Monday, April 22, 2019

My Six Months Yoga Journey in India [Mysore and Rishikesh]

My Six Months Yoga Journey in India

I had so many wonderful experiences during my recent six months yoga journey in India, from Sep 2018 till Mar 2019. I spent one month in Rishikesh and five months in Mysore.  But somehow I feel as if I learned a lot more and was more productive in Rishikesh compared to Mysore. Why? Let me explain.

Why yoga in Rishikesh and Mysore?


Rishikesh, for those who are not familiar with it, is a city in the north of India that lays along the banks of the holy River Ganges.

It is very popular among yogis. There are innumerable ashrams, yoga teachers and yoga schools to immerse yourself in the practice of yoga.

Mysore is a city in the south of India very popular for ashtanga vinyasa yoga, a dynamic and intense physical yoga style.

But you can also find other styles of yoga, and many other activities to explore, like pranayama, chanting lessons, yoga nidra, past life regressions and more.

Ok, let me first tell you what I did in Rishikesh.

Update:  I also created a video version of this blog.  It's a bit shorter but also very interesting.

I would still recommend you to at least scroll through the article below so that you can visit any of the links that I've included.




Iyengar Yoga with Usha Devi


I arrived in Rishikesh on the 1st of October. I booked a room at Omkarananda Patanjala Yoga Kendra in Ram Jhula. This is the yoga center where Usha Devi teaches Iyengar yoga.

Usha Devi is one of the most senior yoga teachers in Rishikesh. She was a direct student of BKS Iyengar.

According to an interview by Topyogis, Usha studied directly with BKS Iyengar for seven years until he himself told her to start teaching.

Usha Devi Iyengar Yoga Rishikesh
Image courtesy of Omkarananda Patanjala Yoga Kendra

I practiced with her for only one week. It was a great experience though. Her classes are physically challenging and she is very demanding.

If she sees you coming out of a posture before time, she will immediately shout out at you asking you why you've stopped. I love that! And yes, I was told off a few times. Lol.

But to be honest Iyengar Yoga is not for me. I knew this already since 2016 when I practiced Iyengar Yoga with Alpesh in Goa. He is a student of Usha Devi.

I do enjoy practicing this style of yoga from time to time. I like to learn a few more tips about proper body alignment. But I know Iyengar Yoga could never be my practice.

When I practice yoga asanas I like it to be just me and my mat. No props, please!

I would still recommend you to practice with Usha Devi whenever you have the opportunity to do so.

It doesn't matter if you are into Iyengar Yoga or not, you can learn so much from her.  She is an amazing teacher with a big heart and a vast experience.

Hatha Yoga with Surinder Singh


Surinder Singh Yoga Rishikesh

After practicing Iyengar Yoga with Usha Devi I joined Surinder Singh's yoga classes at his yoga school called Swasti Yoga.

This was my second time practicing yoga with Surinder Singh.  The first time I practiced yoga with Surinderji was back in 2011.

Surinder is one of my favorite yoga teachers in India.  I always suggest him to anybody who asks me for a yoga teacher recommendation in Rishikesh.

He is a very gentle, kind and compassionate teacher. He has a very calm and positive vibe, and his classes are appropriate for all levels.

When I was in Surinder's class, after a week of Iyengar yoga, I thought to myself, "Yeah, this is definitely my style of yoga." This is the style of yoga that I like to practice and that I like to teach.

Yoga Philosophy with Siddhartha Krishna


After two weeks of practicing yoga with Surinder, it was time for the main event of my stay in Rishikesh.

I joined Siddhartha Krishna, Usha Devi's son, for an eight-day intensive yoga philosophy course at Omkarananda Patanjala Yoga Kendra. That was the main reason why I had decided to visit Rishikesh.

Yoga Philosophy Siddhartha Krishna

We studied the second chapter of Patanjali Yoga Sutras. Four hours per day for eight days! I loved it.

It was not easy to sit crossed legged on the floor for so long though, especially since I was also doing my one-hour meditation practice and one-hour pranayama practice before class.

By the fourth day, I had to do my meditation sitting on a chair, with an extra pillow. I had so much pain on my butt and legs! Lol

Before starting this philosophy course, while I was practicing yoga with Usha Devi and Surinderji, I spent several hours a day studying the yoga sutras on my own.

I wanted to memorize the whole second chapter before starting the course with Siddhartaji. And I did! I memorized all 55 sutras. That definitely helped me a lot during the course.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to review them since, so by now, I've forgotten them all. But I know they will come back without much effort whenever I study them again.

Fulfilling my vision


Another thing that I was able to do during this trip to Rishikesh was to interview Surinder Singh and Siddhartha Krishna. That was really exciting for me.

I feel particularly proud of Surinder's interview. It turned out quite all right, especially considering that this was my very first video interview.

What is most rewarding about all of this, is that this is exactly what I intended to do during my stay in Rishikesh.

Every single thing that I did during this visit was everything that I had visualized in my mind, several months or perhaps even years before.

Well, everything except for one thing.

My plan was also to interview Usha Devi. Unfortunately, I procrastinated too much. By the time I approached her, she was too busy preparing for a trip. She wouldn't return before I had left Rishikesh.

To be honest I procrastinated because I was a bit intimidated by her. Like BKS Iyengar, she can also have a strong temperament, you know. Lol.

But when I asked her if she would like to be interviewed she was instead very sweet and friendly. She promised me that we will have that interview next time I'm in Rishikesh.

I have no idea when that might happen but if you want to make sure you won't miss that interview you can subscribe to my newsletter right here.

Traveling from Rishikesh back to Mysore


After Rishikesh, I made my way straight back to Mysore. I say back to Mysore because I was in Mysore from the 6th of September until the 1st of October when I first traveled to Rishikesh.

During that time I was practicing Ashtanga yoga with Vijay Kumar and I was also studying the yoga sutras of Patanjali on my own.

By the way, if you wonder how to get from Rishikesh to Mysore or vice versa, here is my itinerary:

First a 35 min taxi from Rishikesh to Dehradun Airport. Then a flight from Dehradun to Delhi. Then a second flight from Dehli to Bangalore and finally the four-hour Flybus from Bangalore to Mysore.

That was much better than my trip from Mysore to Rishikesh. For some reason, I had decided to take a six-hour bus from Delhi to Rishikesh. Why would I do that?

Yeah, you can save some money but I tell you, it is horrible to move from Rishikesh airport to the Kashmere Bus terminal. That's another hour right there if you move by metro. If you go by taxi it could take even longer.

It's far better to fly to Dehradun and then take a 35 min taxi ride to Rishikesh.

You can book in advanced the Flybus from Bangalore to Mysore, or from Mysore to Bangalore, directly online on the KSRTC website.  I've used it many times without any problems at all.

Make sure you create an account.  It will make it easier if you ever need to cancel a ticket.

Interviewing Kushal Ram


The first thing I did when I returned to Mysore, after recovering from that long trip, was to interview my friend Kushal Ram, an Ashtanga yoga teacher in Lakshmipuram.

Interview Kushal Ram

I knew I wouldn't have time to interview him later cause I was going to start another yoga course in a couple of days.

Kushal is such a great teacher.

Many of friends, who are long term yoga practitioners, practice now with him and they all love his classes. I often heard only positive comments about Kushal.

Pranayama and Pranavashya with Vinay Kumar


The next day after the interview with Kushal I joined Vinay Kumar's yoga classes for one month. I wanted to practice with him pranayama and Pranavashya.

Vinay Kumar Yoga Mysore

Pranavashya is Vinay's own yoga style.

I had been wondering about this Pranavashya method since I interviewed Vinay Kumar in March 2014. Many of my friends praise Vinay's teaching skills.  He is definitely a master teacher.

But guess what. I didn't like Pranavashya. Nothing wrong with it, but it is just not my style of yoga. It was a bit too fast paced for my taste. I prefer slower movements, and taking the time to explore each posture.

On the other side, his pranayama class is amazing. This was my second time practicing pranayama with Vinay and I can't wait to do it again.

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga with Vijay Kumar


After one month of pranayama and Pranavashya, I went back to Ashtanga yoga with my teacher Vijay Kumar. In total, I practiced with him for three months.

Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy my Ashtanga practice that much.

I've been struggling with body inflammation for a while now. Sometimes the pain in my muscles and joints really gets on the way. I was hoping that sticking to a daily practice would help, but it didn't.

I know some people would say, "This is part of the practice. Keep practicing." I've heard that many times and you know what... I'm so over it.

Yes, I do know that Ashtanga yoga can be healing. I have experienced the benefits of it myself.

I remember the good days when I could feel that inner fire burning all toxins from my body. I would sweat rivers even in the cold days. I was feeling so strong and flexible at that time.

That has been my motivation to return to Ashtanga yoga, but today it's a different story. I have not been able to get back to that state no matter what.

During these three months, I couldn't sweat even during the hottest days, while everybody else was dripping sweat all over the yoga shala.

My body is telling me that this practice is not good for me at the moment. I will return to it later on or practice it whenever I feel more comfortable. For now, I'll just focus on some gentle hatha yoga.

After all these years of being a nomad, I know that what my body needs is homemade food. This is actually the main reason why I stayed in Mysore for so long.

I knew I could find in Mysore a decent and affordable room with kitchen. I tried to cook as much as I could for myself, while at the same time keeping up with a regular workout routine.

Enjoying some social life in Mysore


Mysore might not feel like a very spiritual place to me, but it is definitely a great place to connect with other fellow spiritual seekers who are following a similar path.

I was not as sociable as in my previous stays in Mysore. I had a busy schedule, as you will read soon, but from time to time I did enjoy the company of friends.

It is always great to meet up with good old yogi friends and to make some new friends along the way. Those are the kind of experiences that leave beautiful unforgettable memories.

Living like a nomad for so long has taught me to appreciate and value those moments.



I was also invited to my first Indian wedding while in Mysore.

I actually can't believe that after so many years visiting India this was the first time I was invited to an Indian wedding. It is the most common experience travelers have even during their first trip to India.

And this wedding was really special. It was the wedding of two friends, a couple who practice ashtanga yoga at the same shala where I practice.

So the whole group was at the wedding, even our teacher, Vijay Kumar.

Indian Wedding Mysore

And guess what. A few weeks later my local neighbor invited me to her own wedding. I never had a wedding before and now I had two! Go figure.

Why I felt more productive in Rishikesh


Another thing that I was planning to do while in Mysore was to continue studying the yoga sutras of Patanjali. But somehow I couldn't manage. Keeping up with my daily sadhana, going to classes, working out and cooking took me a very long time.

This is probably why I feel as if I didn't learn much or as if my stay in Mysore was not that productive.

I feel as if I did a lot more in one month in Rishikesh compared to those five months in Mysore.

Had I managed to continue studying the yoga sutras, and memorize another chapter, I would feel much better about my time in Mysore, I think.

But ok, to be fair with myself, there is something else that I did during all this time, which is actually really important to me.

That is, sharing my yoga journey with you, via my blog and my vlog.

I just feel really passionate about it. I love to share my experiences and to provide valuable information to other seekers like you.

And it really takes a lot of time, believe me. Actually, this is where I've been spending most of my time lately. It is the work I love to do.

I spent probably over forty hours in each of those interviews. Especially the interview with Dr. Ashutosh of Inteyoga, which I published recently. I explain why in my last vlog.

Yeah, think about it. Editing the videos, adding subtitles, thumbnails, writing the content for my blog, editing photos, etc., etc. Lot of work, but real fun work.

This is why I wrote, long ago, in my about me page:

"I feel passionate about blogging and about sharing my path. I love every aspect of blogging, the writing, and the technical part. 
Today it has become part of my sadhana and my dharma. I learn by writing and I write about whatever I've learned."

Thinking about this makes me feel better about my yoga journey during this last six months in India. I might have not done everything I wanted to do, but I did everything I had to do and everything I was able to do.

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Studying Yoga with BNS Iyengar


Oh, and there is one last thing I did during my last month in Mysore. I had the opportunity to study yoga for one month with the living legend, guruji BNS Iyengar. That was the best experience during those five months.

But I will tell you more about that experience in my next blog. So, if you don't want to miss it make sure you subscribe to my newsletter here. Once you subscribe you'll be able to download my free meditation e-book.

  Update.  Here it is! Learning the Secrets of Yoga with BNS Iyengar in Mysore.

Let me know what you think about these experiences. Is this something that you would like to do or that you have already done? Feel free to share a bit about your own yoga journey in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

5 comments:

  1. Namaste. Thanks for your article, Marco. We're looking at going to Rishikesh around September. I was thinking about taking the bus from Delhi (I did 15 years ago) but I am now rethinking it. Now it's just a matter of choosing one or 2 ashrams for our 2 month stay.

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    1. Yes I've done that so many times. Well, if I was staying in Delhi for a few days I would probably try to go by bus. Is not that bad then. But this time I was traveling all the way from Mysore, taking already a 4 hours bus and a flight. Far easier to fly from Delhi to Dehradun then. I hope you'll enjoy your stay in Rishikesh :-) Good luck.

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  2. Hi Marco. I enjoy reading your posts, everything has been extremely helpful! What's the average class size like at Vijay's? And is it possible to practice with him and Vinay simultaneously? I was on his website looking for the daily schedule but couldn't find it.

    Thanks so much in advance!
    Celene

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    1. Hi Celene, thanks for taking the time to read my blog. The class size depends on the month. High season is going to be from October till January, so bigger group size.

      I think last season there were about 40 to 50 people. But not everybody comes at the same time, only on Sundays during the led class, so you could have classes of 20 or 30 people. July, August and September is less crowded.

      You can practice with Vijay ashtanga in the mornings and then with Vinay pranayama around 10 am I think, and you could also do Vinay's evening backbending yoga class, but I don't think you'll be able to practice Pranavashya cause that is usually in the morning.

      Vinay's class starts around 5:30 am and people come anytime from 5:30 am till 8 am depending on the level. Vijay will tell you at what time to come. If you start at 8 am you might be finishing around 10 am.

      I hope this helps 😊🙏

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  3. Namaste' Marco , I'm planning my trip to Mysore this Dec.? so which airport should I book my ticket ? Delhi?
    and then how to get to Mysore ?

    Tnx a lot

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