Many yogis dream of taking a pilgrimage to Rishikesh—the unofficial yoga capital of the world that catapulted to western fame when the Beatles arrived in the 1960s to study meditation. This cow-dung-ridden and hippie-haven town is considered the start of many sacred journeys in India where the holy Ganges River flows down from the Himalayan foothills.
Nowadays, medical there you can find just about as many ashrams, discount look gurus, souvenir shops, and wandering sadhus (‘holy men’ dressed in orange who renounce worldly possessions to follow a spiritual life) in Rishikesh as you would find Starbucks stores in New York.
Yoga is not only a spiritual offering here, but also a business, and those in the tourism industry are capitalizing on the city’s reputation. Whether you want to stay in an ashram, do a teacher training, or find a guru, Rishikesh has it all.
Finding “The Right” Yoga Retreat or Teacher Training
I came to Rishikesh because I wanted to experience yoga in “the yoga capital of the world.”
Finding “the right” ashram or yoga center was a difficult task when searching from afar—many places don’t have websites and it’s hard to know what you’re signing up for.
My search led me to Rishikesh Yog Peeth—a Yoga Alliance certified yoga teacher training and retreat center located in the heart of Rishikesh.
The owners aren’t what I expected. I envisioned our leaders to be bearded old men floating above their meditation cushions; instead, I found jeans-wearing young men who don’t claim to be enlightened or to have the answers to life’s most difficult questions—they simply love yoga.
In fact, when speaking with the founder, Yogyacharya Roshan Ji, about his desire to open a yoga center he openly admitted that initially he did it was for financial profit. But once he started teaching the path of yoga and practicing what he taught, he got much more than money in return.
I experienced Roshan Ji’s passion during our lessons on yogic philosophy, and I felt honored to have the opportunity to be a part of his classes.
An Intense Yoga Experience
Our retreat schedule went according to a 14-hour daily program:
- 6:00 am: Wake up with Herbal Tea
- 6:15 to 7:00 am: Neti Pot Cleansing and Pranayama (breathing exercises)
- 7:00 to 8:30 am: Mantra Chanting & Asana Practice
- 9:00 am: Breakfast
- 10:00 to 11:00 am: Lecture on Yoga Philosophy
- 1:00 pm: Lunch
- 3:30 to 4:30 pm: Yoga Discussion & Correction Class
- 5:00 to 6:30 pm: Asana Practice
- 6:45 to 7:30 pm: Pranayama and Meditation
- 8:00 pm: Dinner
This was a lot of yoga, even for me. Jim was such a trooper—he’s newer to yoga and it was nice to see his genuine interest in learning more about this ancient system.
Never before have we cleaned out our nostrils together at sunrise, and I definitely think the experience made us closer.
One of my favorite parts of the retreat was Roshan Ji and Sanjay’s yoga philosophy class. Our group discussed concepts of consciousness, awareness, the yogic philosophy of living, and union.
The asana classes were different from what I’m used to in the U.S.—the pace was slower and gradual (we practiced only 10 to 12 postures in a 1.5 hour class) with a focus on proper alignment and form.
Yog Peeth also offers Panchakarma (detoxification) and Ayurveda treatments by therapists trained in Kerala—the Ayurveda center of India—and the massages were the best I had in India!
Building A New Ashram in Rishikesh
Although currently located in Krishna Cottage, a rented guesthouse just up the hill from the main town, Yog Peeth is currently building a new ashram, which should be complete within the next two years.
I had the opportunity to visit the construction site—a location surrounded by the Himalayas next to a waterfall. The ashram will be a perfect getaway for those seeking serenity and a quiet place to mediate near the Ganga or to practice yoga.
Roshan Ji envisions a self-sustained community for the ashram that uses wind power for electricity and fresh food from an organic garden and local hill villages.
“For me,” said Roshan Ji, “it’s about spreading the message of health so one day the whole [Universal] body will be healthy.”
I look forward to my next visit to Yog Peeth, particularly to see the completed ashram.
For more information on yoga retreats and training in India, visit: