I was never a big fan of yoga, I nearly fainted when dragged once, a bit hungover, to Bikram and never went back but 6am yoga is encouraged at our ashram and who am I to ignore encouragement? 5am prayer is also encouraged but I find sometimes one can get bogged down with encouragement. Lotta breathing, lotta stretching, doubtlessly I’m not doing it right but whatever I am doing is fun and I do feel a little more bendy now so that’s nice. Yoga is just the tip of the spiritual iceberg that is Rishikesh- there are sound baths, om chants, gongs, mantras, gurus, and plenty of other ways to heal the spirit and be at one with yourself and mindful and peacful and all that. The river Ganga runs through the middle of this area and the way the people here behave towards her is inspiring, if everybody in the world showed this level of love and gratitude towards nature the world would be all lovely again. People seem to make time to sit on the ghats or beaches and look out into the water, they wash their faces and clothes and the braver ones their bodies-(its cold and there is one hell of a current so you have to hold onto a chain when you venture in) people pray to her and send flowers down in thanks, there is a ceremony every evening at sundown with monks and locals and tourists all saying thank you and of course more chanting. It is even common practice to fill a bottle with water from The Ganga and take it home to family members who couldn’t make the trip so they can get in on the spirituality she brings. The hills here have provided excellent hikes for us and there are waterfalls and streams and rock pools to jump in and have a little swim around, met by quite a few stares from the locals-to them it’s freezing, to us it’s warmer than any body of water we have at home and as Michael McIntyre would say it’s alrigt once you’re in.
The sacrifice for all this beauty and outdoorsiness is alcohol, fags and good food, but where’s the sacrifice when once made unavailable to me I no longer need, want or miss these things, spending a hangover free Christmas and new year is not only unheard of for me but is utterly refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable,made even more so by gorging on other peoples new year horror stories on fb in a smug sort of manner, having just gone for a jog post a 6am yoga session. This is not to say that next year I won’t be found passed out under a table/ puking in my handbag/ looking for my shoes/ stuck outside the club or a little combination of all the above, what I’m saying is when the temptation isn’t there to tempt me I am admirably and heroically no longer tempted.
The last thing and possibly my favourite thing about this town is the cows!!
Animals have been prolifant everywhere in India, cows, goats, pigs, dogs and monkeys literally just wander the streets snuffling for food, digging for food or snatching food from the hands of small children-(monkeys, actually quite scary close up and completely unafraid of humans) I did a bit of feeding of my furry little friends in Delhi and Rajasthan but here in Rishikesh we took it to a whole new level, fruit and veg is sold by farmers for very little so the dinner shop generally went one carrot for us, five for the cows, one broccoli for us, two for the cows and so on. Plus they ate up all the left overs and peelings which at home we criminally throw in the landfill bin. They did well out of us, so did the dogs. An added bonus for me is that although my sister is an animal lover like me she’s more of a love them from a distance type lover, I stand there handing out greens while cows, calfs and bulls surround me and lick my clothes, push me with their big heads and get a bit demanding- a little calf even jumped up on me to my delight although less fun was a massive cow trod on my foot, but anyway Anoushka did try and even made a little calf friend who followed her around for a bit but this meant so did the giant bulls with their horns which lead to a kind of panic throwing of the food and a running and ducking into a shop to hide type scenario. Food for the cows, entertainment for me. Every one wins in Rishikesh.