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Yoga for sale in Kathmandu

Today I’ll go to Yoga. You can’t miss the plethora of Yoga signs all around as well as the mosquito-like hum of meditation music oozing from the shops like a seductive line from the Pied Piper himself. The Sahdu is wandering along in the distance with his burnished robes trailing behind in the breeze. The only thing is, though my mind is made up to try the Yoga, I’m at a loss which class to choose as there are so many to choose from. Hatha Yoga, the gentle beginners Yoga, the sweat drenched Ashtanga Yoga, ( which I immediately give a wide berth as Madonna is an advocate of this kind, and string bean biceps I do not fancy), the spiral uncoiling, energy swirling Kundalini Yoga, or the mysterious Bikram Yoga of which I have no idea what it actually does. Signs scream at me like desperate refugees and I don’t know which one to choose, when my mind is suddenly made up for me as I pass by a sign for a Yoga class which leads me down a plant-lined path covered with damp moss. Infused with some kind of secret, sacred scent that I can’t decipher, I follow the crazy paved path. The air feels both cold and damp, with a refreshing breeze. A lady greets me at a desk, but appears to speak no English as I explain I want to go to a beginner’s class. She just smiles somewhat mysteriously as she points towards my feet and motions for me to take my flip-flops off. Pointing to a class for Hatha Yoga, is costs approximately 200 Rupees. I’ll take it!

Yoga, meaning ‘Unison’ in Sanskrit, is an ancient system going back to over 2000 years. With thousands of poses designed to work every muscle, every internal organ of the body, every sinew of every muscle, the outcome was to enable Yogi’s to sit in one devotional pose for days at a time, offering meditation and prayer to the deities. Now, although used by the Sahdus and religious schools alike in the East, Yoga in the West has been invaded by the materialism that is all pervading, and assaulted by the vacuous cult of celebrity we seem to love. People now use it as a way to stay fit and flexible. I’ve done classes before at home, and have found them to be both relaxing and beneficial, but the class here takes it to a new level entirely.

I return later that evening to find myself in a dark concrete room, sparsely populated with one other girl and the Yoga instructor. My thighs are aching to their maximum capability but the instructor is showing no mercy. The pain stings me as she urges us to go deeper into the bend, and then come up, exhaling.

“Breathe”, she shouts at me, “Breathe”. in what seems to be a sudden and quick grasp of the English language. Well, what does she think I’m doing? I wonder, but my chest raising exhalations seem to be far from enough and she starts to swing her arms from side to side in a propeller movement, and starts to snort deep exhalations: “like this” she urges. I start to swing my arms round but in my usual lack of co-ordinated efforts, I swing the wrong way and unwittingly smack my new found friend on the back with gusto. The instructor looks at me with despair and say: “

“Breathe, some more, heavier!!!”

With eyes heavily focused on her, I’m determined to meet her expectations and maybe even become her star pupil, and snort as deep and loud as I can, in the hope that maybe some deep seated energy will release itself and aid me on the way to enlightenment. Something is indeed released, and I snort, so much so that the class is paused and a tissue is given to me in disgust.

“Now, the liver” she commands, taking on the persona of a Dictator with more gusto than ever before. This time my legs are raised toward the roof and my arms are outstretched towards my legs. I want to scream in pain as my flabby abdominals get the workout they have considered, but not got around to doing for the past ten months. “ This will stretch your internal organs and pull the hamstrings” she says, with what looks like a joyful glee in her eye at my pain. “Isn’t that what the rack was designed to do in medieval times? I want to shout,”, but I can’t even inhale properly, let alone waste energy on speaking. I count to ten and breathe a sigh of mercy as the pose is finally released and flop down like a boneless blob, on the mat.

“Now we do some relaxing poses”, she says, but I’m wary to believe her this time and have visions of my head actually falling off as she forces me into a pose even Olga Korbut would struggle with. I’m lucky this time, as a soothing meditation music soon washes over the room, and the ‘Om shanty sham’ Tibetan music seems to pulsate through me. We chant with the music; the idea being that the sacred chant creates resonations that vibrate through your very cells with their sacred message, and produce a calming, otherworldly feel.

This is the part of the class I love. Chanting comes easily to me and my voice seems to come from a part of me far older than I have ever realised before. Just the setting sun, the cool mountain air drifting in from the window, the scent of cow dung and life and the three of us in the class. Om. We are one.

At the end of the session I sit up, dizzy off my mat and blink as reality sets in. Im pleased I have worked out and hope to carry the peace home tonight, and set up to pay the instructor the fee, only to find she has doubled it from this mornings quote. I’m too blessed out to argue and part with a fistful of Rupees, but on my way home, in the busy traffic and against the loud music of the bars, I feel a little indignation creeping up at the instructors behaviour, which seems at odds with the spiritual values purported by yoga. I have to buy a chocolate bar to satiate myself and calm again!


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