Kaivalyadhama Ashram

»Yoga is the art of living and the science of experience - Sri O.P. Tiwari «

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On enough acreage to be a respectable estate, Kaivalyadhama Ashram is a three-pronged yoga center, housing a research institute, hospital, and officially sanctioned school. If science and mysticism ever had a meeting point it would be here, where diploma-level yoga studies bring intellectual clout to the ancient art. There's also a cheery on-site swami (Swami Maheshananda) adding color to the experience and dispensing wisdom to the more mystically inclined.

  • What we love
  • 180 acres of beautiful grounds
  • Officially recognized yoga qualifications
  • Tasty meals
  • No lock-ins
  • Easy payment options
  • What to know
  • Single-sex accommodation
  • Non-vegan food
  • Prerequisite qualifications for longer courses
  • Good climate year-round
  • Better for long-term courses
  • Why go
  • Scientific approach to yoga
  • University-level qualifications
  • Academic yoga knowledge

The main 'road' of Kaivalyadhama Ashram winds gently through treed expanses of gardens, over the bridge and through the village-like collection of buildings. Like so many places in India, the Kaivalyadhama Ashram can be puzzling at first. All becomes clear when it is understood that this magnificent, 180-acre center has three areas of yoga expertise and practice.

There is a research institute, that uses a motley collection of dated-but-functional equipment to conduct experiments on every conceivable aspect of yoga. The 'guinea pigs' used in these tests come from the second branch of the ashram, the university-style education in yoga. The students of this branch end up graduating as some of the most highly qualified yogis and yoginis in the world. After all, the ashram competes with The Yoga Institute for the title of World's Oldest Yoga School, and the education is profoundly good, officially recognized, and varied in its curriculum. Finally, the yoga hospital is the always-busy therapy center, full of clients referred by local mainstream doctors who routinely use yoga as a complementary treatment for everything from hemorrhoids to schizophrenia.

The yoga hospital is really a collection of modest, yet comfortable, accommodation suites for singles, doubles and families. It is here that any short-term yoga students will likely stay for the duration of their course. Longer courses are the ever-popular Teacher Training and Advanced Teacher Training courses, running for nine months and one month respectively. Short-term is a flexible description, but is generally between eight days (the minimum amount of time allowed) and 21 days. These three weeks is the length of the three most popular courses offered. The Post-Grad Diploma in Yoga Therapy is not for the faint-hearted, or the short-term visitor. Running for 18 months, including a demanding 6-month internship at Pravara Medical College, the grueling schedule ensures only the best practitioners graduate. While all three of these courses are yoga-based, each have their own specialty. One is a yoga & ayurveda course, another is only for school teachers and a third - purely scholastic yoga studies - takes advantage of one of Kaivalyadhama's best assets: its library. The Kaivalyadhama Ashram library is home to more than 25,000 works on yoga, quite possibly the largest collection on the planet. Scholars have painstakingly pieced together fragments of ancient texts, many of which were destroyed during the holy wars of centuries past, to offer reconstructed works from the ages. The peaceful atmosphere of the library is almost meditative in itself and a treasure trove for the academically-minded.

Although an ashram, and by definition non-profit, Kaivalyadhama is able to charge fees thanks to its officially recognized educational status. The Indian government long-ago identified the high quality of education offered here and subsidizes the fees of local students. Anyone questioning the disparity of fees for locals and fees for foreigners can rest assured that this is not an issue of 'tourist tax.' It is simply the difference between the subsidized local fee and the unsubsidized foreigners fee. The ashram charges the same amount, regardless of where the passport was issued, and fee details can be found on their very well-maintained website.

The food is reputedly delicious and while not vegan (milk from the ashram's cows is used), then definitely healthy and delicately spiced. This is not a locked-gate ashram and guests are welcome to explore the surrounding area during their stay. For one of the most prestigious centers of yoga learning in the world, there is a decidedly relaxed feel to Kaivalyadhama. A day filled with a mix of yoga, sightseeing and conversation in the shade of lazily swaying tree branches... Just another Tuesday in India.

About the area: Lonavla

Lonavla is a climatically moderate part of India, making this one of the best places to be at any time of year. It is also one of the country's most popular leisure spots. People-watching opportunities are boundless as the country's bright young things come out to strut their stuff. This is primarily a hill station though, so the cool green mountainside, where the temperature is even lower than in the towns calls enticingly to nature lovers even during the hotter months. Some parts of nature is easier to enjoy than others though – keep an eye out for the occasional wild leopard. Really.

Image credit: Coni Hörler Photography

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