Category Archives: General on Yoga

General questions and ideas on yoga

TopYogis – a site for search of yoga teachers, schools, retreats and teacher trainings around the world

Standard
TopYogis – a site for search of yoga teachers, schools, retreats and teacher trainings around the world

Dear yoga seekers,
I started this site with the aim of sharing my experiences about yoga teachers I have come across while living in India. Some people have written me that my articles helped them make a more informed choice about yoga teachers that wanted to study with, but there were lots of people who asked me questions I could not answer.
Many people asked me for advice about certain teachers or schools, and I could not help them because I did not practice with those teachers. By the number of such requests, it was obvious that our informational space lacks a place where people could find a complete and accurate information about yoga schools and teachers in India, and recommendations and feedbacks from fellow practitioners on their experiences with retreats and teacher training courses.

That’s why I decided to create such place – a website that would include all major teachers and schools in India and over the world, along with their programs, events, and reviews of people who have already been there. It is TopYogis and we are only starting.

If you’re a yoga teacher or school, please go ahead and register on our website. If you’re a yoga practitioner, check the listings in Rishikesh and other cities, and if you find a teacher or school you have practiced with, leave your review on your experience. This will be a great help for all yoga students who are planning trips of their life, and don’t know what choice of yoga program to make!
If you would like to leave a review but don’t see your school or teacher there, please tell me and we’ll register that school on the website so that you could leave a review. You can contact us by pressing FEEDBACK button at the bottom of every page of yoga review website, or by leaving a comment here, or by contacting me on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/anastasia.kurdina.5

TopYogis website for yoga reviews

TopYogis, a yoga review website for yoga teachers, instructors, and yoga travelers

Please, help yoga travelers find their yoga path!

Advertisements

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

Standard

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.

Why Yoga in Rishikesh

Standard

Hey everyone interested in exploring yoga in its World Capital, Rishikesh! It’s already third time that I’m in Rishikesh, and every time I stay minimum for three months here, doing yoga morning and evening, 5-6 hours a day. And still, coming here for a third time, I have come across some amazing discoveries that I did not know about 2 last times. This mostly concerns good amazing yoga teachers and yoga centers in Rishikesh.

It may seem surprising that finding really good teachers here may be a difficult task, but it is. The recommendations on yoga in Lonely Planet and other guides are just ridiculous for anyone more or less seriously interested in yoga. It seems like their journalists banged in the first door and recommended classes even without trying them out, or trying them as complete newbies. This results in a situation when you come to a place that is recommended by a guide and get so disappointed in the “yoga” they teach that you want to pack your things and urgently get out of there.

Rishikesh is a heavily publicized place for learning yoga, and at the same time there is no governmental regulations on who is allowed to teach yoga and what certification they should possess for this kind of activity. This results in emergence of huge numbers of yoga teachers and centers that start teaching after completing some weekly or monthly course. So for many “teachers” here yoga is not their passion or even interest, it is just a business of giving lessons and receiving payment for it. So when I arrived in the place for the first time, I got to classes of a few really bad teachers that obviously counted on complete newbies and could not offer anything of value about the subject. I even wanted to leave the place, so much the reality was different from my expectations. By then purely by chance I was advised to visit a class of Surinder Singh, and after that I stayed in Rishikesh for the entire time that my visa allowed me (though I planned to travel a bit previously).

The point of the story is not about Surinder actually, as he is not the sole good teacher here. The point is about the fact that for a newcomer in Rishikesh, it’s very difficult to find someone of value as they are like diamonds in a pile of fake teachers. After going for 2 years to Surinder only, and occasionally to Usha’s Iyengar classes, this year I was surprised to find that there are a lot more great teachers around there, but little people really know about them. Therefore I am making this blog to tell you about my discoveries on yoga in Rishikesh, so that anyone interested in good yoga classes could come here equipped with information from long-time practitioner.