Traveling Through India: Sivananda Ashram, Neyyar Dam Part II

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.

What was the program like?

I was eager to attend the lectures and soak up all of the Sivananda teachings as I had at Yasodhara ashram. My expectation was that the instructors would fill our minds with challenging questions, new ideals, and show us a different way to view our world. Unfortunately what I expected was so far from what they actually offered. Looking back, I should have done a bit more research in choosing the right ashram for me, but there’s always next time!

The yoga vacation program focuses solely on the 5 points of yoga; proper diet, exercise, breathing, relaxation and thinking and relies heavily on the surroundings to enlighten people. There are no deep conversations, not much meditation, and very little in the way of spiritual coaching. If you’re looking for a yoga experience – to live as a yogi in a safe environment, this is your place. If you’re looking for guidance in realizing your spiritual potential, you may want to look elsewhere.

I ended up purchasing a lot of books during the time I spent at the ashram and pulling the enlightenment from within myself. It all worked out in the end, but I was kinda bummed about it at the time.

{asana class in the lower level of the main temple. Lots of instruction!}

Did you go as a beginner or an intermediate yogi? What was the yoga like?

The ashram offered 2 hour beginner and intermediate classes at 8:00am and 3:30pm daily. They also had advanced classes for a couple of days while the Sivananda reunion was in progress. The classes took place in the dining hall, the lower level of the main temple, or by the lake. Each location was great, but the bugs got pretty bad in the afternoon by the lake.

Each class began with pranayama, followed by 15 sun salutations, then to the 12 basic poses of Sivananda yoga. We were instructed to rest in corpse pose between each of the basic asanas which I thought was odd at first, but learned that I did much better with the main asanas with the breaks in between. With each new pose, the instructors asked us to move to the front to watch the demonstration. They took us through each step, how to set up correctly, and offered modifications for absolutely everyone that felt they weren’t ready to move into the full pose.

{outdoor studio across the road from the ashram}

{savasana view in the outdoor studio}

I’ve been practicing yoga for 6 years but never felt like I got a proper introduction to it. Although I’m sure I could have done the intermediate class, I chose the beginner classes in hopes of learning the basics from the ground up. This worked out to be a great decision! I had no idea how strong you could make a downward dog when you reach the crown of your head to the floor, or that the crow pose is all in the balance and has very little to do with strength.

What sorts of things do people do on their day off?

The ashram coordinates 1-2 excursions a week for those that wish to go off site and explore the surrounding area. If you choose not to leave the premises, you can stay and follow the same ashram schedule as above.  I’ll be writing about the excursions in an upcoming post. They were all so amazing!

What is the dress code at the ashram?

The ashram asks that all visitors cover their shoulders, midriff and thighs at all times.  Also, it was advised not to wear tight fitting clothing. I took this as: don’t even bother taking a bathing suit and leave the tights at home. If there are two things I wish I would have brought, it would have been a bathing suit and my lulu lemon tights! Everyone had them but me and they would have come in handy so frequently.

There were multiple opportunities to go swimming throughout my stay and it was nearly impossible to find a bathing suit at a local shop. A lot of women I saw using their bathing suits just covered up, got in the water, then removed the cover.

The clothes I was most thankful for during my stay were these lululemon pants, my purple sweater from American Apparel, and dream pants from dear lil divas.

What Hindu practices are followed?

I’m not too familiar with the Hindu practices, but one thing that was highly practiced both at the ashram and surrounding area, was taking off your shoes before entering a building. When you go shopping in the village, go to temples, pharmacies, clothing stores… whatever… you take off your shoes. And;what I learned very quickly, there is no use in scrubbing your feet. Just accept that they will be dirty day in and day out.

Also, once you get to Mumbai, there is no need to take your shoes off before entering a grocery store. They will think you’re crazy and just giggle and point at you.

Where did you wash your clothes?

All of the places I stayed had wash basins or buckets that you could fill up with water and wash your clothes. I brought laundry soap sheets with me from home and did my laundry at least once a day. Most of the water you`ll use is cold, but I didn’t find it to be an issue. Clothes dry in about half a day if left out in the sun. The humidity was never an issue for me.

{inside the main temple during the talent show}

What other activities happened at the ashram?

The guests at the ashram put on a talent show every Saturday. Performances included an opera singer, a man that could seriously bend in half, and a tap dancing karma yogi. The show always had me laughing but ran far too long into the night. I ended up sneaking out and heading to bed after about 1.5 hours.

{All night Shiva festival}

There was also a Shiva festival that happened while I was visiting. It was an event to honor Lord Shiva. Guests didn’t eat all day, stayed up all night chanting, then broke the fast the day after. There were parties all over the valley and in the small towns. A couple of yogis and I were invited to them, but the ashram wouldn’t let us go :(

When you left the ashram, did you go straight from the ashram to the airport, or did you stay in the city before you left?

I didn’t end up going from the ashram back to the airport because I changed my travel plans halfway through my visit. But, many ashram goers took a cab, bus or rickshaw from the ashram back to the airport and left that same day.

How did you arrange transportation from the ashram?

There’s a tour guide and transportation building right down the street from the ashram where you can coordinate your travel plans. It’s super easy and convenient! And, if you’re wanting to take the bus, there’s a stop at the bottom of the hill in the little village of Neyyar Dam.

{prepared for asana class!}

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