I came to the Sivananda Yoga retreat for the Teacher Training Course and ended up staying 10 days extra for a little vacation. It is not a resort on the beach, but rather a haven from the chaotic world, that has rules, rituals and an existing way of functioning according to the principles of non-dual yogic philosophy. This ashram is not the place for everyone. But if you let it, it will change your life.
The accommodations are not fancy and most people live in tents. If you choose the tent option, my suggestion is to bring a big tent if you are not used to camping. The maximum they allow is around 9x9 or 10x10. Also, bring an air mattress or a therma rest and a pillow - you will be happy about that. It is a very secluded spot right on the beach and minutes away from Atlantis resort (5 minutes walk).
The schedule is rigorous for the teacher training course. You wake up at 5:30 and don't stop moving until 10:30. You eat 2 lacto-vegetarian meals a day - meaning they have dairy. No coffee. And what I figured out throughout the month is that the strict diet is not just for cruelty, but rather designed based on traditional yogic principles. I followed the crazy rules and turned out that I felt healthier and more energetic than usual.
The yoga is Sivananda style yoga, duh! It is traditional hatha yoga and the classes follow a specific sequence of postures designed specifically for maximum mental, spiritual, and physical benefit. I think it is amazing! Usually the classes are taught by new students so it helps if you are familiar with the Sivananda style yoga. If you find the classes too slow, you can practice on your own overlooking the ocean pretty much any time throughout the day.
The Rules are for you! The yoga vacation program enables relaxation, mental clarity, spiritual growth, and access to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. But as I said, they ask that you respect their beliefs and practices. At first, I was really frustrated by the overall slowness of the place. Everyone who works here is doing it as a form of selfless service and are not receiving salaries (except for some of the cleaning staff). Lots of them have just arrived themselves and are not quite sure about the way this whole thing works. Eventually, I took these experiences as opportunities to learn about myself. For example, trying to understand why I was SO ANNOYED that I couldn't get an answer to a question immediately. It tests you and if you are willing to go a little deeper, you usually get what you need.
Then there is the chanting...every night you are invited to attend something called satsang, which consists of 30 minutes of meditation, chanting, and a pretty interesting lecture. At first I really did not know what to make of the chanting. It seemed weird, cultish, and looonnnggg. Unless you are doing the teacher training course, you can leave! The point is not to freak you out or make you uncomfortable. This tradition definitely does not want to force people to do things the way they do, but they are welcoming in the event that you want to learn something different from what you know. And honestly, now I think the chanting is fun and invigorating, because I took the time to understand what it was about.
And then there is the wellbeing centre! They offer Ayurvedic consultations and treatments, therapeutic massages, thai massages and other things. The practitioners are really knowledgable and talented. The staff here really know their stuff about Ayurveda (Lalita and Isvari). Definitely worth trying out.
So overall, I had a fabulous time and would definitely recommend it for someone who is looking for relaxation, healing, spiritual wanderings, or even fun! The people that come here are from all over the world and that is pretty cool too. My only real criticism would be that perhaps the ashram should focus a little bit more on properly welcoming their guests to the retreat and helping them get acquainted. I was definitely a deer caught in the headlights when I arrived too, and if I had not stayed for as long as I did, I think I would not have fully understood or appreciated what this place is really about.
They have nice rooms with their own bathrooms, they are a bit more expensive. Dorms are tough. Tent...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.