Yoga Ashrams in India
All kinds of Yoga ashrams are valuable, they offer different ways to explore and express selfhood and a connection with the universal consciousness. But what we particularly love about Yoga ashrams in Indian is the genuine experience and depth of insight that they hold within their walls. You can only experience this after having lived in an ashram.
Upon entering the ashram you can feel the energy which is a result of many years of human concentration and devotion to spiritual enlightenment. This result is from the very Yogis who have lived/are living there. There’s no faking it, no bells and whistles to disguise the internal work that they have been doing.
The living conditions are simple, but that’s all part of the intention to reduce external distractions to create an ideal setting for pratyahara (withdrawal from external influences). You will experience many aspects of Yoga, far beyond the asana.
Experience Ashrams in India
There are few things that are as powerful as full immersion into the spiritual way of life. If you want to learn about yourself and deepen your understanding of Yoga, ashrams provide a genuine, authentic and holistic setting in which one can study and grow.
Many great Indian Yoga masters will mention the food as the first and most important step into Yoga. Once you change the food, you will also change. All ashrams serve balanced and nutritious vegetarian or sometimes vegan food. You might feel the difference in mind-body energy once you eat ashram food. Do not bring along extra food, not even the extra bar of chocolate.
Immersion starts once you are removed from the distractions of everyday life – your smartphone, social media, and friends. It will initially seem strange to experience regular and long periods of ‘mauna’ (silence). And when you experience something, you cannot talk about it!
Ashrams are established on a communal way of life. You’ll get to be a part of the ashram’s working systems and contribute by cooking, cleaning and other aspects of involved in the daily functioning of the organisation. The challenge is to do those tasks with concentration and the same dedication, as if you would do them for yourself. This is also known as karma Yoga or selfless service.
Chanting is another aspect which is part of most ashram routines. You might initially think, I cannot sing; but do try it out, you’ll be moved by the beauty of chanting.
You learn about every aspect of ashram life, different techniques and ways of Yoga that are integrated will be offered to you. The number of different meditation techniques are endless and differ from ashram to ashram. The main reason to go to an ashram lies in experiencing ashram life. Rarely do ashram visitors write about advancing in their Hatha yoga postures, as that is not given too much importance in Indian ashrams with a deeper history. While you are inside the ashram you will probably be convinced of the positive effects of food, silence, daily routine, meditation, satsang and community work. The real challenge is to take this experience home with you and make it to a part of your life.
Staying in an ashram is an experience that will stay with you forever. Sometimes the experience can be so life altering that you chose to become an ascetic (‘sanyasin/sanyasee’) and stay there forever. Ashrams take you out of your everyday life, and give you the time, space and routine to enter deeply into your Yoga and meditation practice. They’re not the right choice for you if you’re looking for a Yoga holiday, where you can chill by the pool and do a bit of Yoga in the mornings. Ashrams are about fully immersing oneself into the Yogic way of life. For this reason, ashrams may seem strict or old-fashioned to those who aren’t accustomed to intensive practice and a communal lifestyle. But if you’re open to following the ashram’s guidelines and surrendering yourself to the experience, your time at a Yoga ashram could be incredibly transformative.
There are many Yoga ashrams in India, and they follow their own paths and spiritual traditions. In some Yoga ashrams you will follow their daily routine, which often has little or no relation to Hatha Yoga and physical postural practices. In most Yoga ashrams you’ll have the time, structure, and guidance to explore Yoga and meditation — in a way that is out of reach from regular life. Most ashrams allow you minimal access to technology and will be encouraged to focus wholeheartedly on the present moment. Do research and ask as many questions as you need to before committing to a stay at an ashram. Be sure to find one that suits your beliefs, intentions and personality. Once you made your choice, also adapt to their rules of clothing and surrender your time and dedication to the techniques of the ashram. This has proven its effectiveness simply by the fact that ashrams and their techniques have survived decades or even for centuries.
More to know:
- Most ashrams have a guru at the top and an old tradition in certain teachings. Try to read beforehand about both. Satsang might give you the chance to sit with one of the foremost Yoga masters on our planet. But be careful with two things: First, gurus are often not available, e.g. due to their travel schedules or they are undertaking a vow of ‘mauna’ (silence). Second, a guru is part of the traditional Yoga education. The approach is very different to teaching methods in the west: it is not about questioning the teachings, but about total dedication and trust in combination with giving up your used patterns of thinking and behaving.
- Be aware that not all ashrams accept foreign guests; always contact an ashram to discuss your stay in advance, rather than turning up on the doorstep. Often communication is slow, so always plan your ashram stay in advance.
- Do stay in an ashram for a longer period of time – a minimum of one month is recommended.
- Many ashrams do not have long and intensive asana practice sessions in their daily schedules. Asana is only a small part of the daily life.
- In most cases you are not allowed to leave the ashram grounds.
- Couples are not allowed to stay together in a single room in the ashram. This rule also applies to married couples.
- Ashram schedules start early. So be prepared to wake up early.
- All ashrams are bound by rules, so ask for their rules beforehand. Most importantly be aware of their rules and try not to break them.
- Before planning your travel to an ashram in India, keep in mind the time and weather. Although most ashrams are open all year round, you might want to experience pleasant weather during your ashram stay.