Rishikesh is a spirituality and yoga hub. Consequently, it is awash with centres specialising in yoga teacher training courses and yoga retreats. It is for good reason that this small but sacred city has become known as the capital of yoga. Anyone who has been here will have felt the ancient calm that pervades Ram Jhula, Laxman Jhula and intervening jungle and river.
Sadhus and sages have been meditating here for thousands of years and this has left a wonderful lull on the area. There are hundreds of activities to supplement any yoga regimen: a wealth of different yoga classes (including laughter yoga and acro yoga), meditation, aura reading, Panchkarma cleansing, astrology consultations, massages, Hindi classes, cooking classes, sitar classes as well as the higher adrenaline activities of rafting and trekking. Not to mention it is a shopaholic’s dream – or nightmare, depending on your bank balance. For foodies like myself, the food is fresh, delicious, healthy and in much abundance. As are the cafes which all this food as well as a satisfying selection of shakes, lassos and teas, all with love.
The natural setting of Rishikesh makes it even more special. The holy Mother Ganges flows through it and there are many sandy, freshwater beaches – devoid of the usual holiday rabble – where one can bathe (sorry, no bikinis allowed), do yoga or simply Be.
It may be small in population size, but the two Jhulas (bridges) more than make up for that in the generosity and kindness of its people and the fact that you can find ANYTHING you might need for a couple of month’s stay here. (Actually, I was not able to find nail varnish remover… but I soldiered). These two small jewels make for a perfect escape from India’s chaotic and exhausting cities, themselves becoming ever more tainted from the infiltration of our Western ways. Rishikesh is a place of pilgrimage and many Hindus will travel across the entire Indian continent just for the opportunity to bathe in the Ganges before sunrise: an experience I was able to have on several occasions, a mere 15 minute amble from my comfortable bed.
The other “spiritual tourists” who stay in the area share a like-mindedness and there exists a quiet respect for whatever your journey might be. You will arrive into a very safe environment in which to explore and digest all the new information, which WILL blow your mind. I was surprised by how people reacted to my self-imposed six days of silence during my fifth week of yoga teacher training at yoga school Rishikesh Yog Peeth. Smiles and simple pleasantries over chai over looking the river at sunset is the least you can expect from encounters with other non-Indians. It is truly the safest of places in which to explore yoga, yourself, and anything else that may incite your interest, away from all the stress and commotion of the modern method of living back home.