Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Parmarth Niketan Intensive Yoga Course in Rishikesh

I came back to Rishikesh looking for an intensive yoga course but July is not the best month, most courses stop until October when the season starts again. Luckily by "coincidence" I notice an ad at the reception of the Parmarth Niketan Ashram, where I was staying, announcing a two weeks beginners yoga course and a 4 weeks intensive yoga course starting the 1st of July. This was perfect for me since I will have to leave India the 31st of July. 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.

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The course was great, I enjoyed it a lot. I can definitively recommend it. I'm not really enthusiastic about the asana practice, everyday it was the same and with little instruction but the course was totally worth it just because of the chanting class and the Bhagavad Gita or the Patanjali Yoga Sutras class. That was excellent! Most of my friends have the same feeling. I feel like I pay only to follow those two classes. It was totally worth it. And the friends that I made at the course are just great, we had lots of fun.

I think the real reason why I came back to Rishikesh and stayed at Parmarth was to join this course, meet some great new friends and experience Surinder's Singh yoga class nearby the ashram.

The Parmarth Niketan Open Yoga Class

From Monday to Friday there is a one hour 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 excerises. But these are not the traditional pawanmuktasana series (gentle joints excersise), I think they were actually a bit agressive. There was no emphasis in breath awareness at all, the excerises were performed rapidly and in a very mechanical way. These excersises 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 excercises we would continue with the asanas. It was the same 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 it 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's quite good, 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 that course. But when the course started I realized that there was no difference between the beginers course and the intensive yoga course. Actually the first two weeks of the intensive course were the same as the beginners 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.

And the funny thing was that the asana class for the beginers course, for the intensive course and even for the open class was the same. We were all practicing together! And for a reason that I still can't understand the people that did not subscribe for the courses couldn't join the asana class in the afternoon at 4 pm, and it was exactly the same class as in the morning! they 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. 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.

All this stuff kind of bother me so I decided not to follow the intensive course and stay only for the two weeks beginners course. I could still join the morning yoga class without doing the intensive course and in the afternoon I had already decided to join another class, Surinder's Singh yoga class, at the Raj Palace Hotel.

But actually I really enjoyed the course. Our teacher was Sadhvi Abha Saraswati but everybody calls her Mataji. She is a lovely lady Swami that has been practicing yoga for a long time after she cured herself through yoga from a kidney disease.

Fire ceremony after concluding the 2 weeks course

Her Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali Yoga Sutras class was excellent! She explained everything in a very simple but deep way. I liked her class so much that although I was not following the intensive course I asked her to allow me in her class after the second week.

At the same time that I was following the course I was 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 and her teachings felt to me as deep as Sivananda's and Satyananda's teachings. Whatever I would read in the morning she would talk about in the afternoon. That gave me a very positive feeling about her class.

And everybody loved her chanting class. Mataji has a beautiful voice, she was normaly leading the Ganges Arati in the evening, so it was a real pleasure to hear her singing and be lead by her during the class. At the begining 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. And well, during the chanting class we didn't have to worry about anything but just 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 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. Actually, only during the last week we had a new teacher for the asana class in the afternoon. Her style was completely different. It was a nice change. You can see the course schedule just below.

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

More information

For more information about the Parmarth Niketan Ashram click here

For more information about the beginners yoga course, the intensive yoga course and other courses thaught at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram click here.

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  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.