Himalayan Mountain Pilgrimage
HIKING + YOGA + MEDITATION
OCTOBER 4TH – 13TH, 2020
Join certified Yoga & Pilates Instructor, Rebecca Schefstrom on an epic journey to India for a transformational pilgrimage through the Himalayan mountain range supported by daily yoga and meditation practice. This trip provides you with the opportunity to experience several different cities in Northern India, including Delhi, Rishikesh, Kedarnath, and Chopta. Along the way, there will be opportunities to visit historic temples, participate in spiritual ceremonies and immerse ourselves in the local culture. If you enjoy hiking and spending time outdoors taking in simple pleasures in a casual atmosphere, this is the retreat for you.
Our itinerary (found below) is filled with skillfully chosen landmarks and excursions, yet is also spacious, allowing you ample time to download the power and beauty of the Himalayas in ways that best suit you on a given day. The yoga and meditation sessions will mostly take place in somewhat organic, unconventional and in outdoor settings to further support immersion into the natural landscape while enhancing your connection to the very birthplace of these ancient practices.
Give yourself the gift of unplugging from your daily routine. Explore new and ancient practices to help you navigate your way through your everyday life. Open to new inspiration and awaken to your true potential as you develop a deeper understanding of yourself and all you are capable of. Traveling often helps us to reflect these different parts in ourselves in which we may have not seen nor taken the time to explore. Unlock the mysteries and gifts of these mighty Himalayas where yogis, monks, sages have been practicing yoga and meditation for over 5000 years old. Tap into this ancient wisdom of teachings, where peace and bliss are felt deep inside.
Day 1: Arrive in Delhi | October 4th, 2020
Here, the journey begins. We’ll arrive at Delhi’s international airport where a representative from the tour company will greet our group and assist us with the transition to the nearby Radisson Hotel for a one night stay. Dinner not included in the retreat price on the 4th. The next morning, we’ll have a buffet breakfast and take a one-hour morning flight to Dehradun, the city with the closest airport to Rishikesh.
Day 2: Delhi – Glasshouse on the Ganges | October 5th
Upon arrival in Rishikesh, we’ll take a 2-hour bus ride to our beautiful and peaceful hideaway hotel, the Glasshouse on the Ganges. Here you’ll enjoy a truly magical, peaceful setting complete with a garden full of tropical plants and other rare wildlife. The Glasshouse also has a sandy beach of its own, unlike other hotels in the area. In the evening, we’ll eat a buffet dinner together and unwind in preparation for our spiritual pilgrimage.
Day 3: Glasshouse on the Ganges – Guptkashi | October 6th
Enjoy an early morning practice with a breathtaking view of the sacred Ganges River and the Himalayan foothills followed by a delicious buffet breakfast. From there, we will drive approximately 8 hours to Guptkashi, the town where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet. According to mythology, Guptkashi is where the Pandava brothers (of the Hindu epic text the Mahabarata) were searching for a glimpse of Shiva, one of the central-most Hindu gods who is regarded as the patron god of yoga, meditation and the arts. Shiva first concealed himself here, but later fled from them further up the valley to Kedarnath, where the Pandavas wish was finally fulfilled.
Along the way, we’ll also pass through Tilwara for a view of the river Mandakini (the prefix “mand” meaning “calm” or “unhurried” in Sanskrit. Mandakini thus translates to “she who flows calmly”). You’ll also visit Ardhnarishwar Temple, an ancient Hindu temple dedicated to Arthanāreeswarā, the unique half-male half-female of Lord Shiva.
Once in Guptkashi, we check into the Kedar Resort for an overnight stay in its deluxe bamboo cottages. Enjoy a relaxing evening and a simple but yummy dinner taking in the snowcapped mountain range. The weather here is likely to be pleasant in the daytime and chilly in the morning and evening, so do bring a variety of layers.
Day 4: Guptkashi – Kedarnath (11.8-mile trek one way) | October 7th
After breakfast, we’ll drive 2-hours to the trailhead where the hike to Kedarnath begins. We’ll embark on a day-long trek while taking in the powerful beauty of the Himalayan mountain range. The trail is paved the entire way. It is quite steep and has many stairs and switchbacks. There are plenty of benches along the way to take a pause, drink some water and have a snack. We are hiking at altitude, so we recommend going at your own pace and we can support you along the way. Once we reach the top, we’ll check in to our hotel. After unwinding for a while, we can do some restorative yoga which will feel good after the long hike. In the evening, visit the town square and the famous Shiva temple to take Darshan, which means paying respect to Shiva and get blessings. These practices will be followed by dinner and overnight stay at the Hotel Punjab Sindh in Kedarnath.
More history on Kedarnath:
The Kedarnath Shrine (altitude 3,583 m/11,657 ft), is one of the 12 jyotirlingas, or devotional representations of Lord Shiva which are said to be self-manifested. Jyoti means ‘radiance’ and lingam, the ‘Image or Sign’ of Shiva. Each Jyotirlingam takes the name of a presiding deity, each considered a different manifestation of Shiva. These are considered to be the holiest of all shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and according to the beliefs of Hindu mythology, taking Darshan at these 12 sites will allow the receiver to be released from the cycle of life and death, making them an important destination to visit in one’s lifetime.
According to legend, the Pandavas after having won over the Kaurava (the opposing side) in the Kurukshetra war, felt guilty of having killed their own brothers and sought the blessings of Lord Shiva for redemption. He eluded them repeatedly and while fleeing took refuge at Kedarnath in the form of a bull. On being followed, he dove into the ground, leaving his hump on the surface. The remaining portions of Lord Shiva appeared at four other places and are worshipped there as his manifestations. The arms appeared at Tungnath, the face at Rudranath, the belly at Madhmaheshwar and his locks (hair) with head at Kalpeshwar. Kedarnath and the four other shrines mentioned above are treated as Panch Kedar (Hindu temples dedicated to Shiva).
Due to its high altitude, the weather in Kedarnath remains cold for most of the year. Summer here is cool and pleasant, while winter is quite severe. During summer, the temperature varies around 20°C (68° F). Light woolen wear or base layers are recommended. Winter temperatures can drop to as low as 0°C (32°F) with the possibility of snowfall. Due to the extreme weather conditions, tourists usually avoid travelling here during this season.
Day 5: Kedarnath – Guptkashi (11.8 mi. trek one way) | October 8th
After early morning Pooja (a Hindu prayer ritual in worship of gods or to honor guests) and breakfast, we’ll have a morning walk around the surrounding area on which you’ll have the opportunity to see a beautiful waterfall and take in the sacred mountain range. We’ll check out by 11 am and head back down the mountain via one of the 3 transportation options outlined below. Once we all have arrived in Sonprayag, we’ll head back to the Bamboo cottages (at Kedar Resort) for dinner and an overnight stay at Guptkashi.
By Trek: Drive to Gaurikund (which serves as a base camp for the trek), then take a local jeep to Sonprayag where a driver will drop us off at the trailhead. No additional cost, price included in the retreat.
By Horses/Donkey: if you want to take in the scenery but save your feet and knees. Horses/Donkeys can be a great option for support. Price not included.
By Helicopter: In the morning on the way to the trailhead, our driver can drop you off at the helipad. After the trek, for those who are flying back, our driver can transport you back to Kedar Resort. Weather permitting. Price not included. Must be pre-booked and paid for in advance.
Day 6: Guptkashi – Chopta (3.1 mi. trek one way – 12,073 ft.) | October 9th
After a morning practice and breakfast, is a two-hour drive to Chopta, a paradise for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. On arrival, you will check-into Neelkanth Camp and after lunch, begin a 3.5 km trek uphill to Tungnath (3680 m| 12,073.49 ft.), the highest in elevation of the five Kedar (Shiva) temples. Along the way, you will see lush green meadows and a gorgeous view of the entire snow-capped range of Chaukhamba peak in the Himalayas. Upon arrival at Tungnath Temple, we will take part in a small ceremony with a local priest. It’s a pretty steep trek so there is an option to hire a donkey ride one way or round trip. This is an additional cost.
After we visit the temple and take rest, for those who want to trek 1.5 km more to reach the Chandrashila summit (13,123 ft) – its name literally means “Moon Rock”. Here, take in the most awesome, awe-inspiring 360-degree panoramic view of the snow-covered Himalayas. After a break and short meditation, we’ll trek back to Chopta for dinner and an overnight stay at Neelkanth Camp.
Day 7 & 8: Chopta – Taj Rishikesh (6-hour drive) | October 10th-12th
In the morning after yoga practice on the lawn and breakfast, we’ll check out of the Neelkanth Camp & drive to the Taj Rishikesh for a little rest and relaxation time and stay for 2 glorious nights. This 12.5 acre, 5 star luxury resort, which pays architectural tribute to the Garwhal region and the outer Himalayas, has a contemporary, organic feel. Overall, the resort environment reflects the values of this incredible region it exists within. On day 8, breakfast and dinner are included, but not lunch.
Day 9: Rishikesh Sightseeing – Overnight stay in Rishikesh | October 12th
Once we arrive back to Rishikesh, we’ll check in to our hotel. In the afternoon, explore some sightseeing in Rishikesh. Famous places we’ll visit include a walk across the Ram Jhula, a suspension bridge across the Ganges river. Originally constructed from jute (rope), it was reconstructed with iron cables in 1889. It is believed that Ram’s brother Lakshman crossed the river here on a jute rope. On the west bank, you’ll see a Lakshman temple which is famous for its ancient sculptures and paintings and as the place where Lakshman meditated to seek spiritual enlightenment.
There are lots of fun shops to explore. At some point we will visit Parmarth Niketan Ashram, a true spiritual haven lying on the holy banks of Mother Ganga in the lap of the lush Himalayas. It is the largest ashram in Rishikesh, providing its thousands of pilgrims who come from all corners of the Earth with a clean, pure and sacred atmosphere as well as abundant, beautiful gardens. You may opt to receive an Ayurvedic massage here at the ashram or spend some free time shopping and seeing the marketplace on your own. In the evening, experience the famous Ganga Arti, a devotional fire ritual, followed by dinner at the famous “Pure” restaurant and overnight stay at the Ganga Kinari Hotel in Rishikesh.
Day 10: Rishikesh – Delhi | October 13th
After practice and breakfast, take a morning flight back to Delhi. Our tour guide can help to arrange a day stay at a hotel near the airport and/or have you dropped off at the airport for your journey home.
Notice: Himalayan Retreat has been postponed until 2021. Stay tuned for more info.
Himalayan Mountain Pilgrimage
HIKING + YOGA + MEDITATION
October 4th – 13th, 2020
Early Bird Price by April 1st:
Double Occupancy: $3675 | Single Occupancy: $4285
Regular Price after April 1st:
Double Occupancy: $3975 | Single Occupancy: $4585
$1000 deposit to hold a spot, due upon registration
Flights within India – additional cost TBD
- 10 days 9 nights in India
- All lodging including hotel taxes
- All Transportation, including round-trip airport transfers to all hotels
- 1 Meditation + Yoga class daily – times will vary
- Daily Breakfast & lunch included; all but 2 dinners included
- One professional tour guide will accompany our group for the entire trip (Raj Singh of Yoga Adventures India)
- All entrance fees & ceremony costs paid
- Taxes & 10% Tip for all drivers, guides, hotel staff are included. You are always welcome to offer additional gratuity for exceptional service at any location
Highlights From Our India Retreat
“Urban Balance provided a wonderful trip to India. They really made me feel welcomed and cared for. It was a great way to be introduced to yoga and meditation. I never felt intimidated to participate.” ~ Susan G. 2019 India Retreat Participant
“I came to India with an open mind. Many people said i was crazy and they would never go. But I wanted to experience it for myself. Knowing Rebecca had been there 15 times before and knowing how much India means to her I knew we were in for a real treat.
Well to say our expectations were exceeded is an understatement. From the hotels, to the excursions, to the fire ceremonies to the ashrams to the yoga and meditation sessions to the food, every detail Rebecca put into this retreat was a “wow” moment. Rebecca provides a balance of experiencing luxury and poverty, religious and devotional practices.
The two weeks flew by and I could of easily stayed another week. If you’ve ever wanted to experience India, I highly recommend Rebecca and the entire Urban Balance team. I promise you won’t be disappointed.” ~ Ryan P. 2019 India Retreat Participant
Airfare from USA • Intra-flight (prepaid) • Extra snacks • Laundry • Extra tips • Ayurvedic Massage • Alcohol • Housekeeping Tip • One lunch at the Taj • One Dinner at Pure • Donkey Rides • Helicopter Ride
Things to Bring
In Your Suitcase
General packing instructions: Overall, plan to dress modestly. Note about yoga clothing – please avoid tight pants & tank tops. Do pack layers since practices will take place outdoors in cooler temperatures.
jeans • tunics • skirts below knee • cover shoulders • comfortable walking shoes • flip flops/sandals • yoga clothing • optional: yoga mat, shawl • plugs & adapters (type C, D or M, 230 v) • cold medicines, throat lozenges • sunscreen • insect repellent • hand sanitizer • camera • phone
What to bring to Kedarnath:
small or overnight backpack • water bottle • Snacks/nuts for the hikes • swimsuit • scarf or dust mask to cover mouth/nose on the trail • sunglasses • altitude sickness medications • Ibuprofen • electrolyte supplements (Nuun, other powdered drinks) • tissues • hiking boots/waterproof trail running shoes • hiking socks • base layers • layers for top (t-shirt & long sleeves preferable) • hiking pants • rain jacket • gloves • hats (Baseball cap & wool hat)
All classes are all-levels, and no prior experience is needed. Whether a beginner or a seasoned practitioner, there will be a common ground to practice together. Each class will be planned for the participants attending the retreat and Rebecca will provide modifications when needed.
Class sessions consist of a short meditation and a yoga class. Many of the sessions will take place outside (a couple of them during the evening), thus it is important to bring layered clothing that is loose-fitting enough to move in.
On the trek itself, retreat-goers will encounter steep, paved trails with many stairs and switchbacks. There are plenty of rest stops along the way to take pictures, have a snack, etc. You’ll have the freedom to move at a comfortable pace and you do have the option of hiking one way and riding back (via horse/donkey or helicopter). Retreat participants should be aware that experiencing altitude sickness is a possibility and can affect any traveler regardless of health status. Symptoms, which tend to occur within hours of arriving at altitude and are typically self-diagnosed include headache, nausea/vomiting, shortness of breath, fatigue, loss of appetite, etc. Though the trek will bring us up to about (13,123 ft at the summit), we will be travelling progressively higher each day we are in India, which should help you to acclimate.
Early morning practice includes; breathwork, subtle body practices and guided meditation. Participants are instructed on ancient techniques used to promote concentration and allow for a deeper experience. Part of this practice includes chanting mantras and performing kriyas, both of which, help to calm the mind and prepare you for meditation. Participants are guided through a variety of meditations and given quiet space to apply what is learned. This is appropriate for all levels, from brand-new beginners to the seasoned meditator.
The morning sessions are inspired by Hatha, Forrest, and Ashtanga yoga. Each practice is thoughtfully sequenced and tailored to each participant. The class can be athletic at times, to help build internal heat which is incredibly detoxifying. Each practice includes core strengthening exercises. These help with strength, flexibility, and better posture. Overall, the practice increases energy levels and awareness. Targeted breath-work focuses on proper alignment and hands-on adjustments help support the participant. Poses are often held longer, and some parts of the class will be a slower flow-style.
Leave feeling rejuvenated, energized, balanced and ready to take on the day’s adventures. The evening sessions consists of a short meditation and a restorative yoga class. These practices are filled with lovely heart openers, backbends, spinal twists and hip openers to replenish the mind, body and spirit. If you have your own yoga mat, we encourage you to bring it. We plan to bring yoga mats and straps.
The alchemy of daily breathwork, meditation, yoga, ceremony, and healthy meals combined with spectacular views and serene grounds will support and nourish the soul, far beyond this journey. Come home forever changed, with a glow in your heart, unforgettable memories and a special bond with your fellow travelers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is our destination airport?
Book your destination to arrive at the Delhi International Airport anytime on October 4th, 2020. If you are flying in on October 5th, we recommend you book your flight time to arrive close to 6 a.m. local time so you can meet up with the group and make an early morning connecting flight. Allow for possible travel delays, so please do not cut your travel time or layovers too closely.
What is weather like in October?
Temperatures at the lower elevations (Delhi, Rishikesh) are very warm in October and cooler in the early morning and evening time. The daytime averages around 90F. Nights will be warm but pleasant. You still want to have additional layers to keep you warm just in case. (light jacket, light sweater) A shawl is good to pack and is nice to have on hand for the evening and early morning practice. A scarf is nice for the daytime. As we gain in elevation heading up to Kedarnath, temperatures will drop as low as 40-50F, so you be sure to pack some base layers and a warm, yet breathable (tech-fabric) outerwear to ensure you stay warm and dry during the trek.
Do I need travel insurance?
We highly recommend it.
Do I need a visa?
Yes, you will need a visa for India. India now offers E-Visa online which makes it much easier process. We recommend CIBT visas. Visit https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/ for more information.
Do I have to share a room?
This a small group of only 10 participants. We recommend you book a double room (cost less than a single). We will do our best to pair you up with someone. If you have a travel partner, please let us know so we can pair you both together in the same room.
What if I want a single room?
There will be a couple of rooms available for those who prefer single accommodation. However, there is an increase in price for single occupancy. The number of single rooms available will ultimately be based on the number of people who sign up.
What if my partner/friend doesn’t do yoga or meditation?
All are welcome. If your partner does not want to participate, there are plenty of other activities. They may take time to relax in their room, enjoy the grounds or sit and take in the view of the mountain peaks during the classes. Who knows, they may change their mind later and participate!
What if I am a beginner or haven’t done yoga or meditation?
Each class is customized for the participants at the retreat. Classes are all-level, and the instructor is very qualified in guiding students from first timers to the most advanced. If you haven’t tried any of the yoga systems, the instructor will guide you along the way and encourage you and offer plenty of modifications to fit specific needs.
Do I have to attend all the classes?
No, all classes are on a volunteer basis. If you feel like sleeping in, reading by the pool, or just taking some alone time, we encourage you to go at your own pace.
Do I need immunizations?
Always check for the latest updates on CDC recommendations. The website address is www.cdc.gov.
Is there anything special I need to bring?
If you prefer to bring your own yoga mat or props, we encourage you to do so. Please see full list of suggested items above.
What if I have a food allergy or dietary restriction?
Please e-mail email@example.com any food allergy or dietary restrictions and we will work with the hotels to make any changes.
What kind of food will I be having?
Most of our meals will be Vegetarian. Non-vegetarian food and alcohol are not allowed in Rishikesh. However, outside of Rishikesh there will be options for non-veg if you desire.
May I spread my payments out for the trip?
Yes, we will need a $1000 deposit at time of sign up to hold your spot. After that you may divide the remaining balance into two or three payments. The entire balance must be paid in full 90 days prior to the retreat, by July 1st, 2020.
How do I sign up?
- Click the “registration form” button below and download the PDF to your computer.
- Read and complete the electronic PDF and required signatures.
- Save the filled-out PDF forms to desktop.
- Email your completed registration forms to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call or email us to make payment arrangements.
A deposit of $1000 will be required at time of sign up to hold your reservation. You are welcome to pay the retreat in full, if you prefer. You can pay either by credit card through the Urban Balance website, or by personal check which is our preference. We will send you an official confirmation and welcome email with a terms and conditions sheet, liability waiver and emergency contact form to fill out, sign, and return to us.
About Urban Balance
Rebecca Perry Schefstrom
Rebecca is a certified yoga and Pilates instructor, and an experienced meditation leader. She has a natural ability to empower, motivate and guide her students to help support their wellness and spiritual goals. Rebecca embraces a practical and playful approach to her teaching. Her professional and confident manner ensures that students feel at ease. She loves working with all ages, from beginners to the most advanced students, all our welcome and can practice together.
In 2014, Rebecca founded Urban Balance, a corporate wellness company that brings Yoga, Pilates. Meditation, Massage and Nutrition to the workplace. The wellness programs that are offered on-site help companies achieve their business goals. They help busy professionals increase health, happiness, and a healthy balance between work and wellness. Urban balance offers local retreats and a yearly international retreat.
Rebecca is certified by Stott Pilates on all apparatuses and all-levels. She has a 200-hour Ashtanga Yoga Certification from the Mount Madonna Center in Watson, CA. Rebecca has completed a 200-hour Forrest Yoga teacher training program in Santa Monica, CA with Ana Forrest, as well as a one-year mentorship program in 2012.
She is continuously evolving her own personal yoga and Pilates practice, creating the space within to nourish her dedication to the world as a teacher. Rebecca strives to embody one of her favorite teacher’s quotes: “Teach to learn, “while learning from her students and her own practice. She has traveled to many places around the world and has been to India more than a dozen times. It has been a dream for many years to combine her love of teaching and traveling. Rebecca is excited to have the chance to bring a yoga group to India.