There is something very special about being able to return to something we know and do currently, back to where it began. The Indus-Sarasvati in Northern India practiced yoga more than 5,000 years ago. The word “yoga” appears in sacred Rig Veda texts filled with Brahmans’ and Vedic priests’ mantras and rituals. The practice has come a long way and survived and thrived through many reincarnations. Researching my new book Do You Do Yoga: Health Benefits of 150 Different Yoga Practices I identified more than 150 variations in use today.
Here are two very different options for you to consider as opportunities for total yoga immersion. The first time I saw Parmarth Niketan, I thought it looked more like a Disneyland theme park than a holy Himalayan ashram with its 1,000 rooms and eight-acre campus on the Ganges River. Visiting here offers total immersion in daily Hindu ritual ceremonies including universal morning prayers, yoga, meditation, kirtan (storytelling and performance), and satsang (meeting with a guru).
Costs vary according to room standards and views; extremely inexpensive for most Americans, with starting rates as low as about $20 a day, including two yoga classes and three meals. They offer many different classes including a beginner yoga classes; Vedic spirituality and history; and an International Yoga Festival. The Ganga Aarti is held every evening at sunset on the Ganges as an offering to the Goddess Ganga. It is an elaborate ceremony culminating in the launching of a candle surrounded by flowers, which floats away down the Ganges, the holiest river in India.
Valerie, age 65, from Princeton, New Jersey says, “I do recommend checking out your assigned room before officially registering and paying because there is a wide range of options. For me, being there is like finding heaven on earth. I have been practicing yoga for more than twenty years, but after visiting India, now I really DO yoga.
Another fascinating option is to try out Jungle Yoga Immersion. Here you’ll be surrounded by nature in the Sahayadri Hills Forest, two kilometers from Amboli, living the yogic lifestyle (with toilets and shower accommodations) in a tent, 2500 feet above sea level (which means no mosquitoes). The asanas, pranayamas and meditations taught enhance the experience.
Check the weather forecast before making any plans. Amboli is one of the greatest places on earth to experience the monsoon, which could be a wild, wet, and wonderful adventure. The height of the tourist season is December through February with cool and comfortable temperatures. Monsoon season is June to September.
The cost per day is about $50 including vegetarian meals and purified natural spring water for 3 to 7 days. Enjoy basic modern day conveniences while living in the jungle and learning ancient yogic rituals.
There is also an advanced Jungle Yoga Retreat for five to ten days with “guided jungle walks, bird watching, jungle survival skills, study of the jungle flora and fauna, in-depth study of medicinal plants with local forest tribe; and evening bonfire discussions on topics including karma, reincarnation or narration of stories from Indian mythology, epics and festivals.” Namaste.
For more information contact:
Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Main Market Road, Near Ram Jhula, Swarg Ashram, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand 249304, India; +91 135 243 4301; http://www.parmarth.org/ashram/