Traveling Through India: Sivananda Ashram, Neyyar Dam Part I

For more on my backpacking trip through India, check out Mumbai experience, Kallikadu, Sivananda ashram introduction, Indiathe basics, Sivananda ashram I, Sivananda ashram II, waterfalls and temples, the streets, and varkala posts.

Why did you choose to go to an ashram?

I’d visited Yosadhara ashram just outside of Nelson BC in August 2011. It was my first ashram experience and I loved every moment of it. I felt safe, open, and learned more about myself in a couple of days than I ever had at home. I wanted to return to the same ashram in the winter, when a crazy idea came to me – why not go to India? I wrote about how I dealt with this ridiculously scary idea here.

I wish I’d planned more time in India so I could have gone out to explore. My original plan was to stay at the ashram for 2.5 weeks, but after 1.5 I decided I’d regret not leaving to see other parts of India.

The ashram was a great place to meet people I could potentially travel with, get the lay of the land, and ground myself before I ventured out. During my next trip I’ll definitely start off at an ashram, but add a bunch of weeks/months onto the trip so I can have a grand adventure!

{Many people referred to me as Niyan instead of Leanne. I kinda got used to it… this was the taxi paper I got when I arranged for the shuttle to take me to the ashram. Pre-ordered taxi stations were at each airport I visited and are very clearly marked.}

Where is the ashram located? Why did you choose that specific location and how far is it away from the airport?

I chose to go to a Sivananda ashram as he was the teacher of Swami Radha, the guru of the Yosodhara ashram. I’d heard good things about the Sivananda centers and took a couple of weeks to decide on which location I wanted to spend my time in. In the end, I chose Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram because it was in South India and looked to have more robust facilities than their Madurai location. The ashram is about 1.5 hours away from Trivandrum.

For information about how to get from the airport to the ashram, check out this post.

What does the ashram look like?

Here’s a post I wrote with a bunch of pictures of Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram.

What were the yogi’s like and where were they from?

There were people from all over the globe, 3 from every country it seemed! Everyone was super loving, caring and open. The majority were backpackers, just staying for a couple of days before moving on to the next adventure.

{My AC twin share room at the ashram}

What type of room did you stay in?

I stayed in a Vailuntam AC twin share room. Because these rooms were the most expensive option at the ashram, there weren’t many of us in the building. Most of the girls stayed in the dorms and many were on a wait list for the no-AC twin share rooms.

I had a roommate, Valerie, for 3 days of my 1.5 week stay. Other than that, I had the whole room to myself! It was nice to have a roommate; especially the night I broke out in hives and thought I was going to die, but it was also nice to have quiet time alone.

The room came with a fridge and a kettle which I took full advantage of each and every day!

{You also have the option of majorly roughing it.}

What sorts of facilities were at the ashram?

  • Medical center where visitors could receive massages and ayervedic health advice.
  • Snack stand called the health hut where they served fruit bowls, cheese toast, smoothies and sodas.
  • Shop that carried various supplies like toiletries, yoga pants/shirts, books, CDs, dried fruits and nuts.

The only thing I found weird; and mildly stressful, were the hours the facilities were open. The health hut and shop were only open for 1.5 hours after lunch and about an hour after dinner. If you didn’t line up for the health hut ahead of time (and skip dinner) you ran the risk of not getting served. It was kinda backwards, but I made it work and learned to just accept things as they came.

What program did you sign up for?

I attended the 2 week yoga vacation. When I got there I learned that you don’t have to commit to the full 2 weeks, just 3 days. They ask that you pay the first 3 days when you get there, then the rest of your bill at the end of your visit, whenever you choose it to be.

{The schedule is posted on the main board everyday, just in case you forget. It’s pretty much the same everyday so you just get used to it.}

What was the schedule like?

The following schedule was adhered to Saturday to Thursday, with a ‘day off’ on Friday. Friday schedule was similar, but with a combined beginner/intermediate asana classes.

  • 5:30am wake up bell: the bell goes off around 5:30am which gives you plenty of time to get ready for satsang. A second bell chimes at 5-10 minutes to 6am to notify everyone that satsang is just around the corner.
  • 6:00am satsang: I was expecting more with this. The group chants the same song every morning and night with very little insight or readings shared. There was one day where we went on a silent meditation up to the top of a mountain which was the highlight of my satsang experience.
  • 7:30am tea time: they serve masala milk tea and dairy-free black tea right outside the main temple at the ‘tea tree’. Everyone gathers and gets to chat for a while before asana.
  • 8:00am asana class
  • 10:00am brunch: first of two meals served daily. Brunch is definitely the better of the two. More veggies, variety, and tasty sauces!
  • 11:00am karma yoga: everyone is assigned a karma duty at the beginning of their visit and this is the time they get to do it.
  • 12:30pm coaching classes: if you need help with meditation, asana, or chanting, there are instructors around the property at this time to help you out.
  • 1:30pm tea time: sometimes fruit was served during this tea time with the same masala milk tea or black tea. Another great opportunity to chat with other yogis, share stories, and catch up with everyone.
  • 2:00pm lecture: review of the 5 points of yoga.
  • 4:00pm asana class
  • 6:00pm dinner: last of the meals served during the day. Usually made up of rice or bread and 1-2 curries.
  • 8:00pm satsang: the exact same program as the morning.
  • 10pm lights out: you can stay up later than this but you’ll be so tired from all the asanas you just physically will not be able to.

On a couple of nights; after satsang (or sometimes during it when I chose to skip… shhhh) a couple of friends and I would gather on the terrace in front of my room. I’d prepare tea for us using the kettle that came with my room and we’d chat for hours about random things.

The ashram asks that people follow the above schedule without any deviation… but there is a little wiggle room. Some of my fondest memories are the times I wasn’t following the schedule!

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Comments | Leave Your Comment

  1. Wow, I love hearing about this trip Leanne (or should I say, Niyan!) Ever since I saw the movie Eat Pray Love I wondered if ashrams really look like the one the main character stayed at. Your room looks like something I could have dealt with… roughing it in a tent… not so much!

    • Not creepy at all! I just get so many comments from people that see that I travel with a teddy bear haha. Kevin and I purchased matching bears a couple of years ago when he began to travel a lot with his job. He has a bear that looks like me, and mine looks like him. We take them with us when we go traveling so we have a bit of each other with us at all times!

        • Thanks! It’s really great. As a surprise, he sprayed my bear with his cologne and stuffed him in a ziploc bag. When I landed in Mumbai missing home desperately and opened the bag with the bear inside I was greeted with a comforting smell. It was so sweet!

          • What an amazing adventure! I love reading your India posts. I think India is portrayed a certain way that is perhaps not-so-great and it is great to see how lovely it can be. I suppose it’s all what we bring to our experience. Your teddy bear story is SO SWEET! What a guy! I also sleep with my teddy bear – we have been together for 32 years :)

  2. “just staying for a couple of days before moving on to the next adventure.” — it seems like everyone who goes to India is in a constant state of flux, coming and going, traveling within the country and it was great reading in one of your other posts that if you went back, you’d keep things very open-ended, and just sort of “wing it”. I would be so nervous to do that but it sounds like it’s the norm and once I got there, maybe the wing-it spirit would take over :)

    • Even thinking about it now, I’m nervous haha. But you’re right, when you get there you just get into the mood of living life by the moment and stop stressing about tomorrow and the next day, and the day after that. It just takes over, just like you said!

    • Don’t be nervous, unless it’s nervous excitement! You’ll be great. I have no doubt about it! :)

  3. eee,nervous excitement!! :)
    purple pants. so adorable, are they linen? and you can only wear long skirts and baggy pants at the ashram, right?

    • The pants you see me wearing are from I had the light weight and the originals. I liked the originals more because the light weight didn’t soak up any sweat and made me super uncomfortable. MANY women wore tights so you can wear those. In fact, when I go again that’s all I’ll be wearing. So much more comfortable.

  4. tights, as in leggings? or tights, like panty hose? i thought i had read somewhere that you couldn’t wear skin tight pants (and no shorts, right?) at an ashram so i was scrambling to find “baggy” pants. i even went to our local goodwill and found some flowery (*cough* hideous) pants….

    • Sorry, leggings. I read that too, so I didn’t bring any and that’s all that everyone wore. They would have been so much more comfortable than the baggy things I had. Many of the women wore the leggings under large sweaters and t-shirts. No shorts at the ashram though. And I felt uncomfortable wearing shorts anywhere. If you can, get a pair of these lululemons: I LIVED in them for most of the trip. They have draw strings at the bottom so can be made into crops within seconds. So handy!!

  5. HI! I’m going to the ashram soon for the two week yoga vacation. Should I take my own yoga mat from here?

    • Hi Vrati – you can buy them at the shop, but make sure you do it at the beginning of your trip instead of a couple of days in as they sold out while I was there. I ended up just bringing my own, but a lot of people bought them at the ashram. I think they were around $5-10 USD. If you can’t get them at the shop at the ashram, they’re really hard to find in the villages surrounding.

  6. This sounds like a great experience. I have been thinking of going to an ashram but so far I’ve been feeling pretty scared to do it. I don’t believe am ready yet. I also wanted to say that your posts about India are great. I was in India last year and I still think about it almost every day. It is such a majestic country but when I try to explain why, people don’t understand me. India really is something one must experience to understand and love. I cannot wait to go back and spend months there. I love this blog by the way. I’ve started my own too. If you have time, check it out and let me know what you think :)

  7. Wonderful experience that you had visiting the Sivananda Ashram. I didn’t know the AC room where so nice, and with a fridge!. I stayed in the guys dorm in December 2010 for my TTC and it was amazing but I must say that I prefer the Sivananda Ashram in Madurai, very different vibe. I also wrote about my experience in my blog and

    • Hi Marco, wow the posts you wrote about your experience is so thorough! I wish I would have read all of this before I left! I had originally booked Madurai but it was recommended by some locals that I would with that I go to Trivandrum. I’m planning to go back to India next year and Madurai area is definitely on my list! Thanks for stopping by and saying hello ;)

      • Hi Leanne, thank you for taking your time to read my blog. Your posts are also very informative, I’m sure they will be very useful to other people that are planning to visit this ashram. Next time that I go back to India I hope to visit the ashram in Uttarkashi :-)

  8. Hi Leanne!
    Your blog is very interesting, contains a lot of interesting information that I was looking for. I want to go to Sivananda Ashram Neyyar Dam this year, but I have a vacation until August. Do you think it makes sense? Was then I’ll be able to take full advantage of stay at the ashram?
    Best regards!

  9. Dear Leanne,

    I am a Canadian also from Vancouver, BC!
    Great to hear about your experience.. I am going to the same ashram next week for the 2 week program.

    Did you find it to be a life changing experience in any way? I assume I could bring some snacks just incase I get hungry eh?


  10. Hi Leanne,

    Your posts are so helpful as I prepare for my 2 weeks at the Neyyar Dam ashram..Thank you so much.

    Could you spare any information about the weather in that area? When was your visit? Im not a fan of hot weather, so was hoping I picked a less sticky time to visit…I’ll be there late Sept – early Oct…

    And how about bugs? (mosquitos?)


    • Hi Sara! Lots of bugs… bring lots of bug spray! I went in March, good weather, juuust right. Around 25-30C everyday. Cool evenings.

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