Ananda in the Himalayas

»Above the clouds«

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Luxurious, decadent, five-star apartments located on the lush green peak that the Maharajah once lived on, surveying the city below. What more could you want in a yoga retreat? Probably good yoga. Ananda in the Himalayas also has that covered, with some of the finest yoga instruction to be found anywhere.

  • What we love
  • Five star luxury
  • World-class yoga
  • Great decor
  • Deeply knowledgeable yoga instructor
  • Fun activities
  • Impeccable service
  • Small or individual yoga classes
  • What to know
  • Integrates former home of the Maharajah
  • Not cheap
  • International & non-vegetarian food
  • Alcohol available
  • Why go
  • Luxury
  • Full spa retreat
  • Ayurvedic treatments

Unlike many of our Indian top centers, this is not a typical ashram. Ananda in the Himalayas is a resort, and proud of it. Ayurvedic therapies are offered alongside massage and spa treatments and the menu is a broad mix of traditional Indian, modern Indian, Western-style fare and Asian treats. Like any good resort, there are non-yoga activities on offer. Golf is always popular and white-water rafting is a scenic and occasionally thrilling way to see the surrounding natural splendor. The head chef opens his kitchen once a week for lessons in healthful Indian cooking, and weekly performances are held in the grounds by youngsters from a local children’s home.

Ananda in the Himalayas is all about space. The grounds are huge, golf-carts are provided to get around if the long strolls seem daunting and the vastness of the Himalayas only add to the effect. Rooms and suites are built at distance from each other and are a far cry from more austere yoga centers. Think four-poster beds, private balconies with extensive views, a private hot-tub under a billowing white canopy, pool-side lounging, discreet staff who appear and disappear with the finesse of the clairvoyant. All this in crisp, clean air, redolent with the scent of the mountain’s wildflowers.

On to the yoga. Morning and evening classes are held in the vast gardens or in the white marble pavilion. Ananda’s head of yoga, Sushant, uses integral yoga - a combination of physical poses, breathing exercises and meditation - to purify and relax the bodies of his guests. Each learning sequence is unique, tailor-made to each guest after a relaxing chat over tea. Sushant is a walking advertisement for yoga. As is the Indian yogic tradition, he brings yoga into every part of his daily life. His serene demeanor and deep enthusiasm for kindness and living well is a testament to his knowledge and devotion. Definitely not the typical concierge.

Room rates vary according to room type and the time of year. From May to mid-October, tariffs are lowered by about 30% compared to the high season of mid-October to mid-April. Nonetheless, at any time of year the prices have a hefty price-tag, even by Western standards. It’s probably best to simply hand over a healthy credit card and enjoy the pampering. This really is a unique getaway.

Although visiting nearby Rishikesh is easy from Ananda, the grounds are enticing enough to keep guests close to home. Sweeping green lawns and meandering pathways lead to charming spots to read, chat or just sit, drinking in the cool natural beauty of this once-royal mountainside.

About the area: Rishikesh

Rishikesh is to yoga what Las Vegas is to partying: At every turn, seemingly on every corner, another yogic experience is waiting. However, some are a better quality than others. To understand what makes a truly good yoga experience, one must understand yoga in India. Rather than a twice-weekly class, yoga here is a way of living. Yogic practices permeate every aspect of the day. A guru is for life, with no mixing of styles or ‘teacher hopping.’ Knowledge takes many patient years to accumulate. This is at odds with the concepts of the 'celebrity guru' and two-day yoga courses or retreats that so many travellers visit Rishikesh to experience, and it is easy to see why traditionalists speak of this approach as something like McYoga.

Nonetheless, a student must start somewhere. What better place to begin than in The City of the Divine, Rishikesh, the world capital of yoga. The world capital tag is no overstatement: Purity is enshrined in law, with alcohol and meat consumption being outlawed within city limits. This is one of Hinduism's most holy cities, where the Beatles famously studied under their guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and pilgrims are a common sight, often beginning their Four Shrines journey in Rishikesh. There are several yoga festivals held here each year, and simply wandering the streets is a great way to spend the day, as long as food is carefully protected from thieving wild monkeys who loiter, gang-like, on the bridges.

Rishikesh is also the gateway to the Himalayas, with the cool green foothills providing a welcome respite from the sometimes-suffocating Indian summer heat. There is still part of the Maharajah's palace open for viewing – a sweeping view from a green throne high above the city.

Image credit: Coni Hörler Photography

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