Upon arrival in Nepal, Kenny and I ran a few quick errands in Kathmandu and then made our way to Ananda Yoga Center, in the hills about 20 minutes outside of town. I had read about the center in our Lonely Planet guide, and we were both eager for a few days of relaxation and asana practice.
What we found when we arrived was different from what we had expected in a number of ways, none of which were necessarily negative:
- Aside from the two of us, there was only one other student at the center. She arrived just minutes before we did, and had registered for the month-long teacher training course.
- The center is run by Sannyasi Shivgiri, an adherent of Bihar Yoga, which is a branch of yoga that was completely unknown to either of us. This wasn’t a problem, just took some time to acclimate.
- The asana practice was certainly more basic than the “Level II” hatha yoga classes that I’m accustomed to from Seattle. However, even over the short time that we spent at the center, we noticed that our teacher ramped up the difficulty level. I suspect that if we had stayed for the full month, the practice would have progressed to a fairly high level of difficulty.
- The accommodations were decidedly basic. A bit more so than we expected. We had been warned to bring a bed sheet and a towel, so this was really not a problem, but it was a surprise initially. Once I discovered the flush toilet down in the common courtyard area, I was much happier about the situation. The water in the shared shower was quite cold, but I coped with that by showering during the hottest part of the day, and only once. ;) This would’ve been more of an annoyance if we had stayed longer, especially because the weather deteriorated after we left.
There were a few things that far exceeded expectations as well:
- We absolutely adored Ganga, our asana teacher. Not only did we thoroughly enjoy her two daily asana sessions (especially once I got past my reservations about the difficulty level), but she made us feel like part of the family in every interaction, especially at mealtimes with the whole extended clan.
- The food was delicious and plentiful. Lunch and dinner always consisted of dal bhat (the national dish of Nepal, namely lentils and rice), but by no means does that mean the meals lacked variety. Every dal bhat was accompanied by a different veg curry, pickle, and some spicy delicious vegetable on the side. Breakfasts consisted of fruit, curd, and some kind of cereal (semolina, corn and wheat, etc.). Ganga and the rest of the family would never be satisfied until we had eaten seconds or thirds of everything.
- 6am mantra chanting turned out to be one of my favorite times of day (never would’ve guessed that one!) The best part of the chanting session was when Shivgiri’s adorable granddaughters would rush in (usually a few minutes late) to join us. They were the most enthusiastic singers of the group.