India: Yoga retreat in Rishikesh

Wow… can’t believe we made it to Rishikesh! It was, for sure, the worst night bus ever! From Manali, we took an “ordinary” type of bus to Deradhoon. The bus was really old and dirty, the seats were at a 90 degree angle and Edu had to go up on the bus roof to tie up our backpacks. The trip took 16 hours, it was almost impossible to sleep…. the bus stopped everywhere on the way, either to drop off some people or pick up some more, have some “chai” or for praying time.

As we got in Deradhoon we took a taxi to Laxman Jhula in Rishikesh, where Phool Chatti ashram is located and where we would be spending 7 days on our Yoga and Meditation retreat.

Laxman Jhula!

In Rishikesh, there are so many options of yoga courses, all kinds of retreats and all kinds of ashrams. We chose Phool Chatti because we though it would give us a better experience considering it’s a small place, not very touristic and the program seemed very organized and serious. Well, it didn’t disappointed at all! It was just expected… great stay, intense experience, surrounded by the Ganga river sound, friendly staff and many yoga and meditation classes.

When we finally got at the ashram, it was lunch time and we got to learn our first lesson: Silence. Everybody stays in complete silence in the dining room… silence during the meals helps on your digestion and also gives you the opportunity to appreciate the food, observe and think about life.

Lunch time!

On this first afternoon we met the group that would be attending the classes with and the sponsor explained us about the program. It was a group of around 14 people, everyone from different nationalities and everyone looking for an experience.

The temple!

Our room

Our Schedule during the next 6 days was:

5:30 am – Wake up Bell

6:00 am – Silent meditation and singing mantras

6:45 am – Yogig cleansing (very interesting process which you clean the nasal and sinus passages with warm water)

7:00 am – Breathing exercises and Hatha Yoga

9:00 am – Breakfast

10:00 am – Karma Yoga (where each one had to clean some part of the ashram)

10:30 am – Meditative walk (walking on silence in the nature, we got to go to a really beautiful waterfall, walk through a Rice Field, get refreshed in Ganges river and do an offering ceremony to the river)

12:30 pm – Lunch and tea

3:00 pm – Lecture and discussion (where we spent some time discussing and learning more about hindu culture and religion, some yoga and meditation practices, etc)

4:00 pm – Ashtanga Yoga and Breathing exercises

Sunset – Pooja at the temple  and sacred singing (ritual)

7:30 pm – Dinner

8:30 pm – Guided meditation

Wow… it was intense!! The first 3 days we were  fisically and mentally exhausted! Everything ached because of yoga classes and from waking up everyday at 5:30am; our minds where tired from “trying” to meditate and mostly because of our daily silence practice from 9pm untill 2pm on the next day!

The yoga room

I found out that being in silence is a really hard thing, specially when I was around Edu, who decided to adopt complete silence during the retreat! So he didn’t speak or had any interaction with me or any other people! So good experience for him and so hard, I guess…

After the first 3 days, our body started to get used to the exercise and we really noted progress in our stretching and posture, we also felt so light from the tasty vegetarian food they serve (ok, I confess that by the end of the week we were tired of veggie food!). On the other hand, things started to get harder and harder on mental matters; the silence started to bother and I realized how much your mind can wanders! Meditation is a really hard thing…. it’s hard to calm down your mind when there’s so much going on in our lives!

Walking meditation by the Ganga river

Rice field by the Ganges

Other amazing experience we had, was to get to know how ashram life is, what are they beliefs and devotion. Living among so much devotion was an important experience to me. I was so impressed on how much devotion someone can have by a God such as the Ganga river! Their prayers and rituals are beautiful, colorful and peaceful!

Sunset praying…!

Devotion…

On our last day, we did a purification ceremony, we set in a circle, built a fire and sang a mantra for 108 times. It was a nice and peaceful way to close this special week. We both had a great experience, it was important that we actually got some time to really thing into ourselves and have a break from planning  our next stop, what food we’d eat for lunch, what places we’d visit… Afer this week we fell phisically fresh and mentally peaceful to keep on going on our Round the World Trip!

Last day…. Purification ritual!

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