Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Parmarth Niketan Intensive Yoga Course in Rishikesh

Parmarth Niketan Yoga Course Rishikesh

I came back to Rishikesh looking for an intensive yoga course but unfortunately, July is not the best month to visit India. Most yoga schools close their doors during the monsoon season.  What could I do then?

Luckily, by “coincidence”, I noticed a poster at the reception of the Parmarth Niketan Ashram, where I was staying.

They were announcing a two weeks beginner yoga course and a four weeks intensive yoga course starting on the 1st of July.  Could this be a good option for me?

I was already following the open yoga class at this ashram so I thought I could get a better insight into the practice if I follow one of these courses.  So I decided to give it a try.

My overall impression

I really enjoyed this course so I can definitively recommend it to you.

I'm not very enthusiastic about the asana practice though. Every day it was the same, and with little instruction, but the chanting class and the Bhagavad Gita/Patanjali Yoga Sutras class made this course absolutely worth it.

I feel like if I paid mainly to follow those two classes, and I am happy about that. Most of the amazing friends I met during the course had the same feeling.

I think the real reason life brought me back to Rishikesh after visiting Babaji's cave, was to join this course, meet some great new friends and experience Surinder's Singh yoga class near the ashram.

Yoga Course Group Photo

The Parmarth Niketan open yoga class

From Monday to Friday there is a one hour open hatha yoga class for the people staying at the ashram, starting at 7 am and at no extra cost.

The class normally starts with a series of warm-up exercises. But these are not the traditional pawanmuktasana series (gentle joints exercises). I think they were actually a bit aggressive.

There was no emphasis on breath awareness at all. The exercises were performed rapidly and in a very mechanical way.

These exercises, together with the sun salutations, would take at least 30 minutes from the class.

There was a lot of chanting during the asana class. We started the class with an opening prayer. Then before the sun salutations, we would chant the sun salutation opening mantras and the twelve mantras for each posture.

After the sun salutations, we would chant the asanas opening mantra and at the end of the class, we had the closing mantra.

Yeah, that's a lot of chanting but I did like that.

After the warm-up exercises, we would continue with the asanas. It was the same asana sequence every day, with very few variations. The good thing about it was that it was not so difficult to learn the sequence.

I wrote the sequence down, including all the variations that I could remember, for my own practice. I got all the postures names from the book "The Yoga Bible." It includes more than 170 yoga postures:

Balancing postures
Vrksasana: tree
Garudasana: eagle
Utthita Ardha Dhanurasana: standing half bow balance

Standing postures
Padahastasana: standing forward bend
Utkatasana: chair
Virabhadrasana I, II and III: the three warriors
Trikonasana: triangle
Parsvakonasana: standing side strech
Prasarita Padottanasana: wide leg forward bend

Sitting postures
Vajrasana: sitting on your heels
Ustrasana: Camel
Balasana: child pose
Sasankasana: Hare pose
Janu Sirsasana: single leg forward bend
Paschimottanasana: double leg forward bend
Ardha Matsyendrasana: Half Spinal Twist
Gomukhasana: Cow face
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana: Royal Pigeon

Backward Bends
Bhujangasana: Cobra
Dhanurasana: Bow Pose

Inverted postures
Halasana: plough
Sarvangasana: shoulder stand
Matsyasana: The fish

Final relaxation

The Parmarth Niketan Intensive Yoga Course:

The requirement for the intensive course was at least one year of Yoga practice. That sounded good to me, so I decided to join the course.

But then I discovered a few things that bothered me.

When the course started I realized that there was no difference between the beginner's yoga course and the intensive yoga course. Actually, the first two weeks of the intensive course were the same as the beginner's course.

The only difference was that the intensive had a Saturday test and starting the third week a meditation class at 8.30 pm (right after dinner!). There was also a certificate for the intensive yoga course.

I also found it a bit strange that the asana class for the beginner's course, for the intensive course and even for the open yoga classes was the same. We were all practicing together.

And for a reason that I still can't understand, the people that did not signup for the courses couldn't join the asana class in the afternoon at 4 pm, although it was exactly the same class as in the morning.

Outside guests were only allowed to join at 5pm when the deep relaxation/yoga nidra started, but this was the only difference compared to the morning class. How weird is that?

On top of this, when I signed up for the course I was expecting to get more information about the asana practice, at least the reason and benefits of the sequence, but this was not discussed at all.

So, in the end, I decided not to follow the intensive course and instead stay only for the two weeks beginners course. I could still join the morning yoga class without doing the intensive course.

For the afternoons I had already decided to join Surinder's Singh yoga classes, at the Raj Palace Hotel.

I did enjoy the course

But please, don't get the wrong impression. In the end, I really enjoyed the course at Parmarth Niketan.

Our teacher was Sadhvi Abha Saraswati, known as Mataji.

With Mataji

Mataji is a lovely lady Swami that has been practicing yoga for a long time after she cured herself through yoga from a kidney disease.

Her Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali Yoga Sutras class were excellent. She explained everything in a very simple but also profound way.

I liked her class so much that although I was not following the intensive course, after the second week I asked her to allow me in her class.

By the way, while I was following this course I was also reading a beautiful book called "Samatvam, The Yoga of Equanimity" by Swami Sivananda and Swami Satyananda.

I was surprised to see that day by day Mataji's class followed almost the same structure of the book. Whatever I would read in the morning she would talk about in the afternoon. That gave me a very positive feeling about her class.

Her teachings felt to me as deep as Sivananda's and Satyananda's teachings.

Beautiful chanting class

Mataji has a beautiful voice. She is normally leading the famous Ganges Arati in the evening, so it was a real pleasure to hear her singing and be lead by her during the class.

In the first 30 sec of this video, you can hear Mataji leading the Ganga Arati.

And believe me, everybody loved her chanting class.

At the beginning of each class, she would start chanting some prayers for about 10 minutes or so. It was like if she was singing for us. I really enjoyed that.

I also like that we didn't have to worry about anything during the chanting class. We just needed to repeat the different mantras again and again. It was like a break for my mind.

Some of these mantras are really beautiful. My favorite ones are the Dhyana Mantra and the Nirvana Mantra.

The content of the course

The course included twice a day asana practice (exactly same asana practice as for the open class), pranayama class at 6 am, half an hour chanting class, and one hour Bhagavad Gita class.

During the last week, we had a new teacher for the afternoon asana class. Her style was completely different. It was a nice change.

This was the course schedule:

Course Schedule

06:00 to 07:00 Pranayamas
07:00 to 08:00 Asanas
08:30 breakfast
10:30 to 11:00 Chanting class
11:00 to 12:00 Bhagavad Gita or Yoga Sutras class
13:00 Lunch
16:00 to 17:30 Asanas and yoga nidra or meditation
1:00 to 20:00 Arati at the Ganges
20:00 Dinner

Yoga Course Closing Ceremony
Closing fire ceremony at the end of the course

About the Parmarth Niketan ashram

To read more about my experience staying at the ashram you can visit my previous blog Where to Stay in Rishikesh? Try the Parmarth Niketan Ashram.

For more information about all the current yoga courses at Parmarth Niketan, you can visit their website

Yoga teacher training courses in Rishikesh

If you are searching for a yoga teacher training course in Rishikesh, or in other locations around India, you can visit my selection of the best yoga TTC in India.

This list is based on my personal experience and friends' recommendations.

Don't forget to visit also my detailed packing list for India. This list includes every single item that you could possibly need to travel and to practice yoga in India.

I hope you find this blog post useful. Feel free to share your experience or any tips in the comments section below. Thank you!


  1. What was the cost and expenses of your yoga class.

    1. Wow, this was so long ago, I can't remember but you should visit their website. If it is not visible then you can just call them and ask them. Namaste.