Ashram Life

Posted by on Feb 5, 2007 in India | 6 Comments

Many people come to India to experience it’s spiritual side, either Hindu or Buddhist, meditation or yoga. I thought this trip was the perfect opportunity to take a crash course in yoga from the masters. After a few failed attempts to reserve a spot I finally arrived in Sivananda Ashram on the 31st. It’s a huge organization based in Canada and most of the participants are Westerners. When I arrived a Teachers Training Course was just finishing up and the complex was overloaded with people.

My dorm The croc-infested lake A sand mandala drawn on the floor for the puja ceremony

I’m paying 450 rupees to stay in a dorm bed, eat vegetarian food and receive yoga instruction. Unfortunately, I am also required to “participate in ashram life” which includes a 5:20am wake-up, lectures and Hindu chanting. Some of the ceremonies are nice but after hearing the same chants twice a day I’m starting to crack.

Each day the schedule is about the same:

  • 5:20: Wake-up
  • 6:00: Satsang (meditation and chanting)
  • 7:30: Tea
  • 8:00: Yoga
  • 10:00: Meal
  • 11:00: Lecture
  • 12:30: Karma yoga (chores)
  • 1:30: Tea
  • 2:00: Optional coaching class
  • 3:30: Yoga
  • 6:00: Meal
  • 8:00: Satsang
  • 10:30: Lights out

The Eating on the floor, crosslegged with your right hand isn't as easy as you'd think

The TTC Course includes approximately 150 students, all of whom graduated just before I left for The Super Bowl. They were a tight knit group of people, with many cliques and snobbish attitudes toward us newcomers so I hope most have left by the time I get back to the ashram tonight. As the days progressed the beginners class seemed to swell and we often had more then 60 people—twice as many for my tastes. We all ate together in silence and attended Satsang together, although obviously the students who had been here one month were much more into the Hindu chants than the beginners. Personally, I thought they were pretty but very repetitive.

The schedule Evening Satsang My dorm-mate, Sylvie and I at Satsang

I met an equally cynical American couple from Chicago whom I could talk to. We discussed Taco Bell and other American things—much to the horror of our vegetarian classmates. They only lasted as long as The Super Bowl and I will be going back tonight to spend a few more days on yoga. The food is not ideal, and the other day were were served “rice with water.” But despite the early mornings, rules, bad food and earthy students, the yoga is great and we have been treated to night walks, a martial arts performance and a special full moon puja ceremony.

To get a flavor for Satsang I’ve snuck a few videos for you:

Ashram Satsang from Megan Kearney on Vimeo.

More Satsang in India from Megan Kearney on Vimeo.

6 Comments

  1. dis
    February 5, 2007

    So, if you call it “karma yoga” does it make doing chores more enjoyable?

  2. Megan
    February 5, 2007

    No. Especially if you’re the one assigned to clean the toilet.

    I must have pretty bad karma, because yesterday I went to “the health hut” to eat a fruit salad instead of asking for a karma assignment.

  3. Lucas
    February 8, 2007

    Yea… that doesn’t look too fun at all.

  4. Megan
    February 8, 2007

    Some people were having the time of their lives. They looked like they were overcome with joy. But then a few people who I thought loved it started checking out and I heard people talking about how they were excited to leave. So it’s not for everyone, but three days doesn’t hurt anyone and it’s an experience.

  5. Ernest
    February 10, 2007

    Megan your blog is totally awesome… This evening, I was just sitting in starbucks, waiting the rain to stop, and I found ur amazing blog! Im so interested with your blog and your RTW project. It is very nice, Im hoping someday I will travel the world with on my own. I’m Indonesian and currently Im living in Kuala Lumpur, and planning to go to UK next September. I really interested with your story and your way of travelling. It’s quite an eye opener. really. If you mind may I asked you a few questions? just curious.

  6. [F]oxymoron
    July 15, 2008

    I?m not big on the run away, hide, meditate and seek enlightenment thing, but an ashram could be quite an experience. Do you think most ashrams are like the one you visited? And do you think it is best to just stumble into one, or thoroughly plan it out?