Yogaland

Trip Start May 04, 2011
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Trip End Oct 08, 2012


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Flag of India  , Uttarakhand,
Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I knew I wasn’t leaving India until visiting Rishikesh. I would best compare this gateway to the Himalayas to a “candy store for yogis” where yoga classes are as common as Starbucks in Seattle.  Although other identify it more as “the place The Beatles visited in 1968.” But before any of that nonsense Rishikesh is a respected holy city on the banks of the Ganges.

There are two main suspension bridges crossing the river. I frequented the one on the
Laxman Jula side mostly to visit the famous German Bakery (anywhere popular among Westerners has at least one). However, both bridges often resembled the 405 freeway as scooters and cows tried to make their way through the two way traffic of locals, colorful Sadhus and tourists posing for photos with the monkeys.

In Hinduism Sadhu means “holy man” or a wandering monk. Sadhus are widely respected for their holiness but sometimes feared for their curses. With modern times there is much doubt about the authenticity of a Sadhu because many non-devout beggars and criminals can earn money this way by wrapping themselves in the ochre colored dress.

It just so happened that I arrived to Rishikesh on March 7, the same day as the biggest
Hindu holiday. Holi or Festival of Colors represents the welcoming of spring, and celebrates the triumph of good over evil. What that translates to in action is boundless enthusiasm and often too much drinking. Prepared for most everything to be closed, I stocked up on some basic fruit, bread and PB&J. I was quite happy to be planted on the balcony of my guesthouse where I could safely watch everyone as they playfully doused one
another with colorful paint, powder and water. By the early evening when everything subsided it was hilarious to watch all the foreigners parade by, resembling oompa loompas on the yellow brick road.

The idea of staying in an ashram was another big draw for me. However, in combination with Holi and on the heels of a week-long International Yoga Festival, it was near impossible to find an available room in one of the hundred ashrams. There are a
few that are more legitimate than others like Parmarth Niketan and Phool Chatti but as my
days in India were running low I didn’t have enough time to make it worthwhile. Instead I made friends with other westerners and did my best to weed through the long list of recommended teachers.

Since injuring myself in the teacher training course in January I’ve been extremely limited in what physical activity I can do. I figured I’d start slow with the advertised class at Om Shanti given by 104 year old Swami Yogananda. Other than seeing this man turn himself into a human pretzel, I was less than impressed with the wrist rolling and hour sivasana.

Fortunately it didn’t take long to discover Hatha yoga with Surinder Singh. A most humble man he certainly lives up to his reputation as a great teacher. It is obvious that he teaches with love. He gives 110% in each class (I attended 4-5 of his classes) providing an explanation for each asana, aligning us with the slightest touch and spending time at the end of each two hour plus session offering philosophical discussion.

If I had had more time I would’ve dedicated it to studying Iyengar with Usha Devi. Click
here for a complete list of recommended Rishikesh teachers and schools.  

Another endearing quality of Rishikesh is the daily Ganga Arti. At 6:00pm in various
locations along the Ganges this fire ceremony is performed to honor the spirit of the river and of all the souls - past, present and future. The chanting echoes on both sides of the river and resonates within no matter what you are doing at this time. I found it particularly hard to ignore during the fabulous four day Reiki course I took under the guidance of Shanti Ji.

It didn’t take long for me to appreciate the same peaceful energy that so many new age
hippies are drawn to here in Rishikesh. Had I not already booked a flight to Thailand I would’ve easily stayed another month here. 
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Comments

Julie Tyler on

So cool, Stacey that you are doing all this traveling! I SO want to go to India and
study yoga and be inspired by 104 yr old yogis!
Bravo darling!

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