One thing I wanted to try while in India was yoga. Unfortunately, it is off-season for yoga centers throughout the country and many well-known yogis are on world tours or have closed their ashrams for the monsoon season. Mysore was my first choice to practice, but after suffering the southern heat for three weeks, I decided to head to the gateway of the Himilaya, Rishikesh, also known as the yoga capital of the world.
You can’t walk more than a minute in Rishikesh without passing a handful of ashrams, hotels, and internet cafes that offer yoga. This makes it difficult to select one you can trust. I made friends at the Little Buddha Cafe in Laxman Jhula (where I had at least one meal a day) and they recommended dropping in for a class at the Shri Sant Sewa Ashram where they were staying and practicing.
Being familiar with a few different types of yoga in the West, I thought I could at least keep up in the Hatha “beginner” course. Much to my surprise, it was a serious workout and involved a lot more meditation than I was accustomed to. There were some good lessons on pranayama breathing followed by a serious core work out. At one point after the yogi had us standing with our hands in the air until our arms felt heavy, he cracked an unexpected joke: “Now you know how the terrorists feel!”
That was the only class I attended but I would still recommend trying at least one class in Rishikesh, if only for the experience of meditating while overlooking the holy Ganga River. In addition to yoga, I also ran every morning on the less traveled roads heading north, explored a couple of well hidden waterfalls, and hiked up the surrounding mountains to get epic views of Laxman Jhula and Swarg Ashram (the town south of Laxman Jhula).
On the train back to New Delhi I reflected on my week in Rishikesh. It was hard to say if I felt any more spiritual, but I definitely felt more at peace with the chaos of India and rejuvenated to embark on our final destinations.