One week at Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram
At 7.45am at the end of our 1 hour and 45 minute yoga class, the sound of “Ohm” resonated around the vault ceilinged hall at Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram. In theory, it was the first vocalisation any of us had made since 9pm the evening before. I’m not going to comment on how well some of us managed to keep to that rule…
Staying at an ashram had been high on my “India must-do” list. Chris, however, was less keen, concerned that he’d been spending his days in quiet prayer and meditation and shock-horror, chanting.
Fellow London yogi Helen joined us for this part of our trip. It’s thanks to her meticulous research that we found Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram in the village of Tapovan, Rishikesh. Rishikesh was made famous by the Beatles when they stayed at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram and wrote the White Album – more on that later.
Yoga style – It’s all a bit of a laugh isn’t it?
Akhanda yoga is practiced at Anand Prakash. This traditional and holistic approach to yoga was developed by co-owner, Yogi Vishvketu who is known for his joyful approach to teaching. Throughout his classes, we were encouraged to smile, no matter how challenging the postures were.
And on one memorable occasion the class developed into fits of laughter.
Laughing Yoga is a practice involving prolonged voluntary laughter and based on the belief that voluntary laughter provides the same physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter. When Vishvketu began giggling at the front of the class, it wasn’t long before contagious laughter gripped most participants. I must admit I felt great afterwards.
The Yoga Ashram routine
The day starts early. Rising at 5.15am, we would make our way to the yoga hall by 5.45am to find a spot (especially important if Yogi Vishvketu was running the class). We’d indulge in a little relaxation and meditation before class began at 6am.
Dinner was a 6pm and this was followed by Kirtan chanting. Chris stayed away and Helen and I weren’t particularly interested in this aspect of the practice either. Silence was observed from 9pm until after breakfast the next morning. Much to our surprise we found ourselves tucked up in bed exhausted and ready to sleep by 8.30pm most evenings.
Bed and Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
There are a number of simple double and triple rooms at the Ashram. For the complete experience, I’d advise anyone to try and score one, rather than staying at a local hotel. Not only is it more convenient, you are able to maintain a feeling of calmness and peace in the sanctuary of the ashram throughout your stay.
Meals were simple and delicious. Every morning we tucked into Ayurvedic herbal tea, homemade muesli or chickpeas. There were dates, fresh seasonal fruits and maybe parantha, uppama (a semolina porridge with raisins and coconut). If we were really lucky, fabulous banana samosas!
Lunch and dinner consisted of dahl, rice, chapatti and vegetable dishes. All of it, super tasty, healthy and nutritious. Some evenings we were treated to Kheer, an aromatic, sweet rice pudding and other sweet treats.
After eating we would pop any uneaten scraps in the compost bin and wash our dishes, ready for the next meal.
Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram was the perfect retreat for us. Even doubter Chris said one week was not enough. We left rejuvenated, refreshed and happily content.
Our stay cost us less that £10 a day each (I believe prices have increased slightly since our visit) and that included yoga, food and accommodation. We’re very tempted to return, though this time for a month.
Most of the photos in this post were taken by Helen. For more, check out her instagram feed.