My Sivananda Ashram Experience

I spent the last 9 days waking up at 5:30am…voluntarily…and generally without an alarm.

Why, you may ask.  The short answer; I was crossing off another item on my bucket list.  But it was so much more than that.

I spent the last 9 days at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Meenakshi Ashram in Madurai and it was everything I expected and yet quite unexpected at the same time.  For starters, I had no idea that the physical practice of yoga is intended to prepare one to be able to sit longer and more comfortably in meditation!!

inside-the-ashramMy main reason for going to the ashram was to immerse myself in yoga and learn more about the practices and how this can improve my way of living.  And this is exactly what I did.  I’m pleased to say my neck and back pain have decreased substantially, I can do two hour yoga classes on uneven concrete floors without being uncomfortable, I rather enjoyed waking up before the sun, and I am definitely more comfortable in my own skin  🙂

Before you wonder how much I was pampered at this “Yoga Vacation” as they call it, let me tell you that I cleaned toilets almost everyday, I shouted at monkeys to keep them from stealing my apples, I only took cold showers, and I’m sure I’ll have Hare Krishna chants stuck in my head for the next few weeks.  The ashram I attended is one of the most traditional ones out there and I’m glad I unknowingly chose this one.

At this ashram, there is a strict diet of Satvik (vegetarian – not spicy, no onions, no garlic etc.) South Indian food, eaten sitting on the floor, in silence, twice per day – 10am and 6pm.  On top of this, traditionally, everything in India including eating is only done with the right hand.  So naturally, since I am left handed and did not exactly grow up loving South Indian food, my family was extremely curious about what I was getting myself into.

Somehow my body adapted to this eating pattern from day one and I found that as long as I didn’t think about food, I didn’t miss anything.  Ok, I did bring a few granola bars, and there was one afternoon where I craved sushi and wrote out what I am going to order next time I eat it.  It’s amazing how the body can adapt, and how much food is consumed unnecessarily by people every single day.

daily-schedule

While this lifestyle may not be for everyone, I fully believe that it allowed me to benefit more from the past nine days than I would have at a place more befitting of the name “Yoga Vacation”.

After the food, the second immediate and tangible difference I noticed was my sleeping pattern.  From the start I slept like a log, didn’t wake up in pain, didn’t get disturbed by sounds in the night, and didn’t remember my dreams.  I can’t say I’ve slept like this in over a year!  I also can’t believe I waited 25 years to reap the benefits of an Indian background and take up yoga when I visit India.

my-roomate-and-iDuring the middle of our asana class yesterday there was a moment when I couldn’t concentrate on the pose I was holding for a few reasons; monkeys had jumped into our practice area and were eating guavas and throwing them on the floor, I could hear cows mooing in the distance, and the realization that I was exactly where I wanted to be kept making me smile.

I didn’t know how this experience would ultimately unfold but I had been looking forward to it for years.  Bonding with the swami over our affinity towards Brazilian footballers and event organization was the cherry on top of a huge cake.  Now, I’m looking forward to spending some time in India with family and friends!

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