We recently completed our successful #YomasteLadakh Yoga retreat, taking 43 brave-hearts on an epic Yoga journey through the stunning locales of Ladakh, culminating in a full-moon night Meditation on Buddha Purnima itself! Each of the 8 days we spent exploring Ladakh was a memory of a lifetime; and taught us important life lessons as well. The sights were stunning beyond words – Ladakh is surely where the IncredibleIndia moniker must have been conceived! Here’s 5 things I learnt about doing Yoga in Ladakh.
- High Altitude = Shortness of Breath. Ladakh is not a hill-station, it’s a Himalayan mountain post. And as soon as you land at the Airport, all you hear is that you should take rest for the first 24-36 hours to acclimatise to the high altitude. If you follow these instructions, you’ll be fine. Even so however, you’ll be surprised how walking up a couple of flights of stairs while talking simultaneously makes you experience shortness of breath. That’s where our Pranayam training is so beneficial in adapting to the high altitude of Ladakh. Yogis have been living in high altitude for thousands of years, and Yoga was conceived as a holistic Lifestyle regimen for this yogis living at these sorts of altitudes. Even Running and other cardio training cannot prepare you the way Pranayam does.
- Fitness Challenge indeed! Ladakh represents an amazing Fitness challenge for anyone visiting and even more so for people Trekking, Mountaineering, Rafting or attempting the other adventure activities in Ladakh. The key to doing well in Ladakh is to remain Relaxed and not compete against the Elements. That’s where Mindfulness and Meditation training helps you stay centred and relaxed. However Fit you may be in your home, Ladakh demands Respect. Many a Fitness fanatic has found that the high altitude can be quite humbling – many others have had to be hospitalised. So part of the experience of going to Ladakh is to train yourselves for it! (To understand the impact high altitude has on your Health and Fitness, it’s interesting to note that the US Olympic Teams train in high altitudes)
- 3. Inspirational Locales, Breath-taking views! To have taught and practised Yoga and Meditation at the Pangong Tso Lake is one of my most memorable life experiences. We had to quickly learn the art of maintaining stillness whilst being lashed by strong winds. And to teach only those asanas that didn’t allow our Yoga mats to go aflutter in the air! Sitting in Silent Meditation listening to the sounds of the Wind remains etched in my mind. Not just Pangong Tso lake; Nubra Valley, Ganda-La…every place we visited was beautiful beyond words. And each place inspired us to sit in silent Meditation, enjoying the location even more than just the visual appeal! It’s as if the Himalayas and the unique Ladakhi terrain has been crafted just to inspire people to learn the joys of Meditation.
- Happy, Smiling Locals! I can’t remember seeing even one discontented-looking face! In fact they are always smiling! We call them the ‘National Geographic’ faces! Contentment has always been a major attribute that the Buddhists cultivate and it seems to be working in Ladakh. You feel a genuine sense of warmth among the locals and even away from the tourist trails, when we went trekking through remote vilages perched up in the Mountains, we always encountered Happy people! This makes a huge difference to one’s experience of a place or a holiday. And coupled with the Happy faces, if you have a penchant for Momos and Thukpa like I do, then Ladakh is more than rewarding!
- Final Lesson – I can certainly live my days in Ladakh! Julley to that! Many places that you visit in life leave you feeling satisfied, but perhaps unlikely that you will want to visit again. Ladakh on the other hand leaves such an indelible mark that I’m convinced I can spend a large chunk of my days happily in that Himalayan paradise. Julley, meaning Hello, is a word I’ll be happy to shout out to the Happy, Smiling Ladakhis and tourist alike. Possibly opening up a Julley Yoga school in the not too distant future!
- Manish Pole @ManishPole Bio >>
(Yogi, Speaker & Author, Co-founder of the Total Yoga style of Yoga with studios in B’lore, Pune, Delhi, Shanghai, California & leading Meditation retreats in the Himalayas!)