Concluding series on Sivananda Ashram. I got interested in Yoga as an Old Vipassana Meditator when I was having breathing issues and many people suggested me to consider Yoga. A fellow Vipassana meditator recommended Sivananda Ashram and thus started my Yoga journey. I write about Yoga because it helped me in my spiritual quest, has helped myself in Meditation (Annapanna), Mindfulness (Vipassana), relaxation, spiritual well being and makes my body supple. Yoga as we progress in article assists you to reach higher meditative states as well as physical harmony. The multidimensional aspect of Sivananda Ashram which is elaborated here.
The day starts at 6 am in the morning for morning meditation with bells around 5.30 am. The morning routine includes Satsang and Meditation. The management does not reinforce people to change any meditation technique if they are already practicing one. Satsang involves devotional songs and chantings. As an old Vipassana meditator, I focused on my breath and practice Mindfulness (Vipassana) through the Satsang. Sivananda Ashram attracts people from around the world and they all participate in the Satsang which resonates with energy and positive vibrations. The chanting begins with Jai Ganesha…Jai Ganesha…an Indian deity for auspicious blessings and people chant along…I try to be mindful and observe my breath and myself within.
Sometime there is a silent walk to Neyyar Dam which includes walking meditation. This forms as an integral part of the experience at Sivananda Ashram and is mandatory for everyone. The meditation session in the morning could be extended to one hour considering early mornings are the best time for meditative states.
The morning schedule includes Yoga after the tea break. Sivananda yoga as discussed relies on 12 asanas or postures and as you progress furthers the variations among these postures increase. There are two yoga sessions each of 2 hours duration while generally an hour of personalized yoga sessions. The yoga sessions start with Pranayama and Sun Salutations (Suryanamaskar). Pranayama is controlling breath which is opposite to Annapanna i.e. awareness of breath Vipassana meditator’s do while practicing Vipassana Meditation. Pranayama is universally done among most of the Yoga schools in India. The Yoga sessions begin with Iconic words Inhale 1…2…3…4 Exhale 1…2…3…4…Retain…which Sivananda can patented. The sequence is an instruction to inhale exhale breath and then retain it.
The ashram teaches twelve asanas as already discussed in my earlier article with Sirsasana (Headstand) as the king of all Asanas (according to Sivananda Yoga). There are about 5800 Asanas. A yoga instructor corrected me on this. There are 84,00,000 asanas…Wow… We will look at some asanas separately in a generic article on Yoga. The Yoga is broadly divided into Beginners and Intermediate batch depending upon one’s expertise while Gentle Yoga classes are held during the Yoga Vacation for people with no prior experience in Yoga and want to take things coolly. I am myself a bit of slow starter and a day of Gentle Yoga will not harm.
I was able to record some exclusive videos of various postures.
The ashram also has a one hour Vedanta class wherein prominent people come and give lectures on Vedanta and Yoga sutras. I met Swami Janardhan personally and got an opportunity to talk to him in person. Swami has spent most of life studying Vedanta in a monastic life. He got inspired to follow this path when he had a fortuitous meeting with Swami Vishnudevananda and spends most of his time in Uttaranchal. Pic here
Brunch & Dinner
You get two vegetarian meals in the ashram. One of the most important ingredients you take which defines your well-being is food. The three gunas are natural subtle qualities that underlie matter, life and mind. According to Yoga and Ayurveda food has three types of Gunnas (qualities) which we inculcate when we eat food: Sattvic, Tamas and Rajas. Sattvic derived from Sattva means pure and intelligence which helps in maintaining harmony while Tamas is dark, heavy and destructive. Rajas are qualities pertaining to passion, agitation etc. Ashram serves quality Sattvic food. Afternoon time is tea with fruits.
Hey Dude what do you mean by Spiritual Commando?
Commando here means a person who works with diligence, precision to remove his mental impurities as well as is wholesomely involved in humanitarian initiatives. The person follows the spiritual path of righteousness, tries to be mindful, meditates and spreads brotherhood. Commando here is just a metaphor…More on this as a separate article.
I have visited Sivananda Ashram three times and most of the time worked in dining hall as a volunteer i.e. Karma Yoga. I think I did a good job considering everyone loved my service. I have a long experience in volunteering in dining hall compassionately serving food which range from Vipassana Centers around India, Langars in Gurudwara and underprivileged people in NGOs. I find serving food to be one of the most holistic volunteering work since hunger is very primitive, impulsive and needs to be attended with up most care. I was deeply impressed by other volunteers who worked in dinning hall esp. the two girls in the picture and Pelayo in the picture. Larissa is from South America while Eunyong is from South Korea. They both are travelling around India for personal well being and spiritual growth and worked very diligently and compassionately. Larissa quit her job in law to travel around Asia to learn Lord Buddha’s teachings, meditation and mindfulness techniques, while Eunyoung is focusing on Yoga and plans to do a Vipassana Course.
The true heroes in Karma Yoga in the ashram are people who help clean toilets; throw garbage and also who work in Health Hut since it is very high intensity work. They are people who generally are not visible but their selfless volunteering work makes the life so comfortable for everyone. On the hindsight, the ashram could maybe include more varieties of vegetables in dinner as well as include chapattis more frequently in the menu.
The great part of Sivananda Ashram is that you get to meet a lot of people from around the world who usually are either travelling in India or have come looking for spiritual wellbeing. It’s great to meet people with different perspectives, share your spiritual knowledge, experiences and connect with them at a personal level. Its flagship course Teachers Training Course attracts people predominantly from around the world especially Europe. I have met so many people with whom I connected at a personal level from around the world that I jokingly call the place Global Sivananda Ashram of Yoga.
Loved the words of Vasudeva, a seasoned American volunteer and intellectual “ Son a coin has four phases…Heads, Tail, The Rim and when it is tossed up” (All long term volunteers have a name of an Indian deity). The Dude says “It is when the coin is tossed up your fate is decided and maybe you can control your fate to various degrees ” Really how Dude…Later…
Both of us stuck a bit of personal relationship like father and son and Vasudeva gave good tips to
With my Dhamma Sisters from America and Germany. Allison is a very seasoned Vipassana meditator who is travelling around India in her spiritual quest and its very fortunate we met. We had the privilege to travel around the Neyyar dam when we lost our way back to Sivananda Ashram while climbing down from a mountain trip. Traveled around and met a family from Kerala who gave very generously water and met their two lovely girls. Blessed them for their future and they will go on to become great people in their own right. Met people from around the world including Latin America, North America, Europe, Africa and Asia …The list is endless and perspectives eternal…
Separate article on what attracts people to India from my spiritual journey which would include even Sivananda Ashram
Health Hut in Sivananda Ashram is a good place to partake refreshments which range from the very popular Chocolate Banana Milkshake, Cheese toast sandwiches and my personal favourite Fresh Lime Soda with Honey. Hey Dude I thought it was Fresh Lime Soda Sweet and Salty Shaken and Stirred…Hey I reinvented myself in Sivananda Ashram. Health hut is briefly open in the morning and evening and gives everyone a good opportunity to meet informally.Health Hut Rock Bella with Manon, both of whom manage health hut very efficiently.
There is small shop near the ashram which sells delicious snacks.
Sivananda Talent Show
One of the most creative and original features of Sivananda Ashram is the weekly talent show. The show which is about 1.5 hours long highlights various artistic and creative talents among everyone in the ashram. Held every Saturday night, not to be confused with Saturday Night Live, the purpose of the show is to invigorate creativity as well as assimilate everyone within a community. I am popularly known as MC for my knack of hosting creative Sivananda Talent Show backed by knowledgeable facts. It’s wonderful to watch people perform magic with their body in various asanas, share soulful ballads, perform spell binding performances. Looking at performances of many Indians surely India has abundant talent which needs to be economized. It was a privilege to meet Col Bhalothia, a retired army personal and winner of many gallantry awards. He fought in Kargil war as well as was part of the Indian contingent in UN peace keeping force. He along with his family practices Yoga and gave a lecture about killing enemies within oneself to lead a harmonic life.
An American spiritual brother recited a creative poem using dongs to start and end the poem, my European friends gave an all round versatile performance singing songs and some of them sang along with guitar. Loved the performance and lyrics of a Swedish brother who sang a very soulful song which went straight to the heart. Sadly could not record many performances since I was hosting the talent show.
And of course Indians came out with spectacular Yoga performances, versatile singing and dancing performances from likes of Shivani, Raj, Sanjeev to name a
few. Megha a prolific Kathak dancer motivated everyone although she did not perform. Some of the videos have been uploaded on Youtube and Facebook page as well. Pic Chandrika, a volunteer with per drawings.
Below stunning performance by a girl from Sikkim, India who sings aarti which almost brought tears in my eyes listening to her melodious voice
Sivani with Raj…another masterpiece
People loved my performance as a host especially my second one for panache, humor and originality. So what’s my talent…Hosting Talent Shows?
But everyone in Sivananda Ashram has Got Talent and everyone in this world is born with talent. You just need to discover yourself your latent talent…
I make a claim that most of the people who come to Sivananda Ashram are talented.
Hey Dude is that not a tall claim?
Really let’s see some statistics. Most of people who come to Sivananda Ashram do master some asanas which a majority of the population around the world might find it difficult. Let’s presume that 15% of the world’s population does Yoga, out of which 5% are maybe regulars. (This is a very vague estimate and only used to pursue my argument). In a fortnight many participants are able to do many postures in the manner as it is supposed to be done. I am not looking at various stretching exercise and improvisations of Yoga asanas in Gym. Is it unreasonable to presume that in a fortnight you could do some asanas which maybe 60% of the world’s population cannot do so? Very likely which makes many people in Sivananda Ashram talented?
Let’s take a relook at Sivananda Ashrams Healthcare…A Bellwether Humanitarian Initiate…
Sivananda for the past few years has been holding free medical checkups locals. This is a very holistic initiative considering India still does not have quality healthcare. The initiative held weekly my other Sivananda Ashrams have helped thousands of people with free medical consultation, healthcare and medical supplies. Neyyar Dam ashram itself has helped more than seventy thousand people ever since this initiative was started. Is that not great? These initiatives work as wonder drug for underprivileged people and on days of free medical care, free lunch is also served. Some of us in Sivananda Ashram were fortunate to visit the free camp for underprivileged and got an opportunity to interact and understand the implications of the initiative. When you meet an elderly lady who could easily be your grandmother and she smiles at you with gratitude for all the help…that smile is priceless. Straight to your heart and worth millions. We need many more initiatives like this in India. Pic above Dr Vishnu in the medical camp.
Sivananda Ashram is run by volunteers only and we should not forget the volunteers who come and stay here for a long time and help run the ashram. I got an opportunity to talk to Hanuman, an Welsh volunteer who has been on a spiritual journey for a long time.
My first full-fledged experience of Yoga was in Sivananda Ashram when I visited it in 2014 although I was a very old Vipassana meditator. It was a memorable experience and I write about Yoga because it helps me in meditation and mindfulness and reflects the rich Indian culture and tradition. When you do all the asanas you are aware of your breath which among other things makes you live in the Present. Savasana is an Asana dedicated to concentrate while lying in a corpse like position and to be mindful. Yoga is a union of body and mind, but the prime purpose of Yoga is to help develop better in Samadhi and in my case Sama Samadhi (right concentration). In words of Swami Janardhan, Yoga is a tool which facilitates ultimately mediation and concentration. The ashram also organises weekly tours around Kerala on Friday’s which are very structured and well managed. I personally had attended a backwater trip to Kollam with many of my fellow budding Yoga enthusiasts back in 2014. Presently the ashram arranges tours to Kanyakumari and Trivandrum.
Love the vibrations in Ashram, pristine surroundings including Neyyar Dam conducive for mediation and mindfulness and the high quality Yoga guidance in the ashram. It’s great to see people from all over the world practicing Yoga regardless of nationality, religion or creed because Yoga helps people both physically and spiritually. It is a form of ancient science which helps you to lead a holistic life, by coming out of impurities of mind which results in well being.
With Arun Pandala, great Yoga teacher. His class was full of funny anecdotes, energy and fun. Loved the session with him in Sivananda Ashram, Neyyar Dam.
In the end I found the experience at Sivananda Ashram invigorating. I love the picturesque surroundings, the roar of the Lions as it reverberates across the lake from the Safari, The Yoga sessions and sharing spiritual perspectives and experiences with people from around the world. I like my experience here and would recommend everyone to explore the ashram considering it offers not only Yoga but a holistic experience backed by a high quality Ayurveda centre. I had done one of the massages in the healthcare centre and though a bit expensive was nevertheless good.
It’s a wonder destination for family retreat and would like to attend with my parents someday. The ashram has a minimum day stay of three days wherein you can discern for yourself the advantages of the ashram and make a judicious choice. The ashram gives a wonderful opportunity to both physically and spiritually cleanse away impurities and the best attitude would be to make the best of the opportunities at hand.
So Dude are you a Yogi in terms of Asanas…
To answer that question…In the parlance of our times considering I struggle with some asanas and still unable to do Headstand…I declare myself as The Quintessential Struggler in Yoga…Stating that I am gaining perfection in one of the Asanas…Matsyasana…The Fish Pose not surprisingly enough since I am Piscean and very popular among the water kingdom. I love Dolphins and do you know Dolphins are Mammals and Hot blooded? Well Dolphin is an asana you need to perfect before you do Head stand.
We should make 11 March as the world Matsyasana Asana where everyone around the world does it at 11 am. Hey Dude is 11 March not your birthday and that’s why you want to make it world Matsyasana Asana day . Haha was not aware of it. How about three days after 8 march or three days before 15 March… HMM you are trying to be funny… Ok on any days which adds to two and maybe forget no worries. Any day in March…Let the whole world rejoice the Indian culture…
As for headstand it will great we can make a Global Headstand and everyone in developed country who does Headstand donate USD 1 into Global Headstand Yoga Fund which will fund education for underprivileged children especially girls and disabled children. Just joking but it will be great if implemented…
Celebrated my birthday this year in Sivananda Ashram and was gifted a very thoughtful book on thoughts by Sivananda Ashram. Thanks to everyone for the personal gesture.
In the end Yoga is a celebration of Indian culture and an ashram is one of the best places to practice and learn yoga considering it helps everyone to maintain a strict morality code to aid spiritual well being. All sages in ancient India always went to forests or ashrams away from cities in order to focus exclusively on their spiritual quest and everyone including Indians must make use of the great opportunity across India to make use of many ashrams. Its very nice of present government especially Mr Narendra Modi for fostering and encouraging spiritual practices in India especially focusing on Yoga and encouraging India culture. This has been one of his best initiatives apart from economic progress in India.
To wrap up people from around the world especially visit India for spiritual well being. India remains by far the most visited country for spiritual purposes and shall do so till end of time. India will eternally remain THE QUINTESSENTIAL CAPITAL OF SPIRITUALISM and its the duty of all Indians to aid in India’s spiritual growth. India is the home of Lord Buddha,mindfulness, meditation, Vedanta and Yoga Sutras and countless saints. More on this in a separate article.
I end my article with a video of Meditation and Chanting on the top of the mountain. As the sun rises above the mountains across from where we all meditate and chant…a hope for mankind rises…A hope of well being and very lasting peace & harmony…
Mindfulness helps everyone to become better human beings…
Special thanks to people in Kerala for preserving ancient Ayurveda medicine and Yoga. Well Done and Deeply Grateful.
Kerala government should encourage banks to set up ATM’s or open a small branch near the vicinity of the ashram considering the ashram attracts many visitors including tourists. (Within 100 meters). The closest ATM is some far off and very inconvenient to travel for withdrawing money through ATM. Moreover it would be great for the Kerala government to chart special buses like Volvo etc. to Neyyar Dam from Trivandrum bus stop especially during peak seasons if it is financial viable. Sivananda Ashram attracts many tourists who specially come for their specialized courses and who then decide to explore the natural beauty of Kerala. They bring in lot of revenues to the government through taxes and generate jobs. This will not only help in generating goodwill among the tourists but also greatly improve image of India.
Sivananda Ashram is very close to some well known beaches like Trivandurum, Dam, Kovalam, Varkala and the beatific areas around Kerala…Will write about it sometime.
Yoga helps me to become a better man…Hey Dude…As Good As It Gets…Helen Hunt…
Scripted, Directed, Produced and Acted by????????????
And The Oscar Goes To…
What Dude ?
Its Alright Alright Alright…Thank You So Much…Thank You So Much
Disclaimer: All the videos shot here are from my own smart phone camera after due approval from the Sivananda Management except the video titled Gateway to Inner Peace. I have not received any preferential or monetary emoluments for any of my articles from anyone including Sivananda Ashram. The Quintessential Dude only writes about his experiences which he feels are worthy to be highlighted and help in wellness and humanity. This was one of the most extensive projects I had undertaken which included capturing videos, pictures as well as travelling twice to Sivananda Ashram over a period of few days to collect all the information I need to write this article. Care has been taken to make the article as generic as possible along with the usual artistic creative writing which I am known for. Please do like my Facebook page nishworld2peace or subscribe to my YouTube considering I bring all knowledge absolutely free and do not make any money through the advertisements you down below. They are all from WordPress.
I have tried to include as many pics and videos. In case many of you are not highlighted it is unintentional. Have a great life ahead
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