Sivananda Ashram Bahamas

»Spiritual bootcamp in the sparkling Caribbean «

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Sivananda Ashram Bahamas is a contradiction in expectations. The white-sanded beach location is reminiscent of a ritzy resort. The term ashram may encourage visions of a gently smiling community that enfolds its new guests in metaphorical arms of love and grace. The reality is a stark reminder not to make assumptions. Austerity is the guiding principle here, an echo of Indian yogic discipline from the days of Sivananda himself. A time when hard spiritual work and a little hard physical work were valued far more highly than group hugs and singing Kumbaya.

  • What we love
  • True Sivananda experience, you only get out what you put in
  • White sand beach and tropical warmth
  • Excellent Teacher Training and regular short courses
  • Residential programs available
  • What to know
  • No room service or daily housekeeping
  • Karma Yoga is emphasised in the Sivananda system
  • Modest dress code
  • Why go
  • Authentic ashram experience
  • Tropical location
  • Great value for money

On one of the loveliest beaches in the already-lovely Bahamas is an unlikely community: a deeply Indian-style ashram in the Sivananda tradition. There’s no coddling here, and no room service. If it’s a gentle ashram you seek, look elsewhere. Similarly, if it’s a fully air-conditioned vacation that would best please you, the Atlantis resort is just down the road. If you are open to a stripped-bare ashram experience that is only what you are prepared to make of it, then Sivananda Ashram Bahamas may be calling you home.

The term ‘yoga holiday’ is misleading for some people. This is a Sivananda ashram, not Club Med and the day will follow the same basic pattern in every Sivananda ashram around the world. You clean your own room. You participate in the hard-working Karma Yoga needed to produce food for everyone and keep the shared bathrooms clean. The day begins early - the gong will sound at 5.30am - and ends late, with a 10pm end to evening Satsang not being unusual. If you need something you must find the right person and speak up. There are a lot of very tired people here: the yellow-shirted students on the Teacher Training Course, the Karma Yoga volunteers, and ordinary full-paying guests who may be undergoing some serious spiritual purging. Conversation potential depends very much on the individual and if a fellow guest prefers to be silent, it is assumed you will respect this need.

When all preconceptions of what a mini-break in the Bahamas should look like are dropped, Sivananda Ashram Bahamas truly shines. The sparse nature of the rooms begin to resemble a clean slate rather than low-budget accommodation. Creature comforts are set aside along with all the other spiritual clutter that stands between our daily selves and our true selves. Meditation and chanting are woven with asana sessions that are consistent to the point of feeling repetitive. This is deliberate - think of the sameness of the asana as a physical-movement version of chanting and the lesson will begin to sink in. Your favorite asana may not be among the moves repeated each day, but it has never been a favorite asana that challenges us anyway. It’s only the ones you avoid that you need most. Karma Yoga is not a way to ask paying guests to work. It is an integral part of the Sivananda tradition. Sivananda himself was often fondly nicknamed Give-ananda as his devotion to helping others was legendary. Karma Yoga is about giving selflessly to the greater good, and finding personal peace and dignity in all forms of work.

The point of Sivananda yoga is basically to bring all the eight limbs of yogic learning into a single experience, to better facilitate learning, accessibility, and holistic good health. There is a heavy focus on a still mind and using breath to energize and heal the body, hence the daily meditation and pranayama classes as well as regular Savasana between poses. The exact structure of the class will depend on which week you are at the ashram. Some are focused on ‘typical’ yoga while others are deeply philosophical or explore food and nutrition.

Sivananda Ashram has a busy calendar, with specialized workshops and retreats beginning every week or two. In some cases there is a new workshop beginning every couple of days, often with more than one running concurrently. Topics range from beginner’s courses in Sivananda Yoga - a four-day course costing US$220 plus 6 nights accommodation - to Vedic ecology and its relationship with yoga, which is included in the Yoga Holiday package. The Yoga Holiday is customizable - you choose your accommodation, multiply it by the number of nights you will be staying and add a daily fee (either $15 or $29 depending on the time of year you visit). This package includes accommodation, the two standard meals a day offered at the ashram and inclusion in whichever events are nominated as being open to Yoga Holiday participants at the time of your visit.

The Teacher Training Course is very popular and extremely tough. Yoga has developed a poor reputation as a honeypot for fly-by-nighters who offer a weekend course, tips on a few asanas and a home-printed certificate before sending their students out into the world as ‘qualified’ yoga instructors. The Sivananda TTC is a little more complex than this. A four-week intensive, the 200 hour and 500 hour certifications are designed by the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers but fulfill all the criteria demanded by the Yoga Alliance. There is also an Advanced Teacher Training Course and specialist workshops throughout the year. The Teacher Training Course fees average $2800 depending whether you opt for the dormitory accommodation tier, or the tent-space price which is cheaper.

From tent-spaces for the truly budget-conscious to the fully decked out Ganga suite, there’s a range of choices on where to rest your head. Dorms are shared with 1 - 3 roommates and most bathrooms are shared apart from the suites that have their own. Insider tips suggest that asking for a room that faces the ocean is always a good idea, and that sleeping further away from the shared bathrooms is wise for light sleepers. There are bright security lights on at night which will disturb some campers, if they’re not already kept awake by the heat and the mosquitos. This is a tropical part of the world, heat and bugs are par for the course.

Food is prepared as part of the daily Karma Yoga. This means that there are no professional chefs on-site and the quality of the food is a lottery depending on the kitchen skills of today’s volunteers. Overall, the lacto-vegetarian diet is adequate for yogic purity but tends to be light on the fresh fruit and protein but heavy on the carbs. There is a small shop that sells additional snacks but if you’re after fine dining or coffee then slipping away to the Atlantis resort is the easiest solution.

Sivananda Bahamas is a no-frills ashram experience with a deep emphasis on yoga philosophy and spiritual renewal, with all the hard work that accompanies such a transformation. Don’t go for cocktails and light yoga. Go to be part of a yoga village that is devoted to yoga in action, working for the community good, stripping away false modesties and ego-related interactions in order to find a higher plane of being.

About the area: Nassau Paradise Island

In the warm Caribbean is Nassau (Paradise Island), one of the islands of the Bahamas. A magnet for holidaymakers, this little slice of permanent summer is packed with resorts and all manner of water-sport and water-leisure options. Tourists and their US dollars are welcome here and English is widely spoken, albeit a unique mix of very old English (brush up on your Shakespeare), African languages and Bahamian dialects and accents. Music of all rhythmical drum-based kinds can be found here, the traditional mixing easily with the blues that drifted from the Southern US to the Bahamas over the decades of last century. Temperatures are mild all year round, and the average range from mid-winter January to mid-summer July is just 21C - 27C (70 - 82F)

Image credit: Sivananda Ashram Bahamas

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