| Organic Yoga Retreat |
Travel can be tiring. Even great green travel. And so, sometimes, is plain old day-to-day life. If you happen to be in Nepal, here’s the antidote. Tucked within the hills above the frenetic bustle of downtown Kathmandu, the secret gardens of the Himalayan International Yoga Academy (HIYA) await the weary and the frazzled. Whether for quiet meditation, restorative yoga, soothing body treatments or even—if you’re feeling more ambitious—training to become a certified yoga instructor or massage therapist, this is an ideal location. It lays claim to being the only such retreat in Kathmandu that is staffed by experts and supplied by its own organic gardens.
Co-Founder Dr. Subodh Simkhada, a thoughtful, soft-spoken man who holds advanced degrees in both health education and complementary medicines, provides his guests with a holistic approach to mental health and physical well-being. His background in Naturopathy and Ayruvedic medical traditions guides his counseling and treatments: curative, regenerative, preventive. “People suffer from unhealthy lifestyles,” he will tell you. “It’s not uncommon that they come here complaining about one problem but, as the conversation evolves, quickly admit to five or six more health problems.”
Dr. Subodh was only 16 when he left the small, rural village where “my parents never understood me and my desire to become a medical doctor.” In Kathmandu, with no money and armed only with an intense desire to learn, he worked exhaustively long days, studied through the nights, and often could afford to eat only a single meal. One day, he came across a yoga class and thought what’s that? The question forever transformed his educational and career path, and has led to a nearly 18-year devotion to the practice, lifestyle and exploration of health and well-being.
The rejuvenating power
HIYA’s facilities, by Dr. Subodh’s own admission, “do not boast of offering luxuries of a deluxe resort,” but I can attest to the rejuvenating power of the yoga and meditation sessions, the immaculately manicured lawns and gardens, the vegetarian and vegan dishes created by the kitchen throughout the day from their small-but-thriving garden. Sleeping options include the Kailash, a bungalow that is also Dr. Subodh’s home, and four comfortable, twin-bedded “cottage tents” called Wisdom, Tranquility, Bliss and Harmony which ring the upper garden terrace. Overall, the scale is just right: only up to sixteen guests at any one time.
Stay for a night or take advantage of one of several retreat packages. HIYA contributes 5% of profits to organizations helping to educate poor and needy children in Nepal (of which there are many).
A typical day at HIYA starts off with an early morning yoga lecture and session. After a leisurely breakfast in the garden, you can enjoy a steam bath (in one of those fantastic, old-fashioned box contraptions in which only your head sticks out the top) or Ayruvedic massage (other treatments are available and vary according to season) or shirodhara (oil treatment). After a buffet lunch, you can opt for a nature walk through the jungle or a culture walk up to a nearby monastery. Or simply relax on the lawn with one of many yoga or meditation books from the HIYA library, or catch up on e-mail. In the evenings, group meditation is followed by dinner with organic herbal tea from the garden, after which folks generally chat, then quietly disappear into their rooms or tents for the remainder of the evening.
A day well spent, like plugging yourself in for a total battery recharge.—Michael Straus, Contributing Editor