9-15 May 2014 #706

Bend but don’t break

Practising yoga the right way is no easy feat
Tsering Dolker Gurung

Before my first class, my only yogic knowledge was courtesy of Bollywood diva Shilpa Shetty and superstar yoga guru Ram Dev Baba. Years ago, I was coerced into buying the tutorial DVDs of the two after an onslaught of 'fat' comments from family and friends. But as was the case with my gym and pilates classes, the practice merely lasted a few days.

So, when I signed up for a month of unlimited yoga classes at the newly opened Pranamaya’s studio in Thamel last month, I had my doubts. How different would yoga in a western style studio be from the free yoga classes offered at Tundikhel and every other neighbourhood corner? Was it really worth forking out several thousands on?

My secret confidence from a few days of elegantly copying postures from my laptop screen lasted for exactly five minutes into my first Hatha yoga class.

The first downward bend of the sun salutation made my knees ache. Holding the body in a plank position was a challenge. Even a half cobra bend hurt my back. By the time we got to a tree stand (a concentration pose) and I was struggling to stand on one leg, I knew yoga was a change I needed. At 24, my body felt like a 60-year-old's.

Because Hatha yoga practices only the basic yoga postures, I wanted something more challenging in my second class and jumped straight into Ashtanga--a novice’s mistake. If my Hatha class made me feel a little stiff and sore, my Ashtanga class made me realise just how unfit I was.

The names of the postures, known as asanas, are terrifying in themselves: Prasarita Padotonasana, Uttitha Hasta Padangustasana. But don’t let these hold you back from giving this rigorous and demanding style of yoga a try. You’ll have a tremendous feeling of accomplishment afterwards.

The month turned into a quest to try every style of yoga. Iyengar class was next. Combining a variety of slow-moving forms of asanas (eg: stand, sit, lie down), Iyengar focuses on lengthening the spine and finding proper alignment in a pose. Yoga props such as blocks, straps, chairs are also used commonly for support. Mid-class, we were challenged to do a headstand. Despite standing on my head, I was told I had it all wrong. I have been working ever since to headstand the right way and I believe I am getting there. Like Hatha, Iyengar yoga won’t work up a sweat, but it is amazing to see just how demanding it can be to stay put and not jump around.

My month long yoga journey ended with my first Yin Yoga class. A more meditative approach to yoga, asanas are held for longer periods of time. The main aim is to apply stress to the connective tissues, to increase circulation in the joints and improve flexibility. In keeping with the meditative theme, a singing bowl was used to signal the change in each posture which lasted from three to five minutes. At the end of the class, I felt like I had had a long massage session at a spa. It was that calming and relaxing.

Although, it did take some time for me to get used to chants of ‘Om Shanti Om’ in a foreign accent, I feel more active and energetic thanks to yoga. After trying just about every form of exercise and in the process leaving pairs of workout shoes at every other gym in town, I am glad to have finally found the one that gets me up in the morning.


Drop-in class Rs600, 10 class pass (valid for 3 months)/1 month unlimited class Rs 5000

Read also:

Into the Zen zone

Bending over backwards

It’s all in the mind

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