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How to “do” a yoga ashram in India

Photograph of Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram Rishikesh IndiaYoga Ashram India series on TravelWireAsia

I write a regular ‘column’ for the TravelWireAsia website about India, yoga and travel in Asia (my favourite continent for travel!). Recently, I published a three-part series on How to “do” a yoga ashram in India. Here’s a synopsis of each post — to read the full article click on the link provided.

Part 1: How to find an ashram in India

HAVE you considered going to an ashram in India? This is a 3-part series on where to go, what you need to know and what to expect.

Holy men have been congregating in ashrams in India to meditate and chant since the dawn of time. But they’ve only become popular as a traveller’s destination since The Beatles went to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in Rishikesh in the late 1960s and yoga became a worldwide phenomenon.

The best way to find an ashram is to ask people you know, especially your yoga teacher. Some of the questions you should ask include: Does the ashram or school take foreign students; do they have a program for foreigners? Is instruction in English? Where, exactly, is the ashram or school; is it accessible and in a place that has access to trains, the Internet, etc. Click here to read the full article How to find an ashram.

Anand Prakash Yoga AshramPart 2: What to pack and how to get ready for your ashram adventure

Once you’ve decided to stay at an ashram in India, and you know where you’re going, it’s time to start getting ready. Find out everything you can about the ashram – including the amenities, daily routine, accommodations and what you need to bring. Talk to people who’ve been there to find out what it’s really like.

Ashrams are not hotels, they do not come equipped with mod cons and supplies. They tend to be very simple, and you have to bring almost everything you need with you – but remind yourself that you are not going to indulge in luxury. Bring what you need, but bring the bare minimum, such as: all the toiletries you need, including soap, shampoo and medications, a flashlight, a towel, a shawl or sweater (it can be chilly at night in winter and in the mountains), loose cotton clothes, preferably Indian-style (Lululemon spandex just doesn’t cut it), flipflops and/or sandals, etc. Click here to read the full article What to pack and how to get ready for your ashram adventure in India.

Lakshman Jhula bridge, RIshikesh, India yoga capital

Yoga capital of the world: RIshikesh, India

Part 3: What to expect at an ashram and the daily routine

Preparations can only take you so far when you’re travelling or experiencing something new — you have to expect the unexpected. And this is doubly, triply true of travel in India! It’s also especially true of doing something that is off-the-radar for most people from the west, where spirituality, and even just the concept of looking within, is nowadays considered a radical notion.

Looking within is exactly what you do at an ashram, and if you’re new to it, you may not know where to start — or where to look. That’s what the daily routine is for. The daily routine grounds you in the life of the ashram and provides you with a map. The “destination” is your unique experience and epiphanies. When in doubt, follow the routine and have faith that something will happen! And if that something turns out to be a catharsis, the routine will support you as you go through it.

I always go through a few very uncomfortable days of unwinding when I first get to the ashram. I usually feel like I have the flu, but I know it’s the symptoms of a natural detoxification. Click here to read the full article What to expect at an ashram and the daily routine.

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18 Responses to How to “do” a yoga ashram in India

  1. Satu April 22, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    Great practical tips for going to an ashram in India! Anyone going to an ashram for the first time should read all three articles.

  2. John April 22, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

    Hmm. I was in Nepal for a while and I loved the spiritual nature of the people, and the fact that there were peaceful temples everywhere. I considered doing some type of yoga or vipassana retreat but never had the time.

    When I visit India, I’m definitely going to look into doing a yoga ashram!

  3. Mariellen April 23, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    Thanks Satu! I get a lot of emails from people asking me about going to a yoga ashram, so now I can just point to this series. I tired to cover all the most important things.

  4. Mariellen April 23, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    Thanks for your comment John. I’ve not been to Nepal yet, but really want to go. Personally, I think if you go to India and you don’t experience the spirituality firsthand, by staying in an ashram for example, you are really missing a very essential part of the culture. It would be like going to India and not eating Indian food, in my view!

  5. Ravindra April 27, 2012 at 7:04 am #

    Yoga is now very popular in India. It is good for health. Now a days there are lot of hotels and ashram provides yoga classes.

  6. bobit April 28, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    so many ppl looking to study Yoga these days,
    its really great to lean yoga, really worth it

  7. Mariellen April 28, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

    Yoga is one of the great gifts of India. It’s interesting that western interest in yoga has helped fuel a resurgence in India. I would love to see more Indians embrace yoga, their natural birthright, and take pride in it as well as enjoy it for the health and spiritual benefits. Thanks for commenting Ravindra and Bobit.

  8. Caitlin May 7, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    Hi,
    I am relatively new to yoga. I’ve been studying for about eight months, but I’m completely enthralled with it and want to study more intensely. I am considering going to Rishikesh, but feel overwhelmed about how to go about things. Is it best to find an ashram beforehand, or can I just show up and explore/ try out different ashrams? Do ashrams in Rishikesh cater to Westerners and Indians alike? What are usually the prices for individual classes or longer courses? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.

  9. Mariellen May 7, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    Hello Caitlin,

    I have answered many of your questions in the TravelWireAsia series I did — link through and read the entire articles. Contact some of the ashram I’ve listed in the first article, they all have websites, and you can find out the prices.

    Good luck … and remember, if you are genuinely interested in experiencing a spiritual journey, having the right attitude is FAR more importan than finding the “perfect” ashram. Have faith and trust that you will have the right experience for you, to teach you what you need to learn.

  10. Sandeep May 13, 2012 at 3:30 am #

    M’aam , you are awesome…

    My salutations to you

    Namaste

  11. Mariellen May 13, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

    Thanks Sandeep! That’s an awesome thing to say! I appreciate it. Thank you!!

  12. Vijita June 13, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    Very informative about these kind of spiritual tourism. Recently I and my friend went for these spiritual getaways and it was amazing.

  13. Sara July 20, 2012 at 5:45 am #

    Great tip, In India, Mysore city, which is in the southern state of Karnataka is popular for Yoga. It is popular among the foreigners, students from around the world can be seen here. In fact, Mysore is called the ‘Astanga City’ and yoga is been practiced here from centuries.
    Sara recently posted..ChennaiMy Profile

  14. Victoria March 10, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    HI Mariellen,

    I just wanted to say thanks for all your info on ashrams in India. It is proving so useful as I prepare for a trip in June. I think I’m going to head to Aurovalley and maybe Anand Prakash.

    How long do you normally spend at Aurovaley when you go there?

    Thanks!
    Victoria
    Victoria recently posted..A year on the road in photos…My Profile

  15. Ziporah August 19, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

    Hi Mariellen,

    I am researching going to Indian ashram and came across your article. I would love to read the full series, but your links (click here) don’t work. Can you post links to the articles for us?

    Thank you
    Ziporah recently posted..5 Essential Factors to Effective Video MarketingMy Profile

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