According to Wikipedia an ashram is traditionally a spiritual hermitage, where residents regularly perform spiritual and physical exercises, such as yoga. In India, Rishikesh situated on the Ganga River is considered the capital of yoga and has an incredible number of ashrams, making it ideal for the spiritual seeking traveller.
On the recommendation of a friend I stayed at the Kriya Yoga Ashram. It turned out to be quite a ‘lite’ ashram experience but did provide a sanctum of peace compared to the India at its gates.
There was a schedule to follow but it was not enforced, meal times were set (three times a day) and the curfew for being inside the ashram and quiet was 9.30pm. It was recommended that silence was maintained at all times. As it happened, I was there with a good group of people and silence was never even attempted. A few of us used the ashram more as a hotel, but we all really appreciated the calmness it offered.
Yoga classes of every type were held all over Rishikesh and it was a good base to explore all the different yoga options. The only schedule I stuck to was yoga twice a day and the three meals. I went to chanting once and the only meditation I achieved was after yoga.
The building was a circular structure with a dome roof topped by a gold lotus flower. The meditation hall was on the ground floor in the centre of the structure, with it’s roof stretching up into the first floor. Rooms seemed to be endless and were arranged all along the outer edge, acting as a noise buffer for the meditation hall. Immediately upon entering the ashram, the silence of the corridors, the white walls and marble tiles filled you with an immediate feeling of calm. Somehow, the round corridors also aided this and I can’t imagine straight corridors inciting the same feeling.
In the end it was a great introduction to an ashram and I would like to attempt a more serious version next time in India.