I was a 58 year-old virgin.
Yoga virgin, that is.
Don’t get me wrong: I bought into the whole Lulu Lemon craze just like everyone else did a decade or so ago. After all, no one makes ‘Fantastic-Ass-Pants’ – as I call them – quite like Lulu. But as for the actual practice of yoga, the warrior poses, the meditative mantras, etc, well, I may be the only woman over the age of 50 who hadn’t done it.
So I knew it would take something really out of the ordinary to get me to strike a pose. Not yoga with goats, not yoga with puppies (I mean, who could concentrate on aligning their chakras with adorable puppies running between your legs?).
But 6 million cubic feet of water roaring every MINUTE over the edge of a cliff just a few meters away from my head? Yes! That sounded like just the thing to get me to ‘give it up’ to the yoga gods.
Hello, ‘Namaste Niagara’!
I first heard about ‘Namaste Niagara’ in June and I have to admit, I was more than a little intrigued. Whoever came up with the idea of holding a yoga class on the viewing platform below the world-famous Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls must have had me in mind. I love experiences that are quirky or unusual, and Namaste Niagara sounded like something that was too unique to pass up, and the perfect opportunity that I had been ‘holding out for’ to experience yoga for the first time.
Plus when I found out there was a brunch included afterwards as part of the experience, well, being the ‘Brunchie’ that I am, I was sold at the mere mention of Eggs Benedict!
So at 7:30am on a steamy hot Sunday morning in July, I squeezed into my most flattering Lulus, bundled up my shiny new yoga mat, (that colour-coordinated with my outfit of course) and headed to one of the world’s most famous waterfalls to start on my own journey from yoga virgin to what I hoped would be Niagara Nirvana.
Yoga Below Niagara Falls at Journey Behind the Falls
The Namaste Niagara 45-minute yoga classes take place at 8am on the lower observation deck at the Niagara Parks attraction called Journey Behind the Falls.
Visitors normally come down through these 130-year old tunnels to view the falls from this impressive platform, and to see two other portals that are carved out of the rock cliff directly behind Horseshoe Falls.
Our 8am start time meant that we had access to the tunnels an hour before the crowds, so I headed first to see the Cataract Portal and the Great Falls Portal.
I vaguely remember visiting these tunnels as a child decades ago (when they were called the Scenic Tunnels) but it was much more impactful coming here now and walking through the cool, empty passage towards the thundering roar of those open archways. Even though the falling water forms an opaque wall that I couldn’t see through, the sheer power of those tons of water crashing down a few feet away was pretty impressive. (And made me truly question the sanity of the daredevils who voluntarily tossed themselves into it from above.)
Heading back towards the tunnel that leads to the observation platform, I emerged from the rock just as the morning sun was breaking through the clouds, lighting up the semi-circular terrace and the massive 13-story cascade of water to my right that would serve as our backdrop for yoga.
Awe-some. In the truest sense of the word. Let the yoga begin, I say.
And then the first wave of heavy mist rained down from above and I realized yep, this is where it gets real.
In Fine Form Thanks to In Fine Feather
Our instructor this morning was Nicole from In Fine Feather Yoga, and after I introduced myself as a yoga first-timer, she told me to just listen to her instructions, listen to my own body and don’t try to be a hero.
To be honest, as the class progressed, I found that the stretches and poses weren’t as intimidating as I had expected. There were no headstands, no Kama Sutra positions or other Cirque du Soleil acrobatics, and the most difficult thing was just trying to hear Nicole’s instructions over the sound of the Falls.
Instead I just followed my nearest neighbour’s lead and did my best to hold my own – and my poses – along with the rest of the class. And I think I did just fine.
They Say You Never Forget Your “First Time”
As a yoga rookie, I can honestly say that doing it for the first time next to Niagara Falls was a little distracting. It was hard to concentrate on my form, my breathing, and on calming my mind, what with the contents of the Niagara River showering down on me at irregular intervals. But one thing I can say for sure about the experience – the old adage holds true: I’ll never forget my first time.
Because there was a moment at the end of the class as I lay on my back staring up at the sheer cliff wall above me, watching the grass on the rocky ledge waving in the wind and a seagull circling in the sky overhead, that I felt completely in the moment. All I could hear was the sound of the water beside me, and all I could think of was that I was starting my day lying a few meters away from Niagara freakin’ Falls!
It doesn’t get more spiritual than that.
And isn’t that what yoga is really all about?
When and Where: Namaste Niagara yoga classes take place at 8am on Saturdays and Sundays in July and August at Journey Behind the Falls in the Table Rock Welcome Centre next to Horseshoe Falls (the parking lot is located opposite the Centre).
Reservations are required as numbers are limited.
Cost: The total cost is $60 and includes parking, admission to the tunnels, your yoga class, all taxes and a full buffet brunch at a Niagara Parks restaurant. (ie. it’s a DEAL!)
Brunch is Included, Too
On Saturdays, brunch is offered at 10am at Whirlpool Restaurant.
On Sundays it takes place at Queenston Heights Restaurant.
Both restaurants are part of the FeastOn program that serves locally-sourced products and helps to support Ontario’s farmers and local economies around the province.
Queenston Heights gives Namaste Niagara guests exclusive access an hour before the restaurant opens to the public. (We ate here and the brunch spread was great, plus the park itself is historic and beautiful to explore afterwards.)
What to Bring
Bring your own yoga mat, the thicker the better for your knees since the surface of the observation terrace is a little rough.
You will get wet no matter what, so bring a waterproof bag with a towel and change of clothes before heading to brunch. There are no change rooms on site, but there are public washrooms in the Welcome Centre.
Special thanks to the Niagara Parks Commission, who hosted me on my Namaste Niagara first-ever yoga experience. (I’ve been spoiled now for anything less!)