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Let me begin by saying that I have no clue what ashrams are all about.  Before I went to Amritapuri, I’d hardly ever even thought about ashrams.  If someone asked me what an ashram was, I either would have done things the Indian way and made something up, or I would have admitted my ignorance.  SO if there’s anything I write pertaining to ashrams that sounds wrong or just plain silly, then feel free to say so, because I’m definitely in a learning process.

The Sivananda Ashram in Neyar Dam, Kerala, has very little in common with Amma’s ashram.  That’s really all I have to compare it to.  There’s the nightly devotional singing of songs in Sanskrit that makes me think of a concert geared toward  my four year old cousin (except hereI don’t try to hide my clapping-along enjoyment).  There’s the amazing food- here two meals a day with as many seconds as you want.  Considering the amount of thirds most people get, I can tell that I’m not the only one who enjoys the food.  This is a further fodder for my theory that good cooking just needs to be made with love.

But the purpose of the Sivananda Ashram is completely different than that of Amma’s.  People went to Amma’s ashram because they wanted a glimpse of divinity.  There were over a thousand people there at one time, and at least one hundred lived there permanently.  Even the devotees who were just visiting tended to stay for months.  Here, people come for the yoga.  Instead of doing your own thing and finding a way to do personal meditation, practically the entire day is planned out.  This has both its good and bad sides, but here’s what the schedule looks like:

5.20am – wake-up bell

6.00am – satsang (group meditation, chanting, talk)

7.30am – tea time

8.00am – Asana Class

10.00am – vegetarian meal

11.00am – karma yoga

1.30pm – tea time

2.00pm – lecture (usually on how to live in a yogic way)

3.30pm – asana class

6.00pm – vegetarian meal

8.00pm – satsang

10.30pm – lights out

It’s a lot of yoga.  The main attraction here is a month-long teacher training course.  About a third of the people at the ashram now are involved with that (their schedule is much more demanding).  As for me, it’s been over three months since my Yoga to the People days, so I’m a littlesore.  But it’s great to be moving again.  And the breathing exercises are really interesting.  I’ll be here for about a week, so more on Sivananda later.

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