Rishikesh is considered the yoga capital of the world, and one of the holiest pilgrimage sites for Hindus. The river Ganga runs through the town, and it is said that lord Rama did penance on its banks for killing the Asura king Ravana (the epic battle recorded in the Ramayana). But whether Hindu mythology and religious significance appeals to you or not. It is clear, to whomever visits, that Rishikesh is undoubtedly a special place.
I first came here in 2015 with no knowledge of Yoga. I was instantly awe struck at the power of the Ganga and the majestic surroundings of the Himalayan foothills. Even though, on that first occasion I only stayed for a few days, I knew I would return.
After finishing my post graduate studies I headed back to Rishikesh in 2016 to embark on my teacher training. It is safe to say that after stepping back on to that holy ground, my outlook on life completely changed. I do not think that in order to learn the teachings of yoga, it is fundamental to come to the source. However, considering the experience I had, and the people I met, I cannot recommend it enough.
It is here that I had the pleasure of meeting Shatveer Singh Rana, my first teacher. He was a man, deeply devoted to the practice of yoga, and his teachings clearly showed that. He became a source of inspiration to me, and continues to be so to this day.
Rishikesh is like nowhere else in the world. You are able to fully absorb yourself into the teachings, and everything around you, is enhancing that experience. You only have to walk around the streets to see wandering saddhus (holy men), ancient temples, and men humbly making delicious chai by the side of the road.
Rishikesh itself is a vegetarian and alcohol free area. This brings a peace and serenity to the place, in line with the teachings of ahimsa (non-violence), a pillar of the yog darshan. Every cafe you pass by, people are happily conversing; souls from all over the world conjugating to share knowledge, stories, and friendships. There are no distractions of normal ‘modern’ life, taking up space in your thoughts. Everyone around you is so open, and you are able to make deep bonds with others, that will last a lifetime.
I think the decision to go and seek out the teachings in a setting as beautiful as Rishikesh, from experienced and wonderful teachers such as Kelly and Shatveer was truly, a life affirming moment. It is one that has brought me endless joy, and gave me a perspective on life that I am forever grateful for.
My most recent visit to Rishikesh was February 2019 and I was overwhelmed with emotion to see the mother Ganga once again. I was able to return to Om Yoga Academy to practice with Satver. I also met his delightful wife Kelly. After spending four weeks in their company, I was saddened to return home. But even as I left, I knew in my heart, it would certainly not be the last time.
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