Yoga Days Are Great Days

By Stephen Ewashkiw | October 23, 2013

6,589 km so far.

Today I taught yoga at YamaYoga in Xi’an.

The first half of our day was all about yoga. To begin with, we went to the studio to practice. The studio has a few spaces on their schedule that are open practices, meaning there is no teacher, the room is just made available for anyone who wants to practice.

They do this to encourage their teachers to practice every day, which I think is a brilliant idea. Most people here do not have enough space in their homes for asana, and with the air the way it is, practicing in the park is not as appealing as it is in Los Angeles.

We joined six teachers from the studio for an hour of asana (the yoga poses) in the beautiful space where I would be teaching later.

The open practice at YamaYoga.

The open practice at YamaYoga.

During our practice a few women came in a put up a banner which I noticed had my name on it, and a bunch of a Chinese characters. I have been told it said something like “Stephen has travelled across the world by bicycle to be here today.”

Snack break before yoga class, YamaYoga, Xi'an.

Snack break before yoga class, YamaYoga, Xi’an.

The studio hired a translator, so I met with Tina after practice so we could go through my class. She has worked as a translator for yoga teachers before, but I included the Vaclav Havel quote I had also used in Beijing and wanted to make sure she understood the meaning.

Beauty On

Around 30 students came to class. The class was about drawing in (physically and mentally) to access the beauty and strength which lives inside each of us.

yoga in xian china

Shoulder opening in preparation for Pincha Mayurasana, at YamaYoga, Xi’an.

Initially, many students were overwhelmed when we attempted a very hard pose, Mayurasana (aka Peacock). I stopped the class to remind them that the work we do is about taking one step at a time, not running up the stairs to the top.

Yoga poses are hard because life is hard. If the poses were easy we wouldn’t have the experience, the struggle, and the joy that comes with finding our own strength, with seeing that the beauty of the poses really does live inside us.

yoga students in xian china

Students checking out our Moo cards at YamaYoga, Xi’an.

The staff at the studio take turns making lunch each day, and today they had prepared a special vegetarian meal so that Jane and I could join them. They explained that they cook at the studio because restaurant food uses MSG and too much oil, and by making it themselves it is much healthier.

After class, we all gathered in one of their great lounge areas for a feast. It included bok choy with tofu, julienned potatoes and green peppers, steamed squash, garlic broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, and spinach and rice.

Free delicious lunch at YamaYoga, Xi'an.

Free delicious lunch at YamaYoga, Xi’an.

It was absolutely delicious.

If you want to impress Jane and me, all you have to do is give us some lovely vegetarian food, and we’ll be your lifelong friends. It really is that simple.

What Goes Up…

We spent the rest of the day planning our route for the next week, which is taking us to Chengdu, where panda bears have a special compound. Yup. Around ten days from now we will get to see pandas (if all goes as planned)! Apparently, you can donate €200 to the facility and get your picture taken with a baby panda. Jane would love to do this. Who knows…

Jane’s note: If I got to cuddle a baby panda, I’m not sure I would be able to let go, and that would lead to panda theft, which I am sure is frowned upon in China. No, better I stay at a safe distance, though I will still be donating money to the centre.

Before we get there we have 45,000 m to climb. No that’s not a typo, it’s a total, spread out over several days and interspersed with equal amounts of descent. Still, we aren’t sure what weather we will encounter, or if our bodies are up to the challenge. But, other people have biked the route so we figure we can handle it as well.

Wish us luck!  

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