Nepal, Spirit, Yoga

Yoga by the lake in Pokhara

May 29, 2011

The lake viewed from Sedi Bagar, Pokhara, Nepal

‘This is it,’ my taxi driver said. He pointed up a steep gravel hill and a path that disappeared into a clump of trees. His car was unable to go any further. From here, I had to walk.

Like the trooper I am, I slung my gear on my back and my day pack on my front and began the steep and slippery hike up to the village of Sedi Bagar.

About two kilometres from the lakeside town of Pokhara, it’s nestled into the hill halfway to Sarangkot, a popular lookout point for watching the sunset over the lake.

I wasn’t going for just the one sunset, though. I was going for at least three.

After my rather traumatic high-altitude trek around Mt Kailash in far-western Tibet only a couple of weeks before, I’d decided that in Nepal I wanted to relax and stay as close to sea level as is possible in one of the countries that lies on the roof of the world.

So once I finally left Kathmandu, like most trekkers I took the bus seven hours to the town of Pokhara. But instead of then making a beeline for the Annapurna mountain range, I had a booking at a yoga retreat.

My room at the yoga retreat in Pokhara, NepalMy room at the yoga retreat in Pokhara. Look at all those books – and that was only some of what I was carrying!

Once I made it up the hill, refusing offers of assistance along the way from the persistent local entrepreneurs and followed the signs to the retreat, I was greeted warmly by the owners and by the current guests, who were all sitting around a table chatting, drinking chai and eating freshly popped popcorn. I’d arrived at afternoon tea time.

I don’t think I made a great first impression.

I dropped my bags with a grunt and a groan and hobbled over, hunch-backed and aching, to the table. My face was bright red and sweat was beading up and dripping from my forehead and neck.

Luckily, no one really seemed to mind.

Chilling at the yoga retreat in Pokhara, Nepal

I was welcomed warmly into the fold and, at 5.30 the following morning, joined in the daily schedule of activities.

This began with a 30 – 45 minute meditation, where we would wordlessly gather in the chilly yoga room, sit on cushions on the floor and wrap ourselves in yak wool blankets. The meditation was led by the owner of the retreat and involved lots of chanting of mantras and conscious breathing.

Afterwards, one of the girls on the staff would take us for a walk into the hills. The day would already be warming up and we often passed boys or young men taking their buffalo out for a morning walk.

Harvesting in the hillside village of Sedi Bagar, Pokhara, Nepal

Rice terraces in the hills behind Pokhara, Nepal

Back at the retreat we would have tea and then yogic cleansing, which involved using a tiny watering can to pour water into one nostril so that it flowed out of the other.

I never got the hang of it, and the warm salty water went down my throat instead. Everyone else seemed to manage it ok.

After yogic cleansing it was finally time for yoga. The morning session was fairly basic and relaxed, whereas the afternoon sessions focused more on flow.

Once yoga was out of the way it was finally time for my favourite part of the day – breakfast of homemade museli, yoghurt and tea. Yum.

The lake viewed from the hillside village of Sedi Bagar, Nepal

Yoga retreat in Pokhara, Nepal

The rest of the day was pretty much free to spend it as we liked. This meant reading or journalling in the sunny courtyard, doing washing or occasionally sneaking over to the hotel next door to use the wifi or buy toilet paper.

Washing dries in fading light at the yoga retreat in Pokhara, Nepal

By lunchtime, we’d usually all end up sitting around the communal table chatting about India. Most of us were either on our way there or had just come through and we delighted in sharing our Indian horror stories.

In the late afternoon we’d be called on to do some karmic yoga, which included things like tidying the garden or sorting bad grains of rice from the good.

Then it would be time for chanting, when the owner’s wife would lead us in drumming and singing mantras, which, once I got over my self consciousness, was one of the most enjoyable parts of the day. I wish I’d made a video or an audio recording – or even copied down the words!

The garden at the yoga retreat in Pokhara, Nepal

After chanting came more yoga, then dinner. By that time it was dark, the lights that ran the backup generator too weak to read by. So one by one we’d disappear off to bed, ready to start it all again the next morning.

So…how was it?

I stayed for three days and would have stayed much longer if I didn’t have friends waiting for me in Pokhara town so we could cross the Indian border together.

It was my first experience of a yoga retreat and I loved the relaxed and flexible nature of this particular centre.

I would have preferred a stronger emphasis on yoga, but it was the perfect place to chill out after several months of fairly rough and difficult travel. I didn’t come away with any great insights into myself or yoga or meditation, but it was nice to be part of a temporary family and the owners were incredibly welcoming and caring.

It makes a great alternative to trekking in the Nepalese Himalaya, or tacked on to the beginning or end of a trek. It was fairly expensive for Nepal, but not too much different to spending a few days in Kathmandu – about $40/day full bed and board and all instruction. Please get in touch if you’d like the details of the centre.

 

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13 Comments

  • Reply Elise May 29, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Sounds like you had a great time! We are going to be doing a retreat soon as well! Looking forward to it! I like you, are going to stock up on books though!!!

    I love the fact that everyone has a ‘horror’ story on India too! You must have heard some great ones!

    It seems like you did so much in the morning before breakfast! I would have been starving by the time I got to eat!

    • Reply MeganRTW May 29, 2011 at 11:31 am

      Hey Elise! It was a lot of fun – I loved getting back into yoga and sitting in the garden reading and writing in the sunshine watching the paragliders over the lake was just lovely. Where are you guys doing your retreat?

      I was really worried about the morning activities before breakfast – by the time we did the walk I was usually starving and ready to pass out! The tea helped though, and then during yoga I generally forgot I was hungry because I was concentrating so much on the positions.

  • Reply Rob King May 29, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Excellent article, brought back some really good memories, i think i have to get back to Pokhara!

    • Reply MeganRTW May 29, 2011 at 7:14 pm

      Thanks Rob! Nepal is a great place to visit – I can’t wait to go back either!

  • Reply Naomi May 29, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    This sounds AMAZING. Could you e-mail me the details about the centre, please? This is exactly the type of thing I want to do when I finally get to that side of the world 🙂

    • Reply MeganRTW May 30, 2011 at 11:47 am

      But of course! Will email you v. shortly 🙂

  • Reply Tijmen May 30, 2011 at 5:18 am

    I have been thinking about those yoga retreats for while, I think I should really visit one in Asia. I heard from several people that they are great spots to relax and start with yoga and meditations. I have been interested in that for ages, but so far I have never really taken the time to do something with it.

    Do I count 9 books in that photo? 😛 How many did you carry in total then? I usually read like 4 books A YEAR, guess you won’t have any trouble beating that 🙂

    • Reply MeganRTW May 30, 2011 at 11:49 am

      Hey Tijmen! I really recommend doing a retreat – it’s a great way to relax and improve your yoga practice (if that’s what you’re into) and if you’ve been travelling for a while like I had at this point it’s a great way recuperate, meet some new people and spend some time just chatting and reading etc without worrying about getting a bus or train to a new place every day.

      Ha, nine books probably sounds about right! It’s no wonder I hurt my back during the hike up to the village. I had the India LP, Nepal LP plus a few novels. It’s the most I ever carried – usually I stuck to one LP and one or two novels. Plus my journals, of course! When I eventually flew home from Malaysia I’d picked up lots of books from Oxfam stores in the UK and I had to take a separate bag just for them!

  • Reply Dawn August 13, 2011 at 5:13 am

    it looks like you had a beautiful experience! i would love to find out where this retreat is, i’m planning a trip to nepal early next year.

    • Reply MeganRTW August 17, 2011 at 1:23 am

      Hi Dawn – if you google Sedi Bagar yoga you’ll find it 🙂

      • Reply Asanga December 27, 2011 at 10:45 pm

        Dear Meghan,
        thanks for your nice complements about Sadhana Yoga, Nepal and visiting to us. I really liked the way you mentioned, photos are just wonderful. Thanks for your all the efforts.
        Merry christmas and happy new year 2012
        Sadhana Yoga Family

        • Reply MeganRTW January 7, 2012 at 11:40 am

          Thanks for commenting Asanga! I can’t believe it’s more than a year since I was in Nepal. I hope I can visit again soon, and I hope you and your family are well.

  • Reply Stephen September 4, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Sounds like a good experience. I guess I’m looking for something similar in Pokara. I’ve already done a 3 day-2 night retreat in Kathmandu.

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