I know it’s been a while since my last post. I thought I’d have more time once I arrived in Rishikesh but we’ve been so busy. First, with sorting out some issues with our AirBnB and then with activities at the ashram. I can’t believe it’s been a week since we arrived. We have 7 days left before heading home.
The drive from Delhi to Rishikesh is about 230 kms but takes about 6-8 hours. First we navigated the insane traffic in Delhi and then we meandered through the many bumpy roads and little villages until we finally saw the Himalayan foothills just outside of Rishikesh. The drive is long, arduous and at times, treacherous.
Our AirBnB is a roomie two-bedroom, two-bath unit with a mountain and sunrise view. It’s an 8-minute walk, down a steep hill to the ashram where we take our classes and have most of our meals. Meditation starts at 5:20 AM is followed by a 90 minute class lead by our teacher, Yogrishi Vishvketu – or Vishva as everyone calls him. Vishva - who is a native to India and holds a PhD in Yoga studies – has developed his own style and philosophy of Yoga called Akhanda Yoga. Akhanda means whole and indivisible. The tenants of every Akhanda Yoga class are, Pranayama (breath work), Mantra (chanting of ancient scriptures), 6 movements of the spine, sitting and standing poses and meditation. Vishva’s ongoing message to all his students is that we are pure beings and our true nature is blissful, joyful, playful and fearless. His open-hearted approach to teaching is what draws people to his classes from all over the world.
There is a month long teacher training currently taking place at the ashram. As day guests we are invited to participate in the morning and afternoon classes, have three vegetarian meals and enjoy any other activities that are taking place. A 3 day pass costs about $40 Canadian.
The last time I was here I was in my advanced teacher training so it feels strange to this time not be in the inner circle. But at the same time, I’m happy to not be bound by the rigorous schedule and long days I experienced last time. It was honestly one of the hardest experiences of my life. And also, one of the most rewarding.
When we’re not at the ashram taking classes or having our meals, we hang out in cafes, connecting with home, peruse the shops in town or engage in conversation with other travelers. Rishikesh is full of travelers from all over the world who are here to study yoga, or just absorb the spiritual energy.
Here are some other interesting facts about Rishikesh;
· It lies at the foothills of the Himalayas
· It is regarded by Hindus, as one of the holliest places in the world.
· Hindu sages and saints have visited area since ancient times to meditate and practice yoga to achieve higher knowledge.
· Due to it’s spiritual significance, non-vegetarian food and alcohol are strictly prohibited
· The Beatles were here in 1968 to study Transcendental Meditation with their guru The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
While we’re not staying at the ashram we are mostly adhering to its schedule and culture. Morning meditation, followed by yoga, then fire puja before our breakfast. Silence is observed at the ashram from 9:00 PM to 9:00 AM the following day. For those of you who are not familiar with fire puja, it is a healing fire ceremony from the ancient science of Ayurveda and a ritual described in the Vedas. It is a process of purifying the atmosphere through a specially prepared fire performed at sunrise and sunset, while those in attendance chant Vedic texts.
Our meals are vegetarian and Sattvic, which means, balanced, easy to digest and nutritious to support ones meditation and yoga practice. Breakfast everyday and dinner on Monday, Wednesday and Friday are enjoyed in silence, to encourage inward contemplation.
Other activities offered at the ashram are Kirtan (devotional chanting) on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Satsang (spiritual gathering) lead by Vishva one or two evenings a week.
Many find the ashram experience challenging, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit too as well on occasion. But mostly I enjoy the rhythm of the daily schedule and the support of the community.
My next blog will touch on life in Rishikesh and my observations of this part of India
Until then, I’ll leave you with Akhanda Mantra that we chant at the end of every yoga class with Vishva;
Akhanda mandala karam
Vyatam jena chara charam
Tat padam darshitam Jena
Tasmae shri gurave namah
I bow to the divine guru who reveals
to me that the Pure Consciousness is
an indivisible entity that permeates
the moving and non-moving
Om Shanti for now. Peace