The ultimate yogi’s guide to Rishikesh
As a yoga practitioner, Rishikesh is one of my favourite places in the world and I have spent many months there over the last few years. The abundance of drop-in classes with well respected and established teachers, the many ashrams, satsangs, the spiritual atmosphere, the closeness to the sacred Ganga river and the delightful food make Rishikesh a must-go-to place for any yogi or spiritual seeker.
Sadly, as yoga’s popularity increases, so do too the scams and pretended yoga teachers. Rishikesh has changed a lot over the last few years, but it still offers a lot if you are willing to seek and go beyond the obvious.
This is why I made this ultimate guide to Rishikesh, to offer you my all time favourite places to practice, eat, meditate… If you come to Rishikesh in November or March, you will probably find me hanging out in one of these places.
So, without further ado, here’s my list. Enjoy!
My favourite teacher in Rishikesh is without any doubt Surinder Singh. He has a loving soul and a compassionate heart that shine through his teachings and fantastic adjustments. He teaches traditional hatha and after the physical asana practice, there’s always a short satsang where he talks about a topic or answers students questions. He is definitely not one to be missed if you come to Rishikesh. His yoga shala is difficult to find and the classes are usually packed, but it’s well worth the effort. Find him here:
Another of my all time favourite yoga teachers in Rishikesh is Mittra. His humbleness and kind heart make his yoga classes a vacation for your soul, and I always come out of his shala feeling lighter and brighter. You can find him at the Hanuman yoga shala, at the Sant sewa ashram, near the Lakshman jhula bridge.
He also runs a small cafe at the ashram, where you eat in silence a traditional thali, in pure ashram style. The food is home made and delicious and your plate is refilled until you are not hungry anymore.
If you like Iyengar style, don’t miss practicing with Usha Devi. Her rigorous and precise teaching style is not for everyone, but she will for sure inspire you to increase the discipline in your practice and find the proper alignment in each and every posture. She is the survivor of two car crashes that would have left her on a wheel chair, hadn’t she practiced intensely with the deceased Mr Iyengar. She is a living example of the power of yoga to heal. You will find her near Ram Jhula, at the Omkarananda Ganga Sadan ashram. She and other teachers teach drop in classes as well as intensive 10 day courses, all very affordable given the high quality of the training.
Another Iyengar teacher not to be missed is Ashish, who teaches at the Green hotel, near Ram Jhula.
After an intense 2 hours practice, you sure must be craving some delicious and nourishing food! Rishikesh is a food heaven for vegetarians and vegans, as meet and fish are forbidden in this sacred town (but you can still find eggs and dairy products on the menus). In no particular order, here are my belly’s favourite places:
Ayurveda cafe: after Surinder’s class, most of his students flock to this little unassuming place that serves a fabulous breakfast and brunch at incredibly affordable prices. The space is small and there can be a long wait if there are too many hungry yogis sitting at the tables, but it’s worth it. My favourite breakfast is the muesli with yogurt and fruits and nuts, and sometimes I go for the vegan chickpea flour omelet. For diner, the kitcheri with pumpkin and spinach is the most popular dish, and rightly so, as it’s packed full with goodness and is very satisfying as well as comforting for the belly. Perfect for the cold winter nights!
Nana’s cafe: another favourite after Surinder’s class. It has a menu full of vegan options and you just want to keep trying them all. It’s run by a lovely Indian-Maltese couple. They usually play nice kirtan music in the background and they will always take care of your dietary requirements should you have any intolerances or allergies.
Ganga beach cafe: my and my partners favourite place for dinner, overlooking the Lakshman jhula bridge. Portions are huge (try the veg biryani and let me know what you think), prices are affordable and the staff is nice and smiling! If you go there say hello to Mohan from me 🙂
Pyramid cafe: a family run place that welcomes you with a smile. Try the veggie burger, the kitcheri or the steamed vegetables with paneer, they will all leave your belly happy and satisfied. To reach it, you have to take a path going upwards opposite the post office in the Lakshman jhula side, it’s a bit of a hike, but worth it as it’s very quiet up there and the view is amazing.
Steps cafe: its’a bit out of the way, but also worth a visit. Sitting is comfortable, the interior is nicely decorated and the bathroom is spotlessly clean (quite rare in Rishikesh, let’s be honest!). The food is homemade and there’s quite a vast choice of vegan and vegetarian options, like the poha, a traditional Indian breakfast dish not easy to find in the restaurants.
Ganga view cafe: On your way to Steps you can find this cafe which has the best coffee in Rishikesh, according to the experts. The views over the Ganga and the Lakshman jhula bridge are impressive, and it’s a great place to go for a (non-alcoholic, as alcohol is also banned in Rishikesh) drink and watch the sunset and the ceremonial aarti (fire offering) taking place underneath the bridge. Try the gluten-free chocolate balls, yum!
Ayurpak: located in Tapovan, on the other side of the bridge, this family run restaurant offers a vast array of nutritious and healthy ayurvedic dishes, cooked with ghee and spices (but not spicy). Delight yourself with the mungbean pancake or any of the freshly cooked ayurvedic soups. Once when I was very sick and I couldn’t eat anything without having stomach cramps, I started coming here every single day to have the pumpkin soup, sometimes three times a day, as it was the only thing my digestive system could handle.
I think I could keep going for many more pages, but to keep it short, I will just add two of my favourite places for breakfast in Ram Jhula, the Juice house and the Office, both offering huge (as in bucket huge) bowls of freshly cut fruit with yogurt, honey and muesli (vegan options available), capable of satisfying even the hungriest of yogis.
MEDITATE, PRAY, SING
In this section I would like to share my favourite places to meditate and the satsangs I love to go to, as well as kirtans.
Om Baba is a Greek spiritual master, disciple of Shri Saccha Baba Maharaj, and he gives satsang usually from November until March, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 11:30 until 12:30. On Thursday evening there is bhajans, a delightful gathering of people chanting mantras and sacred songs. It usually takes place at the Yoga chakra school, in Tapovan, but check around town for flyers with updated information, as location and timings may vary.
Sachcha Dham ashram: a traditional vedic ashram, founded by Shri Saccha Baba Maharajji. The house where Saccha Baba Maharajji used to live has been transformed into the Samadhi, where devotees and disciples sit to meditate. It’s open from 6 am until 2 pm, and from 4 pm until 8 pm. It’s one of the most powerful places to meditate in Rishikesh. Please be respectful and follow the rules written at the entrance. Visitors are requested to dress respectfully and keep silence when entering the sacred spaces. Prem Baba and Shantimayi (both Maharajji disciples) give satsang in this ashram, usually around February.
Ajatananda ashram: a place to listen to lectures on Advaita Vedanta by Swami Atmananda. It’s open to visitors for satsang and evening meditation. Very powerful and peaceful place.
Swami Dayananda ashram: in this ashram, located on the other side of the Ganga, closer to the modern city, you can attend intensive Vedanta courses. It’s also open to visitors and has a well stocked bookstore where you can find all of Swami Dayanandas books and talks, as well as interesting books on Vedanta.
Swami Swatantranand ashram: just a few steps away from Swami Dayanandas ashram is this ashram where every year Mooji comes to give satsang, usually during the month of March, although it might get cancelled depending on his health condition. Hundreds of devotees gather to hear Moojis teachings and it’s a very intense experience. I highly recommend coming also for the kirtan, where skilled musicians play sacred songs and mantras and hundreds of people sing along and dance. This is also the place where Krishna Das concerts take place, he usually comes once a year to offer a concert in benefit of the Ganga Prem hospice.
Kirtan with Ganga Maa: another wonderful experience not to be missed! She usually shares Kirtan every Friday evening at the Hanuman yoga shala, at the Sant Sewa Ashram. Find her in soulful silence.com
I realise this post is way longer than intended, but as I started writing I couldn’t help but to keep adding lovely places to the list. And yet, I am fully aware that there are many many more amazing places and hidden gems that I haven’t mentioned. I do hope that this recommendations help you navigate the increasingly abundant Rishikesh offerings. Let me know if you go to any of the places I mention and if you have any other hidden gems to share!
See you in the next post,