Rishikesh is a very laid back and westernized town that is a famous for yoga and great for simply kicking back to relax. I specifically made the journey to practice yoga in Rishikesh which is known as the “Yoga Capital of the World”. As someone who loves yoga, I couldn’t visit India without making a visit. I took multiple yoga classes during my 5 day stay in Rishikesh and had some very interesting experiences. In the beginning I was confused on why Rishikesh was so popular, but after a couple days I found my place and why people come to practice yoga in Rishikesh.
Nestled in the Himalayas on the Holy Ganges River, the streets of Rishikesh are lined with yoga schools offering all different types of yoga from around the world, venders selling mala beads and everything and anything ayervedic. For someone who loves yoga, this is paradise for learning, practicing and relaxing with all things yoga. Laxman Jhula, the northern area of Rishikesh, may be a bit touristy but it has a very welcoming feeling, a never ending amount of guest houses, restaurants and yoga centers with close access to everything I was looking for.
Straight away, I went on the search for a yoga class to help me recover from the long train ride. I saw a sign for a class that was right next to the hotel I was staying at, simple! The class was held in the top level of the neighboring building in a small quiet room. It would be my first Ashtanga Vinyasa class and will be one that I will never forget. If a teacher made adjustments like this in the states, it wouldn’t be long before there was a lawsuit. The push to achieve the “perfect” asana made the class less enjoyable and uncomfortable. And when resting in child’s pose, the teacher did firefly on my back without much warning. I don’t mind having my back cracked but this was just for show and purely careless!
I began to have second thoughts about practicing yoga in Rishikesk where I had little information on the experience and credibility of the teachers. I decided to look for the established schools that were known in the area in hopes of finding what I was looking for. This led me to the World Peace Yoga School but every day that I showed up for their free 8am class, they had rescheduled it to 9 or 9:30. The building and studio was really nice but I feel they are lacking structure if they advertise for an 8am class but can’t keep the commitment, so I kept searching.
Finally, I found a great Hatha class at Ohm Shanti Ohm studio and it was probably my favorite that I had visited. The instructor showed passion and let his humorous personally shine while teaching that makes practicing with him enjoyable. He made gentle adjustments throughout class, which was much better than the snappy adjustments I received in my last Ashtanga class. A 90 minuet class cost 300 INR for a single drop in.
Another great class was held at Natraj Yoga which opened their doors and organized a class for three of us at the regular drop in rate. The small class size was basically a private session by a very experienced teacher. The teacher also teaches Ayuveda at a local university and gave us the opportunity to ask many questions.
With yoga in Rishikesh being so popular, it’s no surprise that there are some pop-up places that are a bit dodgy. It seems like there are two types in Rishikesh, those who are serious and those who are serious about making money. It can be hard to decipher, but I suggest visiting multiple places to find what’s right for you before you practice. Especially if you are planning to booking a retreat or training.
To take break from practicing yoga in Rishikesh we went white water rafting on the Ganges river. The tour was a couple hours long and a real value for the money, only 300 INR or $4.50 USD! The Ganges is much cleaner in Rishikesh where it is close to the source verses its more southern stretches. Paddling hard and crashing through the white water was the perfect counter balance to all of the calm in the previous days. it’s a must do!
Tips for practicing yoga in Rishikesh:
I stayed in the Laxman Jhula area in the northern end of Rishikesh where there were more guest houses, restaurants and of course yoga studios. Swarg Ashram, the southern end of town, seemed to be more ashrams and schools.
Although there is no shortage of yoga in Rishikesh, look for busy yoga centers with popular classes to make sure you are getting a credible teacher.
The mats provided in studios can be in rough shape so I suggest bringing your own (I use the Manduka eKO Superlite Travel Mat) or buying one from the many shops on the street.
Don’t miss the world-renowned Ganga Aarti at sunset every night on the shore of Ganges river in front of Parmarth Niketan.
Last, don’t forget to get travel insurance. The truth is that yoga asana is physical and accidents can happen, don’t be caught without. I use World Nomads Travel Insurance and highly suggest them!