Are you dreaming of taking a journey to India, the birthplace of yoga? If you decide to take a trip to this holy and culturally rich place, you may be changed forever.
India assaults the senses, with it's vibrant colors and exotic perfumes. Some people say you’ll either love it or hate it. When I visited Madras, a city in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu, I loved it. I was only twenty years old and I can honestly say, that my trip to India inspired my commitment to a daily spiritual practice or, sadhana.
If you’re serious about evolving your yoga practice in an authentic environment, spending time in an ashram is an excellent way to do this. You will be in a safe environment that guides and mentors you along your spiritual journey. Plus, you’ll meet like minded people from all over the world, and possibly make a friend or two for life.
Should you choose to take a life-changing journey to India, here are the top 3 yoga ashrams in visit.
Parmarth Niketan is located in Rishikesh, nestled peacefully in the Himalayas along the bank of the Ganges river. Rishikesh is a sacred city in northern India which is known as the yoga capital of the world. With more yoga schools than cafes, it draws yoga devotees from all walks of life and corners of the globe. For this reason, two of our three top ashrams are located in Rishikesh.
The setting for this ashram is lush and sacred. Some rooms look out onto the Ganges River. Parmarth Niketan was founded in 1942. Every March, there’s a renowned week-long yoga festival that takes place there. With over 1,000 rooms, it is the largest ashram in Rishikesh and one of India’s most popular yoga camps.
If you’re a beginner, this ashram offers an array of foundational classes. If you’re more advanced or looking to become a teacher, the ashram also offers yoga teacher training programs. This is the perfect ashram for any Westerner wanting to immerse themselves in the yogic arts in a holy city surrounded by natural beauty. (Read more about What to Expect From a Reputable Yoga Teacher Training Program?)
The school of Sivananda yoga has centers all over the world, but the one in Rishikesh is one of the most popular. This ashram's location is dramatic, sitting right on the bank of the holy Ganges river with the Himalayas rising in the distance.
Also known as the Divine Life Society, it describes itself as a ‘gentle place with a gentle pace.’ It’s a no frills yoga center with public classes offered daily. The Sivananda yoga school is known for its gentle Hatha yoga style, with pranayama, meditation, mantras chanting, and yoga philosophy woven throughout its teachings. Founded in 1936 by Swami Sivananda, one the main pioneers of yoga in the West, the Sivananda ashram welcomes all levels, from beginners to advanced students. Their motto is to help human beings become ‘true human beings.’ (Read more in The History of Hatha Yoga.)
It’s important to note that this particular Sivananda ashram has no accommodations, so you’ll have to arrange to stay someplace nearby. No need to worry on this front as local lodging is plentiful.
Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute
The Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute was founded by the late B.K.S. Iyengar and is now home to his yoga teaching children. If you’re into Iyengar yoga, this is the ashram you'll want to visit. The ashram is located in Pune, a town approximately 150 miles southwest of Mumbai. All classes at the ashram are taught by world renowned teachers in the Iyengar tradition of yoga, Geeta Iyengar (B.K.S.’s daughter), Sri Prashant S. Iyengar (his son), or senior teachers trained by B.K.S. himself. (Learn more in Who Was B.K.S. Iyengar?)
This ashram is ideal for people with medical conditions, as Iyengar yoga is highly therapeutic in nature. Special classes are offered for women and children as well. If you’re serious about traveling to this ashram, you’ll want to have some experience in Iyengar yoga first, as the month-long course offered is selective in terms of admissions. Drop-in classes are also available. What’s more, Pune is also home to Osho’s ashram, so it’s another ideal town (like Rishikesh) in which you can visit multiple ashrams.
Enjoy your travels and keep an open mind. If you’re a serious yoga student yearning to travel overseas, time spent at an ashram in India will be invaluable to your spiritual journey.
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