Saturday, 30 July 2016

Training for the Sacred Journey into the Himalayas 2016 Yatra

with Yogi Amandeep in Guru Ram Das Puri in New Mexico
It was three weeks ago that I  received an email from Yogi Amandeep that I can join his yatra (pilgrimage), the Sacred Journey into the Himalayas called "Siri Hemkunth Sahib - the 10th Gate of Mother Earth, 12 days of transformation and transcendence."

I've been to the Himalayas before - at the foothills, in Rishikesh last year when I did the Stress and Vitality training module with Gurumukh and in the Nepal side in 2001 when I climbed Annapurna.  I've always dreamt of going to the Himalayas and follow a yogis path though, meditating inside caves, trekking in the snow, surrounded by snow-capped peaks.

I only found out about the yatra when I was at the Kundalini Yoga Festival in Espanola, New Mexico last June.  I really wanted to go because the trip was everything I dreamt of doing plus a visit to Siri Hemkunth Sahib, a place known as a vortex center and revered as a sacred space which has powerful charged fields of consciousness.

Unfortunately, Yogi Amandeep told me that the yatra was already full and the registration has been closed since April. He made me hopeful when he said that he'll see what he can do when he returns to Canada on July 4.  I was relentless when I got back to Manila, emailing him to inquire if there's by any chance, any space left.

I was elated that after a number of emails, I finally received an affirmative reply. Of course, I was also panic-stricken knowing that I only had a few weeks to prepare for the climb. The website emphasized "This is not a tourist trip... it's a sacred journey into your higher consciousness. Participants should be physically fit and should be able to walk and trek long distances." The website also recommended to do some prior training  such as walking, hiking, bicycling to get in shape and stressed "you'll be climbing at high altitude."

This is the itinerary:

Aug 25-27   Haridwar 314m altitude
Aug 28        Rishikesh to Gobind Ghat 265 km by road, 11 hours; 1,828 m altitude
Aug 29        Gobind Ghat to Gobind Dham 13 km by footpath 4 to 7 hours; 3,049 m altitude
Aug 30-31   Gobind Dham to Valley of Flowers 5 km by footpath 2 hours; 3,500+ m altitude
Sep 1-3        Gobind Dham to Hemkund Sahib 6 km by footpath 2 to 4 hours; 4,329 m altitude
Sep 4           Gobind Ghat to Haridwar
Sep 5           Yatra ends at 12 noon

Summer Solstice in Espanola at 2,133m altitude
The altitude is the most difficult part with the highest at 4,329m (15,000 ft). When I was in Espanola, I was down with altitude sickness on the third day. The elevation was 2,133 m (7,000 ft). I felt dizzy, my throat was parched and I had difficulty walking. I was given homeopathic remedy and rested.

You know the saying that goes everything's right when the universe provides. Well, that week I found out I can join, I immediately looked for a gym to train in. There was a cross functional gym right across the yoga studio where I teach in Podium. I inquired and was taken aback with the one-on-one coaching fee. That same day, I was with JP, my osteopath friend,  who I see for my monthly TMJ maintenance tune up. I told him about my predicament that I needed to train fast and at the  same time, safely without costing me an arm and a leg.  He said that he's been training with Coach Francis Capati in my hood and he'll ask if he can accommodate me.

ewith Coach Francis 
The rest is history. Coach Francis is heaven-sent!  His workouts vary from conditioning,  strengthening and endurance. The Coach would at times don a 20-pound weighted vest and clasp a 5-pound weight on each of my ankle (see right photo). He said that the weighted vest would simulate carrying a backpack load and the ankle weights to increase resistance, the higher the climb, the heavier  the load will feel especially at a high altitude.

As of today, I've seen him the last three weeks, seven times already and I was able to include a hike for 11-km to Mount Makiling's mud spring.  I've purchased an all terrain treeking shoes, a Salomon X-Ultra GTX mid-cut shoes and a 10-liter day Osprey pack which I now put on when I train.  Although, now I'm deliberating whether I should get high-cut shoes to protect my ankles.

At Mount Makiling
I've started out at 112 pounds (weight recorded on July 14) and I'm now 115.28 pounds, gaining some muscle weight. I've started to consume rice everyday and taking BCAA (branch-chain amino acids) to aid in the recovery process.

I have four more weeks to go before the yatra. I'm planning to hike Mount Makiling tomorrow targeting peak 2 and add more climbs the following weekends.

With Coach's training, carbs now in my diet and logging more sleep [as coach insists to do by the way],  I do pray that I make it up to Hemkund Sahib at 4,329 m. That's equivalent to 500-floors! So help me God.