Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram

»The doorway to India - the doorway to yoga«

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A two week lakeside yoga holiday in the warm summer breeze of southern India. Relaxation, nutritious food, and the chance to mingle with other travelers. Sound appealing? It did to us as well, which led us to visit one of the most newcomer-friendly ashram experiences in the country.

  • What we love
  • Well-structured program
  • Accessible for newcomers to India and to yoga
  • Moderate pricing
  • Glorious natural setting
  • What to know
  • Advanced courses also available
  • No single rooms, only doubles, dorms and campsite
  • Isolated location but good on-site amenities
  • Why go
  • Well-rounded education
  • Perfect introduction to Indian yoga
  • Make friends with fellow travelers

Not to be confused with our other Indian top center Sivananda Divine Life, Sivananda Ashram is one of nine ashrams in India and 19 yoga centers globally that operate under the umbrella of the Sivananda organization. They specialize in relaxing and rejuvenating yoga holidays, and this is evident from the first moment of stepping onto the Neyyar Dam ashram.

Tens of visitors, almost all foreign, will be found participating in a group yoga session on the platform on the edge of the magnificent lake that abuts the ashram grounds. The grounds themselves spread over 12 acres of tropical forest and well-tended gardens, and this large space coupled with the high attendance rate makes this one of the prettiest and most popular ashrams in India.

The ashram offers deeper education as well as yoga holidays. The offerings are extensive and include a one-month Teacher Training program, a one-month Advanced Teacher Training program for graduates of the basic Teacher Training, kids camps, Ayurvedic wellness, and others. These are definitely worthwhile, but it is the yoga holiday that draws the biggest crowds.

Accommodation ranges from tent space to air-conditioned twin-share rooms with a private bathroom. Dormitories and non air-conditioned twin-shares are also available, although there are no single rooms. Fees (called donations, as ashrams are non-profit) vary depending on the accommodation type chosen. The high end of the price scale is roughly the same per-night fee as a hostel bed in a European city. The fees include accommodation, lessons, and food which is served twice-daily.

Although the ashram is fairly remote, making short strolls into nearby towns next-to-impossible, there are sufficient on-site services to compensate. Limited Internet is available, although this is heavily trafficked and guests are asked to keep their sessions short. A travel agent visits once a week and is a font of knowledge for arranging subsequent itineraries through India. A reasonably-priced laundry service is available, the health cafe serves up meals - not the food included in the course, but different offerings at a small price - and there is a small store stocking snacks, drinks, yoga equipment and other goodies.

A normal daily schedule starts around 5am and is a combination of yoga classes, selfless service, philosophy, breathing exercises, relaxation, and meditation. Satsang, which is either silent meditation or a discussion, is a group event and ends the day before lights-out at 10pm. There is a three-day minimum stay, although two weeks is recommended to get the full benefit of the program. The only day off is Friday. Excursions are arranged for the day off, although these, like the classes, are optional. On all other days, the full daily program is mandatory.

The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram is, along with our other Indian top center Phool Chatti, perhaps the ideal place to begin a journey into India, a journey into yoga, a journey into the self. And the journey is shared with other travelers – making it the sweetest kind of all.

About the area: Neyyar Dam

Neyyar Dam is near the southern tip of India, nestled snugly at the base of the Western Ghats, the impossibly long mountain range that ambles along India's west coast. The vast lake upon which the Sivananda Ashram is built brings cool breezes to an already beautifully mild forested area, adding to the appeal of the location. Although summer temperatures can hit a scorching 35 degrees C, the shady forest provides respite from the heat while winter temperatures only dip as low as a balmy 24 degree C average. In other words, any time is a good time to visit.

Image credit: Coni Hörler Photography

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