In Rishikesh: If you’re seeking a spiritual or health retreat in India, Rishikesh is your city. I was unprepared for the beauty and calm of this city, situated on the Ganges River at the foot of the Himalayas.
Getting to Rishikesh was a night of my life I never want to revisit. My friend, Sarah, and I were booked in a first class sleeper car one of India’s old trains (which are apparently becoming obsolete—with good reason). Our ten hour overnight journey from Amritsar to Haridwar would have been fine, except that no blankets were provided and India was experiencing record low temperatures! My advice to all travelers: don’t take this car during winter! The car was so drafty and air so freezing cold that there were moments when Sarah and I wondered if the other was still alive. I couldn’t feel my feet at all when we arrived. Luckily, we were able to hire a taxi with working heat. Our driver, Lalit, took us 37 km to the wonderful Hotel Ganga Kinare in Rishikesh. I’ve never been more thankful to be warm and safe.
After the night we had on the train, Hotel Ganga Kinare was like paradise. Although it was nearly $100 USD a night—twice what we paid for all of our other hotels—the rate included sunrise yoga, a cooking demonstration, a guided walk to the evening puja at Triveni Ghat, use of their two bikes, gorgeous views of the Ganga River, serene gardens around the hotel, and the finest breakfast buffet I have ever had, in India or elsewhere! The restaurant served the best Indian food I have ever had; and Sarah, who has spent the majority of two years living in India, agreed.
Method: Generally performed after Abhyangam. Involves scrubbing of warm boluses made of pacifying natural medicated powders and herbs over the entire body.
Effects: Decreases muscle tension, highly beneficial for treating degenerative muscle diseases, relieves pain, numbness & swelling, stimulates the nerve endings of the body, improves blood supply of the body.
Method: A Soothing head massage with coconut based or amla based medicated oils that slowdown your heaviness, tensions, headache from depression.
Effects: Nourishes hair roots, helpful against eye strain & sinus, increases the flow of cerebro spinal fluids, strengthens the nervous system.
Method: Shiro means head and dhara means dripping of liquid like a thread. As it proceeds one feels being lulled into sleep. It also includes a special head and shoulder massage. It uses oils made with special herbs that calm and nourish the central nervous system and open the prana shrotas in the head.
Effects: Calms mental tension or stress, opens the prana shrotas, strengthens central nervous system and sensory organs, decreases hypertension, offers sound sleep.
My time in Rishikesh was completely rejuvenating. It felt like the perfect getaway from the cold and chaos Sarah and I had experienced in New Delhi and Amritsar. But I know there’s more to Rishikesh than what we enjoyed at our hotel. The yoga instructor at the hotel told me that many yoga schools in the area offer free yoga classes; and a few people we met told us about a famous pilgrimage to a temple atop the Himalaya. I hope I have the chance to return one day!