“Eyes closed. Back straight. Now breathe in—arms slowly up and then overhead!”
My patient instructor Anushka patiently guides us slowly through every breath, “Feel the air filling up your lungs! Hold for two counts. Now exhale—one—two—three.”
My body moves in time with her words as the warmth of the morning floods through my limbs, waking me up a little more each minute: Float back, downward dog, forward plank and then all the way down to the ground before stretching up like a cobra.
We may be a small class—just four of us here at six am—but together, we are greeting the soft sky on this big Indian morning. The sunlight shines peach and yellow and all around us the river shimmers like brass. Early morning fishermen glide past, casting their nets like spider silk on the water. It is a rare view, seen only by those waking up in the middle of the Ganges River, miles away from any major cities and hearing only the hum of the boat engine, the rippling waves, and lively roosters crowing from the bank.
Palms joined overhead, my shoulder blades squeezed tightly behind me, I attempt tree pose—chin out, eyes open while I balance on one foot planted on the top deck of our moving vessel, the Ganges Explorer II. I do not feel as confident as I might look—I am not a yogi, and before coming to India, my entire lifetime “practice” consisted of a handful of wobbly classes at my gym back home.
“Don’t worry,” Anushka speaks softly. “This is your practice—your breath, your body—and we are all different. We are all on our own journey.” Following the true spirit of yoga, my instructor is patient and compassionate, focusing on the individual and making each exercise work for each of us. Minutes pass but already I have soaked up the calmness offered by this class, the scenery, and this country.
Surely, there is nothing quite like doing yoga in India—and nothing as marvelous as practicing your flow right here, on the eternal flow of the sacred Ganges River. Every guest spends their morning as they wish—some with a cup of coffee on their balcony, some still in bed, and others watching the birds and river dolphins around us. But today, I am going with the daily yoga classes because this is where yoga is from. Thousands of years ago, right here in India, ancient people followed the same movements, held the same poses, and filled their bodies with the same rhythmic breathing. Now I feel a familiar tingle in the back of my neck, a buzz of youth and vivacity that fills me from chest to ankles.
The Indian yogi Sadhguru says, “The river is a life, like you and me,” and right now, life feels as immense as the river—almost as wide as the sea, the shoreline barely in view as we head north, deeper and deeper into India.
Anushka gently corrects my pose—extend more here, lift more there—now breathe. She does not aim to merely “teach” yoga; she wants us to understand. Her daily on board lectures cover the history of yoga, and explore the various schools that exist today—she is not here to tell me the one right way, but rather, to help me explore the best kind of yoga for me and my body.
This becomes my best souvenir of India—aside from the marvelous people, I am granted the knowledge and practice and confidence to move forward on my own, be it back home, or in a hotel room. This is what sets Uniworld apart—the gift of true luxury—the luxury—the luxury of doing yoga, on a boat, on the Ganges, at sunrise.