Yoga in Rishikesh - how to find good yoga teachers, schools and courses
Rishikesh is a place of hatha yoga and traditional yoga practices, so-called Classical yoga. If you want to practice yoga in India and do not want to limit yourself only to ashtanga or Iyengar yoga style, then Rishikesh is your destination.
It is a city with the largest number of yoga schools in India. Here you will find a blend of traditional yoga ashrams with less traditional yoga ashrams and new yoga schools created to satisfy the growing demand of foreign students. Here you can find teachers for any taste, any level of practice and any style, starting with classical yoga and including Kundalini, Iyengar, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Kriya, acro, Vini, aero yoga and many more. Rishikesh is the place where you can study traditional yogic practices that are rarely taught elsewhere, such as Shank prakshalana and other shatkarma cleanses.
Since the demand for yoga is very high, don’t expect that any single teacher is a yoga master or at least is involved and passionate about his practice. Many “teachers” are selling their classes as a product having little knowledge or interest in the yogic science per se. Along with that, Rishikesh does have many masters and knowledgeable teachers. Therefore, if your first yoga experience in India fails to meet your expectations, don't get disappointed - Rishikesh is a very diverse and rich place, and you can find what you came for, only the search might take you some time :)
To choose a good teacher for your study, it’s a good idea to read reviews of people that have practiced in Rishikesh before. More experienced travelers might consider the idea of coming to Rishikesh on their own, without booking any courses, and visit drop-in classes (one-time visits) of various teachers until you find the ones you really like.
At the same time, if you go to India for the first time, such independent traveling can be a quite risky business. Every year, more and more people come to Rishikesh, and it becomes growingly difficult to find a good room, especially in the peak seasons of October-November and February-April. Moreover, you need to deal with the initial cultural shock and get from the airport to Rishikesh on your own, which can be quite complicated and even risky, without adequate experience of independent traveling.
Indian chaos, new and unknown environment and uncertainty whether you can make it to Rishikesh on your own and even if you do, whether you will be able to find any accommodation there - all these factors can make your head spin at the thought of independent traveling. Therefore it is certainly easier to choose a course or retreat in some school, book a place there and be sure that you will be picked up at the airport, delivered to your school, provided accommodation and food. And then, after several days, having acclimatized to a new world, you can explore new opportunities. If you decide to act like this, first you need to choose a good school or retreat center. The best way to choose a school would be a word of mouth from your relatives or friends. But if you don’t have friends who have been to India to study yoga, the second best option would be read reviews on the Internet. It’s important to base your choice on reviews written on the independent resource like TopYogis, where owners of schools cannot edit or delete any reviews, just like it can be done on their own websites. The reviews posted on the websites might be real, but they’re not representative of average student opinion, as only positive feedbacks are published.
If you decided to get to Rishikesh on your own, as you might have some experience of traveling in Asia, then another good option would be to stay in an ashram for the first few days. Most of the ashrams have yoga and pranayama classes (though their quality can vary from ashram to ashram), and have a canteen, freeing you from the trouble of looking for restaurants or cafe for the first few days. You can use these couple of days to look around the town, find good cafes and restaurants, maybe find a good room (if you are not entirely happy about your ashram option), and get some recommendations about teachers. Very often, yoga classes in old ashrams like Yoga Niketan and Ved Niketan cost less than in other places - starting from 100 rupees, and sometimes the classes are conducted by ashram’s students, which can make the experience even more authentic. But again, you need to be lucky here also. Since Rishikesh currently is thriving as a yoga teaching place, most experienced teachers want to start their own business and teach in their own schools.
Choosing a teacher training course or retreat
If you want to book a nice teacher training course and feel lost in the sea of advertisement, read our recommendations on what to pay attention to while choosing a yoga teacher training course online. We have compiled them based on our own experience in booking yoga courses, studying in yoga courses, organizing yoga courses in India, and working "behind the scenes" in yoga courses organized by Indian teachers.
Choosing a teacher or a school
Sometimes, looking through TopYogis profiles, you will see on a page of a teacher or a school that they teach 50 styles of yoga. Instead of admiration, I would treat such profiles with skepticism. Sometimes teachers pick all the styles from the list so that more people could find them in style search. Thus they can pick styles developed by American, European or Russian yogis that they have no idea about. In this way, if you are looking for some teacher that knows exotic style like Yoga23, they might come up in the search. Sometimes the motivation is more simple. Picking the styles, the teacher might think "of course my yoga is universal" (and picks Universal yoga style developed in Ukraine), or "of course I know about alignment" (and picks Critical alignment yoga and therapy) although they have never practiced these particular styles. Unfortunately, we do not have capacities to verify proficiency of each teacher (although we try to do that), that's why you need to approach such profiles with skepticism or at least contact them and ask about their background in those styles.