Ben and I spent the last year doing yoga and meditation in various places in India. I don’t claim to be an expert on yoga in India but I’m quite happy with what we did and how we started our practice from scratch and turned teachers by the end of the year. Of course we took our time and took breaks in between for doing other things but one can do all that we did in terms of yoga and meditation in less than 6 months.
So, here I’m writing this post highlighting our yoga journey and hoping that anybody else on a similar quest might find it helpful.
Let’s assume you are a beginner.
Destination 1: RISHIKESH
Land at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram. Start with their 2 weeks beginners’ yoga and then progress on to the beginners’ intensive and the intensive yoga. The yoga teacher is really good and I think the schedule brilliantly suits people new to yoga. By the end of your stay here you will know all your basic asanas, basic yoga philosophy and you will have also memorised some Sanskrit chants. This will be your first brush towards understanding what yoga truly means.
To know about what to do on weekends in Rishikesh, read our post here. Also do keep in mind that Rishikesh is super hot during summers I wouldn’t advise you to visit during May – July.
Time spent: 5 weeks
Destination 2: MCLEODGANJ, Dharamsala
5 weeks of yoga would have probably awakened your philosophical side and you are ready for a deeper study of philosophy and meditation. Climb on a bus from Rishikesh and take the overnight journey to Mcleodganj. Mcleodganj is the residence of the Dalai Lama in exile and this town has a whole lot to offer in terms of spirituality. Join the Introduction to Buddhism course and learn about a different religion and some very interesting meditation practices. I loved the course and hope you feel the same.
Time spent: 10 days
After long hours of sitting meditating, your body might again be in need for some yoga. Join the 5-days courses at the Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre and I would recommend you do at least 2 courses. By the end of two weeks you will be standing straighter and all your asanas would have improved a great deal with all the technical information.
For information on what to do while in Mcleodganj, read our post here. Also note that this place experiences severe winters and all places are closed from November till mid February.
Time spent: 2 weeks
Destination 3: DEHRADUN
Did the Dalai Lama inspire you to mediatate more? Well take an overnight bus again and reach Dehradun for some serious meditation. Join the 10 day vipassana which is a silent retreat. After 2 months of yoga hopefully your body is ready for some gruelling and can sustain the pain of sitting for 10 hours a day. Now, not everybody enjoys this meditation and mostly because it tests you on many levels; being silent is the least difficult of those. I would still recommend that you go through one course and if nothing else, you will at least be proud of yourself for having done it. It is an accomplishment!
Once the course is over, you might not straight away want to join the crowd and be part of the worldly matters immediately. Drive up to Mussoorie and spend some time alone in the beautiful surroundings reflecting on what passed and what you discovered about yourself.
Time spent: 2 weeks
Destination 4: AMRITSAR
Now you may not be someone who believes in God and religion but a visit to the Golden Temple should still be on your list. Take a train and head off to Amritsar. The temple defines everything that spirituality stands for. Watch people from all over the world and every religion queuing up for a visit to this sikh temple. This temple feeds almost 80,000 people every day and volunteers work day and night to keep the temple running. The energy of this place will inspire you and if not, you may just marvel at the architecture.
You may also visit the Wagah border and watch India and Pakistan lower their flags during sun set at a very dramatic ceremony. And while you are Amritsar eat at only the local places. You will taste the best that Punjabi cuisine has to offer. My mouth is watering as I’m writing this down just thinking about all that I ate during my visit there.
Time spent : 3 days
Destination 5: TRIVANDRUM
It’s now time for some serious yoga. Let’s head off to the very South of India – Kerala. The last lag of this yoga journey will be spent at the Sivananda Ashram in Neyyar Dam, Trivandrum. Your last few months of yoga and meditation and spirituality have prepared you for what this ashram has to offer. Join their 2 week yoga vacation courses. Start at the beginner level even if you think you are a pro now. It’s important to learn the basics of the Sivananda style before you proceed to the advanced level for the next two weeks. After 4 weeks your body will be doing things you didn’t think possible before.
Take a break now before you start the 5 week teacher’s training course. Head off to Varkala – a small beach town two hours from Neyyar dam and probably one of the best beaches you will find in India. Take a 4-5 day break and relax, you’ve earned it. Be careful not to over indulge as there is a TTC waiting for you when you get back to the ashram. The TTC will be nothing like anything you’ve ever done before and it is one of the best courses out there.
To know more about the teacher training course at the ashram, read here.
Time spent: 6 weeks
Voila, you are a teacher now. You’ve gained a whole new perspective on life and you’ve changed in ways that only you can understand!
Total time spent on this spiritual journey: 17 weeks + or – 2 weeks depending upon your mode of travel and dates of the courses.
So there it is, 6 months of spirituality in India. This is completely based on our personal experience and in no way do I say it is the best (it is pretty close though :D). Try these places and you might fall in love with them the way we did.
Have you tried different places in India to deepen your practice? Let us know what stood out for you in the comments below and if you don’t agree with anything that I’ve written here, please feel free to share that as well.