Why a Yoga Retreat at a Traditional Ashram Wasn’t Right for Me

By Natalia Martin
Published: April 24, 2020
Presented by Kavaalya
Key Takeaways

I realized that these traditional centers are for those seeking a radical and permanent change in life, and that wasn’t my case. I looked for improvement, but I didn’t want to leave my life behind.

Source: Kavaalya

Yoga helps me to be my better self. More than 10 years of practicing yoga has made it a part of me.


After years of thinking about it, I decided to do something I'm always wanted to do – go to India to deepen my practice and learn more about its origin.

I went to India to experience authentic yoga. After a few days in a traditional ashram, I decided to change and to go to another more open school. Here's a look at why.


Why did I choose to go to a traditional yoga ashram in India?

The answer to this question is, to know authentic yoga. I wanted a place that would nurture the purest Indian traditions, with few foreign students and away from the big cities.

The search was complicated because there were so many options and it seemed close to impossible to decide on one. I spent over a week doing intensive searching, going through blogs, forums and comments.


After lots of filtering, I decided to go ahead with a yoga school in northeast India in the state of Bihar, which is also one of the poorest states in India. This made it even more attractive.

After choosing a school, I had to book and buy tickets. I have to admit that it was not easy at all.

I really had to make an effort to overcome each and every one of my fears. It took me two weeks to make the purchase and after doing so there were times when I really regretted it and was close to cancelling.

If you are wondering why I did it in the end, I will tell you that it was more for a reason of self-improvement – I wanted a challenge – than for yoga itself. I wouldn't have forgiven myself had I backed out.

Life at the Yoga Ashram in Bihar

The ashram is a place without a single concession to luxury or comfort. It is a very austere center totally focused on yoga as a path to personal transformation.

You get up before dawn, at 4:00 in the morning! In addition to yoga, you do things like singing in Sanskrit for hours or scrubbing floors. And all that with only two meals a day in complete silence and without wi-fi.

I assure you it was a constant fight with myself. Every second I wondered: what am I doing here?

The goal of the school is exactly this: to confront yourself.

Such situations lead you to look within yourself. The tougher the experience, the deeper you get.

This is how they understand yoga. It is more a way of life than a series of postures. It is a process of self-knowledge to achieve a greater degree of awareness about who you are.

I learnt that the resistance I had to my daily tasks, such as community cleaning, was due to certain definitions that I had engraved within myself and that acted automatically and involuntarily.

Then I realized that to feel good I just have to change those definitions. The problem is that you have to know that those definitions exist.

And that is precisely the purpose of yoga. It is a process to become aware, to know yourself.

Time to Reflect

The hours and hours of meditation helped me to examine the reasons that had led me there and what I really wanted. Basically:

  • Perfect my yoga practice.
  • Learn about its philosophy and origin.
  • Meet an authentic Indian Yoga Master.
  • Test myself.
  • Know India.

I realized that these traditional centers are for those seeking a radical and permanent change in life, and that wasn't my case. I looked for improvement, but I didn't want to leave my life behind.

Those ashrams are not intended to teach yoga poses or to be a spiritual retreat for a few days in which you rest from stress and routine and then return to the same thing.

I'm so glad I went and very grateful for the whole experience, that untapped some parts of me.

With my drafts clear, I left the ashram and returned to Delhi. There, with wi-fi in the room, I started looking for another yoga center in India, more focused on what I really wanted, keeping in mind what I had just learnt.

The Second Yoga School

I decided on a center in Goa, since in addition to yoga classes, I would get to experience the sea side and good weather.

The Kavaalya yoga center in Goa is located right in front of the sea surrounded by nature. Quite a change!

This was more in line with what I had earlier wanted. The approach here was different, more liberal, but without losing the essence of yoga. Tradition and modernity were present at the same time.

I have to say that it was not easy either. There are classes from 6:30am until night. You learn yoga and all related sciences, such as meditation, pranayama, Ayurveda, anatomy, philosophy and more.

It was really hard to sit on your yoga mat almost the whole day and also focus on paying attention. At the end of the day I was dead.

The good thing is that it helped my yoga practice had really reached another level. I am now aware of the importance of each posture, transition, alignment and how to coordinate breathing.

The most important factor that makes the difference, are the teachers. They have to be native and educated in the traditional values of yoga. Then the transmission of knowledge occurs naturally during classes.

What did I learn in India?

  • Waking up early makes me feel good.
  • Food really affects my mood.
  • When I focus on what I'm doing, I feel better and perform better.
  • Facing my fears is good.
  • Life experiences are there to learn something important.
  • "I like" or "I don't like" are very subjective and; I can change it
  • There is magic in surrendering to the present moment.
  • India is a fascinating country and I want to know it better. I will be back.

All this is the result of the experiences and teachings of the amazing yoga teachers that I have met in India.

They do not consider yoga to be something isolated from the rest, but as a part of life and that is why a yoga course in India has an impact, I could never have imagined before coming here.

A Few Parting Words

There is no substitute for your own experience, that's why I truly hope that my words help you open up to the world and let life pass through you without resistance, only then shall one come to live fully.

Lastly, I wanted to thank from the bottom of my heart all the people who have helped me in this journey, my friends Rita and Catherine and the staff and teachers of Kavaalya Yoga Center.

Special mention to all those who made it hard for me, because they have made me much stronger and better.

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Written by Natalia Martin

Natalia Martin

My name is Natalia Martin, I am 32 years old and I love yoga and solo traveling. I studied law in Sydney because my parents are from there, but I was born in Paris, where I currently live.

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