My Favorite Ashrams in India
I have done my fair share of spiritual exploration over the years to save you any trouble of going to several ashrams and exploring infinite styles of yoga and meditation available in India. Although I haven’t been to every ashram or teacher training, I studied a fair amount of styles of yoga and meditation, inspired by several different spiritual leaders and paths. Depending on which teaching style you are most inspired by, I have compiled a list of a few of the ashrams and yoga centers I have experience with, to make your "search for enlightenment" just a bit easier.
1. Surinder Singh at Swasti Yoga, Rishikesh, Uttarkhand
If you are inspired by: Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Traditional Hatha Yoga, or are interested in taking the best, most holistic hatha yoga asana course.
Surinder Singh is well known in the base of the Himalayas as one of the best yoga teachers in Rishikesh. His classes are filled with his love, compassion, and wisdom, as he works in service in a medium he so clearly loves. He offers daily drop in classes as well as month long teacher trainings, giving you the option of a full immersion or daily bits of wisdom. His teacher trainings require students to take their own accomodation, however his capacity to teach, share, and love is ever present whether you are taking the month long course or going to his daily drop-in classes. Surinder’s drop in classes are 200 Indian Rupees per class ($3 USD).
You can find out more at https://sw.swastiyoga.com/
2. Usha Devi at Omkarananda Ashram, Rishikesh, Uttarkhand
If you are inspired by: BKS Iyengar, learning about the body as a tool and how to use it, having very strict, yet powerful teachings.
Usha Devi is a disciple of BKS Iyengar, and is also well known in Rishikesh as one of the most knowledgable teachers in town. She studied with BKS Iyengar for many years, and teaches the way he taught: strict and precise, filled with love and wisdom. Although her classes are about as radically different from Surinder’s as far as her approach goes, I learned so much about the body and how to cue asana down to your fingernails from her classes. Usha Devi only teaches drop in classes, 6 days a week, and offers immersions and retreats throughout the year. Her classes are from 5pm-7pm, and are 1800 Indian Rupees per week, which comes to about $26 USD. It is also available to stay at the Ashram and take her classes as part of a live in program.
You can find out more at https://www.iyengaryoga.in/schedule/
3. Sivananda Ashram, Neyyar Dam, Kerala
If you are inspired by: hatha yoga asana; you are inspired by the teachings of Sivananda; You would like an ashram experience that is accommodating to Western standards, while remaining authentic.
The Sivananda Ashram in Neyyar Dam, Kerala, is nestled within rolling hills of jungle greenery in South India. This ashram has all of the amenities and comforts fit for foreigners who may not be accustomed to ashram life, with a complete integration into the yogic lifestyle. Sivananda Ashram offers ayurvedic retreats, teacher trainings, and the “Yoga Vacation,” which is open to all visitors. Guests participate in Kirtan, Satsang, two yoga classes a day, a class on yogic studies, and karma yoga. One hour of selfless service is required per day to keep the ashram running. Hatha yoga classes are taught in the Sivananda Style, which is one sequence with a several variations to each posture, beginnings from our position at birth (inversed), going through stages of crawling (seated postures), and ending the sequence in standing positions. For guests on the “Yoga Vacation,” there is a choice between taking the beginner asana class or advanced asana class, making this ashram for everyone. For serious students, there is a work study program in which you live at the ashram for several months, providing several hours of karma yoga to keep the ashram running. Many teachers in the “Yoga Vacation” program live here doing just this, however if you are only looking to explore the experience of living in an ashram, the “Yoga Vacation” program is best, and requires guests to stay a minimum of 3 nights. At an affordable 800 rupees ($12 USD) a night, which includes three meals, accommodation, and daily schedule of classes per day, this is one of the most affordable ashrams suited for foreigners and locals alike.
For more information, visit: http://sivananda.org.in/neyyardam/
4. Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, Uttarkhand
If you are inspired by: a traditional ashram experience in the heartland of yoga
For just under $10 USD a night, guests can stay at the most well known ashram in Rishikesh. This price includes daily yoga sessions, aarti, food and accommodation. Located on the banks of the Holy Ganga, Parmarth Niketan is known for their amazing evening aarti, or fire ceremony, that takes place each night. Rooms resemble basic hotel rooms, some even have AC for the scorching summer months in Rishikesh. As well, there is a 2 week long beginner yoga course, and a 4 week long advanced yoga course, for those looking to dive deeper into their practice. These courses include hatha yoga asana classes, vedic chanting, pranayama, and an introduction to Yogic Scriptures. To get a full ashram experience, an introduction to the yogic lifestyle, and an introduction to Hindu culture, Parmarth Niketan is a great place to start.
For more information, visit: http://www.parmarth.org/
5. Amma’s Ashram, Amritapuri, Kerala
If you are inspired by: Amma, Humanitarian Services, NGO Services, the Bhakti Path.
Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion, is the path here at Amma’s Ashram. If you feel inspired by devotional service at this point in your path, this is a great place to offer because you have the freedom of contributing your time to the ashram, or not. Many of you may have heard of the hugging mother, Amma, as her darshan is a hug. Amma has personally hugged millions of people around the world. As a guest, your days are free to explore the birthplace of Amma, her childhood home (located on the grounds of Amritapuri), join daily yoga classes, get your Vedic astrology reading done, and contribute to selfless service in the karma yoga program here. Karma yoga could consist of anything from helping with the cafe, library, the grounds, and more, depending on the length of your visit. It costs 250 rupees, or just under $4 USD per night to stay here. Amma lives here and gives darshan when she is not traveling for humanitarian work or giving darshan around the world.
For more information, visit: https://www.amritapuri.org/
6. Tushita, Dharamsala, Himachel Pradesh
If you are inspired by: Mahayana Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Thich Nanh Hanh, Tantric Buddhism.
Although Tushita is not a yoga ashram, this Tibetan Monastery is open to foreigners looking to deepen their meditation practice and dive into Buddhism. Offering a 10 day Introduction to Buddhism Course in silence, meditators are given tools to learning the basics of the Mahayana Tradition of Buddhism. After students complete a Introduction to Buddhism Course, there are several advanced courses for those looking to deepen their roots in this tradition. The 10 Day course includes several meditation classes per day, as well as a gentle yoga class, 2 discourses on Tibetan Buddhism, and Karma Yoga, or selfless service. For dormitory style living, the minimum cost is 6,000 rupees ($90 USD), which includes the course and 3 meals a day.
For more information, visit: http://tushita.info/
7. Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu
If you are inspired by: Sri Ramana Mahareshi; J. Krishnamurti, and those on an intellectual path of yogic philosophy.
This ashram devoted to Sri Ramana Maharishi is located in one of the most powerful places in the world, at the base of Mt. Arunachala in Tiruvannamalai. Staying at this ashram is limited to devotees, however there are several affordable hotels within walking distance. Sri Ramanasramam Ashram hosts several pujas and a recorded satsang by Maharishi himself. For those wishing to stay at this ashram, accommodation and meals are all no-fee, donation based. As well, every morning at 11am there is a breakfast prasad meal for everyone in the community, free of charge. All guests are welcome to meditate on the ashram grounds all day to reconnect with Sri Ramana Maharishi, and join his recorded discourses in the afternoons.
For more information, visit: https://www.sriramanamaharshi.org/ashram/
8. Sattva Yoga Academy
For you if you are inspired by: Paramahansa Yogananda (Autobiography of a Yogi), Kriya Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Spiritual Growth, Tantra.
Sattva Yoga is not quite an ashram, but so much more than a retreat center. Anand Mehrotra, lead teacher, offers 200 hour and 500 hours yoga teacher training programs, as well as Ayurvedic Spa packages. As well, for returning Sattva Yogis, there is the Gurukul Program, in which yogis commit to a minimum of 4 months at the center in selfless service; and an Internship program for returning yogis to teach at their studio in the center of Laxman Jhula or contribute their skills in another relevant way. Sattva Yoga is Kriya Yoga from the Paramahansa Yogananda Lineage, which uses Tantric and Vedantic Breathwork, yoga asana, and Himalayan Kundalini Kriyas to create a moving meditation that generates electricity from within and shift ones' consciousness in minutes. I have personally found this practice to be completely transformative, creative, and unique. If you are interested in deep personal and spiritual growth, I would recommend attending a teacher training at Sattva Yoga Academy.
For more information, head to sattvayogaacademy.com
9. Osho Ashram, Pune, Maharashtra
If you are inspired by: Osho, Tantra, Radical Living, Conscious Relating and Conscious Sexuality.
I personally feel a deep connection with Osho and his teachings, having studied with several of his Sannyasins. His meditation techniques are simple, yet effective, in releasing trapped emotions and bringing the light to our shadow selves. There are several outlier ashrams around India, and his meditation camps are offered world wide, making these techniques available to all. This ashram offers daily meditations, such as his dynamic and kundalini meditations, and meditation camps, such as the Mystic Rose course. This ashram in Pune has an entire Multiversity, in which participants can take a myriad of courses, healing sessions and workshops as well. For long term visitors, "Living In" programs allows guests to assimilate into the lifestyle here from 7 days to 3 months at a time, with options for returning visitors. As well, there is an option to stay at the guesthouse on site or any guesthouse around Pune and join for daily meditations at the ashram for a small fee.
For more information, visit: http://www.osho.com/visit
10. Art of Living, Bangalore, Karnataka
If you are inspired by: Kriya Yoga, Sadhguru, Sri Ravi Shankar, and building community while practicing breathwork.
This was my first experience in traditional yogic practices, nearly ten years ago in a three day program that took place in New York City. These courses are great because they are available worldwide, for anyone with an honest inquiry into holistic self healing and growth. I learned simple breath kriyas, and several community building, fear-transcending, and soul-deepening techniques in the three day international course I attended. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Ashram, Art of Living, offers several programs for beginning meditators. The Happiness Program is a 3-day course in which participants learn several breathing techniques to help participants remain calm at all times. As well, there are several other introductory and advanced yoga and meditation retreats, such as a meditation and creativity retreat, the Sri Sri Yoga Level 1 retreat, and a silence retreat. Staying at the ashram is only for participants of the retreats, however day visits are available to all.
For more information, visit: https://www.artofliving.org/
11. Kaivalyadhama Yoga Center, Pune, Maharashtra
If you are inspired by: BKS Iyengar, Yoga Therapy, Traditional Hatha Yoga, Investing in an integrative Yogic education.
Although I did not study here, two of my teachers from two separate teacher trainings I attended did. I learned yoga asana as a form of therapy from these teachings they brought from Kaivalyadhama, as well as integrative philosophy and movement practices. If you are really interested in learning how to master the body, this is a great place to dive deep into the practice. I learned how to move safely in each asana, and how to use props to offer healthy adjustments for every body type. Here you can enroll as a student in the Yoga College, or you can take the month-long or year-long immersion programs, or take one of their online courses to get a taste of the teachings.
For more information, go to https://kdham.com/
12. Vipassana as taught by S.N. Goenka, Worldwide
If you are inspired by: grounding your energy, you are inspired by Secular Buddhism and mindfulness, you are inspired by Jack Kornfield, Susan Salzberg, and other Mindfulness Meditation teachers and techniques.
I love sitting in vipassana so much that I have been to 6 retreats with Goenka already. This practice is the mahameditation: the great meditation, because the ability to sit and watch ourselves without craving or aversion is the ultimate intention of a spiritual path. Although “vipassana retreats” are not yoga ashrams, the experience is quite similar. For 10 days, participants take vows of silence, meditating 11 hours a day, with only breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea. Goenka teaches vipassana meditation, or the meditation of watching yourself in the present moment, as the Buddha practiced until enlightenment. Accommodation and food varies depending on the center you are in. Each course is run by donation, making learning meditation accessible to everyone.
For more information, visit: https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index