Last Updated on June 3, 2023 by Ellen
A beautiful town at the foot of the Indian Himalayas draws yoga students and teachers from many different countries. Fate/karma/destiny directed me to a unique yoga school in Rishikesh once we arrived for our second month-long stay.
Set on the banks of the holy Ganges River, Rishikesh is filled with Hindu pilgrims, along with hundreds of yoga schools and teachers, yoga retreats and centers. There are many ashrams in Rishikesh for spiritual seekers after “truth.”
Indian tourists also go to Rishikesh for adventure sports like whitewater rafting. Even rafting on the holy river feels spiritual in this special place – even if you’re not Hindu.
But Westerners like me long to visit Rishikesh as a destination for spiritual growth and physical exploration. Once we get here, we are hooked.
Unique yoga hall in Rishikesh
Even in ‘low season’, there are plenty of options for daily drop-in yoga classes. I found mine at a unique yoga school inside a compound called “Ramana’s Garden.” Ramana’s is a children’s home for at-risk kids. These kids come from backgrounds that are truly the poorest of the poor. These kids were nearly doomed for a future of manual labor or begging.
Ramana’s Garden has a school, organic gardens, a seasonal organic cafe, and a yoga school and meditation hall. It is a quiet, peaceful oasis in the hills of the Tapovan neighborhood of Rishikesh. I hear exotic birds singing and see goats foraging when I attend my yoga class.
On my way to the yoga hall, I pass happy cows wandering the narrow alleys in the early morning cool. In the compound, I pass by Ramana’s children on their way to school. Many of them are former street kids who might otherwise have been filthy and who might have heartbreakingly begged me for money. Instead: they are clean and smiling. They look healthy with a sense of purpose in their school outfits.
And what makes my yoga instructor so special to me: Prema is a former Ramana’s Garden resident. She’s one of the lucky kids who was brought to the refuge and given a chance. She received a safe place to live, an education, proper nutrition, health care and more – all thanks to global citizens who made generous donations.
Now she has a master’s degree and is teaching in the ‘yoga capital’ of the world! Prema is a success story. She is beautiful inside and out. I’m honored this old soul is my teacher.
An excellent story ☸💜
The kids at Ramana’s Garden either have no parents, or they have a single parent who could not possibly provide basic care for their child. These are the children from lower castes.
I love India, but it is tough to love her unconditionally. The privileged elite use the lower castes for dirty work that has to get done. The caste system, from my view as an outsider, seems to be a modern form of socially acceptable slave labor.
The woman who founded Ramana’s Garden is American. She’s a former actress who came to Rishikeshh seeking a spiritual experience. I’ve watched some videos in which Dr. Prabhavati Dwaba gives interviews about the history of Ramana’s. ‘These children will never have to carry bricks on their heads,’ she says in a documentary. YES!
I’m so happy I was guided to this special place. The daily drop-in yoga class I take with my teacher Prema is an incredible value.
Yoga class info
It is now ‘low season’, and there are not many people in the daily drop-in classes. Lucky me! Most days I have Prema all to myself. That’s a true blessing because I’m a serious beginner. I cannot believe I haven’t done yoga before 51 years old – and I cannot believe how stiff I am!
In Rishikesh, the going rate for a drop-in class is almost always 300 rupees ($3.65). I tip well in gratitude for my young teacher with an old soul.
In contrast, drop-in classes in the USA range from $10 – $20 and they are usually packed. (I went twice before our travel lifestyle.) Private lessons range anywhere from $30 to $70!
If you need of a great yoga teacher, Prema’s contact information is on the sign in the picture below. You can take one of her classes when you are in Rishikesh. Or, contact her about online possibilities for private instruction and the cost if you’re outside of India.
She works with beginners, intermediate and advanced levels. Prema is patient, efficient, helpful, upbeat, knowledgeable. I cannot recommend her highly enough.