The mesmerising mountains of Uttarakhand have always inspired millions to make yoga a part of their life. The spiritual aura of the state has convinced even hardcore city dwellers to become yogis, to renounce what is not healthy and practice yoga.
There are certain words that come to mind when one mentions the name of a country. Yoga has always been on the top of that list associated with India, followed by curries, elephants, and maybe snake-charmers. It is no coincidence that the yoga capital of the world is in Uttarakhand, the beautiful little town of Rishikesh on the banks of river Ganga.
Travellers come here to escape the dreaded urban life and learn yoga as a part of transitional phase in their life. There are others who come to perfect their knowledge of yoga and take up teachers training course (TTC of 200 hours and 500 hours) here in Rishikesh from experts.
However, not many travellers venture beyond Rishikesh to explore the mountains and wilds of the Himalayan villages, which provide a near-perfect setting to practice yoga in peace. Just look at all the local stories of Hindu mythology and you will find that all sages and kings would go deep into the Himalayan forests to meditate, mostly by the side of a water body.
Here is why we feel why the some other places in Uttarakhand offer a peaceful and picturesque setting for learning yoga and meditation in comparison to Rishikesh.
Six reasons why Yoga enthusiasts should go someplace other than Rishikesh:
- Rishikesh is now a commercial yoga centre to be precise. There are signs and boards of “Yoga classes” and “renowned Yoga gurus” at every nook and corner of the place. It is sometimes difficult to differentiate between a mediocre yoga guru, a fake guru and a serious guru.
- The place is crowded and bustling with Indians and foreigners who wish to get the Yoga Teacher Training Course done here. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, as Rishikesh indeed has some of the best training ashrams in the world. However, it is not suitable for someone who is looking for peace and quiet while doing daily yoga and meditation. Travellers, yogis, babas, adventurers and pilgrims swarm every inch of the place. If at all it seems peaceful to you initially, the novelty will wear off soon.
- The place is not clean anymore, though it may seem like it at first if you are coming from a city (which by default are quite polluted). As the population and commercialisation has increased, so has the pollution levels of air and water. It is better to move further up the Himalayas into relatively unexplored parts of Garhwal and Kumaon regions of Uttarakhand to experience purity of nature.
- Going to other villages to perform yoga will add a bit to your journey time, as roads in the mountains are not that good. But the extra hours spent on road will give you a glimpse of how villagers live with bare minimum supplies and are perfectly healthy even in harsh climatic conditions. Isn’t that what yoga fundamentally teaches – simple and healthy style of life?
- It is cheaper to travel and stay in smaller villages of Uttarakhand than it is in Rishikesh. It will considerably lower your expenditure and at the same time give you a wonderful spiritual experience in the midst of mountains and jungles. Local people are quite docile and friendly in this Himalayan state, so you need not fret too much about safety. Food and accommodation costs just a fraction of what it would in Rishikesh.
- Unlike Rishikesh, the unexplored mountains offer no distraction to you while you meditate and concentrate on getting your postures right. Up in the hills, you will not find any fancy restaurants, shops, branded retailers or as many sadhus selling hash as you might find in Rishikesh. So getting away from these distractions is equally important for a wholesome yoga experience.
Yoga destinations in Garhwal region
One of Uttarakhand’s best kept secrets is Netala, a secluded place situated 8km away from Uttarkashi. On the banks of Bhagirathi, a yoga ashram caters to Indians and foreigners alike who wish to practice this art in the peaceful atmosphere.
Travellers and yoga instructors have given a big thumbs-up to Netala village situated amidst the Himalayan mountains where no nuisances of urban life disturbs yogis. Just the sound of the gushing river and the slow pace of life here will surely bring a sense of peacefulness to one’s mind, which is crucial for those who like to meditate.
Almost every village or town which has a famous temple (and trust us when we say that Uttarakhand is overflowing with temples) will have a yoga centre of varying degree of sophistication. Gurus and babas clad in orange robes can be found everywhere who would claim to be experts in Yoga. However, a traveller must use his/her discretion in deciding the authenticity of such claims.
Solo traveller, or those travelling in groups, can get in touch with travel guides who can put together a good tour for yoga learners/teachers and take them to small villages where basic catering and accommodation will be arranged for.
Yoga destination in Kumaon region
Head to the lake city of Nainital for another out-of-the-world experience as far as practicing yoga is concerned. Though this place is a bustling tourist centre, there are some pockets of this district that offer perfect solitude to anyone who wishes to mediate or practice yoga.
There are some ashrams in Kausani, Bhimtal, Almora, Dwarahat and Pithoragarh that are as good as the stunning natural beauty they are located in. Ramgarh and Bageshwar near Nainital also have some travel and accommodation options for yoga enthusiasts. Dunagiri is another famous spot in Ranikhet, which is credited as the birthplace of Kriya Yoga.
There are some stunning Colonial style cottages in these areas that offer special packages for groups of yoga enthusiasts. In addition to that, special boutique yoga hotels are gaining popularity for their secluded surroundings and comfortable stay – which is of utmost priority to those visiting Uttarakhand to find peace and spiritual well-being.