The Indian culture is a rich and fascinating one, full of mysticism, spirituality and meaning. This is the country that not only gave the world delicious curries, Mehndi or Henna tattoos and Bollywood, but also yoga, various spiritual and religious concepts, and places of meditation called ashrams.
Life of meditation
Because spirituality and the quest for enlightenment is such an integral part in an Indian’s life, meditation has become a part of their daily lives. Though many people simply do it at home as part of their daily routine or their respective places of worship, some seek to go to dedicated centers to get the full experience. It’s not surprising that there are many meditation centers in the country. These places of deep meditation are called ashrams.
For many westerners, their introduction to ashrams and ashram life is from the 2006 memoir of Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love, which became a major motion picture starring Julia Roberts.
Austere way of life
An ashram is a place where people come together, often staying for a short period of time, to live together as a community and studying their guru’s teachings in their individual quest for self-discovery. Some stay for three days while others sign up for 45 days or even longer.
Daily meditation during the wee hours of the morning, eating a vegetarian diet, practicing yoga, studying, staying silent and doing community work are just some aspects of ashram life. Such an austere lifestyle is certainly not for everyone, so for those who prefer a club-med type of vacation, going to an ashram may not be the best choice. After all, many can still find peace and quiet in many other places of the world. However, there are also meditation-resort types of ashrams.
There are many different types of ashrams that cater to a wide variety of people. Many are open to westerners and prices, accommodations, styles and focus vary widely. Most are set in remote villages, while some are built facing the sea such as those found in Goa and Kerala. Centers can also be found in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Bodhgaya and Chennai.
Yoga a part of life
There are even ashrams that include Indian singing and Bollywood dancing. Some ashrams, especially in Ultarakhand, teach various yoga styles such as Ashtanga, Hatha (the most popular form of yoga among westerners), Raja, Jhana yoga (yoga of knowledge) and Bhakti yoga (yoga of devotion).
Why go to ashrams?
Why the need to go to an ashram to clear your head? Students often go to master Vipassana meditation to become more in tune with both physical and mental processes. Sometimes, you really do need to get away from it all.
Whatever a person’s religion, personal spiritual journey, quest or purpose, many find going to an ashram uplifting and very helpful in achieving a deep state of meditation and therefore enlightenment.
It is also said that doing all that yoga and going vegetarian will certainly help tone and strengthen the body, leaving one leaner, fitter and healthier. Seems like going to an ashram is good for the mind, body and spirit.
Namaste to that!