Culture

Why You Should Go Bliss Out in Rishikesh, Birthplace of Yoga – and the White Album

Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, beside the Ganges, the stunning town of Rishikesh has generations of knowledge to share on yoga, wellness and spirituality. Just ask The Beatles.

Rishikesh Yoga

Photo by Mikhail Ivannikov/mishamif’s Images/Canva

By Neil Armstrong

Feb 2, 2022

Wellness

IN FEBRUARY 1968, THE BEATLES embarked on their journey to Rishikesh to study transcendental meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Up to this point, India hadn’t been a mainstream destination for foreign tourists. But that all changed once The Beatles arrived and started extolling its virtues. 

If you’re aiming for a place of rejuvenation, with a well-deserved dose of reverence, point your compass to this northern Indian city. Gateway to the spirit-laden Himalayas and the birthplace of yoga, Rishikesh been a place of meditation for hundreds of years, with the Holy Ganges River (known domestically as the Ganga) winding its way through the town.

With alcohol and non-vegetarian food banned, temptations to stray from a path of enlightenment are curtailed. The Beatles famously stayed in an ashram here—but selective travelers, fear not, as Rishikesh is also home to luxury hotels for those seeking spirituality in comfort.

While this area embodies health and wellness, the variety and diversity of offerings, along with the remarkable surroundings, make Rishikesh unique. This place is built on authenticity and balance.

The Beatles wrote more than 30 songs in India, including most of the ones of their iconic “White Album.” It was the most productive songwriting time in the group’s career. The trip also spawned tunes that appeared throughout John and Paul’s solo careers. George Harrison, for his part, entranced with sitar maestro Ravi Shankar’s skills, later returned to India to learn the instrument from the master.

If Rishikesh can inspire musical geniuses like The Beatles into creative overdrive, that’s a good omen for us regular folk whose morning burst of creativity may barely extend to ordering a cup of coffee coherently. Here are our picks of the best places to immerse in the full yoga-wellness-nature Rishikesh experience, from luxury hotels to an awesome ashram.

Ananda

We can’t think of a more pampering place to seek rejuvenation than a former Maharaja’s stately summer palace. At Ananda, the thread counts are as high as the post-yoga bliss levels, and there’s everything from intense healing courses to golf lessons on offer.  

On a hill overlooking Rishikesh and the Ganges, Ananda is a perfect spot to better, treat, or rejuvenate your body and mind. The wellness programs run five to 21 nights, while the foundation courses start at five nights and cover stress management, holistic detox, and yoga. The comprehensive programs, which need a minimum seven-night stay, include yogic detox, chronic pain management, Dhyana meditation, and more.

anandaspa.com; seven nights, double occupancy in a Deluxe Palace View Room, with a Comprehensive Wellness program, from US$1,000.

Taj Rishikesh Resort & Spa

A little deeper into Himalayan foothills and further up the Ganges you’ll find the Taj Rishikesh Resort & Spa, from the luxury hotels brand that’s consistently a T+L reader favorite. Designed to blend into its mountainous surroundings, this beautiful hideaway has a private pebbled beach by the Holy River, making it a perfect spot to meditate and de-stress.

At night the stars appear tantalizingly close, thanks to the utter lack of light pollution. The interiors of the resort’s public areas are decorated with local materials found in nearby villages.

The wellness sanctuary, spa, and yoga pavilion take a holistic approach. The two-hour Yoga treatment focuses on body posture, breathing techniques, and meditation. Beyond that, numerous massage and wellness packages offer everything from natural Indian herb body wraps to energy channeling. A couples’ therapy program including a bottle of champagne is available for those who believe bubbles are good for the soul.

Courtesy of Taj Rishikesh (3)

A spirit-stimulating experience here is the Ganga Aarti, the riverside evening prayers and ceremony paying homage to the Holy Ganga. Surrounded by nature with your feet being washed by one of the most revered waters on Earth is a great way to end the day.

tajhotels.com/en-in/taj/taj-rishikesh; seven nights, double occupancy in a Deluxe Room with a covered balcony overlooking the Ganges, and breakfast, from US$2,350; wellness experiences start at US$110.

As beautiful as the surroundings are in Rishikesh, it’s the wealth and diversity of yoga knowledge and techniques, and the concentrated number of revered teachers (yogis) that attracts many. You can’t unfurl a mat in this town without hitting an ashram.

Yoga courses are available in multiple disciplines, with everything from beginners to aspiring yogis keen to complete 100- or 200-hour courses to qualify as teachers. The Beatles ashram is currently closed (though plans for a museum are in the works) but Rishikesh has plenty of others offering accommodations from spartan to comfortable, with the focus on gaining experience and knowledge, rather than relaxation.

Many of the better-known yogis do conduct courses all over the world but use Rishikesh as their base. So, students flock here for the authentic Indian experience, and to be around like-minded souls.

Om Yoga Rishikesh

Yogi Suryans Thakur (aka Sunil) has traveled far and wide and is highly regarded in the yoga world. He runs Om Yoga Rishikesh and focuses on a combination of Iyenger and Hatha yoga to cultivate proper body alignment, deliver clarity of mind, and heal the body.

omyogarishikesh.com/index.html; 10-day yoga courses are US$750 with food and accommodation, US$550 without; 100- and 200-hour teacher-training courses also available.

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