What magic. As I said in my previous post on the Tibetan refuge in McLeod Ganj, when I refer to Dharamshala I really mean the the villages of Upper Dharamshala: McLeod (pronounced Mac-Lod) Ganj (could you tell the British used to occupy here?), Bhagsu, and Dharmkot where I made my home for a week. I had enlisted into a five day introductory course of Iyengar yoga going by recommendations. It certainly did not disappoint. It is based in Lower Dharmkot, and I fell in love with its location so stayed at the yoga centre too.
It’s tucked in the deep green valleys of the region, surrounded by tall pine forests. Monkeys are dotting around, making themselves known only silently, and when you least expect it (bleary eyed morning coffee). There are friendly families of chickens, cows and dogs dotted around, and warm waves from locals are always around the corner.
The view from my bed, which I embraced with the early sunrise every morning, was a spectacular panorama of the valley and forests.
What makes this place so mystical is that because it’s so high (over 2000m above sea level) the clouds constantly move through the hills, creating stunning blankets of mist throughout the trees.
Bhagsu has an amazing waterfall too. When I timed my visit there not to be in the rain, I was joined by groups of Indian tourists taking their kids up for a dip in the chilly water. The hill leading up to the top of the waterfall was also punctuated with munching mountain goats, and monks down below washing their robes in the water. The more urban areas were full of cafés and shops geared to the traveller lifestyle, most of which with wonderful views. There are also some quite lovely sites around – temples, and in particular my favourite to watch people just having a great time was the sacred swimming pool in Bhagsu where everyone stripped down to their underpants and jumped in.
The yoga course itself was five days of three and a half hours of practice. We were given a deep understanding of poses that work core muscle groups so that at the end we’d be able to do independent practice successfully.
The information on each pose was so comprehensive that on day one we spent over an hour discussing feet, and working through tadasana: standing pose. Just standing on two feet:
1. We divide the foot into toes, mounts (the padding that corresponds to each toe, like you can see more clearly on a dog’s padded paw), and the centre of the heel
2. Stand with the distance of one of your feet between them, with your outer feet parallel to the edges of the mat
3. Lift your toes and stretch them outwards
4. Place equal weight on all the mounts
5. Slightly lower the toes so that only the big toes are very lightly touching the ground, but taking no weight
6. Roll the majority of your body weight so that it is on the centre of your heel. If you can’t find it, bend your knees and you will naturally go to that point, then straighten the legs.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you stand on your own two feet. Those instructions have helped me a lot with my lower back posture as it makes you naturally align in the pelvis. And this amount of information was given for all the postures, so for the first time in on/off nine years of practice, I had some eureka moments of completely understanding poses.
So it was really a very useful, and mystically beautiful five days. If anyone is interested in the course or something similar, I went to the Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre in Dharmkot, but they also run outdoor courses in Goa too.