Kamal Bhatt, a Yogi of Rishikesh

Kamal Bhatt, a Yogi of Rishikesh

We come to Rishikesh to learn the secrets of yoga, looking for perfect teachers who would be all knowledgeable, powerful, personification of enlightenment, mind control and superhuman power. When we understand that such type of yogis are not to be found here on every corner (or in every cave), we start to settle for something more realistic – a teacher who would be experienced and knowledgeable to teach us proper techniques of asana, pranayama, cleanses and meditation. There are several good teachers here who can offer such expertise. So we learn here and devote some (sometimes considerable) part of our life to learning and mastering these yogic techniques. We study right asanas, proper alignment, good injury avoidance techniques. We go deeper in our forward and backward bends, do some crazy twists, impressive arm balances. Maybe we learn some pranayama techniques and cleanses that help us keep our body purer. Maybe we learn some mantras and kirtans as well.

And this is all very good, but what is the purpose of it? Is the final goal of our “practice” to become more flexible or stronger or able to hold the breath longer, or being able to twist ourselves into some pretzel poses? Is this the end of it? Of course, you will say, better health. Agreed. You will also say, more patience. Fine. Better mind control. Certainly. But for me, the goal of yoga is not just that. Neither it is in becoming “enlightened”. Being used so much in all kinds of fairy-tale-ish legends about superhumans that nobody has ever seen, this lofty word does not bear any substantiality any more… For me, the path of yoga should lead to becoming a better person, and it should be seen in one’s attitude towards oneself and certainly, towards other beings. For a good practitioner and especially a teacher of hatha yoga, the yamas, moral conduct rules, ought to be something natural, engraved in someone’s nature. It’s natural that yogi should not feel violence towards others, that he is truthful, does not indulge in feelings of envy, jealousy, greed or lust. Yamas should not be a code that someone “adheres to”, this should become one’s nature. Goodwill to all people and the world around you, compassion, forgiveness, readiness to help when this help is needed, contentment and gratitude for what you have.

And can you imagine, in the world capital of yoga, there are a lot of good teachers that can teach you technicalities of asanas, pranayamas or kriyas, kirtans or meditations, but there are very few teachers who are just good persons by themselves. This may seem sometimes even discouraging. Too many teachers are working here not because of call of the heart and a longing for self-development, but merely because yoga is a good business in Rishikesh. But what we as “seekers” from the West really seek is a role model, someone who practices all these yoga practices and by his or her life and actions towards others shows that these practices help him or her in becoming better human being. There are really few teachers like that in Rishikesh, and Kamal Bhatt is one of them.

Kamal is a toga teacher who has been giving classes for about 10 years. His main speciality is shatkarmas, yogic cleansing techniques, natural lifestyle, and classic yogic asanas. When I was running a yoga school in Rishikesh, Kamal was our teacher and also helped us deal with everyday situations in the school. Not everybody in our school liked his style of teaching, the fact that he does not explain a lot of things or cannot provide you with lengthy intellectual explanations of why you do this or that practice and what physiological benefits it brings. He talks in simple language and explains effects from his experience. Because first of all Kamal is practitioner. One who really practices all these yogic techniques, and given the limitations of his knowledge of English language and maybe some rhetoric skills, speaks very briefly. But he definitely practices yoga and knows the benefits it can bring. He helped several severely overweight student with health problems to lose a lot of weight and become completely medicine-free in a few months. One girl lost about 25 kg under his guidance and corrected her hormonal balance to the point that she conceived a child right after the course in Rishikesh, something she and her husband fruitlessly tried to do for years. Kamal used combination of fasts, specific diets, serious yogic cleanses and asana/pranayama routine, which might seem to some boring, but turned out to be very effective.

Kamal Bhatt

Kamal Bhatt

But the most amazing thing about Kamal is his personal qualities. While working in our school, he was the most reliable person. I could ask him to substitute some teachers 30 minutes before the class, and he would always be there without failure. I could call him in the middle of the night saying somebody got sick and needs to be taken to the hospital and he would be right at the person’s door in twenty minutes, ready to drive them to any hospital in the vicinity of 50 kms. He never asked about the money, never said no to any request. He was a teacher with the smallest ego and biggest modesty, out of all we worked with.

One interesting instance happened a few months ago. I has not been involved with the school for 1,5 years and came to Rishikesh solely for personal practice. One day I received a phone call from my friend who has just received a head injury and called me, all in tears, to find out, where is the nearest hospital. I was some 40 minutes away from her. I had no scooter or bike. I was trying to think where the nearest hospital would be, so that she could get there as quickly as possible before passing out on the way. Who can help me? Out of all people I know in Rishikesh, I called Kamal. And certainly, he dropped everything he was doing and came to give the girl a ride to a hospital in Rishikesh. He registered her at the hospital, waited with her in the line, translated to the doctor her complaints and comments, paid her bills, rode her back home and without saying a word, proceeded on his business. Keep in mind, he does not know the girl. When I met him a few days later to give him some sweets and compensation for the costs that he spent on her, Kamal was really surprised. I said that he should take the money because he paid for her in the hospital. He replied, “It’s everyone’s duty to do that in such circumstances”.

If more people thought like that, the world would be a better place.

So maybe if you’re in Rishikesh, you can drop in his class. Maybe he will not become your guru or the best teacher of all times, but it will be useful for you to see a practicing yogi and feel his light energy.

Read more reviews on Kamal Bhatt and find our where currently he conducts his classes at his yoga teacher page at TopYogis. 


8 responses »

  1. Thanks for all your notes on the yogi teachers of Rishikesh! Next time I go to Rishikesh I will be interested to try out some of your suggestion (I did a YTT with Vishva back in 2008 and I would like to reture to the area one day).

  2. Hey Anastastia, I totally agree! I’ve been to Rishikesh in Oktober ’till December 2014 and did the YTT at Himalayan Yoga Academy and have met Kamal and took his classes. I really recognize him in the way you describe him. He’s a real genuine kind and loving person with a very nice sense of humor as well.

  3. Kamal is a genuine practitioner who though may not fully understand and gives what ‘westernized’ yoga-spiritual seekers are looking for (due to limitation of his command and usage of English), yet what he embodies being who he is, is very real and beautiful. He is a kind soul who is always willing to help out another being. Thank you.

  4. Hi Ana,
    My name is Alka. I am planning to do a 200 Hr ttc course in Rishikesh in late 2016 or early 2017. I have already done a 500Hr ttc with Rishikesh Yog Peeth and I am not concerned with a certificate.I practice Hatha Yoga but I want to join a course with some strong Iyengar style focus on alignment and posture. I need it to be a ttc as I also want to focus on anatomy and philosophy. I am looking for a genuine place with honest teachers. I don’t want to be part of a very big group of students and I am looking for dedicated teachers. Not someplace that is westernized and runs solely for money. Please share any useful information. Also I am interested in Madam Usha Devi’s intensive course for a week. Is this suitable for someone who is new to the Iyengar style and also how much does it cost? Their website isn’t very helpful. Before signing off, as a former student of Rishekesh Yog Peeth, let me share my experience. Their admin staff is excellent and extremely helpful. Rooms are clean and food is good. Now in terms of teaching- I was a newbie to yoga ttc when I joined the 200hr as such I never paid much attention to quality of teaching. All the teachers were in general amiable. But my perspective changed completely when I started my 300 Hr with them. Until then I didn’t realize how westernized their teachings were. Thanks to my wonderful teacher – Krishnaji under whom we studied asanas and yoga philosophy, my practice took a deeper level. He teaches Hatha style but he has a strong background in Iyengar and gives excellent alignment cues and adjustments. The man devotes time to study your body- its strengths and weaknesses. He is a living example of Yoga. Not just the asana part but as a way of living. He is a self taught scholar of yogic texts and has profound knowledge of them. He is not someone who would just blindly quote some verse. His classes were quite exhaustive on our minds as well. It helped us go beyond our belief systems and see a topic with equanimity. It was a honour to study under him. He is honest and blunt. He is not very diplomatic and doesn’t care about massaging your ego. As such he was not the most popular instructor in the school (even with the management) but he was most definitely the most respected faculty. I was interested in Vedanta philosophy and he spent extra time to just take me through some Sanskrit texts on Vedanta. He is not someone who does this solely for the money because if that was the scenario, he would have become extremely well known. He takes time to open up with his students but once he does, he places complete trust in us gives his all. He was also the only one in the school who taught us about the principles of touching students while in asana class which is such an important topic but completely ignored by most teachers. Please note that Krishna only teaches the 300 Hr as he prefers a small batch of students. They also have Mukul, a young anatomy teacher with profound knowledge of pranayama. Mukul is a simpleton though, uses basic vocabulary and is a little shy but very honest and good. Don’t dismiss him off in favour of teachers who are only good at big talk. The rest of the teachers are not completely bad but rather young and aim to only fulfil the western notion of yoga. So expect intense flows and excessive adjustments but no real depth of knowledge. They are more interested in being popular among their students than provide any valuable teaching. Roshan, the founder is an excellent orator but somewhat very egoistic. This was felt by many students in the 300 Hr course. One can not deny that he has excellent knowledge of anatomy but only knowledge itself is not enough to make a good teacher. I felt he lacked humility and was more concerned about proving his point. I feel the school should regulate the classes of its new teachers. Sometimes, it feels like the management has no idea about the teaching that goes on in asana class. Another good teacher was Vijeet, who teaches Ashtanga style of yoga for 200hr. However, he will never correct your postures but be assured of a peaceful class. I liked him a lot more when he subbed for a few philosophy lectures in the 200hr.

    Anyways, getting back to the present, please give me some good recommendations for ttc courses. Your blog is wonderful. Keep up the good work.

    • Dear Alka, thank you for the most thorough feedback on Rishikesh Yog Peeth that I have seen so far. I am sure your contribution will help many people who are considering this school, to make a good decision.

      As for Iyengar teachers, I have not seen a really certified Iyengar teacher doing TTCs in Rishikesh. The best place to learn about Iyengar yoga is Usha Devi’s place. Now she has another teacher giving 4 or 5 pm classes for beginners, so beginners can learn the basics of Iyengar without too much stress and overload. You can also sign up for regular week with Usha Devi, many old students like this format more than intensive, as intensives are too exhaustive, and they’re hard to get into 🙂 So for a regular week, you need to sign up on Friday of previous week for the next week, and if you sign up for entire week, the price for each class will be lower, if you decide to sign up only for a class or two, each class may cost 700 rupees or more – I don’t remember the details. My advice would be to take entire week, as people may have strong feelings on their first class, but then get used to Usha and start to like her as the week progresses. With 90-minute class in the evening comes self-practice session in the morning. You are encouraged to come to the center in the morning of the next day to practice what you have learned in the previous class. These sessions are free, and the hall is open from 7 AM till 11 AM or later. This would be a good time to ask questions and meet fellow practitioners. Usha’s intensives usually get full 3-4 months in advance, and the waiting list is very long. If you can, try to sign up for the intensive online. If you cannot, you can sign up for the next available intensive after you arrive to Rishikesh, you might need a few months of waiting to actually get there.
      There are also good Iyengar teachers in Dehradun – Swati and Rajeev Chanchani, but they don’t conduct TTCs.
      There are people in Rishikesh who are not certified Iyengar teachers, but have studied Iyengar yoga for a long time and teach in similar style. One such example is Ashish Sharma, there’s a post about him here: Ashish Sharma. And sometimes he collaborates with some TTC schools, but you need to ask him individually for every time, as these commitments are not constant.
      Maybe one of the good options for you would be to take Usha’s classes and additionally to that, find some good classes on philosophy or anatomy. Since you don’t need another certificate, you can actually get a better deal that way.
      This is all I can help you with at this point. I wish you great discoveries and good practice.

      • Hi Ana,
        Thank you for the quick reply. Reading your reviews on Ashish and Kamal has made me interested towards the Himalayan Yoga Academy. I even contacted them for more details. Since you have worked with them before, can you please throw some light on the 240 hr intensive ttc? My main concern is that the course may have a majority of Russian participants. I have nothing against Russians 😄 but I’m afraid I may be a little left out. Any thoughts on this will be helpful. Also is the ashram inside the Kriya yoga centre? Is that the big white building in Tapovan with the white dome? Thank you for the insight on Usha Devi’s classes. I’ll think I’ll opt for the weekly classes. Thanks again. Looking forward to your reply.

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