Bihar School of Yoga

»Yoga for head, heart and hands«

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Ready for a true ashram experience? No access to electrical outlets to charge modern gadgetry, no pass-outs given except in absolute emergencies, the usual ban on coffee, tobacco and drugs of any type. Welcome to the Ganga Darshan campus of the Bihar School of Yoga – an oasis of yoga learning and purification in the desert of modernity.

  • What we love
  • Pure yoga taught in academic style
  • No outside distractions
  • Devoted staff
  • Vast knowledge base
  • What to know
  • No pass-outs unless emergency
  • Far from known tourist spots
  • Little physical yoga
  • Everyone shares daily cleaning/cooking duties
  • Why go
  • Yoga Nidra
  • Residential programs
  • True ashram living

The holy mother Ganges curves protectively around Ganga Darshan. This is a place of peace, tranquility and karmic good service. It is also the home of Yoga Nidra, a meditative form of yoga that seeks to calm the mind before concentrating on the body. Literally meaning 'yogic sleep' Yoga Nidra is a progressive relaxation of the body using the power of the mind. Designed to put students into a receptive state, it is during this deep meditation that bad habits are said to be uprooted from the subconscious. It is also during this state that the legendary mind-over-matter achievements are said to have been made by the great yogis of history (dropping into a state of suspended animation is just one example).

Swami Satyananda developed this style of yoga by combining allusions in the ancient teachings to a powerful yogic state achieved through cultivation of the mind. Yoga Nidra is a highly specialized yoga form, and may not be for those who prefer a physical workout with their yoga sessions. In fact, so little emphasis is placed on the physical, that some students give up their meal times simply for the sake of getting some exercise.

The campus itself can be a little intimidating. Once a university of yoga, the institutional air is undeniable, and the high walls can make the ashram feel like something of a compound. This is no accident: life here is not a cushy retreat, it is a devoted and serious approach to good karma and self-betterment. This shouldn't deter potential visitors though – austere it may be, but Ganga Darshan is not punitive, nor is there anything sinister going on. These measures are taken to ensure the best possible results for attendees, including as few distractions from the outside world as possible. The idea is to provide a shelter from chaos, allowing peace to grow.

The course offerings are varied. Although the Teacher Training Course for foreigners has been indefinitely discontinued, the shorter courses are equally valuable. Longest of these is a 6-month Gurukul Lifestyle Course. Gurukul means 'in the home of the guru' and as such, this is a residential program. Similar courses run for 3 or 4 months, although some are only conducted in Hindi. Once a year (either right at the end, or at the very beginning) a week-long Ashram Life short-course is run. Part lesson and part orientation, this is a perfect opportunity for a potential student to gauge if they would like to stay here for longer. It's also well-suited to anyone who is time-limited.

Good service here doesn't mean waiters in white gloves. It means getting up early (4am is a typical start to the day) and engaging in the yogic tradition of selflessly serving others. The precise definition of selfless service depends on the ashram but can range from cleaning toilets to lending a hand with one of the community outreach programs run by the center. This is not slave labor, nor is it a monastery. All ashram staff work hard too, and lead by example for attendees. No-one is forced to work, although it is rare to see anyone choose not to – there is something deeply satisfying about a well-done task.

Although silence is observed during all mealtimes and from 6pm to 6am, the evening chanting sessions are an exception. It's not hard to see why this is the region where Buddha found enlightenment. After a long day, the hypnotic sound of voices lifted in thanks for the day is the ideal way to send the sun to its bed in the Ganges.

About the area: Munger

It’s true that BSY is located in Munger, but it may as well be on the moon. Passouts are not easily obtained. Even though there is plenty of history in Munger (the capital city of the district Munger) this is an obscure pocket of industrial activity that is pretty far off the beaten track for outsiders. In stark contrast to the peace of the ashram is one of the largest gun factories in India, located right here in town. Weapons-dealing is a local industry here, as is the sale of cigarettes (there’s a large factory making those too). Despite this, the institute is in beautiful surrounds, with an air of peace pervading the grounds and buildings.

Image credit: Coni Hörler Photography

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