wanted/envisioned), I could still practice in some way. I could do pranayama (breathwork)—in fact I could pranayama geared toward the anxiety that came from my expectations not being met. I could, as the sign said, meditate OM. I could practice being present and letting my time in India be exactly was it was. Even if that meant that some of my time in India was spent puking my guts out and not being able to yoga.

Getting yogic about puking? Wow. Never thought I’d say that. 🙂

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