Monthly Archives: March 2012

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/

You can read more reviews on Yogi Vishvkety and see exact location of his ashram at his yoga teacher page at TopYogis

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.

You can read other people’s reviews on Usha Devi on yoga review and recommendation site, TopYogis.