Imagine waking up in a place so breathtakingly picturesque, that you felt as though you were engulfed in a postcard.
A place where the sounds of trees rustling, birds and crickets chirping and the gentle breeze form a soothing soundtrack of sorts.
A place where the air is crisp, spiked by the almost intoxicating aroma of incense and spices wafting upwards.
You might find yourself, at the Sadhana Yoga Centre, in Pokhara, Nepal.
At least, that’s where I stayed for 10 beautiful days last month. The experience was unlike anything I’ve ever encountered before. It was – in a word – rejuvenating.
Funnily enough, I didn’t get around to planning this trip till about a couple of days before I left. I had originally planned a two week long stint in India (a place that has been on my travel hit list for as long as I can remember) however was forced to reschedule it to later this year. So there I was, with two whole weeks off of work, with absolutely nothing planned. I freaked out for about 5 minutes, then I stopped feeling sorry for myself, got online and started researching potential last minute destinations one of which was Nepal, at the recommendation of my father who had been to Kathmandu a few months prior.
In the process I stumbled across Sadhana Yoga Centre – a yoga and detox retreat located in the heart of the mountains in Pokhara, Nepal’s second biggest city, favoured by trekkers and backpackers due to its close proximity to the Annapurna mountain range. It took about 10 minutes on their website and Facebook page for me to be absolutely sold – their 10-day yoga holiday package sounded exactly what I needed, and as luck would have it, the scheduled dates worked perfectly with my leave.
So I did it. I packed a bag (should’ve been a backpack, in retrospect – a word to the wise), booked a flight and hopped on a plane a mere two days later, not knowing what to expect or what I was getting myself into. After two flights and a considerable 6 hour delay in India due to weather conditions, I arrived in Kathmandu. I got some sustenance and sleep at a nearby hotel and headed to Pokhara early the next morning.
The domestic plane was definitely the smallest I have ever been in. It was positively tiny seating only 16 people and was so narrow, passengers and attendants had to duck down to make it through the aisles. The take-off was less than smooth, and I managed to distract myself from the fact that I could hear the engine whirring right behind my head by ogling the view of the himalayas peeking up beyond the clouds.
A car ride through the town of Lakeside and a strenuous mountain climb later (on account of my unnecessarily heavy luggage), I arrived at the center. It took me a while to take in the view – I stood on the rooftop balcony and just marveled at the little stretch of heaven that lay before me; it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
On the first night we had an orientation session with the founders of the centre, Yogi Asanga and his lovely wife Durga. He explained in detail what we would be doing for the next 10 days; an intensive Hatha yoga course, daily meditation sessions, other activities as well as our 3 day fast and gastrointestinal flush which came towards the end of the ten days – but more on that later.
Our days at the centre generally looked like this:
For some the early start was a hard to stomach at first, but I relished it – and found myself looking forward to the daily wake up call administered via loud brass bells, ashram-style.
Having never tried meditation at all before, I was a little intimidated and disoriented going in. At first I felt restless, my joints rang with pain, and I thought that my efforts to clear my head would forever be futile. After the first few days I slowly began to get the hang of it, and even looked forward to the afternoon meditation session which was by far one of my favourite activities of the whole trip. It’s an incredible sensation that I can’t even describe – just the feeling of letting everything go, focusing on your breath and really becoming one with your being – it’s phenomenal. I walked away on a natural high every single time without fail.
After our morning tea break we did a daily Netisession, AKA nasal cleansing. It basically entails cleansing the nasal passages by way of warm salt water being passed through one nostril and out the other. A series of rather comical (and messy-gross, I know!) breathing exercises ensue to dry your nose. As unpleasant as it may sound, it worked wonders for me, especially since I got a cold my second day there.
Afterwards we had our 90-minute morning yoga, outside in the courtyard.
Followed by a nature hike in the surrounding mountains,
Where we often stopped to take photos.
Everybody say Namaste!
and then came breakfast long last.
In the afternoon there was always some free time, much of which for me was spent reading (I read 5 books during my trip all together) and journalling, much of the time in the silent lounge or balcony on the top floor.
In the afternoons we got into the habit of doing Karma Yoga – which basically means being one with your actions, or your work. The whole concept at Sadhana is to spend time focusing on the work itself, to do something positive for others and to work selflessly, without the expectation of renumeration. The chores would be simple – gardening, organizing photo albums, watering plants – but my favourite activity was of course, helping out in the kitchen.
On this particular day we were learning how to make Momo’s . But more on that later.
After Karma yoga we had yet another tea break on the rooftop (complete with popcorn – a Nepali tradition of having sweet masala tea with salty popcorn), followed by chanting or Bhakti yoga.
Chanting is basically devotional singing. Each day we would sing three different bhuddist Mantras, some accompanied by drums other instruments. At Sadhana it’s regarded as another form of meditation, so the singing is done in a meditative pose, with your eyes closed. The repetition of the mantras is said to uplift you towards your higher self. It was actually a lot of fun and very cathartic – at the end you could truly feel the vibrations passing through your body.
After chanting came another session of yoga, followed by a hearty dinner. We always ended with Trataka – candle meditation and breathing exercises, the perfect thing to conclude a long day.
That’s all for now – I’ll be back soon with part II of my recap where I’ll tell you more about, yep you guessed it, the delicious food.