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Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat
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Reviewed February 20, 2010

My son (11 years old) and I came to the Yoga of Chant with Krishna Das and had a great time! The food was great , the people were super nice, the rooms were perfect! I can't believe what the other reviews said! It is not a fancy hotel, but what would you expect? I can't wait to go again!

  • Stayed: February 2010, traveled with family
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6  Thank melrock74
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 6, 2010

Beautiful and inspiring place…but beware…it is not a yoga resort, it is yoga retreat!
The first time I went there in 2003 my yoga teacher told me to keep an open mind. And you certainly need to, especially if you are a spoiled Italian raised as a Catholic.
It is not a place where you go to relax in the usual ways, it is a retreat so everything, from the rigorous discipline to the teachings, forces you to deal with your own ego and issues; no one is there to cheer you up, least the staff. They are all volunteers, work very hard and are mostly very kind when approached, but may seem very serious at first. No one there is paid to smile and greet you with ‘have a nice day’, so at first it may feel a bit strange and unfriendly. Guests are usually very friendly and very talkative at meals, but respect your silence if you do not wish to talk. Walks on the beach are a great way to be alone but also to socialise and you can go on for hours feeling the wonderful energy of the ocean.
What mostly shocked me the first time I went there were temple celebrations; all those strange images, very colourful but not quite convincing, and side by side with Jesus and Mary! But if curiosity overcomes judgement one starts to enquire. When you understand what is behind the images and the rituals, it is much easier to tune in and to start seeing the beauty of it all. A sense of unity takes over scepticism. The chanting is now my favourite, so relaxing and so moving and it is not unusual to feel bursts of tears climbing up your throat as you sit there, seemingly doing nothing. It all feels very cleansing.
If you are interested in yoga philosophy make sure you do not miss any talks given by the resident Swamis; they are always very inspiring and even if you may not always agree 100% with what is said they inevitably make you reflect. But your are free to disagree completely, no one tries to indoctrinate you.
Yoga classes are good, but can vary depending on the teacher. The sequence practiced is beautiful and balanced, very relaxing but also quite challenging, this is if you enjoy pranayama and being upside down quite a bit. If you like a more dynamic, cardio-like practice you may not enjoy it.
Accommodations are simple but nice and mostly with shared bathrooms (acceptably clean). If you are lucky to find a room on the beach then it is like being on a boat, not much space but overwhelmed by the beautiful sound of the ocean.
Food is 100% vegetarian, simple, good and tasty. There is always a good balance of things including grains, fresh fruits, salads and sprouts. There is also lentil/pulses soup (twice a day), tofu (almost daily) and in the morning wonderful home made bread, granola and yogurt. Oatmeal is also available in the morning. This said many Americans complain that they do not get enough proteins…I just think that one tends to eat too much and then it is easy to feel heavy and unbalanced. On special evenings you even get Lasagne and Pizza, which are actually good! The pasta though I never tasted since it looked too mushy….The only thing I always miss is some (olive) oil in the salad dressing.
Last but not least is the setting. I just love it!! And mostly because it is not perfect. The ashram is set in a beautifully preserved tropical forest with lots of tall vegetation and flowers, the beach is spectacular too, but you are constantly reminded that you are still in the world: on one side the enormous cruise ships docked on the main island and on the other side of the beach mammoth hotels. You are constantly reminded of the greatest challenge of all: cultivating a peaceful and balanced inner life to be able to deal with the world around us. A wonderful place to rest and reflect, but not always easy.

  • Stayed: January 2010, traveled solo
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15  Thank Macchia08
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 23, 2010

1. I am open minded and have travelled extensively, often staying in simple accommodation. I was not expecting hotel treatment and was willing to undergo some minor discomfort in order to experience the benefits of a yoga vacation at an ashram.

2. What offended me most was that the ashram vibe was very cultish (some of the meditation/chanting/self-involved speakers were creepy in the extreme) and there was a definite distinction drawn between the core group of staff and volunteers (idealistic young "karma yoga" participants providing free labour to a wealthy organization...) and yoga vacation participants, who were mostly treated by staff as an annoying distraction. $260/night for a beachfront room for two people, sharing a dingy and mostly dirty bathroom in another building, no electricity one day (staff actually shrugged when I mentioned it) and only two repetitive carb-loaded meals per day was not fair value. I actually had to laugh when I saw various signs posted around the ashram exorting participants to donate towards a wood-chipper for the gardens (ironically they need a $2000 machine to mulch wood but do not compost a whit from the massive dinners) or towards a new $18000 convection oven. There seemed to be a lot of wounded birds in this place desperately looking for some meaning, a la Eat Pray Love, which made the signs asking for money to support purchases for the ashram even more distasteful.

3. Not much yoga. The 2 hour classes are at least half breathing and meditative exercises with lots of religulous hectoring thrown in. One yoga instructor yelled angrily throughout the 2 hour class that we should "let the lord into your hearts" and "stop thinking anything will make a difference - the self-help books, the 12-step programs, coming on this retreat - maybe you feel a bit better for a few days but really none of it makes a difference until you let the lord into your heart". Hmmm. If I wanted to go to Bible Camp, I would have gone there. Also, several times instructors directed students to do a plow or another intense pose without proper warm-up, which is dangerous and causes injuries.

4. The good stuff? The beach is gorgeous, as are the gardens throughout the ashram. The yoga platform at the beach is ideal, with the rhythm of the waves in the background. The Ayurvedic treatment is wonderful, and the practitioner was the only genuine, warm, open-hearted staff member I met. But all this you can get elsewhere without the other drawbacks.

I obviously would not go back. If you are looking for a genuine yoga retreat, book through a yoga organization in your community running a trip. In comparison to a well-run yoga vacation with exercise on the beach, seminars, comfortable accommodations and balanced nutrition, this place is like a cultish summer camp.

  • Stayed: January 2010, traveled with friends
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29  Thank NoFixedPlans
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 18, 2010

I notice that many reviews are polarized toward "love it" or "hate it". BOth are right, it has to do with expectations and many folks (who have no idea what Sivananda is but only respond to a nice photo brochure may be disappointed if they are not aware of a few key things. I comment on 4 relevant categories: ACCOMODATION, Meals, Yoga, and Ambience.
1. ACCOMODATION: First of all, it is not a hotel so if you expect a holiday hotel, you may be disappointed. Consider it like a summer camp for folks that want to relax, do yoga, and imbibe some of the Eastern (mostly Hindu but very open to other religions) ways. If you've been to a spiritual center in India, this will seem delux and relaxed in its rules, if you tend toward the Four Seasons and room service for your holidays Sivananda will seem austere and regimented. Overall it is a tad shabby with a number of tarps and camping tents allowing more visitors to stay at lower cost,. Most rooms are tiny (new ones are comfortably spacious) and often shared. I last shared in college (a few decades ago) and prefer my own room but I found that it was actually satisfying to meet several interesting characters on my stays there over the years - now I usually go with my wife...and she is an interesting character too. Bring toiletries, suntan lotion and repellent in warmer months - bathrooms are mostly shared but pretty clean.

2. FOOD: Expecting a la carte menu of gourmet meals with wine, coffee, dessert: you will be disappointed. If simple vegetarian meals appeal to you, then you'll enjoy it. Most folks there report initial concern with only 2 meals a day, but the laid back lifestyle and the copious food at each well-spaced meal are fine for nearly all (plus you can always stash snacks (I bring dried fruits/nuts/chocolate for those moments).

3. YOGA: You can choose from beginner/mellow or intermediate/advanced held outdoors on covered platforms twice daily (bring layers for chilly days in winter). They teach their own style that is fairly straightforward and have trained more serious yoga teachers than any other organization (30 day intensive course). The guest teachers in the busier seasons (Nov thru April) often vary things a bit and interject a bit of their own practices from around the world - this is great because some of them are extraordinary. They are all careful to remind folks to try what they want and not do what feels uncomfortable. After decades of yoga, I finally slowly learned to do a headstand there - it's fabulous once you know how and build up the strength/balance!

4. AMBIENCE: The ambience is what I would call "loose ashram" during most of the year (summer is more regimented as fewer guests and more serious practitioners are common. So try the meditation, the chanting, the evening talks (sometimes quite interesting and world-class but sometimes dull and pointless) and the walks on one of the prettier stretches of beach in the Bahamas (shares beach with Atlantis).
So do go if you want to explore eastern tradition in a safe and simple setting. Stay away if you only want a cheap holiday or need any luxuries.
Finally, if you just want a cheap holiday - go elsewhere. If you want to explore a spiritual place (not a silent nirvana, but real people, imperfect accommodation and real noises) then check it out.

  • Stayed: January 2010, traveled as a couple
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14  Thank teachertravelling
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 12, 2010

Wish we could get our money back, over $540 for three nights in a camping cabin. The first negative experience was being asked to sign a contract that we would attend Hindu chanting sessions twice a day inside a tent temple filled with statues that were contrary to our own belief system. On the phone we were told it would not be mandatory, but OmCarr who picked us up, explained we must attend . He also told us that the local Bahamian New Year's eve festival was dangerous and he did not wish we would go there...but chant instead in the tent temple. The food was mostly bland high carb vegetarian except for the pizza served with cheese that had rennet...an animal bone derivative that coagulates cheese. First the chef said it had rennet, then said it didn't, then said he wasn't sure because the cheese didn't list ingredients. May we just say that the Israeli management seemed out of touch with the local culture. Towels were scarce, beds were hard and sheets and blankets were scratchy. They had no chairs for the beach. The saddest overcharge was $15 per day, per person, for thin cheap yoga mats. We didn't mind the bell ringing at 6AM , but asking us to sign a document saying we would not leave the premises after 10:30PM seemed ridiculous. With Atlantis just a five minute walk on the beach it would be nice to visit there at night. Another disappointment was that there was no road access, only a tiny boat with an irregular schedule enabling transportation to Nassau. The most upsetting aspect of this 'retreat' was being told they were into "religious diversity" while they shoved their own religious practices down our throats. Somehow, it seems that they don't think that chanting to gods in front of statues is a religious practice. They just call it a practice.
The only two benefits are the lovely location and the non management volunteer service people who serve unpaid- except for room and board. Oh...they had a wonderful writer's workshop that was also great.
The rules and attitudes surrounding management's religion-centrism was intolerable.

  • Stayed: January 2010, traveled with family
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18  Thank andreas-clouds
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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