I spent 12 days over christmas 2012 at the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas. I've been coming her for over 12 years now, and like to visit at least once a year for R&R if not more. I had a great experience here and have brought friends and recommended it to all my coworkers and friends. My stay is mostly positive, but there are some things to be prepared for before you come here. I’m sharing my ashram experience hoping that it'll help those of you considering a stay here.
Venue-Beautiful 5.5 acres of forest land on the atlantic ocean. You can't beat this venue. The Ashram is tucked away between the Atlantis resort and private wealthy mansions. Hibiscus and bougainvillea were in full bloom in december and provided that much needed tropical air for this Canadian visitor.
beach-Pure, unspoilt and very quiet other than the motorboats since the ocean is shared by the atlantis.
Accomodation-I stayed in a shared hut.. Space is tight and the accomodation is bare bones, but that is to be expected when you are paying < $100 per night. Besides I found myself coming back to my room only to change between yoga wear & bathing suit, or night clothes. If you want to take full advantage of this ashram, may I suggest you also think of spending your day either doing yoga, or at the beach, or several workshops during the day or going for a tour of the main island.. Try to stay away from your room as much as possible as there's so much beauty outside. I enjoyed the shared accomodation, and the end of day sharing with my room mate who I'd never met before. I must admit it was my first time in shared accomodation with a perfect stranger & I wasn't sure how that would be. While it worked out, next time I might go for a private room which is just $10 extra, just so I don't disturb anyone if I came back late after attending the night satsang.
Bathroom-Since I booked late, I could only get a shared bathroom. I found that perfectly acceptable and never had to stand in line to take a shower or use the bathroom. It was probably my timing. I'd go for my shower after the morning yoga and brunch about 10:30 when the shared showers were really quiet. What I might do next time is book ahead for a private bathroom, since I sometimes forgot bathroom essentials and it would be much easier if it was a private bathroom & I didn't have to return to my room.
Food-I've read a lot about the food at this place and just wanted to share what is available and some ideas on what to bring. Meals are served twice a day, at 10:00 Am and then at 6 PM.
Meals are typically satvic again, no animal food, no onions and garlic are used in the food. Each meal has plentiful options for carbs-amazing fresh bread baked by Ganga daily, rice, potatoes; protein-tofu, lentil soups; vegetable stirfry; a variety of salads to fill up an entire table. Yoghurt, cereal, peanut butter and jam is only provided in the morning brunch meal.
Is there too much carb in the food- My reply would be it depends on how much you call too much. You will be working out quite a bit and carbs are essential. At the same time, you don’t have to load up on all the carbs available at the dining table. For the first few days at the sight of so much food, I’d fill my plate and then groan that it was too much. After the 1st week, I found a method that worked for me. Just one slice of bread or some rice, not both, a bowl of lentil soup, vegetables and very little salad since my body prefers warm and cooked foods to raw foods. I think our society places too much importance on proteins. Its not the only food item our body needs, actually the ashram does a good job of providing a variety & its up to us the ashram guests to choose what we need. A little moderation goes a long way in keeping our body & spirit happy ;) If you like the food at the ashram and want to try making some of it when you return, you might be interested in reading my blog firstname.lastname@example.org where I share gluten free, vegetarian food recipes.
However if you feel hungry before, in between or after meals, you do have a few options
1. request the kitchen staff for some food and they're glad to oblige. I arrived after the first meal, and the kitchen staff rustled something up for me very quickly
2. Take some food from the meals in a doggy bag.. If you're considering a sandwich with jam like I did, may I suggest you bring ziplocs so that ants don't get in your room like they did in mine:)
3. Bring some snack bars from home and maybe some chocolate if you have cravings that you can take a bite of every now and then.
4. Tea and coffee are not served at the ashram to maintain a sattvic lifestyle(sattvic lifestyle means staying away from artificial stimulants). However if you bring teabags, coffee & stock them in your room, no one will stop you from indulging. And if you want to share some of your goodies with the kitchen staff, which is primarily made up of volunteers, you'll be a very welcome guest.
Water – both hot and cold water are available 24/7 in the dining area and are safe to drink
Yoga-Yoga is taught twice daily, 2 hour sessions each at 8 am and then again at 4 pm. They’re typically done on an empty stomach, but if your body can;t handle being hungry till 10 AM, then do have a quick bite to satisfy yourself.
Depending on the number of guests at any given point of time, the ashram offers, basic, intermediate and advanced classes. As I was there at the busy holiday season I tried all 3 levels being offered. Typically the levels are not that much different. In the sivananda style of yoga, 12 asanas or postures are practiced regardless of level. The difference is that the advanced class instructor will hold poses for a longer time.
Instructors are qualified sivananda teachers. Each one has something special to offer, so try not to get caught up in instructor personality. I found that if I was able to let that go, I had a stellar experience in class. My requirements were simple--to make a call about what class I wanted to attend, I’d say to myself, today I want to do a class on the beach platform, doesn’t matter what instructor it is, or what level it is, I want to enjoy the sounds of the atlantic..
Yoga platforms-there are 3: beach platform that I’ve posted a pix on, the bay platform which overlooks the bay and can sometime be noisy as tourist boast pass by, but if you think of the origin of yoga, Indian cities can be quite noisy and to maintain inner calm within that outer turmoil is a yogic way as well.
The ashram suggests that attendance at both yoga classes is mandatory. I did that for the first 5 days of my stay, and then found that I had hip and glute aches and couldn’t bend anymore.
Speaking with an instructor about this, I was asked ‘How many hours of yoga are you doing” – 4 was my reply.. that’s too much , she said, do one class for 2 hours and then spend the rest of the time enjoying the beach. I did that & found that I recovered from my pains quite fast.. After a few days of this, I could go back to the 4 hour yoga practice which I enjoyed thoroughly after. It seems my body needed to get used to this extensive yoga practice and I might suggest you try something like this instead of trying to break into yoga bootcamp.
Meditation & Satsang( devotional chanting) – 20 minute silent meditation is offered twice a day : 6 AM & then again at 8 PM at the temple. But if you get lucky like I did, some days the morning meditation & satsang is done as a silent walk on the beach & then you meditate sitting on the sand, and when you finish you’l l catch the rays of the rising sun(see pix). Meditation is not taught here, its assumed that you have a practice, I already practice transcendental meditation so that’s what I would practice, if you don’t have one, no problem, just focus on your breath and remain in silence to get the benefits of that morning hour. Do bring a towel and cushion for meditation, whether its the beach or the temple, it can get cold sometimes and sitting on the floor can be hard if you`re not used to it. Chairs are available in the temple, but may get filled up quickly.
Satsang is devotional chanting done by the ashram staff. Feel free to join in, as a singer I can tell you its a spectacular experience. If you are a kirtan singer as I am, let the ashram staff know that you would like to offer a song and they will try to accommodate. Some of the chants are to hindu gods, some to Christian, some to Islamic..this is a non-denominational singing. And if you hear a lot of Indian words, its only because the ashram pays respect to the yogic masters, Sivananda and Vishnu Devananda who were both originally from india. Then again if its too much Indian words for you, don’t feel compelled to join in, but drink in the sounds. Sound value is extremely important to maintain balance in our bodies, so do take advantage of this easy and powerful technique --I hope to write a blog about this in the future & if you would like the link, just pop me a note to email@example.com.
Clothing- I visited in December where there were a few really cold days & my wardrobe just wasn’t prepared.. So do bring a throw, a thick sweater or sweatshirt and most of all, socks, feet tended to get very cold those few days. The ashram does provide blankets so sleep wasn’t a problem.Also bring shawls for the satsang, it can get a bit chilly in the evening and its always nice to respect places of worship and be modestly clothed, you might see some staff cover their heads in the temple, but thats entirely options..
Mosquitos-any waterfront property is bound to have mosquitos and this was no different. The ashram provides mosquito sprays in the rooms, or at least they were available in my room. If you want to be absolutely sure, bring your own.
Volunteering-You may be asked if you would like to help out by ashram staff. And this is entirely optional. If you do, you'll find an amazing experience where you get to learn more about others experiences. There are several ways to volunteer, you may be allowed to do the dishes, or help prepare a meal or if you have a special skill you would like to offer, just let the staff know & they'll do their best to accommodate. Being such a foodie, I helped out in the kitchen and experienced the loving kindness of Chef Yogeeshwara. I must say it brought a lot of appreciation for large scale cooking, for over 200 people every meal!!
Service- Most of the ashram staff are volunteers and get room and board in return for several hours of work. Its called karma yoga.. Other than kitchen staff where you have a professional chef and the outstanding housekeeping staff which is local Bahamian, pretty much every other staff member is voluntary. There are amazing people and then there were the sometimes not so amazing people just like you would expect to find anywhere. I experienced relative indifference a few time with the reception staff –which was probably due to overwork. Regardless, I don’t think training is the answer, it could be something as simple as treating guests with loving kindness as we do depend on reception as our main point of contact for help. This was my only point of concen and I was very happy that I got a chance to provide this feedback. As I was leaving a swami appeared from nowhere & helped me drag my suitcase to the docks. While waiting for the boat to arrive to take me to the main island, He asked about my experience. I shared how happy I was with the ashram and then because he asked and I think its important to share feedback in a constructive manner, I told him about my reception experience, which he said he would bring to the attention of the main swami at the ashram. He was genuinely interested to hear about my experience and I,m grateful to this swami, I think his name is Shankar, so if you meet him, say hello to him and OH! the amazing boatman, Ganesha too..
All In all a fantastic experience and I made wonderful friends with staff and guests for life, that I would repeat again I hope soon. I hope you find my tips helpful and wish you a wonderful stay at this amazing yoga ashram.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.