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Ayur Yoga Eco Ashram. Photo Courtesy:


I often get approached by people, who ask for recommendations of ashrams in India where they can study yoga. At some point in time, both beginners in yoga and experienced yoga practitioners long to come closer to the source of knowledge.

Before suggesting a concrete place to go, I always ask, what is the real motivation for them to undertake such a journey. Is it the desire to advance their physical yoga practice, is it the search for spiritual growth, a way to heal from a trauma, to detox body and mind, or maybe just an idea to spend a holiday in a useful way? For many, a yoga retreat in a beautiful set up in Goa or a residential stay in a yoga school can be just a much better option.

When you do decide to go to a real ashram to study yoga, there are a few things to consider, that will help you understand if it is the right place for you to stay.

Each ashram in India may have a different “authentic” approach to yoga

Many practitioners want to study yoga in an ashram so that they can experience real, authentic yoga. Depending on an ashram and its Guru the approach will differ considerably. Often, the focus does not lie on the physical practice, and a lot of time is dedicated to meditation or even social service. Asana practice might take only a small part of the day, if at all.

Be ready to practice “karma yoga”

Karma yoga means “the path of unselfish action” or “the discipline of selfless action as a way to perfection”. Depending on the place, this can imply either work in the kitchen, cleaning duty, or volunteering in the community.

Plan a longer stay

Programs like yoga holidays usually last between one and two weeks. Such schedule is a perfect match for those who can’t leave their jobs and families for a long time, but a stay in an ashram is a different story. If you are not going to attend a specific, shortened program, a minimum stay in an ashram can be anything between one and six months. The same rule typically applies to traditional yoga schools as well. When I was studying yoga in Mysore, I had to stay at least one month with my teacher.

Strict discipline is fundamental in the life of every ashram

When you stay in an ashram you agree to follow their regime and a way of life. The routine may include waking up as early as 4 am, performing prolonged meditations and following a strict schedule of activities.

Don’t expect your life to change overnight

Living in a modern world it is natural to expect quick results in all areas of our lives. A few weeks stay in an ashram, however, will not necessarily become a turning point of your life and might come with its challenges. Remember, spiritual growth is a life-long process and does not always adhere to our expectations.

Sivananda, Yoga, Vedanta Dhanwantari, Ashram, Pranayama, Breathing

Pranayama session at Sivananda Ashram in Neyyar Dam. Photo Courtesy: Coni Hörler

Get familiar with the concept of Guru (or Teacher) in India

The concept of Teacher in India, especially in a traditional yoga setup, is very different comparing to the one in the West. It involves a lot of dedication (sometimes bordering devotion) and trust, and this tradition should be respected. To better understand the relationship between the Teacher and the Student in India, I recommend to take a look at the book by Swami Satyananda Saraswati “Taming the Kundalini”.

Respect the place where you are going

The rules of the place where you are going to stay might be different from what you are used to. Many traditional yoga schools, for example, have strict policies concerning clothes for yoga practice. Certain norms can extend outside the ashram, so it’s important to understand what is appropriate in the surrounding communities.

Expect a lot of quiet time and self-reflection

During your stay in an ashram, you will have a lot of “quite” time that is used for meditation and self-reflection. Some ashrams even dedicate a few hours a day in their schedules that residents are supposed to spend in complete silence. Even if you don’t opt for vipassana* for your stay in India (a complete silent meditation performed over multiple days), it might become an intense experience, but also a powerful tool to listen to oneself.

Check the living conditions

Life in a traditional ashram is often synonymous to ascetic life, with very basic accommodation and shared facilities. It also embraces a concept of a communal living. Some modern day ashrams do offer various lodging options that can fulfil the needs of everyone, but it comes at a price and can vary depending on a place.

Keep an open mind and heart and enjoy!

Staying in an ashram in India to study yoga and meditation can become a life-changing experience. It can also become a challenging time, and even a disappointment, if you are not ready for it. Challenges, however, are a necessary stepping stone on the path of personal growth. Choose your destination wisely and enjoy your time in beautiful India, regardless where you decide to stay!

Anastasia Sharova is an entrepreneur and a yoga practitioner who lives between Germany, India and Russia. She is the founder of Happy Bellyfish and the creator of Happily Globalized Blog. Anastasia writes about yoga, personal growth and life as an international entrepreneur. Follow her on Instagram.

LEFT: Student and Teacher – Yogacharya Venkatesha with Angela. RIGHT: Angela practices Yoga Photo right: Angela McHardy


There’s a band in Scotland, ‘Del Amitri’ sing the tune ‘Driving with the Brakes On’. The title resonates with my journey with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). PD is described as a ‘degenerative neurological condition, caused by impaired dopamine levels, affecting physical, cognitive and emotional functioning.’ It feels a bit like ‘Driving with the Breaks On’. Wanting to do things normally: walking, talking. thinking, but something is slowing you down. Nothing is spontaneous. However, this is a story about taking those brakes off through yoga. A story of resilience and hope.

I am Angela McHardy and pre-diagnosis, 3 years ago, I had a husband, 2 children and a high-level job in Education. I live in a place called West Kilbride. My husband and I had our share of challenges over 18 years but got through them. Life was motoring along. I enjoyed the gym, running, other activities. I was a black belt in karate and I competed nationally. Annoyingly, my leg had a tremor which developed over a few months. It appeared every time I woke and throughout the day. I became unwell. I ended up having a month off work. At this time, my father had end-stage PD. Fortnightly I travelled the 200-miles to my parents who lived further up North in Scotland.  Life was stressful, using my car analogy again, things seemed to be stalling a bit. I visited my doctor several times with my tremor, aching shoulder, imbalance and l feeling very unwell.

The professionals decided what was wrong. Stress, workload, hormones, discs…. everything got blamed. Three times I asked ‘Is this PD?’ ‘No ‘ I was told, but I knew they were wrong. Three years on, the lovely Dr Tyagi who is now my regular neurologist diagnosed PD. My husband was at my side, I never imagined I’d face this myself. In the space of nine months, I’d lost my dad, got diagnosed with PD and discovered my husband was having an affair which he conducted when I was at my lowest. Life in multiple traumas. It felt like the brakes were well and truly on!

My family and friends saved me, but what gave me hope back was yoga! Time for me to take control and not let this disease or other’s actions define me. I needed to place myself in the driving seat!

I go on my yoga mat and I feel like the PD melts away. My yoga teacher trained me as a yoga teacher! Relinquishing my career was another source of loss but I have built up a yoga business, ‘Upala-haven Yoga’, practising with various clients. People are surprised when I say I’m a yoga teacher with PD but come to classes and seem to love them.  I am restricted to a few poses, but I am originally a ‘teacher’ so can teach any pose, even if I can’t demonstrate.

Exercise should be as mandatory as our medication for someone who has PD.  My friends and I are organising a 2-day event ‘, in November promoting this message. Yoga will be a possible intervention. Yoga is not merely a physical activity. It’s a lifestyle which can help heal. Movement, nutrition, hydration, emotional well-being makes for an effective blend. Nutritionally I found that the emphasis on gut health resonated well with research on its impact on conditions such as PD.

My journey to Mysore began when I met the Acharyas in Edinburgh on a course. I gained perspective from their disciplined approach, promised I would come to Mysore. I immediately warmed to these 2 Acharya’s who practised with such integrity and passion. They practise pure yoga. Holding each pose for an extended time before moving. Friends commented on the difference they saw in me after a week. Imagine the difference a month could make? I don’t need to imagine ……I’ve been here at their yoga course in Mysore for a month now and I know the difference made.

The main improvements in my symptoms:

* Improved walking/gait. Improvements in posture created by   Venkatesha’s attention to detail sees me steadier on my feet. Acharya’s message is slow things down and focus. He uses the car analogy well: If a car is going too fast it quickly goes out of control. The opposite is also true.  I’m walking more slowly, taking time with my movements as well as yoga. The emphasis on patience

* Elevated mood. While here with a focus on the now and positivity I have, slowly stopped using antidepressants

* Alleviating brain-fog. The space in the course allows to truly reflect on situations, I feel my general clarity of thought much improved. This has also been helped by the focused breathing and posture work transferring, from the body to mind.

*Less rigidity. The flexibility aspect of the training programme established space in my spine and joints. My joints feel more fluid.

* Strength: The highly motivational way of increasing strength by holding poses longer each time really worked. Focussing on my ‘personal bests’ improved my emotional and physical strength.

* Detaching from toxic situations. My broken marriage has been difficult to overcome, but the philosophy of attachment made sense. I feel ready to detach Yoga avoids fluctuating towards feelings of anger or injustice

* Return of weakened movement skills I was amazed that when in Mysore I was able to re-establish my ability to swim! I’d be disappointed to lose this skill but it has now returned!

The next step in improving my condition will depend on transferring this model: Daily movement practice, nutritional continuance, while drinking 4 litres water daily and detaching from toxic heartache past. I have never felt stronger and while this approach may not work for everyone it has for me.

What will be missing home in Scotland will be 2 of the most inspirational teachers I’ve met. I am so grateful for their belief in me, their belief in yoga. The brakes are now off!

Angela spent some time studying Yoga in Mysore with Yogacharya Ventakesha & Acharya Hema who run the Atmavikasa Center of Yogic Sciences.




Photo Credit: Coni Hörler, Yogi: Kranti (


The process of meditation entails centering, mindfulness and internalization of awareness. Traditionally, the process of meditation is seen as a continuous process of an inward journey from the field of sensorial dimension to the innermost state of being. Technically this process begins with the stage of Pratyahara (withdrawal of mind). Pratyahara is the first and foremost stage of meditation which starts with the awareness and acknowledgement of sensorial inputs and simultaneous witnessing awareness. There are many techniques which are employed to help facilitate this process of mind-withdrawal. Read the rest of this entry »

Gary J. McKenzie-McHarg

Early February, the Yoga community in India lost a legend who contributed tirelessly to the world of Yoga. Dr Jayadeva Yogendra, was President of The Yoga Institute and an exemplary guru to all the Yogis who were fortunate enough to learn from him. pays a tribute to him with this remembrance in the words of Gary J. McKenzie-McHarg

Dr. Jayadeva Yogendra taking a stroll in The Yoga Institute.

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It is that time of the year when the Yoga capital of the world, Rishikesh gets ready to host an event that celebrates Yoga in its truest sense. The International Yoga Festival 2018, organised by Parmarth Niketan Ashram in association with the Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India, Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board & GMVN, will be held from 1-7th March at the Parmarth Rishikesh Ashram, Rishikesh. Read the rest of this entry »

Indian Visa for Yogis, is now an easy process. Image Credit: Pixabay


As the International Day of Yoga approached us in 2016, the Indian Government made an announcement on the 2nd of June that made every yogi crack a smile.

Foreigners can now apply for e-Visa not only for sightseeing, recreational and visiting purposes but also for short-term yoga courses and for taking short-term medical treatment under Indian systems like Ayurveda. This move has made coming to India to learn yoga a hassle-free affair. Now, the students need not visit the Foreigners’ Registration Office (FRO) at the city police headquarters. To know more about registration details, click here. Read the rest of this entry »

Paramahansa Yogananda. Photo Source –


Religion and spirituality hold a significant place in Indian culture and the nation is almost brimming with mystics, sages and ascetics. Some are fraudulent but some have been known to benefit humanity in their unique way of imparting spiritual wisdom. Through these gurus, people all over the world connect with the supreme power within which leads to a healthier and happier life. Below is a list of 6 prominent Indian spiritualists who have contributed to the well-being of people and society as a whole. Read the rest of this entry »

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