In the Beginning…
I visited Rishikesh last March. It was my second visit. My main purpose of this visit was International Yoga Festival (IYF) Rishikesh 2018 because my guru and founders of Jivamukti Yoga, Sharon ji and Jules ji were going to join this Festival. They were going to teach Jivamukuti yoga almost every day. I started planning this trip at the end of 2017 as I came to know my yoga friends are also in Rishikesh and Mari sensei (also teaching at Nami Yoga Studio) agreed to join me.
I sometime hear people say “You go to India when India calls you.” I wasn’t sure what this really meant, but I decided to go to India again anyway. When I travel abroad alone, I get really nervous about my safety. With my bravery and charm, I overcame the difficulties and worries. Smile is a universal language. Also, saying “Thank you” with gratitude and “I’m sorry” when I did something wrong are also universal. Especially when I can’t communicate with language, these helped me to understand one another.
Our Journey to Rishikesh, India
We arrived at Indira Gandhi International Airport in the morning, the flight was delayed about an hour and a half. Our taxi driver was waiting for us patiently and we felt at ease when we found him. Now our long road trip to Rishikesh started. It took about 7 hours including 1 hour break for the lunch. If you are not a road-trip-type-of-person, I strongly recommend you to take the domestic flight from New Delhi. If you can enjoy the sight from car window or chatting with the local driver, you will probably enjoy this long drive.
Cars, Cows, and People
The sun was setting when we arrived in Rishikesh. We soon walked to Ganga river to see the sun sets as soon as we dropped our luggage at the hotel. The Ganga River flows through Rishikesh. We use one of the two bridges that crosses over the Ganga. Ramjura Bridge is the closest one to our hotel so we passed that one every day. A lot of people walk or ride a bike over the bridge. Riding a boat is another option. There are a lot of shops near the bridge. Restaurants, cafés along with stores that sell clothes, fruits, drugstore, several goods, books, yoga, mala, jewelry and so on. They sell in stores, on the streets with a simple table, rug, or cart. The streets get really busy with cars, rickshaws cows, pigs, and horses. We often meet monkeys, dogs and other animals when we’re strolling along. Cows, who are considered gods in India, are sitting alongside people. They usually come along when you’re munching on food.
International Yoga Festival
Our main purpose at Rishikesh was joining the IYF between March 1st to 7th. The event was held at Parmarth Niketan Ashram. We stayed on the opposite side of the Ganga from Parmarth Niketan Ashram, but many people including teachers were staying at Parmarth Niketan Ashram as it has accommodation service in expansive grounds. The yoga class started from 4am all the way up to 9pm. You have to manage your own schedule as the choices are countless. There were also multiple events going on at the same time, including speeches, workshops, and concerts. There were only two types of tickets: 1-day pass and 7-day pass.
Rishikesh becomes more vibrant during the festival as many people gather from all over the world. During the event, we were able to experience another festival called Happy Holi, which took place on March 2nd. On March 1st, people in Rishikesh started gathering and start the festivity a day early. One guy was making big fire to pray for Happy Holi and we sat near the fire to keep us warm. More people joined us to give their prayers. The climate was almost as same as that of Tokyo but when the sun is strong we can be with T-shirt and the air in the morning and night was chilly. You hear music when you get up early in the morning, most of those are sanskrit mantra, singing voices and other voices of prayer. In day time, you hear more sounds of bike and horn.
If you get tired to walk or want to go where that’s too far to walk, it’s good idea to ride a rickshaw. You can get on a rickshaw from rickshaw parking near the bridge or catch one on the street. Personally, I recommend to catch one on the street because you can get on for cheaper. Usually, you share the rickshaw with other people. Now you’re on, how do you get off? The best way is to tell them a major landmark. People ride on and off at the point where they want. Just note that it you get on from Rickshaw parking with small number of people, you have to pay more. 7 to 8 people can ride on at once.
More about International Yoga Festival
The highlight of this year’s IYF was to meet Dalai Lama and vice president of India. Unfortunately, Dalai Lama didn’t show up in front of people, but a lot of people gathered to pay respect. I heard he was not in good condition. On a different day, a person from Shinto Japan was introduced to people. Night time was usually very energetic with live music and dancing. There are enough events to keep you busy at the ashram, but you can also walk around town or join other yoga studios in the area.
In the Ashram, there was buffet throughout the day. It’s only available for people who purchased the festival ticket. There are also cafes and restaurants in town that you can visit. There are all sorts of variety from Indian to Western food including fruit bowls, porridge, and snacks.
I hope you get an image of what Rishikesh is like!
As a child, I’ve always loved chai. My father would drink it every morning and I would have a sip of it. Today, it makes me happy that my kids love it, too. I’m sure there’s the caffeine concern, but I use decaf or smaller amount of tea leaves when I make it for the kids.
Another way to go is to scratch the tea leaves completely and make spice milk. The spices used in chai have many benefits, especially on the digestive system.
Spices and Benefits
Ginger is known to sooth upset stomach and promote the digestive fire. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory, lowering swelling and pain that comes from poor diet or even stress. I recommend to keep the skin on while chopping or grading to maximize the nutritious value.
Cinnamon balances blood sugar levels and kills harmful yeast in fungus in the gut, increases energy, improves skin health and supports weight loss. It is said that less than one teaspoon is enough to see these benefits.
Cardamom is known to improves digestive functions and balance stomach acids. Similar to ginger, it reduces swelling and reduces pain and cramps. The spicy flavor you taste when drinking chai mainly comes from Cardamom. Even if you don’t have any other spices, just make sure you have this one!
Cloves have the property to dull pain associated with toothaches, headaches, joint pains and menstrual cramps. It also has anti-bacterial and anti-viral qualities making it a perfect ingredient to add during colder winters when we tend to get sick more often.
Peppercorn aids digestion and weight loss as it warms up the body. If available, I recommend getting the fresh, green peppercorns from local spice stores since it has natural oil that maximize its benefits in the digestive system.
Anise helps with upset stomach, intestinal gas, and runny nose. It also regulates mensuration, and reduces symptoms of menopause.
Sugar vs Honey
I recommend honey over sugar for the following reasons:
Less amount of honey required for same sweetness
Honey is slowly absorbed in the bloodstream, thus a healthier digestion process
Honey has more nutrients
Masala Chai Recipe
Makes 2-3 cups
3 cardamom pods (smashed)
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 teaspoon black peppercorns (green, fresh ones if possible)
1 piece fresh ginger (graded)
5 whole cloves (ground is ok)
1 piece star anise (optional)
2-3 teaspoons cheap loose black tea leaves
1 cup water
2 cups whole milk
Honey as you wish