Asana meets Dharma in Nepal

Yoga and Buddhism share many historical and cultural roots, with practices often intertwining around concepts of mindfulness, kindness to others, meditation, and the realization of the Self. Despite this, contemporary yoga practice—especially as it is taught in the West—rarely draws on the hugely insightful but often difficult to penetrate world of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Neydo Tashi Choeling monastery is located in Pharping, Nepal, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas outside of Kathmandu Valley. Pharping is a small traditional town rarely visited by Western tourists yet is one of the most sacred sites in Tibetan Buddhism. It was here in a cave in the 9th century that the mystic and “second Buddha” Padmasambhava Rinpoche eventually attained enlightenment. From here, he journeyed to Tibet where he founded Tibetan Buddhism. Today some 200 monks live in the monastery, pursuing a traditional life of study and reflection that has changed little in a thousand years.

Pharping is considered among Vajrayana Buddhist practitioners to be as important as the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya, and its profound spiritual energy creates an extraordinary context for a transformative immersion into yoga.

For the first time ever, a yoga teacher training will take place at this Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. The training, offered by Mahalaya Retreats, begins March 8, 2015 at Neydo Monastery.

The course will be taught by top international teachers Heather Elton, Emil Wendel and anatomist Andrew McGonigle, with special teachings from Rinpoche Pema Nangdrol, and invites students to live within a Tibetan monastery complex, with daily practice and study in the temple overlooking the rice paddies of the Kathmandu Valley—dwarfed by the awesome Himalayas and under the inspiring presence of Neydo’s 36-foot Buddha.

The opportunity came about through Mahalaya founder Sam Voolstra’s experience organizing short yoga retreats at Neydo over the last three years, during which she developed a deep relationship with the monks and Rinpoche Pema Nangdrol.

“Yogic and Buddhist philosophy really has so much overlap,” said Voolstra. “They’re sometimes different words but they share a common goal of liberation from the mind.”

The abbot of the monastery, Rinpoche Pema Nangdrol, will share perspectives on Buddhist history and philosophy through several teachings during the course. “It is the function of the monastery to spread the Dharma to as many interested people as possible,” said Rinpoche. “This welcome relationship is a chance to share the teachings of the Buddha with people from many different countries.”

Voolstra added that the collaboration also financially supports the monastery. Traditionally reliant on generosity from the sangha (community), contemporary Tibetan Buddhist monasteries often find it difficult to depend only on donations. Through the teacher training course, income from students staying in the modern and comfortable monastery guesthouse and using its facilities will directly help to fund the monastery’s food and energy costs.

Certified by Yoga Alliance, this Vinyasa/Hatha 200-hour TTC will offer the highest levels of training in teaching, philosophy, anatomy and deep personal practice, and is a unique opportunity to study in the Kathmandu Valley where students will also visit some of Nepal’s most sacred temples, stupas and sites. The course takes place from March 8-April 2, 2015.

For more information about Mahalaya’s Vinyasa & Hatha 200hr yoga teaching training course in Nepal with Heather Elton, visit: