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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