Are you thinking about a retreat in India? These tips will help guide you to the experience you are seeking. Every year, thousands and thousands of people come to India seeking to learn more about the deep traditions of yoga or rejuvenate their health and well-being.
India is a wonderful place to visit, and has much to offer to the aspiring spiritual seeker in the many places you can enjoy yoga retreats in India.
It can be daunting to plan your journey as there are hundreds of cities and a wide variety of options for spiritually healing and wellness experiences.
A good first step is to ask yourself what you are actually seeking from your journey. Are you seeking a deep meditative experience from India? Are you seeking to refine your yoga asana practice? Is it an Ayurvedic program, or are you called just to spend time alone in nature? All these are possible, and I recommend allowing your intuition to guide you. You should get clear on this beforehand as your intention will lead you to drastically different experiences.
1.Staying in an Ashram
Staying in an ashram is one of my favorite ways to experience the spiritual culture of India. If you are ready for the structured days (usually 5am-8pm at night), this is a great option. India can be really hectic to move around in, and ashrams are generally a nice way to find a quiet, more intimate experience. The schedules can be difficult to adjust to at first, but after 1-2 weeks they become quite normal and your days will be very filled with simple joy!
There are a huge variety of ashrams in India that suit anyone’s needs and budget. I recommend checking out the any of the Sivananda Ashrams, Parmarth Niketan in Rishikesh (home of the international yoga festival), the Osho Ashram in Pune, Amma’s Ashram in Kerala, or Shri Shri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Ashram in Bangalore. These are all very comfortable for westerners to stay at.
2.Completing a Yoga Instructor Certification
Attending a yoga teacher training is an incredible, life-changing experience, and is incredibly affordable in India (usually $1,000-$2,000 all-inclusive). Participating a teacher training is not just for those who want to teach. Its kind of like being in yoga school for a month, with 8 hour days practicing asana, learning yoga philosophy, and eating yogic food every day. It is a great experience for anyone who’s been practicing yoga for at least a year.
Be careful when choosing a school, however, as there’s been an explosion of new and unqualified schools in the last 10 years. I recommend choosing a school that has been around for at least 10 years, and is connected to a actual spiritual lineage. Avoid yoga schools in India that are like yoga factories that spit out teaching certificates.
Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga, is a smaller city in north India bustling with yoga schools, satsangs, kirtans, and other spiritual gatherings. Set in the foothills of the Himalayas with clean air and tons of greenery, Rishikesh is one of the purest, cleanest feeling cities in India. There is no alcohol or meat served in the entire city. It’s truly a wonderful place to practice yoga. The emerald-colored Ganga river flows through the center of town, where yogis and sadhus gather daily to bathe and perform spiritual rituals.
Even in Rishikesh, it can be a challenge finding an authentic yoga experience in Rishikesh. My recommendation is to stay in Ram Jhula, where there is a huge variety of yoga classes available daily. Be sure to check out Surinder Singh’s morning class at 8:45 at Swasti Yoga in Ram Jula.
I also recommend you to spend at least a few nights outside of the main city up in the mountain areas above Rishikesh. There are plenty of great options for meditation retreats that are both comfortable and reasonably priced. I highly recommend the Saatva Center, or Abhayaranya Retreat just outside the city.
2.Dharamshala (Mcleod Ganj)
Dharamshala, the home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan capital of India, is a wonderful small city in north India nestled into the foothills of the Himalayas. Though it’s a little tricky to travel to (12 hour bus ride from New Delhi), it’s well worth the journey.
It has a similar feel to Rishikesh but is a little smaller and more intimate. There’s tons of great opportunities to connect with nature nearby with many hikes, rivers and waterfalls surrounding. It’s a great place for a silent retreat or a yoga teacher training.
My favorite part about Dharamshala is all the Buddhist monks that flood the town. I highly recommend visiting while the Dalai Lama is in town, which you can find on his schedule on his website. You can have the chance to see him lecture in his home temple, a powerful and emotional experience.
I recommend staying either in Mcleod Gaj or Bagsu, which is where most of the yoga and meditation schools are. Both are walking distance to the Dalai Lama’s temple.
If you are looking for a more free-spirited adventure, Goa may be the place for you. Arambol beach is bustling with expats, yoga schools, ecstatic dances, live music, and cacao ceremonies. You’ll have to be careful though as Arambol and many of the other beach areas can get extremely loud.
If you are looking for an authentic experience, there are some great yoga schools and retreat centers just outside the main areas of Goa, including Satsanga Retreat, Ashiyana, or Swan yoga retreat, where you can get away from the hustle and bustle of the beach parties, and enjoy time on one of the many affordable yoga retreats.
From all my experience in India, my #1 piece of advice is to do as little planning as possible. India is a hectic place that has a very natural way of destroying your plans. I have found that I have the best experience when I pick a city that calls me and seeing where my inspiration takes me. This can be difficult for many seasoned travelers, but you will be surprised and delighted at the magic that happens when you experience India this way.
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