In the spirit of adventure and for the love of yoga, I booked return tickets to Delhi, India for a 200 hour Yoga Teacher’s Training Course in Rishikesh earlier this year. The town is based near the Himalayas and the source of the Ganges, in the north of India. Rishikesh is known as the World Captial of Yoga, is fairly rural and rather touristy so it has everything you could need for a typical/cliché Indian adventure: henna tattoos, ankle bracelets, herbal teas, nose rings, hand-made yoga straps, harlem pants and yoga leggings, organic yoga mats, spicy samosas and chai, Ayurvedic massages, a tattoo shop for Om tattoos and anything else permanent, sitar lessons and jewellery-making courses. It is close to great temples, mountains, waterfalls, The Beatles Ashram and the beautiful Ganges flows right nearby!
The yoga school itself changed it’s structure recently so I can’t honestly comment on the new courses offered at Rishikesh Yog Peeth but with the same management, I’m sure they would be worth recommending. The course structure was as follows:
6:00 Wake up
6:30 Herbal tea & netti pot time
7:00 Pranayama & asanas
9:00 Breakfast time (porridge, peanut curry, fruit salad)
12:00 Lunch (a yellow curry with rice or chipati, salad, a dhal) / library time
15:00 Asanas in detail / Yoga nidra
19:00 Dinner (a yellow curry with rice or chipati, salad, a dhal, traditional dessert)
We followed the above structure for six days a week and on a Sunday we went hiking to Patna Waterfall, walked to a nearby temple and went white-river rafting down the Ganges! Our teachers were all attentive and challenging (in a good way) – now that I’m writing this I realise how much I learnt that is impossible to put accurately into words. I wasn’t sure about what to expect on my way there, but I came away with an increased knowledge of yoga as a way of life, asanas and teaching, a desire to see more of India, fantastic new friendships and loads of fun memories. If you’re thinking of doing a yoga course, I say: just do it!
How to get there
Apply for a thirty day e-visa that is free for South Africans but not everyone, is totally online and takes 72 hours to issue. The visa is only valid for entry through certain airports so be sure to check your plans. If you’re staying longer than 30 days, you should go through the usual visa application process. You can fly to Delhi and then to Derhadun and catch a taxi to Rishikesh (a seven-hour taxi to Rishikesh from Delhi costs about $70, and can be arranged by the school). If you’re travelling from somewhere else in India, you could look into national flights and railway options.
What to pack
Because most things in India are super affordable, you will be able to buy almost everything in Rishikesh. Pack your usual toiletries and a small first aid kit (prioritise rehydration sachets, pro-biotic tablets, vitamin C, mosquito repellent /net, sun-cream, hand sanitiser, a water bottle with a filter and lip balm). Toilet paper is something you can leave to buy in India. In terms of clothing, you’ll want to bring a light scarf, cool yoga work-out clothing, t-shirts and no-shorter-than-knee-length skirts/pants. If it will be warm, bring sandals and you’ll probably be happy to have a light rain jacket as well. Leave space in your bag for anything you might want to bring back with you: instruments, wall hangings, loads of clothes, books, yoga equipment etc. Bring a good pen, but buy your notebook and text books in India!
Getting the Revaxis vaccine is probably a good idea for peace-of-mind and rabies as well. The Rabies vaccine is administered over three weeks so be sure to get it ahead of time (day 1, day 7 and day 21). Rabies vaccines are really expensive but can be boosted to use for life. I think they’re pretty good to have since animals can be quite unpredictable no matter how prepared we plan to be. I only got the Revaxis for India, but knew people who didn’t bother with anything, on the flip-side I also knew someone who had to have an emergency rabies vac (becase monekys stole her passport – not cool).
How to choose a school
This is a tough one – the best is to go by recommendations and speak to past students. I chose the school through a recommendation and on the course met someone who changed school because their original choice was almost purely academic (not what they were looking for). I would recommend looking for a course that focuses on the type of yoga that you want to learn about as well; choose according to your personal experience (the free option is to try out YouTube videos, otherwise go to a variety of classes).
What to eat
Check out all of the lovely food I posted about over here. I recommend trying out street food and not avoiding it out of fear (I did get Dehli Belly twice, and everyone does, but that’s just part of it and unless you’re really unlucky you’ll only be ill for a day or two). Go for momos, samosas, the potato cakes, naan, curries and anything that catches your eye really. I did avoid fresh fruit without peels, but feasted on mangoes, bananas, papaya and citrus. I also survived on bags of coconut, nuts and dried figs. If you’re craving for a taste of the west, there are cafe’s that serve coffee and Nutella pancakes with ice cream! The state of Rishikesh is free of alcohol and meat, so all meals are vegetarian which could be something to get used to for meat-eaters.