Rishikesh was a small village 40 years ago known only to yoga enthusiasts and Hindu scholars. Then the Beatles arrived, found their guru and put the Himalayas on the map for anyone wanting to know where the funny sitar music in their albums came from. In many ways it was the epitome of the drugs generation finding out that states of mind were nothing new and had, in fact, been rather thoroughly studied and practiced in India for the past few thousand years.
The Beatles found their man with a beard and inspired generations to hit the road and find an old Indian to say cryptic things to them. As a result Rishikesh is now over run with ashrams, yoga retreats and meditation centres. It’s the kind of place you’re going to meet all the clean living hippies and yoga students who don’t even have torn clothes or a respectable chillum cough. In fact it is a very good place to study yoga and as it’s at a lower elevation it doesn’t completely freeze up in the winter. Even if it did you might hope that you would have learnt to stimulate the right chakra by then to stay warm but it’s not that easy to find a good teacher.
Like any train dripping gravy, Rishikesh is also full of charlatans posing as yoga masters and you’ll have to use your discretion in finding the right one. When looking for a good yoga centre bear in mind the following:
- Do they promise modest results? Yoga takes lots of time and practice. A good yoga teacher will tell you that you need to start slowly.
- Where do the quiet, serious students go? Don’t go to the class with the most attractive Israeli students but instead ask the long-term travelers which yoga teacherss in Rishikesh are respected.
Rishikesh is otherwise a beautiful place to visit and thousands of pilgrims come here to sit beside the river Ganges and wait for those illusive moments of moksha or grace to descend.