It’s been just about two weeks now that I have been living, as best to my ability, a yogic lifestyle in an ashram, here in Indore, India. The reason that I’m here is to advance my studies of yoga, better my asana practice, learn about India and her beautiful people, and of course drink all the chai I can get my hands on (you gotta be fast, it runs out quickly!)
If you’re considering doing a YTTC or retreat at an ashram, here are some basic considerations of life at an ashram. My course is with Paramanand Yoga Institute, in Indore, Madhya Pradesh which is centrally located in the peninsula of India. Living a simple lifestyle won’t be for everyone, so do your research and contemplate if you’re up for life at an ashram before deciding to study one.
- Yoga – It’s what I’m here for. In my advanced studies I’m learning a lot not just about the postures but about the other aspects of a yogic lifestyle, and it’s very much encouraged to go as deep as you can into it. That means trying to limit social media time, self practicing asana and meditation, and loads of personal reflection. If you go to an ashram to do a training be sure to look into the style of yoga that they practice and teach, as it’s very likely that it will differ greatly from the western, vinyasa flow/hot yoga that you’re used to. Go with an open mind and take as much as you can out of the variety of yoga styles that there are.
- Vegetarianism – Ahimsa, or nonviolence, is a part of Yama, or self conduct, which is part of the Eight Fold Path of the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, and this might include vegetarianism in most ashrams. If you stay here in India, then you won’t even miss the meat, because the food is good. My friend forewarned that I’d probably even put on some pounds from all the ghee (purified butter) and sugary chai (both made from dairy, so let someone know if you’re vegan ahead of time) and she might be right.
- Karma Yoga – This is no hotel living. No one is going to clean your room for you or do your laundry, living in an ashram means doing things for yourself and taking joy and responsibility in your duty (dharma.) Not only will you be expected to care for your own space, but everyone is required to maintain the common areas. Personalized projects that cater to your interests are a possibility as well, i.e. – blogging!
- Lectures – Whether you do a yoga training, a short retreat, or a temple stay, remember that time spent in a new environment is time to learn and grow. At Paramanand Yoga Institute, there is a tightly packed schedule with classes on everything from Yogic Philosophy to Asana class.
- Modesty – From attire to behavior there are rules here. 1. Shoulders must be covered, and only loose fitting pants (so leave your MPG at home.) 2. Opposite sex should not embrace/Don’t enter the rooms of the opposite sex. In a way you could almost think of an ashram as a monastery, essentially it’s religious, but before you wrinkle your nose too much, consider how a regulated day, diet, and schedule can be really good to push the reset button on your life. It’s also an integrated cultural experience that likely won’t be happening at a beach side resort.
Like everything outlined here, this may not be the case at the ashram that you find, but scour their website or send an email asking outright about style of yoga and behavior guidelines. If it sounds too intense, then look into a weekend visit or shorter trip than a month long training. Whatever length you choose, it’s beneficial to at least dip your toes into another area of yoga beyond asana.