That One Time: I Went to an Ashram and Realized Yoga Wasn’t as Chill as I Thought

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That One Time: I Went to an Ashram and Realized Yoga Wasn’t as Chill as I Thought

Traditionally associated with hippie culture and religious extremism, yoga has gained mainstream acceptance in recent years. As someone with a Christian upbringing and a skepticism towards spiritual practices, I embarked on a journey to an ashram hoping to deepen my understanding of yoga and its transformative potential. However, my experience at the Sivananda Ashram on Paradise Islands in the Bahamas challenged my preconceptions and revealed a darker side to the practice.

Nestled amidst lush greenery and overlooking a picturesque bay, the ashram offered a serene and inviting atmosphere. Its temples, gardens, and fruit trees created a peaceful environment. Accommodation ranged from small huts to cottages, and guests were also allowed to bring their own tents. While the location was idyllic, the ashram’s strict rules and regulations cast a shadow over the experience.

All guests were required to attend satsang, a twice-daily religious ceremony, and yoga classes. Satsang involved silent meditation, devotional singing, and chanting. The ashram also enforced a strict dress code, prohibited alcohol and bare shoulders or knees, and demanded vegetarian meals. Lights-out at 10 p.m. further curtailed personal freedom.

Initially, I embraced the ashram’s rules. However, as the days passed, an undercurrent of resentment became apparent. The staff, known as “yellow shirts,” appeared aloof and unhappy. Rumors of a rigorous teacher-training program that often left students disillusioned circulated. A divide emerged between long-term residents and guests, with the former resenting the latter for their perceived laziness and disregard for the ashram’s values.

The yoga I had practiced outside the ashram had brought me solace and empowerment. However, the yoga taught at the ashram felt different. It lacked the sense of freedom and personal transformation I had experienced elsewhere. The rigid sequence developed by Swami Vishnu Devananda prioritized conformity over individual expression.

My time at the ashram exposed the stark contrast between my perception of yoga and its actual practice within the ashram. While yoga had been a source of peace and self-discovery for me, the ashram presented a narrow and dogmatic interpretation. This experience taught me the importance of discerning between different manifestations of a practice and recognizing that not all spiritual paths are equally beneficial.

Ultimately, I decided that the ashram environment was not a place where I could find the fulfillment I sought. Despite the ashram’s idyllic setting and the potential benefits it offered, the cult-like behavior, strict rules, and rigid yoga practice ultimately outweighed any possible gains. While yoga may still hold value in my life, the experience at the Sivananda Ashram provided a valuable lesson in the importance of critical evaluation and the diversity of spiritual practices.

Author: Jane Doe

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