Yoga in the land of Buddha

Yoga classes and retreats in nepal

Yoga is about the union of a person’s consciousness and the universal consciousness

Sounds pretty esoteric, doesn’t it? Well, what can you expect of an art with a 3000-year-old history behind it? Going into details is quite a task, so let’s summarize and say that yoga has passed through the following five broad stages through the passage of time: Vedic Yoga, Pre-classical Yoga, Classical Yoga, Post-classical Yoga, and Modern Yoga. Vedic Yoga is according to what’s written in the ancient Vedic Vedas; Classical Yoga is based on Patanjali’s ‘Yoga Sutras’ (200 BC-AD 200), which mentions four systems, that is, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Bhakthi Yoga; Pre-classical Yoga (500 BC) is based on the teachings of Bhagavad Gita, the oldest yoga scripture, which describes yoga in terms of bhakti (loving devotion), jnana (knowledge or contemplation), and karma (selfless actions). Post-classical and Modern Yoga come after that and include newer yogic practices that not only revitalize, but are also claimed to lengthen life. One such practice is Hatha Yoga, which facilitates concentration and meditation through asanas and pranayama, thus preparing the practitioner for achieving samadhi.

Well, so much for a condensed history of yoga. Now, let’s see what’s in store for you in Kathmandu Valley as far as yoga is concerned, especially in Boudha in Kathmandu, where the Boudhanath Stupa is located, and Namobuddha, a sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site about 38 km from the capital. A few words about the two: Boudhanath is a world heritage site and said to the largest Buddhist stupa in the world, while Namobuddha is the place where a prince named Mahasattva fed a starving tigress and her cubs with his own flesh; the ultimate act of selfless sacrifice. These two places are certainly interesting sites to meditate in and to practice yoga.

yoga classes and retreats in nepalThere are quite a few yoga centers all over the valley, and in Boudha, there’s one within the premises of the Boudhanath Stupa itself known as the Boudha Inn Meditation Center (Retreat Center) situated at the western face of the stupa.  Here’s what one visitor had to say about his experience there: “There is no doubt Buddha Inn Mediation Center is the best yoga center I have ever visited…Learning meditation and yoga with Abhit (the instructor) has changed my life forever. Through meditation, he has taught me the importance of physical, intellectual, and spiritual balance in my life, while continually challenging and motivating me. But, most importantly, he has taught me to live with compassion for myself and for others…His compassion and sense of humor create a relaxed and enjoyable environment in which to learn.” It is a popular meditation and yoga center and its daily routine goes like this—7-8 a.m.: Regular Yoga; 8-9 a.m.: Regular Meditation; 10-11 a.m.: Reiki Healing; 2-3 p.m.: Meditation.

Another yoga center near the Boudhanatah Stupa premises is the Pure Vision Healing Center/Sorig Tibetan Medical Center. Community yoga classes are conducted regularly by its resident teacher, Amber, who is a Yoga Alliance certified Hatha Yoga instructor with long experience in Ashtanga, Iyengar, and traditional Hatha Yoga styles. Classes take place in a ‘relaxed yet challenging environment’ and the focus is on integration of breath, movement, and meditation. Classes are held from Monday to Friday along the following schedule—5:45 to 6:30 a.m.: Silent Calm Abiding Meditation; 6:30 to 8:00 a.m.: Hatha Yoga Flow Open level; 8:00 to 9:00 a.m.: Open for quiet practice.

In Namobuddha, there is a resort by the same name, that is, Namobuddha Resort, which has its own organic vegetable and dairy farm. The resort is a great place to spend some time in and practice the art of yoga, classes of which are organized on a regular basis by Pranamaya Yoga Studio which has its main studio in Kantipath of Kathmandu and branches in Boudha and Patan as well. A three-day yoga retreat costs US$275 per person on twin sharing basis and covers: transportation from its studio at 1905 Kantipath (5 minutes from Thamel) to retreat location and back; accommodation on twin sharing basis; all vegetarian meals, tea, and water; use of yoga mats and yoga props; diary and pen, and so on. The minimum number of participants has to be at least four while the maximum is sixteen. The studio teaches different kinds of yogic practices. A typical program, (for example, A weekend retreat of Ashtanga yoga with Ellen in the hills of Nepal) goes like this:

  • Departure from Pranamaya Studio Thamel at 7 a.m., pick up Boudha students near Pashupatinath. Drive to Namo Buddha Resort and introduction.
  • Saturday mid morning session: Ashtanga Yoga Practice
  • Saturday afternoon session: Yoga and movement workshop
  • Saturday evening session: Deep relaxation & meditation
  • Sunday morning: Ashtanga Yoga practice
  • Sunday afternoon: Meditation session
  • Departure from Namo Buddha Resort at 5.30 p.m.

 

The organizers state, “This weekend will give an introduction to classic Ashtanga Yoga system exploring its basic movement patterns and their physical and mental implications. Diving into the natural rhythms of body and mind we will re-discover the joy of moving and the simple satisfaction of stillness.” (pranamaya.yoga.com)

yoga classes and retreats in nepalSounds like something worth spending some time doing doesn’t it? The instructors too have impressive credentials. For instance, here’s the profile of one of the main instructors, Ellen Johannesen. A Norwegian, she started practicing Ashtanga in 1994 and has studied with teachers worldwide. She was authorized from KPJYI, Mysore, by Sharath Rangaswamy in 2006, and has completed 2-year teacher training with John Scott. She founded the first Ashtanga yoga studio in Norway, Ashtanga Yoga Oslo. She trained as a Tibetan translator at Rangjung Yeshe Insitute, Kathmandu, where she is currently continuing her studies.

So, you certainly are in safe hands and you can rest assured that you’ll be surely going through an experience that will probably result in a fresh and new outlook on life in general, and your own lifestyle, in particular. Whatever the case may be, take some time out when in Nepal to learn some yoga so that you take back more than just wonderful souvenirs and a lot of pictures.

Image © Pranamaya Yoga Studio

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