India Blog Part 1: Rishikesh & Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama

While still living in Ecuador, one of the motivations for deciding to move back to the Netherlands is that I will be “closer” to being able to go to India. I had lived in India for six months in 2010 and it made a long lasting impact on me. While I am grateful for my time in Ecuador, and I know that it was a necessary period of growth and life experience, I had always kept the yearning of going back to India. After 6 years in Ecuador, something inside me started saying it was time for something else.

It is impossible to see my trip to India independent of the period and events prior to it. I had told myself on leaving Ecuador: If I move back to the Netherlands, my one and only yearning is to go to India. Yes, I have to settle down, rebuild a life, find stability…but I can do this after having been to India.
So in retrospect, I can only be so grateful and amazed at how the universe can be on your side. Ideas truly are mental, subtle forms that somehow manifest when they have to.
In my first year back in the Netherlands, somehow the exact necessary things and people came into my life and before I knew, I had a ticket booked to India for November 2017. 1 year and 2 months after leaving Ecuador.

On the one hand I know that India is not really a place in which a plan or itinerary should be made, because literally anything can happen along the way. But on the other hand, I wanted to form an intention with regards to my trip. Why do I actually want to go there? What is the cause of this yearning? What am I looking for?

During the 4 years of studying with Gilles and Valerie, my curiosity for the subtle and energetic has kept growing. I had been to India before, but this time it would be to experience a more ‘unseen’, mystic, subtle, energetic India. With Gilles and Valerie I had learned a lot about meditation and more subtle practices, and although I know that the internal sensations and experiences shouldn’t depend on the  external place or situation, I started having the feeling that I would like to experiment the internal and subtle in the external and material place where it came from. At least my theory is that it MUST have an effect if there is such a long history of the practices and philosophy connected to the place.

So the intention behind going to India would be to see if it is really a place that one’s meditation practice can evolve and deepen. To experience Ashram life and just be open to why this place is calling me so much.

I’m not sure how I got to know of Swami Rama. Maybe he appeared in one of my many google searches on spirituality, maybe I had read about him in books, maybe through Gilles and Valerie. There isn’t a specific moment that I remember being the first time that I read about him or saw him. But the fact is that I feel very attracted to his teachings, what he radiates and for a long time I have had the habit of watching his lectures on the Yoga Sutras on Youtube.

A few years ago in Ecuador I had the pleasure of meeting a man called Stephen Parker. He gave a weekend workshop on Yoga Nidra, and I had the pleasure of being his translator from English to Spanish. His workshop made a big impression on me, and I thought that I would love to one day visit his Guru, Swami Veda’s ashram in India.

While searching for ashrams to visit during my trip, I looked back to see if this ashram might be suitable. To my surprise, after writing some e-mails and being referred to the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama, I realized that I had stumbled upon exactly what I was looking for! (coincidence or not?) Swami Rama had been the guru of Swami Veda! And I had been accepted to stay for 10 days in the ashram that Swami Veda constructed in honour of his guru, in Rishikesh.

foto from

A long flight, 2 nights in Delhi, a train, bus and rickshaw later, I finally arrived to my first main destination: Rishikesh.
As I always travel on a tight budget, it’s always interesting to see where I end up. The hostal I booked appeared to still be under construction, and I was the only guest…
The upside is that, as all hostals in Rishikesh, they had a yoga room. And since I was the only guest, I could have the key and had a personal yoga space for the next three days.

Rishikesh is a good place to acclimatize to India. It has a good mix of india-india and adapted-to-westerns-india. There are things I loved about Rishikesh, and things I couldn’t handle more than 3 days.
Tapovan area (where I stayed) is a cute town on the hill and around the beds of the Ganga river. If you close your eyes to the multitude of yoga/healing/teacher training/spiritual centres it is very nice and picturesque to walk from the Laxman Jula to the Ram Jula. These are two bridges that connect the opposite sides of the river.

The feeling I got from this place, is that essentially it is a spiritually and energetically powerful place that has been kind of abused and mutated into a ‘spiritual’ Walhalla where it is confusing and hard to identify and filter the authentic from the commercial and neo-spiritual.
For me personally it was fun to walk around, buys some clothes, malas, gifts and stock up on my ayurvedic supplies. The whole environment confused me somewhat as being a place to study peace, meditation, self reflection and internalization, as it is a place that constantly calls you outside…cafés, shops, meetings, parties, more shops. However I cannot judge as I have friends that study frequently in Rishikesh and they are dedicated and wonderful human beings.

Wandering over Laxman Jula bridge and going for my chai (of course, observing all the different people that pass by) would make me reflect on the external vs. the internal. When observing (all the crazy, interesting, funny, weird, Indian, foreign) people (and myself) I ponder on what it means to be a ‘yogi’. Externally expressing it maybe through what you wear, or what you read or talk about, or who you choose to be around. (I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on some of the deep, spiritual conversations going on about self healing, finding oneself, being vegan 😉 ) But essentially none of this matters! Really none of it! Actually I don’t think it is even possible to really externally ‘recognize’ whether someone is really yogi or not,  because essentially it is an INTERNAL practice. We do the external practices, yes, but to transform the internal. To distance ourselves from ego (who loves to express itself externally), drawing nearer to our true essence and embarking on an internal quest towards God (i.e. Love, i.e. our truest nature, i.e. Liberation)

One place that was definitely worth while in Rishikesh is Sivananda Ashram. Since my first real yoga book was from the Sivananda Institute, it was a big deal for me to come here. Kind of like paying homage. The chanting room is amazing with the walls covered of pictures and paintings of all the enlightened masters and yogis of India. The meditation hall, but especially the shrine of Sivananda carries a very particular energy. I actually went in twice, just to make sure this wasn’t just my imagination. Below some images of the ashram.

I was happy to leave after three days towards the south of Rishikesh. The rickshaw drove further and further away from the ‘touristic noise’ and we passed through local neighbourhoods, markets and streets. Just as I started wondering (and getting a bit nervous) about whether we were going in the right direction, we stopped and the driver showed me towards a big gate. Immediately after walking through the gates, I felt such a relief. Peace & quiet. Birds chirping. Honking and ‘India’ sounds were there, but in the background, far away.

I was very, very pleasantly surprised by my room. Somehow, I still don’t understand how, I got my own room (a lot of people got put into shared cabins) and bathroom. Right next to the propertie’s two temples. Shiva temple and Tara Devi. (I will get back to this). And bonus! I had just enough space for my yoga mat!

The ashram maintains a daily schedule. Nothing is compulsory.
4:15 bell rings
5:00 prayer
5:15 -6:45 joints & glands  (I did this for a few days, and then returned to my Ashtanga practice for the rest of the time)
7:00-8:00 meditation
8:15 breakfast (in silence)
9:00 karma yoga
10:00 Lectures/Classes
12:00 Breathing Practices
13:00 Lunch (in silence)
14:00 Self study
16:00 Tea
16:15 Hatha Yoga ( I did this for a few days, and then returned to my  Hatha/Raja yoga practice the rest of the time)
17:45-18:45 Meditation
19:00 Dinner (in silence)
20:00 Video
21:00 Prayer

For those of you who know me, you can imagine how excited I got about this schedule. A whole day filled with prayer, meditation, reading, eating delicious Indian food, resting, writing, practicing and going for walks.
Maybe for most people ashram might feel like a purge, or a retreat, but for me it feels like coming home.

The first days I attended absolutely everything.
Early, even before dawn a bell rings. A small group of people shuffle to the meditation hall and the Ashram staff who know all the prayers and sing them so beautifully lead us through them.

After prayer starts the Joint & Glands class. This was something very interesting for me. I had learned about Pavanmuktas (preparations) with Gilles and Valerie, and this was basically a whole class dedicated to them. Not quite asana, but moving every single joint in the body as a preparation on the day and especially the hour’s meditation afterwards. The movements are very simple and soft, but it literally takes more than an hour to pay attention and loosen every joint in your body, starting with the face (eyes, cheeks, mouth, tongue) en moving down along neck, shoulders, arms, spine etc towards the feet and even the toes! I wish I could have the time to do Joints & Glands every day before my actual asana practice, but then I would need a whole morning 😉 Swami Rama recommends that students practice these excercises for at least four weeks prior to beginning more demanding asanas. It is a good way to reconnect with the body, develop a basic balance & flexibility, improve posture, body awareness and learn to coordinate movements with breathing.
The central goal is to stimulate blood flow to each area of the body, flushing out wastes and toxins, supplying the body with fresh nutrients. By doing these slow, concentrated movements, the body becomes calm and relaxed. Concentration improves and hormone-secreting glands are regulated. The session always concluded with a systematic relaxation.

In the front of the meditation hall a big picture of Swami Rami facing towards the devotees. One of the Swamis of ashram staff would always go to offer a flower and light the candles. It felt as though he was really there, sharing his energy guiding us inwards to go explore the depths of our being.

image from

In front of Swami Rama, there is always a row of Swamis, also facing towards the devotees. It’s like they form the indestructible foundation of the energetic web created in the room when everyone close their eyes. Sometimes I wondered if they were ‘doing’ something, like helping us to keep concentrated somehow. All I know is that in the 10 days meditation morning and evening in that hall, with Swami Rama, his Swamis en the other devotees, my meditation went from uncomfortable and hurting after one hour to focussed, one pointed, not wanting to stop when the bell rang. Of course it would vary with the days but in general I felt a strong convergence in concentration and internalisation. It is a very, very personal process where you come face to face with yourself, your light and your darkness. More of my experiences during meditation I prefer to share only in person with my friends and students.

What can I say… my perfect eating situation. Low tables and sitting on the floor. Delicious, freshly prepared Indian food, silence. I felt so glad that finally I didn’t have to feel weird about saying my prayer before eating, as almost everyone was doing it! And I was pleasantly surprised to see part of the prayer I learned from Gilles & Valerie hanging on the wall as food/digestive/thank prayer. And the best part…after dinner Indian sweets and hot milk. They have ‘happy’ cows on the ashram grounds where the milk comes from. And as I would always sit and observe around me, I soon discovered some of the ashram staff asking the cook for ‘haldi’. A big container of yellow powder would appear and soon I was also asking the cook for my dose of turmeric to mix into the milk with some jaggery (unprocessed cane sugar). Yes sir, the original golden milk!


I was excited to follow the classes as it is always interesting to follow a class and experience it from the other side again. The classes were very well dictated. Very similar to what I had learned from my teachers. However after a few days I decided to return to my self-practice, as it was really a class for beginners/new comers and I think it was fine to say that a few classes were enough for me.

So this was only my first days in Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama. Apart from meditation and practices I was crazy about the video lectures. I wish I could have seen more of them, because they have ones that aren’t on youtube! Seeing the lectures and Swami Rama talking in ‘real life’ is so much better than reading his books.

And finally, my favourite part of the day, visiting my baby cow every day after lunch. He had been put apart because he was drinking too much milk. And he had the company of a new born baby of 11 days. They are the sweetest cutest animals born in massive bulky clumsy bodies.


India Blog part 2 will be about the 5 day Breath Retreat I attended in the same ashram.


12 Things a Sensitive Person Needs

I love these articles. They inspire me, sometimes teaches or reminds me something about myself. And mostly they are fun to read. I share this one because I think more people might relate. Enjoy.


If you’re a highly sensitive person like me, you know little things can be too much. Busy environments, violent images in movies, or weekends with little downtime can stress you out. Because you’re so in tune with your environment and other people, life can be pretty exhausting. As a result, you withdraw — but the people around you don’t understand why you do this.

But there’s nothing wrong with you and you’re not alone. High sensitivity is actually fairly common, found in 15 to 20 percent of the population, according to Dr. Elaine N. Aron, author of the book, The Highly Sensitive Person. Both introverts and extroverts can be sensitive, as well as people of all personality types, although high sensitivity is probably more common among INFPs and INFJs.

(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality test.)

Sadly, because many people don’t understand what high sensitivity is, you may have been told to “toughen up” or “just get over it.” You may have always felt different from other people, but you didn’t have a name for what you were.

High sensitivity can make life challenging but not impossible. When I’m in a routine and doing plenty of self-care, I forget about my sensitivity. But a recent trip reminded me of just how frazzled my senses can get. I was rushing from one activity to the next, hanging out in loud, crowded bars and restaurants, and meeting many new people. To top it all off, I wasn’t getting enough sleep or the kind of exercise that makes me feel good, like cardio and yoga. After five days of “vacation,” I was completely fried.

How can highly sensitive people thrive in a noisy, busy world? Here are 12 things we need:

1. Time to decompress

Noisy, busy environments, like a crowded shopping mall, can wreak havoc on a sensitive person’s highly reactive nervous system. Likewise, packed schedules and high-pressure situations, like a job interview or the first day in a new school, are overstimulating. If you know you’ll be in situation that will frazzle you, plan some time to decompress in a quiet space afterward. It’s best if you can be alone.

2. Meaningful relationships

We get bored or restless in relationships that lack meaningful interaction, according to Aron. This doesn’t mean we’re prone to relationship hopping. Rather, we may actually work harder to inspire intimacy and interesting conversation. It also means we’re selective about the people we let into our lives.

Interestingly, many sensitive people are great to be in a relationship with because they not only tune in to what’s good for them but also to what’s good for others. They pay close attention to what their significant other wants. Aron calls this characteristic “mate sensitivity,” which means the ability to rapidly figure out what pleases their partner and act based on that intel. This behavior goes for friends, family members, and co-workers as well. Basically, it makes us happy to make others happy.

3. People who understand our emotional nature

Sensitive people may cry or frequently become emotional. “Sensitive people can’t help but express what they’re feeling,” Aron told the Huffington Post. “They show their anger, they show their happiness. Appreciating that is really important.”

4. A gentle, healthy way of managing conflict

No matter who you are, fighting with a loved one is miserable. But sensitive people tend to feel extra anxious when conflict arises, and an internal battle takes place. We feel torn between speaking up for what we believe is right and sitting back so we don’t provoke an angry reaction from the other person. Often we subjugate our own needs because we’d rather “go along to get along.” On the other hand, sensitive people can make great conflict resolvers, because we tend to see the other person’s perspective. We have high levels of empathy and can easily put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

5. Time to get things done

Sensitive people like a slower pace of life. We like pondering all our options before making a decision. We’re always reflecting on our experiences. We hate busy schedules and rushing from one event to the next. One of the hardest parts of my day during the work week is getting moving in the morning and leaving my apartment on time. Saturday mornings, when I don’t have to work, are for going at my own pace. It’s calming and restorative to know I don’t have to be dressed and ready to go anywhere anytime soon.

6. Plenty of sleep

Lack of sleep (less than 7 hours a night, for most people) makes the average person irritable and less productive. But lack of sleep for the sensitive person can make life almost unbearable. Getting enough sleep soothes my ramped-up senses and helps me process my thoughts and emotions. How much sleep I get can literally make or break my day. Without proper sleep, every little stressor seems ten times worse.

7. Healthy meals spaced regularly throughout the day

When I don’t eat regularly, I get hangry. This is because, according to Aron, extreme hunger can mess up a sensitive person’s mood or concentration. To fend off feelings of crankiness and discombobulation, maintain a steady blood sugar level throughout the day by eating regular healthy meals and snacks.

8. Caffeine-free options

Sensitive people are sensitive to caffeine (no surprise here). I drink one cup of coffee in the morning to get me going, but I don’t have any caffeine past noon. Even a mug of green tea later in the day would leave me tossing and turning at night. Plus, having too much caffeine leaves me feeling jittery and wound up in an uncomfortable way. If you’re sensitive, consider limiting your coffee, soda, and tea intake. Watch out for sneaky sources of caffeine, like chocolate. Remember, the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine. For example, Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Bar has a walloping 31 milligrams of caffeine, almost as much as a can of Coke!

9. A space of our own

If you live with others, make sure you have a quiet place you can retreat to when you need to get away from noise and people. Turn on your favorite music to drown out any unpleasant external noise.

10. Low lighting

If possible, turn off the overhead lights in your home or office and substitute a lamp.

11. Time to adjust to change

Transitions aren’t easy for anybody. (Hey! Who moved my cheese?) But for sensitive people, transitions can be really rough. Even positive changes, like starting a new relationship or moving into a dream home, can be overstimulating and require an extra long period of adjustment. For example, I recently moved into a wonderful new apartment in a city I enjoy, but I literally felt off-kilter for months until I got used to my new situation.

12. Beauty and nature

Like most sensitive people, I’m deeply affected by my surroundings, especially the way they look. Cluttered, chaotic, or just plain ugly environments bother me. I feel calm spending time in nature, my city’s favorite neighborhoods, or my simply decorated apartment (especially when it’s actually clean and tidy!).

When it comes down to it, the key is to embrace your sensitivity rather than work against it. Sensitive people make incredible leaders, partners, and friends. We have high levels of empathy and we tend to be creative and perceptive. Maybe the world could use a little more of what we have.


original article:,%20Dear

Hanging out with an introvert :)

I found this article, and I’m sharing it because it actually makes quite some sense to me.

Some tips are funny, some are really true, and some less! It’s fun to read and draw your own conclusions. And maybe share it with some extrovert friends 😉


1. If you want to get to know us better, hang out with us one-on-one. Have you ever wanted to make an introvert disappear? Put them in a large group. They’ll quietly fade into the background. Pretty soon it’s like they’re not even there. But when you get introverts alone, it’s a different story. Introverts thrive in intimate settings because when we’re talking to just one person, it drastically reduces our stimulation level; we only have to pay attention to the words, body language, and tone of voice of one person. Plus, one-on-one, it’s easier to talk about more meaningful topics. Group talk tends to revolve around “safe” topics like current events, jokes, and only the parts of your spring break trip to Cancun that are clean enough to tell your grandma. Introverts want to share ideas and talk authentically about things that matter.

2. Likewise, if you say it’s just going to be the two of us, don’t invite other people. It’s hurtful if we feel like we’re just another warm body in your extrovert entourage. We want to mean something to you, because if we’re friends, you mean a lot to us. We don’t let just anybody into our inner circle. As Adam S. McHugh puts it: “Introverts treasure the close relationships they have stretched so much to make.” Plus, we were probably looking forward to talking to just you, and we didn’t mentally prepare to interact with people who we may not feel comfortable with. Before you invite other people, check with us. We might be totally up for it (if we’ve got the energy) or we might not. Either way, we’ll feel respected.

3. We’d rather have a tiny moment of real connection than hours of polite chitchat. How are you really? What’s really on your mind? Don’t just tell us that you had a good weekend. Tell us it was good because you finally sorted out your complicated feelings about your ex. Or that you’re having an existential crisis over the fact that you’re getting older and you haven’t accomplished the things you thought you would have accomplished by now. We’d rather know what’s going on inside you—what’s really going on—than just see the polished facade that you display to everyone else. Laurie Helgoe writes, “When an introvert cares about someone, she also wants contact, not so much to keep up with the events of the other person’s life, but to keep up with what’s inside: the evolution of ideas, values, thoughts, and feelings.”

4. Sometimes we need encouragement to open up about ourselves. As much as introverts enjoy authentic conversation, we can struggle to get there. In fact, we tend to keep our thoughts and feelings to ourselves, especially around people we don’t know well. For example, there have been times when something was bothering me and I wanted to talk to someone about it. But because I worried I would inconvenience the people around me, I didn’t bring it up. I’m better at advocating for myself now, but sometimes it’s still hard. So if you notice that your new introverted friend looks particularly distracted, maybe something is weighing on their mind. Try asking them some good-natured, non-prying questions. “You don’t seem like yourself today. Is there something on your mind that you’d want to talk about?” Of course, if they say they don’t want to talk about it, don’t push. But showing interest in us, and directly inviting us to talk, can go a long way.

5. We may get lost in our own world. The introvert’s inner world is vivid and alive. This means we’re prone to daydreaming. When we’re hanging out, if we drift off for a moment, don’t say things like, “Hey, where did you go?” or “Helloooooo come back to Earth!” This will make us feel self-conscious. Don’t worry, we’re just taking a short trip into the realm of our thoughts. Please stand by.

6. Silence means we’re processing. Likewise, if the two of us are having a conversation and we’re quiet for a moment, we’re probably thinking about what you said. Give us a beat to collect our thoughts (we like to think before we speak). Then we’ll lay some introvert wisdom on you.

7. We like talking too. I have an extroverted friend who will go on and on about her life if given the chance. Suddenly 20 minutes have gone by and I’ve barely said anything. I like to support her, but even I have my limits, as all introverts do. So please remember that although introverts are good listeners, we like talking, too. Unfortunately, people may interpret our silence (and our lack of interrupting) as an invitation to keep talking. Make sure your quiet friend gets their turn, too.

8. We may not call or text as much as your extroverted friends. That doesn’t mean we’re not thinking about you. On the contrary, you probably float through our busy mind quite a bit when we’re apart. But we know we’ll soon see each other again, and we’d rather catch up in a way that’s meaningful—in person, over coffee, on-on-one.

9. Give us time to mentally prepare to hang out. Spontaneity can be fun, and it has its place. But as a general rule, don’t ask us to be ready to hang out in 10 minutes. We need time to mentally prepare for socializing, even if it’s with a close friend. Every introvert is different, but I prefer to be asked at least a day in advance.

10. As much as we like you, don’t show up at our house without asking. Our home is a sacred space where we recharge. This goes back to the “we need time to mentally prepare to see people” thing.

11. If we don’t answer your message right away, don’t think we hate you. We may want to think before we respond. Or we may be in introvert mode—no people, no texting, no phone. For our own mental sanity, sometimes we need to completely disconnect from people in every way.

12. Even though we had fun hanging out yesterday, we probably don’t want to hang out again today. If you’re an extrovert, socializing energized you. But we feel tired, even though we enjoyed ourselves. That’s because our brain is wired differently from your brain; we don’t feel as rewarded by socializing as you do. Give us some time to recharge. We promise, we’ll want to see you again soon.

13. If we say we want to stay home, we really do just want to stay home. We’re not sending a passive-aggressive message that we don’t want to be friends anymore. We just need some solitude. Remember, solitude is the air we breathe.


original article:,%20Dear