“Yoga is not a religion. It is a science, science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind, and soul.” - Amit Ray
A yoga session is a bit like a bubble of well-being. Be it breathing exercises, meditation, mindfulness, or alignment, daily yoga practice has become a ritual for a growing number of Britons and certain parts of India have become essential destinations for those wanting to do yoga effectively.
In the UK, there are between 300,000 and 460,000 people regularly practising yoga. Of the 300 million yogis on the planet, more and more people in the UK are joining them to find moments of relaxation. This is why many people are also opting to attend yoga retreats in India, the home of yogic culture. India may seem far away and scary, especially when it comes to trying to organise a yoga retreat out there.
Let’s have a quick look at what to expect in an Indian ashram and how you can enjoy yoga sessions on a retreat.
What to Expect Before You Go on a Yoga Retreat
“Yoga is the dance of every cell with the music of every breath that creates inner serenity and harmony.” - Debasish Mridha
Heading to India to enjoy a retreat on an ashram is a good idea but you can’t just wing it. You’ll be heading off to a country that’s vastly different to the UK. There are different traditions, food, and everyday life to enjoy.
The customs are different but so are the ways of going about things so get ready for an adventure! For example, don’t forget your visa, which can buy for around £20.
Once you’re there, you’ll realise that each ashram is unique and you’ll need to do your research before you can head to the right one. After all, you’re looking for somewhere to find inner peace and somewhere to stay. Unlike “yoga centres”, which don’t offer accommodation, ashrams include somewhere to stay day and night. If you stay for a few days or weeks (or even more), you’ll soon be a yoga master.
Just like heading anywhere else in the world, there’s an ideal time of year to travel to India and learn to let go through yoga. The high season is in January and February whilst from May to September the weather is anything but mild. The rainy season is also a great time to enjoy quieter ashrams. Similarly, October is the best time to head to India, especially when it comes to doing yoga. You’ll get more time with the instructors and a more relaxed environment.
You should know that the ashram won’t cover the cost of the flights but they often provide a shuttle from the airport.
Yoga: Living on an Ashram in India
You may feel a bit overwhelmed when you first set foot in an ashram. Even if you’re prepared for your time there, you might still feel a bit stressed. You might be wondering how you should behave in front of the others. In reality, you’re not obliged to do anything. After all, those visiting ashrams are there to learn more about yoga.
Firstly, you don’t have to be passionate about yoga to head to an Indian yoga centre. The idea is to get into the practice, but you don’t need to be a yoga professional. Attendees are often young and inexperienced.
Some ashrams even offer trips around the region or the chance to do charity work for the organisation. Generally, there are different options and packages available and it’s more than just a few yoga poses or a detox.
However, while we’re talking about detoxes, let’s talk about new technologies. In most Indian ashrams, you can use your mobile phone, but it’s not recommended that you overdo it. After all, yoga is about finding your centre, not distractions.
In terms of history, ashrams have existed for thousands of years and were generally isolated places away from distractions. The sages would spend time alone without any type of distraction or means of communication.
This is an opportunity to realign your mind, body, and spirit. This inward reflection encourages us to sympathise with others. Even though there may be other people from the UK, they’ll all be there to benefit from yoga on a personal level.
It should be noted that meals are eaten in silence in most ashrams in an attempt to practise mindfulness.
In most ashrams, English is widely spoken since it’s a common language amongst yogis around the world. The universal nature of yoga means it’s for sharing.
You’ll eat ayurvedic vegetarian food. The water is often filtered for Western visitors.
So what is the yoga on an ashram like?
Practising Yoga in an Ashram
It’s difficult to talk about a yoga retreat in an Indian ashram since each of them is so different. However, there are two main aspects of it: yoga and meditation. After all, that’s what you’re probably expecting.
Meditation is the art of finding yourself, making the most of silence, harmonising with your body and mind, and rediscovering the connection with yourself. The instructors are there to help us do this in the best way possible. The yoga practised can vary from ashram to ashram: Hatha yoga, Kundalini yoga, Vinyasa yoga, Yoga Nidra, etc. Do your research before you book your trip.
There are yoga classes for everyone, regardless of their level. No matter your age, everyone is welcome and can do the lessons at their pace.
You’ll want the most comfortable clothes possible while also adapting to the local traditions and styles. For example, nudity is not tolerated and neither is tight clothing.
Don’t panic if you’ve only brought tight sports clothes, there are plenty of shops in town where you can get more suitable clothing. Some ashrams even have shops.
Nowadays, yoga retreats are big business and are popping up everywhere. Of course, this means it’s harder to choose the right one, but in most ashrams, the yogic tradition is still at the heart of everything they do.
So what type of ashram will you look to visit? Ready to reconnect?
If you're interested in teaching a yoga class when you return, you might want to join the many yoga teachers who've done their yoga teacher training in the home of yoga. Whether you want to focus on Ashtanga Yoga, Vinyasa Flow Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Prenatal Yoga, or even yoga for beginners, there's a thriving community of yoga instructors who've learnt how to share the restorative yoga practice in its homeland.
If you're looking for something a little closer to home, however, you can always find a yoga instructor in your local yoga studio or look for online yoga instructors on Superprof, for example. It's never been easier to learn yoga poses, breathing techniques, and enjoy guided meditation.
If you'd like to get started with yoga, try the talented tutors on Superprof. There are plenty of tutors offering plenty of different types of yoga. Similarly, there are three main types of yoga tutorial available, too: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials. Each type of yoga, tutor, and tutorial has its pros and cons so you need to think carefully before you pick your tutor.
Face-to-face tutorials are between you and your tutor, allowing you to benefit fully from the tutor's expertise every second you're with them. They'll put together sessions and courses that are tailored to you. Of course, this bespoke service tends to come at a cost but since it's all done with you in mind, it makes this type of tutorial the most cost-effective you can get. If you've got the budget for them, these are the ones to go for.
Online tutorials are also between just you and the tutor but your tutor won't be there in the room with you. Thanks to the internet, anyone with a decent webcam, microphone, and internet connection can get tutoring from anyone, anywhere. With fewer expenditures for travelling and the ability to schedule more tutorials each week, online tutors tend to charge less per hour than face-to-face tutorials. You may even get a tutor from India!
Finally, group tutorials are available for those that are happy to share their tutor's time with others. Whether you and a group of friends opt to practise yoga together or you start attending tutorials with a group of strangers, these tutorials tend to cost less per person per hour since the whole group is paying for the tutor's time and expertise.