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.
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 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.
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: