Non-spiritual lessons I learned in Nepal

Non-spiritual lessons I learned in Nepal

I was all set on doing my yoga teacher training in India because, if you are going to learn something why not go directly to the source, right? I was travelling from The Philippines with a large backpack and a rolling suitcase that contained my world and my dive gear (part of my other world). I had some time to pass before the course started and decided to wait it out in Nepal because I always wanted to be able to say to people I’ve been to Kathmandu… go ahead, try saying it out loud, it is one of the most fun English words to say along with smorgasbord – try that one out loud too!

I loved Nepal so much that I ended up cancelling my course in India, losing my deposit- yuck!, and doing my course in Kathmandu. Man! That word makes me smile! Here are a few non-spiritual things that I learned while living/traveling in Nepal.

Just deal with the messy bits of life and your body

One thing I noticed about Nepal is its dirty and messy, streets are muddy and people spit everywhere. Coming from a Western background where spitting is considered rude and uncivilised I kept wondering about it, averting my eyes whenever someone sent a stream of mucus splattering against the pavement so as not to stare – because that too would be impolite. Then I had a conversation with my yoga teacher about it and it made absolute sense. What doesn’t serve you needs to be released. She was as repulsed at the idea of swallowing that bit of mucus that seems to always be caught in the back of your throat as I was at the idea of spitting it out. So I started to embrace it… like a lady of course, spitting mucus in the street… but always around a corner where no one could see and it felt liberating.

As a part of my course I needed to go through the cleaning rituals of Hatha yoga. This included an enema and kunjal kriya- drinking lukewarm water which you then puke out to cleanse your stomach. So I found myself in the garden of a prominent yogi in Nepal, tummy full of salt water, bent over with my finger stuck down my throat to make me gag. All the while the yogi was standing next to me encouraging me to vomit more, rubbing my back and even helping me to press against my stomach to get the water out. There was no recoil in disgust, no pulling of his face, just him, helping me to cleanse my body as if it was a natural part of life… which it is. I won’t go into details about the enema but the yogi’s wife dealt with it in the same nonchalant manner as if it was an everyday errand.

Add sparkles every day

Although the streets are muddy and dusty and you need to sidestep mucus from time to time, Nepal is beautiful- and the Nepali’s add beauty everywhere. I love the tinkling bracelets covered in glitter and shiny bits in any colour you can imagine and then some. I was given a set of green and yellow bracelets by a lady at one of the guest houses I stayed in to celebrate a festival in Pokhara. She also painted beautiful henna art on my hands and nails for me.

Dare to go on adventures

I met a traveller from Poland in Pokhara. One morning he comes to me and says: “I’ve arranged a surprise for us”. People who know me would tell you that I am a bit of a control freak and don’t do ‘surprises’ very well. I also don’t always do motorised-vehicles-with-no-doors very well. So imagine my ‘surprise’ (more like horror) when he showed me the motor bike he rented for the day. “We are going up Pokhara hill!” he says with a huge smile on his face as I try to feign excitement only to manage squeezing something mixed between a sneer and a smile onto mine. But I seized the moment as one is supposed to do while young and free and placed the pink helmet on my head. I sat stiff as a rod on the back of that thing, trying to anticipate children and cars and random strangers that could possibly walk out in front of us.

Outside the town we started on an uphill pass. Higher and higher up a winding road past people and animals and beautiful things. I started to relax and enjoy the ride to the top. At the top of the hill was breath taking views of mountains covered with clouds – we were even above the clouds! On the way down we stopped to look at how they weave the pashmina’s and take some pictures of the rice paddies and a snow-covered mountain peak in the distance. I have always been an ocean girl and the sight of the mountains filled me with this immense peace and awe.

“Jay, I was wondering if you could help me with something” said my yoga teacher’s husband to me one day. He is a Nepali film actor and director and had a friend who needed English voices to dub onto a film that they were making. So, being young and wild and free I said “Sure!”. A German man came along for a male voice and off we went to the sound studio. It felt pretty hardcore with the headphones and that round mic, watching the video and trying to speak in time with the actors on screen. Before the last screen my teacher’s husband came in and said “Ok, Jay, now we need you to make some… emotional noises”. Turns out it was a kissing scene and those kind of noises had to be made. We wrapped it in one take with me blushing like a tomato but hey, I am young and wild and free.

Solitude and fire flies

When I went to Pokhara I wanted space to write and reflect and just be quiet. I found this in a beautiful Airbnb in Happy Village. I had a room above the main house with a small kitchenette so went out to dinner at one of the (two) restaurants across the street. The walk home was a magical journey with fireflies escorting me through the garden, up the path all the way to my little home. Sitting on the balcony I was treated to an intimate display of fireflies dancing and flickering amongst the corn fields below.

Keep your leg away from the gear lever- or better yet sit in the back

Local public taxis are little Maruti 800 hatchback cars. I can imagine that these cars are good for city driving and light on fuel, after all they are the best selling cars in India. They are not so great when you are a single female traveller squeezed in next to a strange gentleman driver in the front seat since your backpack-dive-gear-world takes up the trunk and the back seat. It could have been my paranoia but it felt like no matter how close to the door I tried to keep my legs, they were always too close to the gear lever which resulted in the driver’s hand ‘accidently’ grazing my thigh when gears had to be changed. The take-away lesson from this: to avoid accidental thigh grazing, rather let your luggage ride shot gun and squeeze into the back.

*A version of this article first appeared at

Juanita Pienaar

Juanita Pienaar is a citizen of the world, recently settled back down in her home country, South Africa, after spending time traveling and living in Asia and Africa. She has a passionate love affair with the ocean and loves to share that passion by teaching scuba diving. She is a yoga teacher and fully believe in finding the balance in life. She has recently discovered the joy and freedom of wearing yoga pants ‘out-and-about’. Juanita loses herself in the written and spoken word.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu