Ever feel like you just need a break from the anxieties and worries of the world? Ever think about packing your bags and traveling to India to study yoga and supercharge your zen?
Yep, we've all been there. So when our good friend Gracie Chiu told us she was doing it, we were inspired to find out more. Read our exclusive interview below to hear why she decided to leave Hawaii to study yoga in India, what she left behind, and how it's changed her life forever.
To start, what is the name of the training you're at and where is it located?
Kranti Yoga located at Patnem Beach in Goa.
How long is the program?
Four weeks. It’s like yoga training on steroids. We’re finishing up our third week now. I’m teaching my first full hour of yoga class the day after tomorrow. I’m pretty excited!
Was it hard to leave behind your full-time job, family, friends?
I’m still technically employed. It actually wasn’t hard to leave home. Someone once described me as flighty, I guess he’s dead on. :)
How did they all take the news you were leaving?
My friends were very supportive of me going to India. Especially my roommate (she hates when I say roommate instead of best friend ha), Violette. She was the one who gave me that extra push to finally go and do what I wanted to do for over three years now.
I wish I could have gotten more support from my dad when I first told him about my plan. But you know, he is who he is. There are things that happened in his life that make him think and act the way he does now. I cannot change him, but I also don’t want him out of my life because he’s my father and I love him dearly. I’ve decided to not let his negative opinion towards my passion affect me emotionally.
What was your level of yoga before you left?
Hmmmmm...probably cocky. Like, “hey look at me I’m so bendy ‘level’ type of yoga.”
What is your level of yoga now since being in India?
Technical stuff aside, I would say I’m a much more humble yoga practitioner. So cheeky, but it’s true. It’s easy to give in to ego and do yoga just for the sake of doing all the full postures and looking cool, which is the complete opposite goal of doing yoga. We practice two hours of ashtanga yoga (sometimes three), six days a week. It can be too much for the body. A few people got injured in the beginning of our third week. There was a day where my body was in so much pain and I pushed it, even though my body was telling me "no", and I hurt my right wrist in the process. Luckily, it got better the next day. Ever since then, I’ve learned how to push my body physically and mentally to give 100% to my practice and also knowing when to back off. I was not a fan of modifications back then, now I do it if my body is asking for it. I can always go back to full pose tomorrow. One of my teachers says, “don’t be shy, modify.”
Where do you hope to see your level of yoga by the time the program is over?
I hope to be more focused when practicing and hopefully reaching samadhi one day. Ha!
Where have you seen the MOST improvement in your yoga practice since arriving in India?
I’m definitely more focused now when I’m on my mat. My mind doesn’t really wonder, and if it does, I’m able to take it back to the present without forcing the thoughts out, but instead just letting them pass.
What was your biggest motivation to go? A book? A movie? A friend's experience?
My biggest motivation was helping me. I was in and out of depression for about a year. I had really bad anxiety and I felt emotionally drained. I’ve been wanting to go to India to do yoga for four years now. Two months ago, I finally had enough and didn’t want to feel like shit anymore, so I signed up and now I’m here :)
What’s been your personal mantra throughout the entire trip?
I’m a strong woman.
How many people are you practicing with on a daily basis?
There are 24 of us. A few of them I know I’m definitely going to be great friends with after this.
What’s the most enjoyable thing about the whole experience?
The most enjoyable thing about this experience for me is just living in the present. Coming here definitely centered me. I was always playing things back in my head that happened in the past, or always thinking about the future, which made my depression and anxiety worse. Now, I don’t think about what went wrong on my past relationships. I stopped people pleasing or seeking approvals. I don’t have to think about or plan what I’m going to do this weekend. Life is so simple here. Wake up, go for a jog at the beach as the sun rises, yoga, meditation, breakfast, class, lunch, swim at the beach, class, watch the sunset, play with the shala puppies etc.. I understand that this sounds more like a holiday, but this experience reset my mindset and now I know that it’s possible for me to get back to this center with the tools I learned from being here.
What do you want to do with your new learnings? Teach? Practice deeper?
I definitely want to teach. I’m a pretty big fan of donation yoga. I’m also going to do some type of karma yoga.
On a personal level, I definitely want to deepen my practice. Continue learning. I know in my heart that I’m gonna be back here in India again to do more yoga.
What’s your living conditions there?
Simple. 10 x 10 room, basic bed, mosquito net, a hammock on my tiny patio. The dining/garden/common space is quite nice, very colorful and there are two swinging beds. Oh and a tree “house” with lots of colorful pillows and bolsters! Mostly cold showers....and checking for frogs before using the toilet is mildly entertaining.
What do you wish you would have brought that you forget?
I wish I had my dog Kona with me. Other than that, absolutely nothing. One of the many things I learned here is to be content and live simply. I brought the bare minimum... toiletries, six yoga pants, a couple of shorts, workout shirts, two sundresses and a jacket and I feel like I packed way too much. Thinking of all the clothes and things I have back home is just perplexing. A trip to Goodwill is definitely in my future.
Advice for someone going to this same program or one similar?
Don’t wait. Do it now. You will not regret it. It was the best decision I made for myself.
Anything you will change about your life when you come back to the states?
Oh yes! I’ll definitely keep this morning routine I have here. I’m going to practice Mysore style Ashtanga and do some meditation first thing in the morning. Less TV for sure, read more books, become vegetarian with some cheat days for sushi :)
You still have some time before you have to be back at your full-time job in Honolulu, any ideas where you’ll be spending it after the program?
I’m going to Nepal to hike Everest base camp :) Still deciding if I should hire a porter or not…
Anything else you wish to add for readers?
This training I’m doing is for Ashtanga yoga which is done Mysore style. If you have not done Ashtanga Mysore style, I highly recommend it.
Follow Grace and her yoga teaching story at @jungleasianyogi.
Learn more about the yoga training Gracie received at krantiyoga.com
Photography by Kirvil Hegna (edits by MAGDAKINEDESIGNS)