Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama

»Into the swirling mists of mystic yoga «

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Eight acres of clipped lawns and lush gardens house an eclectic mix of cosy bungalows, yoga spaces and research labs. To understand this ashram - which can be difficult for newcomers - it is important to understand the two independent parts of its operation. Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama is not only a mouthful of a name: It’s one of the world-leaders in Dhyana-yoga instruction, as well as scientific research into yogic meditation.

  • What we love
  • Cosy bungalow-style accommodation
  • Rishikesh on the doorstep
  • Unique yoga style
  • Campus designed in accordance with Vaastu (Indian Feng Shui)
  • Access to biofeedback equipment
  • What to know
  • Himalaya Dhyana yoga is focused on silence and meditation
  • The Teacher Training Course is not donation-based.
  • Bungalows are self-contained with kitchenette and Western-style bathrooms
  • Accommodation is limited to 100 guests
  • Best to book 3 months in advance to ensure a spot
  • Why go
  • Yogic meditation
  • Yogic research center
  • Extended tropical gardens

Like a guru alone in his cave, Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama sits in quiet contemplation of the world around it. In the foothills of the Himalayas, this ashram is devoted to silent yogic meditation: practicing, studying and teaching this intriguing science to the next generation of yoga devotees.

While there is a long residential program that is only open to more advanced applicants, shorter courses for less experienced yogis run over a few days to a few months and can be undertaken individually or in groups. Special classes can be arranged by prior appointment, with corporate retreats being the best example of this type. There are silent retreats that run from three to forty days, depending on the experience level of the applicant.

Most fees are on a donation basis. There are suggested amounts that vary depending on whether a guest is Indian or non-Indian. As the ashram is not-for-profit, the suggestions are nominal, upwards of 30 cents per day.

The jewel in the crown of course offerings is the 600 hour Teacher Training Program. This is for the serious yoga student and is broken down into three levels of 200 hours each. Applicants will need to complete a home-study course before being accepted and no 'level-jumping' is allowed. This is one program that has set fees, rather than being donation-based. Prices can be obtained by directly contacting the head of this course via the website.

Some parts of the grounds are devoted to studying the effects of yogic meditation on the body. This is the Meditation Research Institute and some serious research, using pretty advanced biofeedback technology, is conducted here. Use of yogic meditation to control physical processes like blood pressure and brain-wave patterns are measured and quantified, moving yoga from the realms of voodoo into the reputable scientific community.

However seriously the researchers take their jobs, guests arriving here for yoga lessons don’t run the risk of being whisked off to be hooked up to monitors - the participants in these studies are more formal students of yoga. They are here under the Gurukulam Program, meaning ‘living with the guru’ and live on the ashram for three to five years in an intensive journey toward becoming a spiritual guide.

For short-term students who are interested in the technology, extra services are available. For instance, the price of a coffee and cookie will buy a 30 minute session of using the biofeedback equipment to learn how to control blood pressure.

This is the only one of our Indian top centers that is located within Rishikesh itself. This makes it a good point from which to explore a little of the city dubbed The World Capital of Yoga. The tranquil green gardens are a cool and inviting break from the heat of an Indian summer. The unique opportunity to study Himalayan yoga in the shadow of the Himalayan foothills makes Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama a dream destination for anyone drawn to the mind-side of yoga, not just the physical.

About the area: Rishikesh

Rishikesh is to yoga what Las Vegas is to partying: At every turn, seemingly on every corner, another yogic experience is waiting. However, some are a better quality than others. To understand what makes a truly good yoga experience, one must understand yoga in India. Rather than a twice-weekly class, yoga here is a way of living. Yogic practices permeate every aspect of the day. A guru is for life, with no mixing of styles or ‘teacher hopping.’ Knowledge takes many patient years to accumulate. This is at odds with the concepts of the 'celebrity guru' and two-day yoga courses or retreats that so many travellers visit Rishikesh to experience, and it is easy to see why traditionalists speak of this approach as something like McYoga.

Nonetheless, a student must start somewhere. What better place to begin than in The City of the Divine, Rishikesh, the world capital of yoga. The world capital tag is no overstatement: Purity is enshrined in law, with alcohol and meat consumption being outlawed within city limits. This is one of Hinduism's most holy cities, where the Beatles famously studied under their guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and pilgrims are a common sight, often beginning their Four Shrines journey in Rishikesh. There are several yoga festivals held here each year, and simply wandering the streets is a great way to spend the day, as long as food is carefully protected from thieving wild monkeys who loiter, gang-like, on the bridges.

Rishikesh is also the gateway to the Himalayas, with the cool green foothills providing a welcome respite from the sometimes-suffocating Indian summer heat. There is still part of the Maharajah's palace open for viewing – a sweeping view from a green throne high above the city.

Image credit: Coni Hörler Photography

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