Tag Archives: good yoga teachers

Kamal Bhatt, a Yogi of Rishikesh

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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. 

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. Moreover, I believe that Surinder’s approach is much better for beginners, because too detailed instructions of Iyengar style can confuse, discourage them and make them miss the big picture of each asana and yoga practice in general.

UPDATE

Places for class:

Surinder has built his own centre that is located between Ram Jhula and Laxman Jhula,in a willage behind Moondance cafe and Gita ashram. When you’re in the village, you will see his guesthouse as it’s the highest intensively green building.

You can get to the village in several ways: from Laxman Jhula, when you take the road that jeeps go on to get to Ram Jhula, somewhere in between Laxman Jhula area and Ram Jhula area, there will be one turn to the left that will lead to the hospital (you can ask around). Walk past hospital gate forward and take the first turn to the right. Walk straight and soon you will see a high green building on your left. Find a way to it in the maze of village streets 🙂

Other way is to take the road from Ram Jhula taxi stand near Gita ashram and Moondance cafe, the road leads to local temple and backside of Parmarth Niketan and is otherwise called “elephant road” (because one can literally meet elephants there in a winter time). Take a second turn left, you will see advertisement of Rajdeep palace there, but you don’t need to go to Rajdeep, turn right when you face the wall. Then you will have to take second or third turn left (just find a good looking street that does not look like a drive to one particular guesthouse) and as you walk the street, you will see the green building, that’s your destination.

The timing can change between 8 – 9 AM in the morning depending on the season. For the afternoon, currently, timing is 4:30, but can change with the season as well. The duration of the classes is about 2 hours.

Cost: 200 rupees/class

Now additionally to drop-ins, Surinder conducts teacher training courses. Visit his website, http://swastiyogashala.com/ for dates and more info

You can read more reviews on Surinder, get his contact information and check the exact location of his school at Surinder Singh’s TopYogis page.