Thursday, June 23, 2011

Downward Dog Days of Summer: 40 Days of Yoga in Nepal

When I first arrived in Nepal, I had high hopes of finding an amazing yoga studio, and this expectation did not seem unreasonable given that Nepal borders India, the birthplace of yoga. My search, though, yielded mixed and ultimately disappointing results. There was the sleep-inducing sivananda class in the freezing cold "studio"; far better was the cool yoga community led by a California native, but she has returned to L.A. for the time being. Now there is a fairly wide selection of classes offered at Moksh Cafe in Patan and soon 1905 Restaurant in Kathmandu, but the times for ashtanga classes -- my preferred style -- are not especially convenient for me.

I was deeply missing the Chicago School of Hot Yoga, where I became an almost daily student as soon as it opened last summer. The studio spoiled me with amazing teachers and a fun community. I mean, it was either that or temporary insanity that had me waking up at 4:50AM every weekday morning to make the 6AM classes. In December. In Chicago.

I am hopeful that one day CSHY will stream videos of its classes. I am also hopeful that when that day arrives, Nepal's internet speed will actually allow me to stream videos. I am not holding my breath for the latter.

My solution? Free yoga podcasts in our home "studio." Since moving into our new place, Brian and I have discovered that our living room/dining room/office also makes a great yoga studio -- especially because only half the room is so far furnished and thus is not really a dining room or office yet.

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In addition to ample space, we've also got the heat thing going for us during this time of year. Plenty of heat and humidity here -- no machines necessary.

And the crowning touch? We even have incense. (I KNOW. What happened to us?).

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We are partial to TeriLeigh's podcasts because the sound quality is good, her instructions are clear, and the classes are challenging, fun, and often a bit irreverent. Teaching the Baron Baptiste style of power yoga, she offers 145 podcasts on iTunes, so we have plenty of material to work our way through. By chance, we started out with a few of the classes that she teaches during a 40-day workshop based on Baron Baptiste's book, 40 Days to Personal Revolution. We became intrigued -- not so much by the promise of personal revolution (self-help books and their cousins kind of make us squeamish) -- but by the idea of practicing yoga for 40 days. Even when I was attending classes at CSHY, I could never claim a record like that.

As it turns out, the 40-day yoga "challenge" does not require 40 days of consecutive yoga, but rather six days of yoga per week for 40 days. Brian and I were already flirting with a nearly daily habit, so we thought, why not? The 40-day experience appealed to us both. Brian is just beginning to try yoga in earnest and thought the formal commitment would be a way to get "over the hump" and more comfortable with the practice. I have read that committing to the 40 days is a way to rejuvenate yoga practice for the already-converted. Overall, it sounded like a fun experiment for us to undertake together in what Brian has now termed our "Downward Dog Days of Summer."

Then we read the fine print: the program is not just about yoga but also meditation. Okay, I can buy into that. The mental exercise would be good practice, after all, if I ever decide to do the popular 10-day silent meditation retreat in Nepal that both entices and terrifies me.

In addition to daily meditation, the program concentrates on a different concept each week, like "presence" in Week One. Again, okay. Self-help book concepts aside, over time in my yoga practice I have grown to appreciate the mindfulness that it cultivates just as much, if not more, than the physical benefits.

We plan to check in periodically to report on the progress of our latest experiment here in Kathmandu. In the meantime, we wish you peace, love, and yoga. Namaste.

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