My indian trip ended in an ashram in Rishikesh, a way too short experience that I will try again for sure.
Rishikesh is a yogi heaven, a city of pilgrimage at the gateaway of the Himalayas where hindus and yogis come, as it’s considered a holy place by them. You might have heard of it as well because that’s where the Beatles retired for a while, in the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh who founded the movement of transcendantal meditation.
Rishikesh is also a heaven place for vegetarian people. I haven’t seen a place where they serve meat in town! It’s amazing to be able to pick something on the menu not wondering if they put meat broth or other animal products in the food. (Except for milk product as they are not vegan). The food was amazing everywhere we went.
The people of the ashram was very welcoming and immediatly informed me about all the ceremonies I could join. The room was super simple, two beds with a thin mat a sheet and a wool blanket. The bathroom was very basic (but at least I had my own), a shower, a sink and a toilet (without toilet paper but with a little shower to wash myself. No heater could be found in the room (the night can be cold in the Himalayas) but I had another blanket that I use in the plane, so I was not cold at all.
Every evening they organize some chantings in their temple, it was amazing. I had my chanting mala with me and was happy to use it. The energy that emanate from this kind of event is very powerful and joyful, we ended up dancing almost in a trance
At dawn there is a Guru Puja. Guru Puja is a ceremony of gratitude honoring the lineage of spiritual Masters, it creates an invitation to the Divine. Of course I also had time for meditation. After a nice Chai massala tea, I asked for a yoga class and they sent me their teacher.
It’s the first time I was taking a class with an Indian teacher in India. I told him I was teaching as well, and that I was curious to see how they were teaching and practicing in the country of origin of Yoga. The teacher laughed and say: “you, western people, are not practicing yoga, you are doing gymnastic, and it’s very sad. I see some western teachers coming here, the rythme of the flow sometimes is more dance than yoga”. And honestly I know is right, for most of us. I’ve taken fun classes where we do a mix of asanas and dance with loud music, but I agree, it’s so far from the tradition of yoga.
His class was very interesting, we did yoga for the eyes, warmed up the body by jumping around, and finally practiced some asanas, and savasana. But it was not over after savasana, he made me practice some chest opening on the floor, such as salabhasana. We finished the class with some pranayama exercises.. And where I only teach one pranayama exercise per class, we practiced nadi shodhana, kapalabhati and Bhramari (the bee breathing)!
The adjustment were also different, way more vigorous,. Where in the west most of the teachers are cautious with their hands on assist, in India they go for it, to say the least.
The life in the ashram is simple and spiritual, a nice break from our intense life in our challenging world. I will go again for sure.
Some ashrams in Rishikesh: