A yogic Journey: Traveling to India by Bike

Felix shares his story

While I’m talking to Felix on the phone, he is sitting on a beach in southern Turkey. His companion has injured her knee and needs a few days off, so they’re pitching tents on site for now. “That’s the way it should be then,” says Felix, who can handle unexpected events with enviable composure – an important quality for a trip like the one he’s experiencing right now.

Felix has spent the last few years as a sevaka at Yoga Vidya Ashram Bad Meinberg and is now on a mission to spread yoga around the world. To do this, he has embarked on a journey to Rishikesh, the origin of the Sivananda philosophy, which has enriched his own life. In this interview, he told me about his travel plans, experiences along the way and his mission.

Dear Felix, you are currently on a very unusual mission: riding a bicycle from the Yoga Vidya Ashram in Bad Meinberg to the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh, India. How did this idea come about?

Because I have been an avid cyclist for a long time. In my hometown of Innsbruck, I was on the roads full time as a courier driver. This is a different form of cycling, but it definitely fueled the idea. For me, cycling is a dynamic meditation. Whether fast or slow, I’m focused on my breathing and my surroundings.  On top of that, cycling to India has been at the top of my To Do list for about three years now. The motivation behind it is to trace the roots of yoga, but also to get there, travel, and learn about alternative lifestyles and cultures along the way. On the bike it is possible for me to get to know the planet in an environmentally friendly way. In times of climate change, it doesn’t feel right to me to hop on a plane to beam myself to another place quickly. The journey is the destination and that’s how I perceive it.

What do you want to achieve with this great journey?

On the one hand, I want to put myself in situations where I can grow – “seeking discomfort” is my motto here. It’s very easy for me to sink into my comfort zone within the comfort of my own four walls. I quickly find the path of least resistance. But I feel better physically and also mentally when I master challenges. That’s why I’m actively entering a challenging life situation with this bike trip, from which I may subsequently emerge greater.

On the other hand, I wish to take yoga out into the world. I got to know and appreciate yoga in the ashram. Now sharing my knowledge and practices in the outside world will be an adventure, but also has a great added value, because I can inspire people who have no points of contact with yoga and would not come to an ashram.

What was the planning process like?

I looked up the approximate route on Google Maps and divided the total mileage by travel miles per day. That’s how I came up with nine months. Now, however, I realize that this was utopian. On the way there are so many surprises, the weather is sometimes unpredictable, meetings with and visits from great people make the trip longer than expected. Of course, sometimes the muscles are tired or you make flying visits to massage centers and yoga studios. But all of that is totally okay and just right the way it is.

As the next step in the planning process, I organized my material and bought it secondhand and coordinated everything with Yoga Vidya. Then it was time to pack up and leave everything else to the universe.

To what extent do you also leave the route planning to the universe?

Quite a bit. The destination is clear and the route lives from what I hear and see on the way. Locals give recommendations, political situations change, routes look more attractive in my navigation system than others – by a lake or a river, up a mountain or along a federal highway. For me, it works best to set stage destinations just a few days in advance. Even those are allowed to change depending on my state of mind. In this respect, the universe also has a hand in it.

You’ve also taught in various yoga studios along the way. Tell us a little about these collaborations.

Mostly it was in Yoga Vidya studios. I used social media to draw attention to my trip and thus established collaborations. I taught Hatha Yoga in the Yoga Vidya style, but also Acro Yoga and Laughter Yoga. Partly I slept in the yoga studio, also I was referred to friendly yogis from the area. Pretty cool! I was also cooked in some places.

When exactly did you start your journey? How did you experience the first time?

I started in August last year. In the beginning, it was an adjustment period. I kept the daily stages small and quickly realized that 40 km a day is too little. 80 km is more realistic, but sometimes more is possible. Since I started late, the autumn reached me quickly and accompanied me actually until today weather-wise. Often it has rained for days and I was allowed to learn that there is no bad weather, but only bad thoughts. Sounds easier than it is.

You’ve been on the road for 5 months now. Which countries have you crossed during this period?

Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, and finally Greece.

Wow, 10 countries! Which experiences do you remember the most?

I can list a lot…

I can imagine that!

Lots of sunrises and sunsets, waking up in nature, not knowing at the beginning of the day where you will pitch your tent, but knowing that you will always end up in a beautiful place – by chance, meeting nice people… It is also wonderful to be able to live and pass on my enthusiasm for cycling and yoga.

In Greece, on the beach one day, I called out “Hey, I’m doing a yoga class!” and sure enough, about 10 people came and joined in.

How great!

Yes, we then practiced yoga together every day.

All ages, I assume?

Yes, it felt great to unite everyone together. It broke the ice and we were like one big family. After I left, I was sent another video from a participant of them doing sun salutations together.

What do you enjoy about your trip, what do you find more challenging?

Being outside all day is awesome, but it also exposes me to the elements. When it gets dark early and is cold, personal hygiene and laundry are very minor.

Sitting on the bike and moving around as my main job also appeals to me, but I don’t find it at all easy to practice yoga on the side. Especially when it’s cold, the ground is damp and prickly.

Where are you right now and when will you continue?

In southern Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast. In a few days you will go on to Antalya.

At the moment you are traveling with a companion. How did that come about?

I have Yoga Vidya to thank for that! Leoni, my current companion, was once in such a workshop about two years ago. A year and a half later, just as I was getting on my bike to start the journey, she wrote me a message to congratulate me on my venture. She herself had been on the road for three months at that point, so she sent me some tips. Then, in Greece, we teamed up. Cycling, laughing, practicing yoga, doing handstands and cooking are even better together!

If the universe wills it, we will travel to India together. She will continue her journey there.

What a beautiful story! When do you plan to arrive in Rishikesh – alone or together?

That is all still uncertain. The route of the ancient Silk Road takes us through countries where we are still unsure about the visa situation. But we estimate in about half a year.

How long will you stay there?

You can ask questions ­čśÇ I can’t say yet. It will come as it should come.

What do you want to experience while you are there?

To absorb the Indian Spirit, to come closer to enlightenment.

ThatÔÇÖs an ambitious goal! Just like the whole journey. What will your return trip look like?

That’s also still uncertain, but I think I’ll dust off my flying carpet and saddle up for the return trip.

I hope you and Leoni continue to have a lot of fun and a great trip!

Felix started his journey with a sponsor and is now continuing the trip on his own. If you enjoyed the interview and feel like contributing to his journey, you can do so here.

Curious what these two yogi cyclists are up to? Follow their journey on Instagram:

Felix

Leoni