a week in manali

As we were nearing the end of our month long yoga program, I had a general idea of my plans after Rishikesh. I’d stay close to the area, head to Delhi, take a day trip to the Taj Mahal, and then make my way to Nepal by mid-May, at a nice leisurely pace. As soon as I had basically decided this, something else of course tempted me! A handful of my classmates were heading to Manali for a music festival. I LOVE music festivals, and I liked the idea of not saying goodbye.

The day of our graduation, we were packed and ready to go. As soon as we had our certificates in hand and had said our goodbyes, we were off! A group of 10 or so (including a few adopted friends made in Rishikesh) took tuk tuks to the nearest bus stand, made it to our bus with literally no time to spare. Our first bus to Dehradun was an hour and a half – it flew because we were all so excited, not to mention in shock that we’d made the bus!

The next bus was a bit of a different story. It was an overnight local bus. It was packed, uncomfortable, and nearly drove off with at least one of our group at every stop we made. But 15 and a half hours later, we were in Manali, and all of our complaints forgotten. It was beautiful. At about 6am, it was freezing cold (a shock from Rishikesh, where you were always a little on the warm side).

In total, we moved hotels 3 times. We stayed in New Manali where the bus dropped us off the first night. We learned quickly that Old Manali was the backpackers hub, and also the location of the festival. So we moved all together. The festival (Dance of Shiva) was so much fun! A small group of maybe 250 people attended, and by the end of 3 days we knew many of the faces, and lots of names too! The music (psy-trance), was not exactly what I’d choose to play for myself, but it was fun and a new experience! And the festival grounds, a 30 minute walk into the forest, with the main stage backdropped by snow caped mountains – superb.

After the festival, the group of 4 girls left moved to yet another hostel – Rockway- which was tucked into a hillside and about a 10 minute hike from town. A much needed change of pace and scenery from the huge group, the festival, and just the noise that comes with any busy tourist town.

After 9 days in Manali, I was ready to be on my own. My “solo travels” had been anything but so far. It was hard to break from such great friends, and I’ll be surprised if the four of us don’t meet up again soon!

In total it took me about 20 hours (two bus rides, 2 tuk tuk rides, and a taxi ride) to get me back to my next stop, about 30 km from Rishikesh. The route could have been better, but all of the travel was 100% worth it. For the views. For the festival. For the community feeling – we knew so many people by the end of our stay and everyone was always smiling and happy. The restaurant and hotel owners took amazing care of us. If we went to a restaurant for 2 meals in a row, we were pretty much guaranteed free dessert. One day we went to a nearby town, Vashist, and hiked to a beautiful waterfall with amazing views of the entire valley.

There was so much in Manali that I would have loved to stay longer for – more hiking and trekking, temples, more waterfalls. But until next time, I will remember my week there very fondly.

yoga teacher training in india – expectations vs reality

Almost two weeks ago I completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training certification with Nada Yoga School in Rishikesh. Now that I’ve had some time to decompress, here are some thoughts.

Expectations (although, I honestly tried to have as few as possible):
-super healthy vegan diet

-no alcohol, caffeine, or sweets

-several hours of intense physical yoga per day

-a diverse group of people from all over the world

-somewhat “western” accommodations (hot water, wifi, etc.)

-long days, and mental and physical exhaustion

-white rice, heavy soups and cooked dishes (vegetarian, not vegan)

-no caffeine

-no alcohol anywhere in Rishikesh (ok, actually I have heard of one place)

-lots of sweets

-several hours of very technical physical yoga per day (alignment alignment alignment!)

-a diverse group of mostly women from all over the world (but a lot of us from the states and Canada)

-no hot water

-squat toilet

-no wifi in our rooms (just at the school and cafes)

-yoga philosophy classes with an extremely knowledgable, but very eastern-style guru

-meditation classes that are hard to follow sometimes, and minimal instruction around whether or not I’m “doing it right”

-long days, and mental and physical exhaustion

My overall thoughts: 

I did feel myself getting stronger, physically but also mentally. I did poses I’ve never even attempted. I meditated 30 minutes or more every day (from 0 ever before). I learned a lot about the history and philosophy behind a practice that encompasses body mind and soul – a huge shift in understanding about something a month ago I was doing purely for physical exercise.

We did major detoxing. In week 1 when I was one of the first students to successfully do jala neti from mouth to nose I was proud! I couldn’t have predicted that less than 2 weeks later I’d be proud of myself for doing shankprakshalana (going to make everyone google that one…)

Teacher training is intense. From what I’ve heard, that’s universal. Whether you do it in San Francisco or Rishikesh, it’s unlike anything you could have imagined. Bonus points for an AMAZING group of people, many of whom I’ve already traveled with and more still I plan to meet up with further into my trip!




chasing sunrise and waterfalls in rishikesh

Sunday is our day off from yoga. Monday through Saturday we begin asana classes at 6am and end with music classes around 7pm. This Sunday*, we had an optional field trip to Kunjapuri temple, on the top of a mountain with beautiful views. We woke at 3:30am to leave at 4 to catch the sunrise. It was gorgeous. We did Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) in the clouds as the pink sun rose from behind the mountains. We drank delicious, brewed just for us chai tea (my first caffeine in almost 4 weeks!). When we returned home, they had made crepes for breakfast, a treat always, but especially when you have the same porridge and papaya for breakfast every other morning.

After breakfast, 6 of us had decided to find Patna waterfall, and asked for the best directions from a local. She told us to cross Ram Jhula bridge, take a tuk tuk east for a couple kilometers, and then walk about one more kilometer to the waterfall. Simple enough. This was the first of many many times a local would give us totally inaccurate information/directions. It was now about 10am. We decided to take a 10 rupee boat ride across the river instead of walking across the bridge, just for fun. We got in our tuk tuk and were off. At the edge of Rishikesh city limit, the driver stopped, told us to walk about 1 kilometer, and then we’d find the waterfall. We walked and walked, finally asking someone for directions, and he told us to walk about 1 kilometer and we’d find the waterfall.

We did finally find it. Sort of. We found a sign for “Neer Waterfall,” 50 rupees for foreigners. Ok, wrong waterfall, but we’ll take it. The ticket guy told us to walk for about 10 minutes. We walked for about 15, found a snack stand and asked again. Walk for about 10 minutes to get to the waterfall. Ok, keep walking. At this point we are hiking up and ask someone coming down how much further. 3 kilometers. 3 kilometers?! Far stretch from the original 1 our tuk tuk driver had told us. But after about 5 more minutes of walking we were at the waterfall. Every single direction so far has been wrong. But the waterfall was beautiful, and so worth the hike.

We decided that we’d walk to Patna waterfall next. We asked another snack stand guy for directions, and he said to walk about 2 kilometers to a bridge, cross the bridge and we’d be at the waterfall. Easy enough, so we set off walking. Everyone we asked had the same few answers. 2 kilometers, 10 minutes, or 2 minutes. None of these were ever accurate, but each time we decided we had come this far, we’d finish off the day right – at Patna! We wandered by ashrams, local residences, cows, monkeys, snack stands. We asked everyone, and it became a joke that the waterfall would always be “2 minutes that way” (or 2 kilometers). Eventually we did find the bridge. Then we got matching directions from a couple of sources. We knew we were close. When we had walked the last kilometer or so (we were sure) a local told us 3-4 more kilometers! He was messing with us. We found Patna waterfall. And it was amazing too.

We reached the second waterfall at about 4pm. 12 hours from the start of our day, and about 6 from when we began walking. According to my iPhone we walked a little over 10 miles! We took a tourist jeep back to town, because we were exhausted, and at this point we could say we really used all possible modes of transportation in Rishikesh.

It was really an amazing day, though, we all agreed. Our favorite in Rishikesh so far. The day was long and filled with beautiful sights and great people. Our pod of 6 was perfect, we got to know each other more personally. We were all positive, even after the 100th person told us only 2 more kilometers. We rewarded ourselves with an amazing family style Indian dinner at Chatiwala, a well known Indian restaurant in Swargashram (actually two, we went to the second). And the best banana lassi (and most deserved) so far.

After struggling with feeling a bit stagnant here, following the same rigid schedule day after day. After all of the noise of Rishikesh, the barking, the yelling, the constant blaring of horns. It was such a necessary escape into nature. Walking, splashing. Covered in dirt and sweat. Today was an amazing day.

(*I wrote this post about 2 weeks ago)