The first few time I visited Rishikesh I was astounded by all the usual tourist activities, such as white water rafting on the Ganga River, trekking through the Himalaya mountains, and shopping for exotic handicrafts. Then, last year around this time I took a 200 hour yoga teaching training course and learned that Rishikesh has a lot of spiritual significance. People come from all around the world to not only learn all different kinds of yoga, but also mediation, Reiki, Ayurveda practices, Panchakarma, and much more. These are just a few of the spiritual aspects of Rishikesh that are changing the world one student or event at a time.
A Satsang is a spiritual gathering with a guru or swami. They are everywhere in Rishikesh. Typically they last for a couple of hours and “seekers” can ask questions for guidance. Generally attendees must take off their shoes before entering the ashram, and most of the time they sit on the floor while enjoying the teacher’s insights.
Aarti’s are regular occurrences at all the temples in Rishikesh. They are a powerful spiritual ritual that happen at dusk. Typically there is a lot of chanting, music, candle lighting, prayer, and other ceremonial things. Families often enjoy them together as part of their regular worship.
Kirtan’s are my favorite. They are a musical devotional gathering, sometimes spontaneous and other times planned, that generally include chanting or a sing-a-long with participants. They can be both formal or informal in nature.
Reiki is a Japanese healing practice consisting of 2 words, Rei and Ki, which mean spiritually guided life energy or Universal Life Energy. It’s an energy which exists inside of all of us, and all around us. Reiki is a type of spiritual healing channeled through the practitioner to the recipient. Reiki helps to bring harmony to the mind, body, and spirit through chakra alignment and other techniques.
Ayurveda and Panchakarma
Thousands of years before modern medicine, the sages of India established Ayurveda, which is the technique of healing based on the powerful mind-body health connection. More than a mere system of treating the symptoms of illness, Ayurveda is a science that uses only natural products and techniques. Panchakarma is the Ayurvedic method of detoxifying the body. It strengthens the immune system and restores a feeling of health and well-being. Panchakarma is a five-fold therapy process and is highly individualized based on the specific needs of the customer.
You’ll see lots of signs for these courses posted around Ram Jula and Laxman Jula, the learning epicenters of Rishikesh. Every morning seekers of knowledge grab their notebooks and yoga mats and make their way to their classes. The evenings are filled with sharing of ideas and insights with each other over a cup of tea. All this discovery creates a very special energy in Rishikesh that you can feel just walking or driving into the place. Rishikesh is a wonderful place of self-discovery and spiritual growth.