Sividanda Yoga Ashram

Sunday, April. 12, 11:26 AM
Nayyar Dam, Kerala, India

We came to visit Cara at Yoga Camp, where she’s been for the last month, getting certified as a Yoga Teacher. We arrived just in time for the graduation, and decided to stay for a long weekend on “Yoga Vacation”. I’m so totally into it!

The schedule takes some getting used to, but that’s the point: Yoga Camp is all about changing your habits, replacing them with positive discipline. 5:20AM is the wake up bell, and we start the day with Satsang, a group meditation followed with multi-denominational chanting (the main yoga hall has big beautiful portraits of 10 Hindu gods, but Jesus* is also worked into the program, into lectures and songs etc), the main idea being that all these characters help people get to god, and it doesn’t matter which one.

I’m supposed to go swimming in 30 minutes, so I have to bang this out. (List time!) Things I love about the last 3 days in the ashram:

  • Cara. My long-lost travel companion is alive and well, and now she’s a certified Yoga teacher! Jamey and I were hoping she’d be continuing-on with us to the next stop (Thailand of New Zealand – it’s up in the air for now, depending somewhat on Amy), but she’ll be sticking around here for another 2 weeks to teach yoga to this group of kids who are coming today. Maybe she’ll join us later, maybe not! (It’s so hard to coordinate wit traveling people.)
  • The schedule. Early to rise, early to bed. I’ve been sleeping wonderfully, despite listening to the emergency iPod Nano Fish sent me (package dated 22-Jan!) Thanks, fish! Your tunes are rocking my ass right now, as will they [when I go to sleep] later… It’s only 11:30am and I’ve had a full day! I’ve heard about this early morning business my whole life, but for once it actually seems attractive
  • The scenery. Craggy mountain ridges on 3 sides, luscious jungle flora and fauna, a big beautiful lake (with Lion sanctuary in the middle… you can hear them every morning roaring and also making an odd sound which sounds a lot like humping), and the buildings, halls and temples are just so aesthetically pleasing: open, spacious, with paintings and fire, statues and flowers everywhere…
  • Top-notch Veg cuisine. Best food since the last farm we stayed on (BEV). Even better is we got here the day before graduation, which called for a Feast, served on banana leaves. Mmmmm! (PS- I’m oficially sick of eating-out in S. India. Home cooking makes me happy again.)
  • Yoga 2x a day! I forgot how much I like Yoga. 6 classes-in, I’m already much improved (and can stand on my head as long as I want.) I’m so tempted to stay for a week to see how far I can go…
  • Interesting, talented, good-looking people from all over the world. Yogis are notoriously attractive, inside and out, with the shine in their eyes and utmost regard for their health, attitudes, good karma, living the good life. Last night at graduation there was a talent show, and people sang, danced, did acrobatics, comedy, and improvisations. It was amazing. I can’t imagine the amount of stupendous people that come through here, a fresh batch every month for teacher training, but also many passing through on ‘vacation’… 25,000+ Yogis have graduated from the Sividanda institute since 1969… that’s a lot of kick-butt people, I’d assume!
  • Weather. I know, Sividanda doesn’t own the weather, but Trivandrum is notably wetter and more lush than the rest of Kerala. It was rainign when we arrived, and it continued to rain for a day and a half. I love it! Thanks, God, for the break.
  • For <$9 a day, it’s a steal. 3 hours of Yoga, scrumptious healthy diet, good company, free Ayurvedic health clinic, cheap massage, daily lectures, and lots of singing (well I can do without the singing), it’s below my daily travel budget and it’s filled to the brim with quality, action-packed hours. (10 minutes till swimming!)

Even though I have a bit of a cold (cough & sore throat), I actually feel so good… the yoga (and weird Ayurvedic Sitopaladi + Agastyarasayanam the doc gave me) actually clears out my sinuses and I’m full of energy. Off to swim in the lake before my “Karma Yoga” – serving the 50 newcomers their meal when they arrive. A little service goes a long way! (Cara was telling me how she embraced her toilet duty, bringing her close together with a girl she previously had friction with… it’s all good!)

Shanti, shanti, shanti.

* Correction/Addendum: Tonight is Easter Sunday, I remembered around dinner time. Even though Jesus gets the nod around here Β  he’s mentioned in certain prayers (all of which predominantly consist of chanting various Gods’ names over and over) and he has his own scattered inspirational posters to appeal to the Westerners (looking out over the mountains during the full moon, looking so handsome), this is not truly a multi-denominational place of worship. JC’s Resurrection didn’t even get a mention during today’s two Satsangs (Group Meditation/Chant), so I correct that The Ashram is Hindu (and also very Krishna). Happy Ascension, Jesus! I chanted for you! (Really, it seemed like sacrilege to be chanting the catchy Hindu songs without acknowledging my own main man.)

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