Ashish Sharma, Excellent Asana Teacher in Rishikesh

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Ashish yoga teacher in Rishikesh

Ashish Sharma, yoga teacher in Rishikesh

Dear Yogis and Travellers! Today I will tell you about one of my favorite teachers in Rishikesh, Ashish Sharma. It’s a teacher with unique expertise, one of the best specialists in Rishikesh in the field of asana alignment and development of programs that address body’s structural misbalances.

Of course, when we’re talking about asana alignment, the teacher number one in Rishikesh in this field would be Usha Devi (to my view at least), of whom I have already written in this blog. But yet, Usha, being a wonderful master, is not a teacher for everyone. I would say she is an excellent teacher for experienced yoga practitioners or for beginners who are ready to go way beyond their comfort zone to learn correct work with the body. She teaches in strict Iyengar style and is famous around the world as a teacher who can push you beyond your limit to make you develop really fast within limited timeframe.

But if you are a beginner or a practitioner who does not want to combine yoga with stress, who would like to receive deep knowledge on how to correctly work with the body and how to activate our deepest muscles and fascia, and yet do it with comfort, with good intensity and without unnecessary extremes, Ashish is your best choice. He’s not Iyengar teacher, but he teaches a lot of information about structural integration that is invaluable to both practitioners and especially yoga teachers. Moreover, he will teach you some points that no other teacher, even Iyengars, talks about – at least the ones I know of.

Ashish has a very good skill of body reading and can easily define what muscles or body parts of particular student need to be engaged to achieve optimal opening or stability in this or that asana. I was struggling with a few poses for several years, not understanding, why my body collapses in Scorpio and what I should do to progress in it. He was the only teacher out there to define my specific weakness and give me tools to work with it. He did it with a lot of my asanas and that actually helped me to deepen my practice a lot.

Of course, once you learn that skill of engaging and exercising deepest body muscles, it will go beyond performing asanas in yoga hall and translates into your entire life, influencing your everyday posture and potentially removing some old pains or problems.

He is one of the few teachers in entire Rishikesh who can safely work with students with disabilities and injuries, such as slipped disks, hernias, scoliosis, pregnancy, knee problems, etc. You need to talk to him before the class and he will pay special attention to you during entire session, suggesting you personalized asanas, props and exercises.

Ashish is a kind of teacher who just in a week or two can lead you from very superficial, rough understanding of your body to its deep knowledge, to direct interaction with it, to precise control of deep small muscles that support your joints and even to your ability to engage skin. This will help you feel your body in a completely new way, to see it open, become strong but soft, relaxed and developed in a balanced, healthy manner. I don’t promise that within a week or a month that you’re in Rishikesh you will learn all intricacies, but you will surely get real instruments to develop your body and get it ready for further stages of yoga. And you will certainly become stronger, healthier, more flexible, open, more stable both physically and mentally, as you will learn to hold positions for a long time and train your attention to go deep inside your body and to get fixed in particular areas.

And Ashish will do all this work to you in a soft manner, without violence and shouting, with a degree of strictness, but this strictness is very friendly and even compassionate I would say.

Ashish Sharma, yoga teacher

Giving a class in Crimea, Ukraine

By reading all this you would think that I’m advertising him. I’m not working in Himalayan Yoga Academy, where he teaches, anymore, so I have no interest to advertise him, I just like him a lot. And he’s really very good.

For the balance, I need to mention some drawbacks. His one is that he often comes late to his classes, so you will need to wait some 5-15 minutes.

He teaches drop in classes in Green View Hotel yoga hall in Ram Jhula. It’s located behind Parmarth Niketan. When you walk through Parmarth Niketan garden, turn right and walk a few minutes until the next crossroad before the building of Green Hotel, then turn left and on your right you will see a stairs leading to a yoga hall. Class timings change between 9 am to 9:30 in the morning and 5 pm to 5:30 in the evening. The duration of class is usually 2 hours, sometimes even more if he’s in a mood :) The cost is 200 rupees.

Ashish also often teaches courses and intensives at Himalayan Yoga Academy. But not all courses, so you better ask them at http://yogaacademy.in

Trika (Agama) Yoga in Rishikesh

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trika agama yoga RishikeshI heard about Trika yoga classes in Rishikesh 4 years ago, but did not want to go there based on the description of classes from different people. Though many were excited and satisfied with the classes, I thought the style of the class was not for me. Now when a friend suggested we go to the class and I felt more open to various styles of yoga,  I decided to give it a go.
Trika yoga is a different name for Agama yoga which is present around the world and is based mostly in Thailand. This is a style of yoga that focuses on tantric practices and incorporates elements of kundalini and laya yoga. The accent is not as much on performing asanas for physical strength and stamina as on opening energy centers and listening to the flow of energy in very simple postures.
Now, all my previous posts were about the yoga teachers that I definitely recommend everyone to visit. This one is not. I just decided to try this class to give my personal feedback on it, be it positive or negative. As still after the class, it was difficult to come up with one definite conclusion, I will just list  negative and positive aspects of the class that I have experienced, and leave it for you to decide whether you want to try it.
Drawbacks:

  • the yoga hall in Swargashram is scary and badly maintained, it initially creates some cautious atmosphere.
  • poor ventilation in the yoga hall. After 10-15 minutes in the class I felt strong heartbeat and had to go out to get water. Immediately after I went out, I got better. In the entire hall, there were only one or two open windows which was not enough for the number of people and the size of the hall.
  • the class did not contain  enough physical exercise, which is not very conductive to developing or pushing to the limit your physical body.
  • absent explanations on safety of performing asanas. At the same time, the selection of the asanas was not really safe – without sufficient explanation on how to perform the asanas on physical level, some asanas may be conductive to injury. For instance, we had cobra with full arms extension that was kept for over 5 minutes. My friend that also came to this class, experienced pain in lumbar for a couple of days after the class.
  • the other factor that contributed to poor explanation is that  the girl was speaking in low voice, it was hard to hear her while standing in the third row, some instructions we just missed, others guessed at random.
  • even as we tried to follow the instructions, in overall the class seemed a little boring. Of course that may be due to our lack of patience that needs to be developed, but the impression was common among three of us that visited the class.

Strengths:

  • the class can be suitable for beginners as it does not contain many asanas or advanced practices, provided that precautions are taken for cobra and similar potentially problematic postures.
  • despite poorly audible directions, when the teacher noticed that someone did not follow her instructions, she always came up to clarify them personally.
  • I really felt the pulsation of a definite body part in each asana, and entire body pulsation in savasana and meditation. However, this cannot be entirely credited to the class itself as feeling subtle sensations in the body has become quite easy and even habitual for me. Still, I did feel the desired, quite strong effect after the class and can believe that other people who take Trika yoga courses feel such effect too.

This is my personal impression, and it also depends on the teacher. Moreover, I suspect we got to some first class of they course, and they teach one asana per each lesson, so by the end of the course you are supposed to do a lot of asanas in one class. If you tried this style of yoga and have your own opinion, you’re most welcome to leave it here.
Timing and Place: In case you want to check it out, the yoga hall of Trika yoga is situated near main office of Swargashram, Ramjhula, Rishikesh. The evening class is 4PM, but there are some other classes and lectures, timing to which you can find out on your own. Anyay, Rishikesh is full of their colorful advertisements so you will surely not miss it.

Yogi Vishvaketu, Akhanda & Kundalini Yoga Teacher in Rishikesh

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Yoga teacher in RishikeshYogi Vishvaketu is a well known master of yoga in Rishikesh that teaches in his Asharm in Tapovan, high bank of Rishikesh. Besides Rishikesh, he is particularly known in Canada, where he spends half of the year teaching in Canadian yoga centers, taking part in yoga festivals, and living with his wife and children.

Yoga style

Yogi Vishvaketu has registered his own style of yoga which he calls Akhand yoga, “akhand” meaning “whole” in sanskrit. According to Vishvaketu, this style is a holistic approach to teaching yoga which includes not only asanas, but pranayamas, mantra chanting, and meditations. The only thing you will not get in his drop-in class is perhaps shatkarmas (yogic cleansing) except for kapalabhati of course. I’m almost sure that yoga teaching courses cover this component as well.

From my own experience, his akhanda yoga class is a good, considerably intensive hatha yoga class with 10-20 minutes of mantra chanting at the beginning and end of the class, and excessive breathing exercises, done mainly in beginning, but also throughout the class. The breathing exercises are not limited with classic breathing techniques like kapalabhati, bhastrica, udjaya pranayama, but include also some new combinations of breathing which he calls “chair breathing”, “happy breathing”, “shoulder breathing”, “disco breathing”, etc. I suspect that some of these breathing techniques were invented by Vishvaketu, while some are borrowed from less known traditions of Himalayan yoga. For instance, I saw some of similar breathing exercises at sukshma viyama class. Most of the breathing techniques are fast and intensive and intended to “wake the body up”, so if you have any physical or psychic condition that is not well-matched with intensive breathing, you better exercise caution.

His asana sequences are quite intensive, with particular attention on strengthening the body. Vishvaketu likes chair pose, especially placing it in already maddeningly exhausting sequences right after Warrior III or other standing balances of the like. One very interesting feature that he does is giving themes to all of his classes. The theme touches upon both mental attitude (what is the focus of mental work in the class), and physical focus. This helps to direct attention to certain sensations and processes within the body and mind, and provides some diversity to each class. So as you see he’s quite creative guy, not afraid to experiment with breathing, asanas, lesson sequences. So be prepared, as his class may get you infected with such creative atmosphere and you may start to experiment with your own approach to yoga. That’s, to my mind, is a great benefit and a thing to learn from him.

Besides Akhand yoga, Vishvaketu occasionally gives kundalini  yoga classes, that are more dynamic that his ordinary classes and directed not so much at developing physical strength and stamina, as at  awakening chakras with fast movements and breathing techniques. All this awakening requires enormous amount of repetitive movements that can try your patience and stamina.

Who is Yogi Vishvaketu

And of course nothing adds better to the benefits of the class like personality of yogi Vishvaketu. He has great sense of humor and can uncharge your body tension by very appropriate jokes. He has quite gentle voice and approach, but very confident adjustments. He also gives mindful and sufficient instructions on asana alignment and breathing techniques. So as you may guess, the atmosphere in his class is very light and easygoing, beneficial both for physical workout and self-insight and meditation.
With all that taken into account, but still considering large amount of students and “high status” of this yogi, I perceived him as somewhat distant. What melted my heart towards Vishvaji is this. During mealtimes, various people living in ashram help people from the kitchen to serve food and drinks to everybody in canteen. So, as I witnessed Vishvaji serving food and tea to his own students, this changed my attitude completely. As far as I can tell from my perspective, he’s living what he’s teaching, and that’s the best you can expect from a yoga teacher.

Class schedule, yoga teacher training courses.

In overall, you surely won’t waste your time if you pop into his morning class which starts at 6 AM in his ashram’s yoga hall. Besides drop in classes, Vishvaketu offers yoga teacher training courses certified by Yoga Alliance, that cost about $2500-3000 per course. The fee, besides yoga course, includes living in his ashram and 3 daily sattvic meals. This might seem a little bit expensive compared with overall fees throughout Rishikesh, and yet he has many students for each course who value his quality yoga classes and want to teach his style, akhand yoga.  The training courses are also conducted by people from Canada and besides yoga classes and lectures, trainees are offered many opportunities for entertainment or diving into Indian culture. This includes excursions to nearby trekking places, friendly visits to other ashrams, music concerts, live music playing during the yoga classes, lectures from famous people, guest appearances of local yogis and babas, group visits of local restaurants, etc. To most of these events, visitors are also invited.

Ashram Living in Rishikesh

Besides all this, you may also like the very experience of living in Vishvaketu’s ashram. You may do so without signing up to his training course. The ashram was built by Vishvaketu and his wife some 6-7 years ago, and it’s a very light and comfortable place. It’s situated in Tapovan, in the middle of a beautiful valley, surrounded by quite high mountains. You will get the experience of living in ashram environment without actually having to live in a cave or something resembling a cave. Rooms in the ashram are light, the meals are very good, everyday you can participate in fire puja and kirtan, and of course practice in his beautiful and spacious yoga hall at the rooftop, which I consider one of the best yoga halls in Rishikesh. The time of practice, 6 AM, may seem scary to someone at first, but after you come to the class for a few times, you will feel that it’s the perfect time for a yoga class. During the class, you will witness beautiful transition from the blackness of the night to very gentle sunrise which starts somewhere behind huge mountains right before your eyes. It’s a great feeling and I guarantee that after some time you will find 8-9 AM yoga classes too late and  not conductive “to spirit of yoga”.

What else to say? Yes, after you have visited Vishvaji’s lessons, you may be sure you’ll stay connected with him. Vishvaketu is quite active in Facebook, I don’t know where he finds time for this activity with his schedule and amount of friends in his account, but he replies to all the posts and comments and does follows his friends closely. So here’s another address of good yoga teacher in Rishikesh not to miss:

Anand Prakash Ashram, Tapovan, Laxman Jhula, Rishikesh. If you know where Ayurveda cafe is, the Anand Prakash building is right beside it. If you don’t know how to get there and go from Laxman Jhula, after the bridge, turn to right and ascend the stairs near German Bakery, take right turn again and follow the narrow road first above Ganga, then between locals’ houses. When you see a small temple on the left side, turn right to the small street that goes up. From here, after 3 minutes walk, when you see that the main road goes up and ahead and there’s a side turn to the right (opposite to the small shop on your left), turn right again. You can also notice the ad signs and ask people around :)
Time of classes: 6 AM daily from September-October to December, and from February to March-April. For exact dates and schedule of teacher training courses, visit his website, http://www.akhandayoga.com/

Best Iyengar Yoga Teacher in Rishikesh: Usha Devi

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Now I’m going to tell you about notorious Iyengar yoga teacher in Rishikesh, Usha Devi. I was taking her class for a few weeks 2 years ago, and I got back for a few more weeks this year. Once again I concluded that nothing works on the body level as deep and as profound as Iyengar yoga. Before Usha, I was visiting classes of other hatha yoga teachers, all of them are very good masters, but once you go to Iyengar class, you know for sure that your body starts to work in much more profound way, and you engage not only big and superficial muscles, but deep, small, medium – all muscles that you can engage as much as your nervous system allows you to.

The effect also largely depends on who exactly teaches you principles of Iyengar yoga, as some Iyengar classes from other teachers here in Rishikesh may be quite boring, self repetitive, and not conductive to total involvement of student’s attention into the process of body alignment. Usha is the best teacher to get you working on the brink of your abilities, not only due to precise and detailed instructions, but also by really demanding maximum efforts from everybody in the class. This is done quite in a military style, and you will often hear words like “Hey, what are you doing?”, “Are you sleeping?!”, “Hey, what is this, I said open your fingers!”, etc. You may also get occasional slap on the buttocks or on the back if you aren’t following her instructions. For some very sensitive people, such military style of class may seem too much and not conductive to the spirit of yoga, where you should relax and let go of all the tension. But it surely serves the purpose of perfect body alignment and concentrating on mental attention on the body, on particular parts of the body that you’re currently working on.

Why do we need perfect alignment? It’s not as much to make you look perfect in the asana, as sometimes you may use straps, blocks and other props that do not look actually beautiful and appealing. Perfect alignment, as I see it from my experience, serves several purposes:

  1. Safety during yoga class. By following instructions of Iyengar yoga teacher, which are very precise and quite “medical”, as Usha describes them herself, you can enhance physical possibilities of your body in a safe way, being sure that you will not dislocate your knees, compress your spine, or tear some ligaments.
  2. Enhanced control of your body, and awareness of body processes. Iyengar yoga students who learn to control movements of smaller muscles and direction of skin, immensely enhance control of their body, which can be used afterwards in any style of yoga or physical activity at all.
  3. Improvement of health. This point logically follows previous two. Iyengar yoga is able to work profoundly on some problematic areas of the body, and alleviate physical problems. Usha herself is a great example of this. She got into serious car accidents two times during her life, that impacted her health significantly. Her pelvis and the bones of her legs were crashed, and the doctors told there was no way of her being able to walk again. Unbelievably as it may sound, with the guidance and strict help of her guru, B K S Iyengar, he got on her feet back again and now teaches Iyengar yoga, inspiring hundreds of people who visit her classes every year. In her class, I saw several people of age definitely over 60 who were as light and flexible as Russian ballerinas. One of such women told me that just a few years ago she was crooked and experienced difficulties in moving.
  4. Attainment of dharana though concentration on the body. During Usha’s class, you will have no opportunity to think of anything else besides following her instructions, which lie in watching and controlling your muscles, skin, and breathing. All the process is rooted in the body, and with good Iyengar teacher, your attention will be in your body during entire class. And as yogis say, wherever is your attention, that’s the place your energy goes.

There are few other teachers in Rishikesh that teach Iyengar yoga, but they are not as brilliant because they are not able to bring students’ attention to their body as well as Usha does, and cannot attain similar intensity of the class. For some people, however, because of same reasons, these other teachers may be a good option. As thought the benefits are numerous, increased intensity of the Usha’s class leads to increased nervous strain, which may lead to some nervous tension or even breakdowns for unprepared students. Of course, with time both body and psyche adapts to the level of intensity of the class, and there are many devoted students of Usha who feel great and attend her classes every day. Other people however, need some rests from these classes. In any case, it’s very beneficial to have additional meditation sessions, as shavasana in Iyengar’s class is very brief and may not be enough to relieve all nervous tension.

This, however, is not the reason to skip the class. If you’re serious yoga practitioner, or moreover, if you’re yoga teacher, you must learn Iyengar method of body alignment to make sure you understand your own or your student’s body and don’t harm yourself or your students. Afterwards, you can teach any style of yoga, but you will be greatly enriched with understanding of safety principles and mechanisms of intensifying body work.

With all that said, it’s not that easy to get to Usha’s class as her intensives are booked several months ahead, and her classes are always full. You should sign up for the next week class on Saturday, at 7 :30 PM, if you have place after all the students participating in previous week’s classes have signed up.

Time of classes: 6-7:30 PM from Monday till Saturday, every morning from 7:30 to 11 AM is a self-practice in the same hall.

Place of Class: Omkaragaganda Ganga Sadan Patanjala Yoga Kendra, next to Taxi stand near Ramjhula, Rishikesh. If you go from Rishikesh, you don’t need to cross the bridge, the center is on the same side of the bridge where Rishikesh city is.

 

Back to Rishikesh for yoga

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Hi guys! It’s been a while since I wrote my last post. That’s all because I was traveling around Asia for 2-month long “visa run” to India. Now I’m back in Rishikesh and will attend some more classes of really good yoga teachers here. I will report on them in my blog, so that you could be fully armed with references before coming to Rishikesh.

So for the a few next months, I am going to visit classes of Usha Devi (Iyengar yoga), Surinder Singh, Yogi Vishvaketu (Akhand and Kundalini yoga), Yogananda Baba (Yoga Sukshma Viyama), Japanese woman teaching in Shivavanda ashram (don’t know her name yet, but got a good reference from friends), Vinay Chaitnya (Hatha yoga, Raj Yoga and Tantra), Kamal Bhatt (Hatha yoga), Naveen Joshi (Akhand and Kindalini), Kamal Singh (Ashtanga Vinyasa) and perhaps some more teachers. I will post my feedback on classes of these teachers, with complete details on timing and place. You will also get details on other teachers whose classes I don’t plan to visit (anymore) but you may run upon them once you’re here. So stay tuned!

What you should avoid if you go to Rishikesh for yoga for the first time

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Rishikesh is a great place to go to if you’re into yoga, but to use most of it, you need to know a little about how to navigate around the place.  The city is so publicized as yoga capital that some local entrepreneurs take advantage of it and flood the place with their yoga services, even if they are not really yoga masters or even good practitioners. Some people, inspired by stories about Rishikesh, pack their things in anticipation of finding great knowledge there, but can end up in some questionable ashram or low quality yoga class and quickly get disappointed about entire affair.

Of course, you can ask people around – that’s in case you arrived in the high season and there are a lot of westerners there to advise you. But it’s always better to be equipped with some practical advice before you go, not to get into the same trap as some malfortunate yoga lovers before you did. So here’s the list of the first don’ts that come to my mind about visiting Rishikesh as the first timer:

Don’t trust guidebooks.  I relied on the guidebook advice when I first came to Rishikesh and really got to very mediocre places in terms of yoga. In fact, I got so disappointed that I wanted to leave the place right away, and I would do if one traveler did not advise me to visit a good yoga class. In fact, you can use such guides as Lonely Planet mainly for good maps, because everything else just does not work. Why?

First, hotels and guest houses that get to Lonely Planet quickly become very expensive and lower the standards of quality, because they assume that being into the guide is already a competitive advantage over their rivals. So you better seek accommodation somewhere near the places that are in Lonely Planet, not in them – otherwise you will overpay.

Second, what these guides advise you on yoga is mostly rubbish – I have a feeling that journalists have one day or so to write on the city, and they don’t have very good experience in yoga to judge whether the place is good or not. Some local people say, that Lonwy Planet journalists even don’t try out the classes they advise – they just go into the place, get details on classes, and enter them into the guide. So there, they can recommend you even some courses that are really low quality. Imagine that you trust the guide, come to a place, and engage with such course right away… Of course, there are always good exceptions – last time I checked they had Usha’s classes in their guide, and also Bhuwan Chandra’s music school is a place that really deserves to be referred to. Still, many other places are just really strange selections in terms of quality of yoga classes.

Don’t assume that every “ashram” in Rishikesh is a real ashram – most are just hotels. I assume that governmental regulations on who can call their hotel an ashram are missing or very scarce, and business minded people in Rishikesh are using that. There is a great number of “ashrams” in Rishikesh, mostly at Lakshman Jhula, that are not ashrams at all – in a sense, they don’t have any spiritual activities, they don’t have any gurus living there, they don’t have any children or monks living/studying there. They are plainly hotels with paid yoga classes, and very often with yoga teachers of dubious quality. Try to pop in at Sri Sant Sewa Ashram at Lashshman Jhula and find at least one sign of a real ashram there. And still Lonely Planet recommends them as “ashram”.

Others, like Parmarth Niketan, used to be really good ashrams but got so commercialized, and spiritual activities are so reduced, that you will basically pay for a nice garden and aarti ceremony in the evening. There used to be a 103 year old baba teaching free morning yoga class, but management stopped the class, and as the rumor goes, the reason is that baba is not bringing money. The food that’s included in stay is not very good, is not one of the most delicious sattvic foods around the place, and for a price you pay in Parmarth, you could find much better options in regards of both accommodation and food. And of course in regards of yoga and meditation activities. The place is very advertised in guidebooks, and that again brings us to the first advice of the post – don’t trust guidebooks. If you’re in Rishikesh for yoga, after staying in Parmarth for one month, you can finally look around and regret that you lost so many other opportunities.

Don’t assume that every baba in Rishikesh is a real baba – most are just beggars and drug dealers. Some foreigners come to Rishikesh with acutely romantic view on people in orange robes. It seems to me that even some guides contain warning regarding such people. There are no regulations on who can wear such clothes, and no special procedure of initiation. Just whoever buys an orange robe is considered a baba. While there are some really powerful babas out there walking in the same plain orange clothes, like Yogananda Baba or Beatles Baba – there are quite lots of them, – there are still even more fake babas that use the reputation of the place to beg or sell hashish. The ones that sit on the main bazar roads smoking hash are most likely to be that kind of babas. So please use discrimination and advice of timed travelers if you want communication with real sadhus.

Don’t expect that smoking hash with baba will give you some transcendental experience or enlightenment – most often it will just give you problems with police as many babas have “referral program” with local cops – they report some naive tourists for a share of bakshish. I know this information from local’s stories. You better get your transcendental experience from quality yoga class, but if you sill want to smoke, I assume that conversation with long time foreigners is much more useful for finding things out around the place.

The last advise concerns Rishikesh as well as any other city in India. If you’re in India for the first time, I advise you to eat local food and go less for “Western food”, even if local food may seem too spicy at first. There are reasons behind Indians eating such spicy food, and one of them is protection against parasites and bacterias. We, western people, are not used to local flora and fauna, and we don’t have inborn immunity towards their “animals”, so it would just be much safer to start with local spicy food. Of course, you can experiment, and once you’re acclimatized a bit, you can try any kind of food, but initially it would be nice to go with local.

Well, these are the advises I could come up with right now. I will add more if something else comes to mind, but also I would greatly appreciate your input and opinions on things to do and not to do in Rishikesh. Please, share your experience in comments so that other people could use it.

Good popular yoga teachers: Surinder Singh

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surinder yoga in RishikeshSo Surinder Singh is the first name I mentioned in my blog, thus I will tell more about him here. He’s one of very good teachers in Rishikesh teaching Hatha yoga with elements of Iyengar style and traditional yogic warmups (Sukshma Viyama). He does not give any advertisements anywhere, he’s not mentioned in any guides, he does not spam the walls of the city with his posters, and still he’s the teacher that has so many students, that some of them don’t fit into the class hall. He gets new students solely by referral. It’s a nice idea to ask people around in a local cafe on what they can recommend about yoga. It also depends on the area you’re asking in, but if you ask about yoga teachers in Ram Jhula, most likely you will be referred to Surinder.

What is so good about him? Well, in the first place, he’s a very special Indian yoga teacher that does not try to bend you into final position against your pain and limitations (as most Indian teachers tend to do), he sees the limits of every person and tries to expand what you’re doing into doing it more effectively. So he adjusts you very gently, barely touching you with a finger, and you suddenly feel the area that can be enhanced and that you need to work on. Or he can not touch you at all, just tell you to roll the tailbone or press your sitting bones, etc., and you can see that your posture is significantly improved, not only in regards of physical alignment, but concerning work with energy and attention. This is a very good type of adjustment, as you don’t depend every time on teacher that just puts your hands/shoulders/whatever in some position and you don’t realize what is going on. With Surinder, you can understand inner effect of the posture and apply his recommendations every time you work on your own or with other teacher. So this is a very extraordinary quality that you definitely have to check out.

Another quality of this teacher is that he’s not entirely about physical postures in his class, neither he tells you too many stories from Indian philosophy or some irrelevant things. He’s somewhere in the middle, connecting your physical practice not only to mental work, but spiritual awareness as well, if you allow me such a word. He may be able to connect certain position of your body in asana to your ego, or awareness of your breath to the attitude of letting go. Headstand is an opportunity not only to gain physical benefits of inverted posture, but see things in new light, upward down, which is extrapolated to your attitude to see things in different light in everyday situations. So these little things make his classes not only physically beneficial, but expiring and charging you with positive attitude.

Of course I should mention things that some people may not like. With Surinder these are very few. First, people who are used to very dynamic styles like Ashtanga Vinyasa my find his class too slow, and the postures too static. Even Sun salutations are done in a very static manner, with at least few breaths for each stage of salutation. But very often, this is very positive side. People who are used to dynamic styles suddenly find themselves shaking or sweating extensively on Surinder’s class, because they just lack static strength. Yoga is about balance of all dualities, and every practitioner should find beneficial the opportunity to balance their static and dynamic strength and stamina. So for many lovers of Ashtanga Vinyasa, Surinder’s class can improve their performance, and what’s even more important, create better alignment of each posture, so that they can practice in dynamic regime more consciously and effectively.

Second thing that some may not like concerns mainly hard core Iyengar fans that are not happy that Surinder does not give such detailed instructions as they expect. Well, not every Hatha yoga teacher should explain one asana for twenty minutes – the way it’s usual in Iyengar class, and still Surinder is one of the best explaining teachers. Compared to other folks around here, he talks a lot, not only about muscles and bones, but about energetic effects of each asanas as well. What’s more interesting, he does not give uniform instruction to anyone and he adjusts the instructions every time according to the personal situation of the practitioner. For instance in dandasana, some bend too much and they should work on rolling the tailbone in to make their spine straight, while others are stiff in the lower back and they should roll their thighs in and try to bring the lumbar region forward. So you see, two opposing directions for 2 different people. It all depends on the person, and if you’re lucky to get in non-busy class, you can get some good advice from him. So for anyone except hard core Iyengar fans, the information that Surinder gives will seem more than enough.

The one real drawback about his class is that there are too many people and too small halls, especially in the morning class. I think there are some friendly agreements in place, but Surinder has not changed his morning hall for years, though it’s too small for him now. It can fit maximum 20 people, while there are much more those who want to visit the class, and many people just have to turn away and go home. Yet those who fit in the class are packed so tight that it may seem uncomfortable – you have to watch your hands and legs all the time and avoid your neighbor’s legs, things like that. I think he should change his morning hall if he wants to move on. Evening hall is much better, so you can start with evening one.

Places for class:
Morning – Rajdeep Hotel, Ram Jhula, Swargashram, near taxi stand and behind Moondance cafe. The timing can change between 8 – 9 AM in the morning depending on the season. The duration of the class is 2-2.5 hours.
Evening – Raj Palace, Ram Jhula, behind Parmarth Niketan Ashram. Timing can change between 4-5 PM in the morning depending  on the season. The duration of the class is 2-2.5 hours.

Cost: 150 rupees/class