Definition - What does Ashrama mean?

Ashrama (also spelled asrama) is a term used to describe any of the four different life stages that a devout Hindu should pass through.

In English, the word has been adapted to ashram to describe a spiritual retreat where people can go to meditate and practice yoga in a tranquil setting far from the urban world. Many ashrams in India attract foreign visitors who are eager to discover the secrets of yoga, meditation and ancient wisdom. There are also ashrams in other parts of the world.

Yogapedia explains Ashrama

The different stages of life, or ashramas, are:

  • Brahmacharya (devoted student)
  • Grihastha (family-supporting householder)
  • Vanaprastha (forest dweller who has started to withdraw from material pursuits)
  • Sannyasa (renouncer of material possessions who seeks enlightenment)

In terms of the ashram as a spiritual retreat, these are often led by a guru who passes on wisdom to the residents. This is seen by many yogis as offering an opportunity to immerse themselves in yoga and other spiritual matters in a way that isn’t usually possible otherwise.

Whether or not it is done in an ashram, practicing yoga can help an individual move through the four ashramas and come closer to enlightenment.

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