The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Pain Free Trekking to Kingdom of Lo

This is the story of trekking to record the sacred music and art of LUNG-TA, the Windhorse.

Travel was by horseback and walking, at elevations approaching 14,000 feet, over treacherous areas with washouts, slides and erosion, some with sheer drop-offs over 1000 feet.

Composer Andrea Clearfield and artist Maureen Drdak trekked a month in Nepal in September 2008, to research and collect music, history, personal accounts, and art from Buddhist communities and monasteries, for a commissioned major work to be performed in March in Philadelphia.

They spent fourteen days trekking northward across the western highlands, arriving at Monthang, capital of the remote restricted Kingdom of Lo in Upper Mustang, close to the Tibetan border.

The Kingdom of Lo has been described as the "American Southwest on steroids." The artists' trek led northward following the canyon of the Kali Gandaki river, recognized as the worlds deepest gorge, cutting between the Himalayan mountains of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri.

Andrea had been one of my students for several years. Before she left for Nepal she met with me to ask what conditioning she should do.

I told her that good bending will serve her for many of the most important things she will do.

I reminded her she will be sitting horseback for hours and will not need exercises that sit or bend forward, but those that restore muscle length to get straightened up again. She would benefit by sitting and squatting comfortably on the ground. I evaluated her ankles for stability and reminded her that while the Westerners on treks will have expensive boots holding their ankles up for them, atrophying and leaving their muscles without use, the porters for her trek will likely be in flip-flops, holding their own leg position using their own muscles.

Andrea wrote me:

"On my trek to Nepal, what I found most beneficial was having learned from you the proper use of bending from the knees with straight back, particularly for squatting - necessary for using the "toilets" and for other functions in village life. I also incorporated your teachings of good posture into my long treks on horseback, and found my back to be strong and pain-free, even after 8 hours of riding through fierce winds and remote high desert environments through the Himalayas. I also practiced daily yogic asanas in the various tea-houses where we stayed, paying attention to keeping a straight spine, relaxed shoulders and open chest. Although I left the States with an ankle injury, this has slowly healed as well."

"Thank you, Jolie, for helping me stay healthy and pain-free on the trek!"

Namaste and Tashi Delek,

Andrea and Maureen were accompanied by Dr. Sienna Craig - Dartmouth anthropologist, and Dr. Gyaltso Bista, Amchi physician to King Jigme Palbar Bista of Lo.

They met with the King and Queen of Lo, Bista nobles, high ranking lamas, and the court singer Tashi Tzering. They met with John Sanday and Luigi Fieni, international experts in restoring the treasured monasteries of Monthang and newly discovered caves of the region. They also met with the Lobas, the people of, "this last enclave of pure Tibetan culture."

, the Windhorse was commissioned by the Network for New Music. The Lo Monthang region
of Nepal is home to a horse culture that is, "threatened by the encroaching pressures of the outside world." The horse carries the prayers of the faithful upwards toward the heavens.

The performance will be March 6, 2008 at the Great Hall at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Relatives of the King of Lo have been invited to speak to the audience about the cultural and environmental fragility of this remote kingdom.

: Music by Andrea Clearfield. Group Motion Artistic Director Manfred Fischbeck will choreograph accompanying dance, performed by Network for New Music. visual art by Maureen Drdak, Dance by Group Motion Dance Company.

Maureen writes:
"The title refers to the Tibetan Buddhist prayer flag, as well as that quality of the individual that manifests 'inner vibratory power' – the wellspring of infinite compassion. Incorporating text written for this work by Senior Lama Tenzin Bista of Lo Monthang’s Chode Monastery, it is a prayer for the planet."

Three large paintings will be suspended (like prayer flags) across the expanse of the Great Hall in the University of the Arts, beginning two weeks before the premiere.

A second performance/exhibition of Drdak's work and Clearfield's music will be held at West Chester University on March 8, 2009.

Information for the LUNG-TA project is on the Network website,

Healthy Trekking:

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Photos sent by Andrea Clearfield
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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.