Dancing Naked

After leaving Mysore, I headed to the Rishikesh (the foothills of the Himilayas) to meet with my meditation teacher, Swami Veda, the oldest disciple of Swami Rama (1925 to 1996). We flew from Bangalore to Delhi and took the overnight train to Haridwar. Finding a taxi driver from the train station is always fun since they don’t speak English well in North India. They never seem to know “where” you want to go, but you don’t find this out until you have been travelling for close to an hour. It became obvious the drivers were confused when they stopped every few minutes to ask for directions. In the end, they brought us to the wrong ashram where I got the 'right' directions from a helpful orange-robed Swami. Along the journey, our drivers (probably not much older than 16 years old) invited me to have a smoke. They looked pretty disappointed that I did not share in the fun! "No smoke, mam?" "Nooo."

The first time I visited Rishikesh was in 2000. My memory consists of watching a large pig peeing in the Ganges while a man dressed as Hanuman diligently wiped off body make-up just a few yards away. "Hmmmm", I thought, "the holy waters of purification." I also walked several kilometers from where I was staying to avoid being cheated by any overpriced rickshaw driver. I can't believe I would argue over 50 cents; the 40 degree weather must have shifted my common sense to zero cents. I walked to and fro from the Ganges in which there are literally hundreds of ashrams stacked on top of each other. I remember walking past the sign for the Sivananda ashram, Omkaranada ashram, Swami Rama Ashram, the Vivekanada Institute....etc, etc. I was on a strange mission in those days and kept up a brisk pace.

In the latter part of the 60’s Rishikesh became quite well known to the West as the Beatles travelled there and met with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It also became nick-named as Yoga-town because of the large number of ashrams located in one central area. For tourists, there is something for every budjet, level of comfort, level of study, interest and non-interest in the spiritual path.

For Hindus, it is a totally different matter; it really is a sacred city. The name “H-rishikesh” is Sanskrit for Vishnu (the preserver) and means “the lord of the senses.” Certainly it is an array of sensations for the senses with many sadhus, wandering monks and swamis walking around. One Swami, whom, I know I had never met before, was convinced he knew me. "Yes, I saw you here 10 years ago!" Ironically, I have returned 10 years later, but this is 10 years in the future not the past.

The banks of the Ganges are also well visited by locals who perform pujas, rituals and other ceremonies understood to cleanse their karmas of both past and present lives. A group of boys were no exception to the rule as they played along the river banks without a care in the world. They reminded me of the freedom of being able to run naked. Once they spotted me taking their photo, they were very eager to see it. I cannot explain what it meant to be surrounded by several naked Indian boys jumping up and down. It was one of those moments in which there are no words.

Ah, the invention of digital, the innocence of childhood and the freedom of the body.


The Journey So Far

Life is an adventure and yoga is the greatest one of all. Here I share my love of Yoga, travel, practice and becoming a part-time cook. My life adventures have taken me from growing up in Toronto to living and working in South Korea to studying in India, marriage and finally closing my Yoga school of 15 years.

What I can say so far is that I truly believe that it is necessary in life to let go of one dream in order for another to be born. This might be painful to do so but it is the only way to move forward. We often believe that if our original plan does not succeed it is the recipe for failure. But what if it is the door to something new and great? The horizon is wide and life is not a straight line. This is the way I see it and my journey so far. Having also recently given birth to my first child and at 43, it is another new beginning.


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Heather Morton
is a perennial teacher and devoted student of yoga. Having made 18 extended trips to India she studies with her teachers annually. In 1997 she founded and directed The Yoga Way (TYW), Toronto's only school for 6-week yoga programs and not drop-in classes. For 15 years, TYW was a part of the growing Toronto yoga community and supported many charities by offering karma classes. As a teacher she holds many academic degrees including a BFA (Fine Arts in Theatre) and a Masters of Education. With a published thesis on Yoga for Children in School, her post-graduate work was a 2-year ethnographic project in the Indian school system. Heather has produced 2 dvds, meditation cds, a backbending manual and podcasts. Freedom of the Body DVD is the first of its kind as an instructional practice to the backbends of yoga. Heather has been featured in the Toronto Life magazine, The Globe & Mail, Yoga4Everybody and other on-line sources. She contributes to MindBodyGreen, Hello Yoga in Japan and Elephant Journal. She writes to inspire and share her experiences with others on yoga as a life's practice.
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