The schedule of a 200 hour yoga teacher training programme is intense but when you do get your days off you want to make the most of the wonderful location you have decided to train in. I fell in love with Rishikesh, the intensity of the hoards of visitors, cows, dogs, monkeys and motorbikes meaning every step you need to be fully aware of where you are going; both internally and externally.
Rishikesh is the birth place of yoga so you will never be too far away from a yogi, swami or sage. Set along the banks of the holy Mother Ganga (River Gange) there are two sides of the town joined by the foot bridges of Laxman Jhula and Ram Jhula. Make sure you cross both, this is a highlight of the trip in itself, the bridges are supposed to be foot traffic only but with the only other way to cross from one side to the other by bike taking a good half an hour longer be prepared to fight for space with many, many bikes beeping for you to clear out the way. Monkeys line the bridge but beware if taking pictures or holding food; they are called cheeky monies for a reason as if they want what you have they will not be shy to take it!
Spend your days off walking along the local bazzars and bartering with the friendly shop owners for a pair of ‘India pants’- baggy trousers, or visit one of the many jewlery shops and have a Mala made. In the evening around 5.30pm head down to the river to witness the daily ritual of a Ganga Aarti at Triveni Ghat, also called the Maha Aarti. This is an evening prayer thanking the river for the life it gives. Every evening it attracts a large number of devotees and visitors. You can buy a oil divas- flower filled leaf boats which are lit and released into the holy waters of the river.
During the day the banks of the river or ‘the beach’ is a place where you can take a dip in the holy waters to cool yourself off during the hot summer months. Just remember this is India and a holy town- so no bikinis! If you are in the mood for a hike head up to the Ne’er waterfall, from the taxi stand it takes around half an hour to climb the path to a place where you can bathe and relax.
I love a visit to the ‘Beatles Ashram’ or Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram as its correct name is I fell in love with the eriee magic of the place in its derelict form. A place to take pictures and explore and wonder at its state of disrepair and what it was, could have been and should be.
The Beatles stayed at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram in 1968, to attend an advance Transcendental Meditation training. They wrote some of The White Album and Abbey Road here to much acclaim although from the stories I hear it seems everything was not as it seems! Take a camera and explore the ruins, I recommend going late afternoon, climb up to the roof and watch the sunset over Rishikesh City.
When taking a TTC all food is included which is a delicious arty of Indian/ Ayurvedic traditional food. As great as this is every now and again you may crave something more familiar, which is why Rishikesh, a town used to accommodating foreigners has many restaurants and hang out spots catering for all corners of the globe. In this town meat and alcohol are forbidden, therefore prepare to eat some delicious vegetarian treats, drink lots of fresh juices or Kambucha.
Most importantly, breathe, take it all in, enjoy the electric atmosphere that is Rishikesh in all its spiritual meanings. You will never be too far away from another budding yogi or traveler to share tales with and share your amazing experience with.
To Know more about Rishikesh, join yoga teacher training in India.