Through a series of serendipitous incidents I found myself communicating with Siraj ul Mulk, the owner of Hindukush Heights in Chitral, KPK in June 2011. This is what I wrote to him: Hi, I’m most likely going to be traveling alone and I’m not an experienced trekker but I’m interested in any of the treks that maybe available. The dates I’m interested in are June 20th onwards. My phone number is xxxx-xxx-xxxx. Thank you so much! -Aisha He wrote back to me saying this: Dear Aisha, Would you be interested to join a British couple (husband and wife) on a five day trek over a 14000 ft pass in Chitral in the last week of June? They are happy to have you as part of their group. Let me know and I will give details. -Siraj Ul Mulk
After that brief email exchange and a telephone conversation with Uncle Siraj, I ended up going to Chitral and Upper Chitral for a total of 21 days. I spent 11 days climbing around on my own and 10 days trekking with a group. It was a life-time experience that we ended with the Shandur Polo Festival. I’ve written and spoken about Chitral many times, especially about my first experience in the mountains at great length. It’s pretty obvious that this is the most special place I have ever had the privilege to visit. I met my husband there last year while traveling on my third yoga tour, making this place even more special than ever before. I knew that retreating into nature with yoga at the start and end of my day had become my favorite way to spend time here. It took me some time to gain the confidence to become a yoga instructor and take on the responsibility of being a teacher, tour guide, organizer, friend, confidante and manager to others. With help from the great spirit of the Hindukush Heights, I created a yoga tour especially designed for those looking to do both outdoor activities and retreating into nature. With a group of six brave women and one gracious man, I completed my first yoga tour in Chitral and Mastuj in May 2013. I expanded tours to Shigar, Baltistan in 2014 and hope to include Hunza and Gilgit in 2015.
This past week I also had the pleasure to complete my first international yoga tour in Pak Nam Pran, Thailand where we spent the week doing yoga, paragliding, biking, hiking, visiting limestone caves, elephant safaris and beautiful natural waterfalls. The precious memories I have of these yoga holidays are nothing without the people who accompany me. It is a group experience that everyone should try at least once in their lives. It is not a usual getaway for most people but in its essence the yoga holiday is about planting a seed of transformation to lead a happier life. How and when that seed will grow into something for each person is unknown and uncertain. Some of the highlights for me as the organizer of these yoga holidays are the obvious transformations in a person. Coming to a trip with worry, anxiety and stress and watching that melt away, cheers me up every time. It’s also the incredible experience of watching people support each other in challenging circumstances. In my last yoga trip at Shigar Fort one of my students, standing at the bottom of the mountain, looked up and simply refused to climb up. Two other group members assured her that they would be there for her the whole time, as they climbed. True to their word, they did exactly that and we all reached the top. How Can You Transform Your Life? Intention: To experience the outdoors in a positive wholesome way. Practice: Wherever you live find an outdoor activity that is accessible to you (walking in the park, hiking up a hill/mountain, swimming in the ocean/lake, biking, etc). Notice the quality of your thoughts on days when you begin with an outdoor based physical activity. Keep a journal for those days – briefly describing one or more significant things that you experienced. The time of sunrise and sunset are ideally suited towards physical activity if you are in a warm climate.