In 1968, The Beatles, an internationally acclaimed band of musicians, visited Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram where they composed numerous songs during their stay. The sudden popularity of the place brought other artists like Mike Love, The Beach Boys, Donovan and Gyp Mills. This small exposure to the world gave Rishikesh the opportunity to showcase the power of Yoga and introduce more straightforward methods to attain a meaningful life. Today numerous places in Rishikesh are filled with ashrams, some being very ancient.
Located at Ram Jhula near the main road, stands the majestic Sivananda Ashram which was founded by Swami Sivananda and is run by the Divine Life Society. Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj in 1948 formally established it. Free yoga and meditation classes along with free accommodations and food are only available to those severe spiritual seekers who apply a month in advance. The Academy at this Rishikesh Ashram conducts three courses in a year, each of two months duration - First course (March to April), Second course (May to June) and Third course (September to October).
Lying on the holy banks of Mother Ganga with accommodation of 1,000 rooms on its eight-acre campus, Parmarth Niketan is one of the top yoga centres in India and the most prominent ashrams in Rishikesh. Two yoga classes and three meals daily cost 300 rupees per person. The daily activities include universal morning prayers, yoga, and meditation classes, Satsang and lecture programs, kirtan and the famous Ganga Aarti at sunset. The ashram teaches yoga, Vedic heritage and spirituality and also provides teacher training courses. Staying in the ashram will bring a unique change in your system where you'll be surrounded by sacred energies, including those that spread from nature.
3. Sadhana Mandir and Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama Ashram
Sadhana Mandir was founded in 1966 by Swami Rama as an international retreat centre to practice meditation. Later, Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama was founded by Swami Veda Bharati, who was a disciple of Swami Rama. The Himalayan way of meditation is the focus of teaching here which is 5000 years old, and the methods are scientific, systematic and inward-directed. There are many activities at this Rishikesh Ashram some of which include programs in meditation, self- transformation, silent retreats, the art of living and yoga psychology. Spiritual guidance is available for those aspirants seeking instruction in meditation.
4. Omkarananda Ganga Sadan
Omkarananda Ganda Sadan is home to Patanjala Yoga Kendra yoga centre which was established in 1993. Located in the Muni-ki-Reti area of Rishikesh, it holds a magnificent view next to the holy waters of Ganga. The kind of yoga that is taught here is Iyengar Yoga which is guided by world-renowned Shri Guruji, B.K.S. Iyengar. Guruji's method is based on the Indian tradition of Yoga which focuses on strength and stamina, flexibility and balance, concentration and meditation. This ashram at Rishikesh hold lectures on the Bhagavad Gita, and aarti is performed here daily.
5. Yoga Niketan
Yoga Niketan was established by Swami Yogeshwaranand Paramahans (formally known as Vyas Devji) who was one of the renowned Yogis of the 20th century. It is located in the Muni-Ki-Reti area of Rishikesh, and the teachings are based on an eightfold path as per the Patanjali yoga shastra. The doors of peace are open to all without any discrimination of caste, creed, gender or nationality. However, children who are below 12 years old are not permitted to stay within this Rishikesh Ashram. The room rates start from 500 rupees per day, per person, for Indians and 900 rupees for foreigners. The minimum requirement to stay is 15 days for any course. It also has a commercially-run guesthouse that's available for the ones staying for a short period.
6. Shree Mahesh Heritage Meditation School
As the name suggests, the focus in Shree Mahesh Heritage Meditation School is more on meditation than yoga, and it lives up to its expectations providing 300 hours of yoga classes. It includes a meditation teacher training course, as well as meditation retreats and meditation for beginner's courses. The founder of this institution is Ram Gupta who has a degree in Nature Cure Science and a Master's Degree in Yoga and Meditation and 20 years of experience in India and abroad. The schoolmasters in teaching Vedic texts, yoga, Ayurveda, life healing, and spiritual development. The school also a unique non-residential Health Supportive Lifestyle Program that educates its students about proper diet, exercise and other habits.
7. Swami Dayananda Ashram
This tranquil ashram in Rishikesh was founded in 1960 by the eminent personality Swami Dayananda Saraswati, who is an internationally recognised teacher of Vedanta and foremost scholar of Sanskrit. The ashram hosts a library which is a repository of knowledge with more than 5000 titles on various subjects like Vedanta, Sanskrit Grammar, Indian and western philosophies, religion and yoga. Regular residential courses are conducted with a primary focus on Bhagavad Gita along with ten principal Upanishads and Vedic chanting. Swami Dayananda Ashram is vast and has 150 rooms. However, such facilities are provided for course students only as the ashram doesn't run a guesthouse.
8. Phool Chatti Ashram
In the late 1800's, Sri Devi Dayal Ji Maharaj founded Phool Chatti Ashram in Rishikesh. Since 1977, Phool Chatti has been under the care and guidance of its present Swami Ji, Swami Dev Swarup Nanda Ji. The ashram is famous and unique for its seven-day yoga and meditation program. The teachings are different other institution as it mainly focuses on the yogic path and ashram life. Students experience meditation, breathing (pranayama), chanting, Mauna (silence), Pooja (worship), kirtan (sacred singing), and other essential aspects.
9. Anand Prakash AshramAnand Prakash is the brainchild of Yogrishi Vishvketu, founded in 2007 in the hilly region of Tapovan. Serene surroundings and river Ganga flowing on the side makes it an ideal residential setting for spiritual enthusiasts. You can attend the morning and evening sessions of Akhanda Yoga without any extra cost. They have three main training programs, YTT 100, YTT 200 and YTT 300. During peak season, it remains jam-packed. Prior bookings are advised to avoid last minute disappointments.
You can drop in for the yoga session at a small cost of INR 300 per session (if you decide to skip the accommodation) and INR 500 for a session with Yogrishi Vishvketu. You’ll be getting 3 meals a day and a cosy library to stack up your knowledge on the age-old practice. Yogis staying at the ashram follow a silence period post 9 PM until breakfast. Ashram also offers a 12 hour (9 AM - 9 PM) wi-fi access period and laundry services at minimal costs. Cost of the room is INR 1200 per day for shared occupancy.
10. Himalayan Yog AshramAnother gem situated in Tapovan, north of Lakshman Jhula is Himalayan Yog Ashram. Founded in 2012 by Yogi Ram, this small Ashram is known for stunning surroundings and enriching yoga sessions. Like many ashrams, it follows a disciplined routine that yogis are asked to follow. The day begins at 5:30 AM with pranayama and is followed by a combination of Hatha Yoga and meditation sessions. A silence period from 9 PM onwards till 5:30 AM is observed in the ashram.
Check-in is allowed only on Monday and you are required to stay for a minimum of 6,13, 20 or 27 nights. Charges for the rooms include 3-time meals, daily practise sessions, bedsheets, duvets, heater/air conditioner and attached bathrooms with running hot water. You can also book extra sessions for Yoga therapy and Ayurvedic treatments. Charges differ for single and shared rooms depending on the duration slot of your stay.
11. Osho Gangadham AshramFew kilometres away from Lakshman Jhula is another yoga-centric ashram, Osho Gangadham. Situated on the bank of Ganga, it is surrounded by nature on all four sides. You can choose from tons of options; dormitories, single rooms, shared rooms and with/without air conditioning. A pure vegetarian meal is served for the visitors and is included in the cost of the room.
Gangadham is famous for Osho’s meditation rituals. You can choose from dynamic, dance or kundalini meditation exercises and which start as early as 6:30 am. Regular evening satsangs are organised in the main hall which you can join free of cost. There are many camps and retreats organised every month for yoga enthusiasts. If you happen to visit the ashram during that time, make sure to pre-book your seat.
Peace of mind is priceless wealth which even the richest cannot afford. These ashrams in Rishikesh heal the human soul making it stronger to accept challenges in their daily life. An opportunity as such should be not be missed as it helps in the purgation of the soul.