Sivananda Yoga is well-known worldwide and follows the teachings of Swami Sivananda. There are five Sivananda Ashrams in India, the largest one being Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram, which you can also find in our book. Clare Hudson, a yogini from the UK, shares with us her experience at the Sivananda Meenakshi Ashram in southern India.
My Sivananda Meenakshi Ashram Experience
– by Clare Hudson
“Put your heart, mind, intellect and soul even into your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.”
~ Swami Sivananda
Earlier this year, I spent two weeks practicing yoga, meditation and having interesting conversations at the Sivananda Meenakshi Ashram in Tamil Nadu in southern India. I’d now like to share some of my experiences with you.
Before I arrived at the ashram, I had no expectations; I just wanted to learn, observe and totally immerse myself in the experience. I was drawn to the Meenakshi Ashram because people from all walks of life were welcome and although each day had been carefully planned out with 5:30am starts, the ashram didn’t seem elitist or overly strict.
I always think that it’s important to have space to question what is being taught and practiced in order to fully understand. So, despite my daily schedule being full of yoga, meditation and chanting, there were also daily lectures about the philosophy and history of yoga which I found incredibly rewarding.
In the lectures, we discussed everything from God to the importance of a yogic diet. Some of us enjoyed the discussions so much we created our own ‘Question Time’ in the free time after the lectures. Questions included: Is it important to follow rules when you meditate? What is the purpose of meditation? And, is it really necessary to get rid of desire?
Perhaps you’re wondering, ‘but you were at an ashram, you’re not supposed to be thinking, you’re supposed to be clearing your mind.’ However, it was the discussions, laughter and union I felt with other people in the ashram that really made the experience worthwhile. It was the conversations that helped me to become more mindful when I meditated – to simply observe my thoughts rather than trying to get rid of them.
As for the yoga, I practiced for three hours each day and was amazed by how quickly I improved. By the end of the two weeks, my body felt stronger, my head clearer and overall, I felt more balanced. The classes were small and the ashram catered for all abilities, so it didn’t matter if you were new to yoga or you’d been practicing all of your life.
If I were to sum up my Meenakshi Ashram experience, this is what springs to mind – silent meditative walks up mountains as the sun rises, giggling over yoga nose cleaning rituals (it’s another story), pesky monkeys in the bamboo dorm, the fun of karma yoga cleaning and food containing every colour of the rainbow.
Being in the ashram taught me to appreciate the little things, be compassionate and not take life too seriously.
If you’ve spent time in an ashram, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Did you find it rewarding, hard to adjust, life changing…? Alternatively, if you’re thinking about staying in an ashram and have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below.
By Clare Hudson
“If I was to choose just one thing that makes me excited about yoga, it would be the sense of connectedness and the reminder to always be present!” – Clare Hudson
Clare is a copywriter with a passion for yoga. Visit her website for more information and for some fun reading!
The opinion in the article is the opinion of Clare Hudson and does not necessarily represent the view of yoga.in.
18 replies on “Sivananda Meenakshi Ashram Experience”
I loved reading about your experience, especially because I’m planning to spend a week or two at one of the two Sivananda Ashram in South India (Kerala or Madurai).
It would be my first experience ever in an Ashram, and in India too (I’m travelling in the north for a month, then I’ll visit the south and am willing to have an experience at an Ashram). So I red the article with great interest.
I’m really willing to live that. To leave all worries – well… most – behind, and spend time with people sharing the same desire, doing yoga in the heart of yoga, learning so much in a full immersion experience.
Did you do what they call the “Yoga vacation”? The Ashram in Kerala looks (from the website) more organized and less isolated. I will be travelling alone, so probably I’m just a bit worried.
Would you recommend the Ashram? Why did you choose that one in particular?
I’m really pleased you found the post helpful. I remember when I was trying to find the right ashram, it all felt a bit over whelming – there are hundreds and hundreds to choose from! Anyway, in answer to your question, I did do the yoga vacation for two weeks and really enjoyed it. The ashram in Madurai is much smaller than the one in Kerala, although I haven’t personally visited the Kerala one. Some people, however, found there were a lot of people there and actually came to the Madurai one instead because it’s smaller. It’s all about personal preference though so I wouldn’t want to persuade you either way.
I also travelled alone to the Meenakshi ashram. If you’re worried about it being in the middle of nowhere – It’s pretty straight forward to get there. I would, however, suggest that you book a hostel in advance if you reach Madurai city in the night, as I found it a bit of a mission to find somewhere nice, but then again, it’s probably best avoiding arriving at any place in the middle of the night!
I chose the Meenakshi ashram because a yoga teacher in Hampi recommended any of Sivananda ashrams – I chose the Meenakshi ashram because I’d never been to Tamil Nadu, whereas I’d been to Kerala before. I also liked the idea of being in a smaller place, where if there were loads more people, I thought I might feel a bit lost in the crowd.
Hope that answers some of your questions.
Thank you so much for your answer.
I will take into consideration your tips and will decide which one of the two Ashrams to visit according to my schedule but also to the atmosphere (and their availability)
I am looking forward to this experience.So far I am pleased with my choice,choosing among the many ashrams in India was not easy but I had this good feeling reading and browsing their web site,and I “met” Sivananda yoga through “learning yoga book” and like the idea of a certain continuity with what I’ve done so far.
I will let you know when I get back.
Glad you found it useful. I wish you the best of luck on your trip and enjoy practicing yoga.
Did you happen go to Madurai Ashram as you mentioned in your earlier comments? How is the stay in Madurai? Can you pls elaborate a bit?
How did you book the accommodation in the hostel while you were in Madurai?
How much does it cost for 2 weeks stay?
Yes I did stay in the Sivananda ashram which is just outside of Madurai town centre. It costs about 350 rupees to get a rickshaw from the centre of Madurai or madurai train station to the ashram. This trip in itself is pretty spectacular – the surrounding countryside is beautiful.
If you’re going to do the yoga vacation which lasts for two weeks, it costs 400 rupees per day (this is the recommended donation) which is the equivalent of $7.28. This includes accommodation, all meals and two yoga classes per day. I booked a week in advance before I came. Sending an email should be enough. They’re pretty quick to respond. You can find all the info you need to book here: https://www.sivananda.org/madurai.
If you’re arriving in Madurai in the evening like I did, I chose to stay in a hostel first in Madurai town centre. There’s no need to book anything in advance but you’ll probably get a much nicer room for a better price if you do. The Rough Guide is pretty good for that. If you arrive during the day, you can just go straight to the ashram.
Hope this helps. Let me know if you’d like any more info.
Enjoy your travels.
Thanks a lot for sharing your experience.
I’ve been looking for a yoga vacation, and I thought Madurai would be great as I’ve already travelled to Tamil Nadu and Kerala last summer and I loved it.
As you said it’s not easy to find the “right” ashram, especially just by searching on the net.
I saw you’ve written that you contacted the ashram a week before going there.
I’m just a bit worry to do the same as if I come to India this year, it’s mainly to spend the two weeks in an ashram so I want to be sure that they have a free “bed” for me 🙂
i’ve dropped an email, I hope that would be enough to get an answer.
I was also pretty reassured about how easy you managed to reach the ashram(as well it was useful to know the price of the rickshaw)!
If you have any more advise to give, I’d be happy to read you.
At the moment it’s off peak season in India so I’d be surprised if the ashram was booked up. Fingers crossed you’ll get a response within a few days. The only other bit of advice I have is to keep an open mind (as cliche as that sounds). There were a few people when I was there who found it hard to adjust to the routine and early mornings, but if you’re into yoga and meditation, you’ll find the teaching excellent and everyone was so friendly when I was there.
Hope this helps a bit.
All the best with your travels. Let me know how it went.
P.S. Don’t forget to pack for the monsoon season.
thank you so much for your answer(s).
One “technical” question though : should I bring a yoga mat with me or anything special apart from a few books, my clothes and toiletries?
Thanks again for sharing your experience and advices. I’m dying to be there 🙂
I am back from India and in my trip I finally decided to stay a full month at the Sivananda Ashram in Maduraih
I took the Yoga Teacher Training course and I am very Happy with my decision.
The Ashram was pretty busy but never full.
I was there at the end of february untill end of march.
Many people came and went even just for few days.
The minimum one can stay is three days.
The place is really beutifull,and very quiet compared to other ashrams.
I stayed in the common dorms and liked very much to be sourrounded by all that nature.Mango trees and monkeys.
I met many travellers and “spiritual searchers” there and I would it reccomend it.
Thank you for sharing your experience with us,it helped me to decide.
That’s brilliant — so pleased you had a positive experience and enjoyed the teacher training. Good luck with it all.
You will need to provide your own yoga mat — so you can either bring your own or buy one at the ashram. There’s a small shop on the ashram where you can buy books, yoga clothes, toiletries etc.
I would like to join the teacher training course in Shivanandha Meenakshi ashram. Should we have any prior knowledge in yoga to join this course? Or they teach from basics?
The Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training does not require prior knowledge. Have a wonderful course!
Hi Aiyswarya, I hope you’re well. A lot of yoga teacher trainings will accept complete beginners onto their courses which can be an amazing way to deepen your knowledge and experience of yoga. However, if you do plan to teach I would definitely recommend starting a personal practice. I hope this helps. Let me know how you get on. Sivananda yoga is such a beautiful practice and I really treasure my short stay at the Meenakshi Ashram. I learnt a lot in just a few weeks which has been so valuable now I teach yoga full time in London.
I plan on visiting Meenakshi Ashram. This would be my first visit. What are the things I’m expected to bring along with me to the Ashram?