Travel Asia

Rishikesh/Yog School: first impressions

My journey from Montana was a long one- 5 days long! Missoula -> Seattle -> San Francisco (overnight) -> Seoul S Korea (overnight) -> Delhi (overnight) -> Rishikesh

The drive from New Delhi to Rishikesh took about 6/7 hours. From the “safety” of our seatbelt we watched busy street scenes for hours until finally the mountains were visible in the distance. The final stretch of road to our ashram (Krishna Cottage in Ram Jhula) was woodsy and windy and I am just very thankful for Dramamine.

15590368_10209745381964945_3148839354546869550_nView from my room of the Himalayan foothills.

Rishikesh Yog Peeth is the name of my YTT (yoga teacher training) and I am doing the 200-hour program (which we have actually totaled at well over the 200 hrs given our 4-week residency) I’ll include the schedule:

6am wakeup, 6:30 herbal tea, 6:45 nasal cleansing (I opt out). 7-9 breathing, mantras and asana practice. 9am breakfast (usually porridge + fruit + noodles/rice, warm lemon water after). After lunch the hot water is on which makes for a good shower/laundry time- although the teachers recommend a shower before class I can’t bring myself out of bed into the cold earlier than 6am.* 10am anatomy and physiology (& lots of psychology/yogic science!) lecture & 11:15 philosophy lecture (covering the Yoga Sutra). Lunch is 1-2 (usually rice and beans and raw vegetables, lemon water after) and after is library time (optional- this is when we usually run errands). Afternoon class is on Teaching Methodology (a popular one since it’s more interactive, also we do Yoga Nidra on Fridays!) then another 2 hours of asana 4:30-6:30. Dinner 7pm (roti, lentils, curry, warm lemon water after). Mantra chanting Friday evenings 8pm. Gates close at 9:30pm and bedtime/lights out at 10pm. We have Sundays off (and the school usually provides a field trip- first was to a temple, next is rafting on the Ganga).

*there’s no heat and it’s around 50F overnight

15676411_10209786604875492_3518667201263664703_oDownward facing dog adjustment

The days feel full and fly by. Tomorrow will be my first actual day off in weeks! My friend Serene and I plan to get massages- 1 hour, 2 therapists (“4 hands”) 800R aka around $12USD. Happy New Year to us! I’m making Sunday massages a thing.

The food is generally good (getting somewhat redundant so we’ll start eating out more often at lunchtime I think) although I did get sick from something last night… to be expected in India anyways. It is Sattvic food so low spice and “veg” = nearly vegan (no eggs, little dairy)15672672_10209787767184549_97889651141935130_nFor Christmas Eve dinner we were treated to some paneer cheese in the meal! Yum!

The asana classes are challenging and very different from those I’ve taken for 10+ years at home. In fact, sometimes my past experience seems actually to take away from my ability to adjust to the new style of class since I must unlearn old habits (at least for the time being). The three teachers are all very different which is both confusing and offers good variety. My body hurts but I think I’m going to survive it 😉 We did 20 rounds of sun salutations non-stop the other morning. My joints hurt and the mat provided is quite slippery but I’m challenging myself to use it under the impression that it will make practice at home on sticky mats much easier. The floors are hard and cold cement and sitting for the 3 hours of lecture might be more painful than the 4 hours of more moving in practice!

This is an especially significant experience to me in regards to healing from a car accident which occurred 5 years ago. For me, doing yoga (again) after/despite my injuries/surgeries/PTSD from both that accident and my fractured back last summer is a challenge and the only way through pain back into myself. So this experience is important on both a social and professional level to me.

The program was recommended by my friend Christie and she has been absolutely helpful in recommending the best places to eat in the area! So I need to give all the credit for the following to her. For coffee & spinach/mushroom/cheese omelets – Oasis. For veggie burgers, falafel, iced lemon tea – Omkaar. For cashew curry and yummy masala chai (riverside) – Tip Top (this is where I am writing this post from and where the cover photo was taken!).

Some notes on the surroundings:

Traveling to India alone as a woman I think it’s important to be mindful of the customs. Dress codes change in different areas. In Bangalore most women wore saris while they wore pants and tunics or more western styles in Delhi. In Goa it was touristy and you could get away with shorts, here is also touristy but I’m most comfortable covered (easy to do in the cool weather). It’s generally most appropriate to cover the knees and elbows (and I don’t wear tight clothing- think long tees and capris). Rishikesh feels safe in general during the daytime but I prefer going out with a group after dark. Men do ask to take photos/”selfies”- I always say no since I’ve heard some stories about a group of men ganging up on a solo female. Think tough- channel your inner girl power and fear not.

COWS so many cows. And they can be a little aggressive! A “cute” little one cornered us in an ally and proceeded to bump everyone with her head- I’ve since noted that local shopkeepers carry sticks and am on the lookout for one myself. The monkeys were cute on day 1…not so much now. You’ve got to hold on to your things- especially any food or bags which look like they may contain food! 15540784_10209751664161996_2948993055008809489_oOK, the babies are cute.

From where I sit I see men bathing in the river, cows sun bathing. We’ve found a table right in the corner on the deck so there’s a view of the river in front of me. The river is a green color this close to its source although there are some debris floating along already: bits of flowers from offerings, plastic bottles and tourist-filled rafts. (We drove up to near the source of the Ganga last weekend and saw the river get smaller & smaller- it appears to be heavily dammed)

The temple trip on Christmas Day was good. The road up was very windy and went right along the side of steep ledges in what seemed like one lane- causing for many jumpy moments! We walked up about 10,000 stairs and found ourself at a white temple with a beautiful view. They did a blessing for each of us and it was a cool experience. 15726475_10209833723293423_7356120618859700248_nReceiving blessings on top of a mountain in the Himalayas on Christmas Day = not bad.

Today is New Years Eve. We aren’t sure of our plans tonight- hopefully some fireworks will be visible from the roof of the building? Probably best not to have expectations anyways…taking things as they come. This easygoing state must be the result of the yoga lifestyle!

That’s enough for now. I’ll get to my studying now (writing details on 25 asanas to turn in and typing my lecture notes for personal reflection).

Follow up: this summer (2020) I’ll be hosting my first ever Travel + Wellness Retreat in Tuscany, Italy. The week will feature both yoga and barre classes taught by yours truly plus many activities all in a setting right out of a dream. Check out the this post for more info or to save your spot today. 

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I hope that the experiences I record here could be of some use to those looking to travel and I welcome questions/comments/feedback. Thank you for reading my words. Bon voyage!

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