By Life Positive
by Jamuna Rangachari and Mansi Agarwal
Planning a holiday? Choose one that revitalises your body, mind and soul, not just recharging your batteries but equipping you with rechargeable ones.
Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram, Kerala
Located at the verdant foothills of Kerala’s Sahyadri mountains, Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram is best known for its two-week yoga vacations that provide training on the five principles of yoga – proper exercise, proper breathing, proper relaxation, proper diet and positive thinking and meditation.
Founded by the late Swami Vishnude-vananda, one of the disciples of Swami Sivananda, founder of the Rishikesh-based Divine Life Society, the ashram is now run by his senior disciples. The two-week yoga intensive comprises of asana training twice a day along with meditation, chanting, lectures on philosophy, and health guidance. If two weeks is not possible, the duration can be reduced. However, at least three days is recommended for minimum benefit. The ashram also has a one-month teachers’ training course (TTC), based on the traditional gurukula system in which students live and study with the teacher. Intensive and transformative, it is taught by senior disciples of Swami Vishnudevananda. The curriculum includes instruction in asanas (yoga postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation, chanting, mantras, yoga philosophy, diet, kriyas (cleansing exercises) and the Bhagavad Gita. Successful students receive an internationally recognized certificate.
The ashram also offers a four-week Advanced Teachers Training course (ATTC). In addition, it has a two-week Fasting and Ayurvedic Massage Program, comprising of a juice-fast for purification and detoxification and including ayurvedic massage, herbal powders, colon cleansing, holistic therapies, allergy and toxin testing. The ashram also conducts a kids’ camp program during April.
Accommodation and food Double rooms, dormitory accommodation and tents are available. Food is included for all residents.
Double room w/bath Rs 500 – Rs 600 Dormitory / Own tent Rs 350 – Rs 450
The TTC and other advanced courses have an additional charge, the details of which will be given by the ashram
How to Get There
Reach Trivandrum by air, rail or road and proceed to the ashram, which is around 32 kms away by rickshaw or taxi or take a bus to Neyyar dam that is around 28 kms away and then walk or take a rickshaw to the ashram.
Contact: Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram, Neyyar Dam P.O. Thiruvananthapuram, Dist. Kerala 695 572 India, Ph: (0471) 2273093 / 2703 / 2926, Fax: (0471) 2272093,
Holiday Health Resort Center, Yelagiri
If naturopathy interests you, head for the holiday health resort at Yelagiri.
The treatment is solely based on the five natural elements ether (akash), sunlight (tej), air (vayu), water (jal) and earth (prithvi). It has a tie-up with the Gandhiji Institute of Yoga and Naturopathy, Chennai.
Treatments are offered for diseases like diabetes, hypertension, arthritis – osteo and rheumatoid – heart problems, cancer, asthma and others. Depending on the patient’s conditions, treatment is continued for 7, 14, 21, and 28 days or more. The drug house is well equipped with all kinds of ayurvedic and siddha products from reputed companies.
Near by, the boating club at Yelagiri Lake runs pedaling and rowing boats and there is a small zoo, established by the Tamil Nadu government. The beautiful Jalagamparai waterfalls at the foot of the Yelagiri Hills is another attraction and so are religious places of worship such as the Vetrivel Murugan temple in the shape of a dhyana lingam, a church and a mosque close by.
Accommodation and Food/Fees
Economy class: Rs 500
Standard class: Rs 850
Deluxe: Rs 1000
Suite: Rs 1250-1500
In the restaurant, cost of one meal varies between Rs 30 to Rs 50.
How to Get There
o By air
Via Chennai: 215 km, Bangalore: 140 km
o By rail
Nearest railway station: Jolarpettai Junction which is 14 km away from the resort destination.
o By road
From Chennai via Vellore, Vaniyambadi.
From Bangalore via Krishnagiri, Tirupattur.
Contact: Holiday Health Resort Center, Yelagiri Gandhiji Nature Cure Center,
Mandhira Apartments, 23-D, North Broad Road,
T. Nagar, Chennai – 600017, Tel: (044) 28151159 / 28151062 / 9840544894 / 9444041062.
Saccidananda Ashram, Tamil Nadu
On the banks of the River Kaveri, in Shantivanam (Forest of Peace), is a unique ashram, Saccidananda Ashram, meant to be a ‘meeting place for all Hindus and Christians and people of all religions or none, who are genuinely seeking God’.
The ashram was founded in 1950 by two French priests and then taken over by Benedictine monks of Father Griffiths’ order, who himself lived there till 1993.
The day begins early at 5 am and all the prayer sessions include rituals from Indian tradition, explained in the spirit of reaching God. For instance, sandalwood paste is passed around to everyone and each person dips a finger into the container and places it on the forehead or hands as a sign of purification and consecration of the whole body to God. The arti that is offered at the beginning of the service is a sign of honor or worship performed before any sacred thing or person. Placing the ashes on the forehead signifies that our sins and impurities have burnt away. The ashes represent the purified self.
The communal prayer services include readings from the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita. Sometimes, there are also readings from Tamil classics and other scriptures, together with psalms and readings from the Bible.
Essentially, this ashram is for silence, meditation, contemplation and inter-religious dialog – a place for genuine, committed seekers.
Accommodation and Food
The guesthouse has 12 private rooms, five semi-private rooms, and 32 dormitory beds. Mattresses and bedding is provided and food is also provided in the ashram.
Rs 200 per day, inclusive of stay and food.
How to Get There
The closest airports are Chennai and Madurai and the closest town is Tiruchirapalli (30 kms away). From Tiruchirapalli, proceed to Kulittalai by bus or taxi and then to the ashram (3 kms from the town) by auto rickshaw or taxi.
Contact: Saccidananda Ashram,Shantivanam,
Tannirpalli PO 639 107, Kulittalai
Dist Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu
Telefax : 91-4323-222260 / 80
Chinmaya Tapovan Trust, Sidhbari
‘True Hinduism is the Sanatana Dharma of the Upanishads’
- Swami Chinmayananda
Next to snow-tipped Himalayan peaks, is the serene center of the Chinmaya mission at Sidhbari. Swami Chinmayananda, the founder, dedicated to spreading the message of Advaita Vedanta philosophy of Adi Shankaracharya, chose this location as he found it most conducive for spiritual studies. The center holds long-term residential courses and also conducts a one-week residential course on Vedanta.
The day begins with meditation from 5.30 to 6 am, followed by tea and a class before breakfast. The morning is spent in classes and discussions, afternoons are generally free and the evenings usually have some kind of cultural program. The classes are usually in Hindi but swamis in the ashram are always ready to answer one’s questions, and are generally conversant in English.
The center has a library, meditation center, satsang hall and a store that sells items made by the villagers through the ashram’s service program.
Though the teachings revolve around classical texts, the talks and discussions bring it to the current context, making it practical and inspirational. The emphasis is on slow transformation of life through a slow transformation of the mind, not just during the camp but forever.
Accommodation and Food
Comfortable rooms and dormitories are available and Indian vegetarian food is served. Though bedding is available, it is advisable to take your own as there may be a shortage during peak-time.
Rs 1,700 for the one-week residential program, inclusive of fee for the course, accommodation and food.
There are regular camps held at the ashram, so it is advisable to call and register in advance.
How to Get There
The ashram is in the village of Sidhbari, just 10 kms from Dharamsala. By air, Kangra is the nearest airport. By train, Pathankot is the nearest station, from which a taxi or bus to Dharamsala could be taken. Alternatively, an overnight bus could be taken directly from Delhi – Dharamsala.
Contact: Chinmaya Tapovan Trust
Sandeepany (HIM), Sidhbari,
Himachal Pradesh – 176 057
The International Meditation Center, Bodhgaya
The International Meditation Center, Bodhgaya, came into existence 1970, the first registered Vipassana meditation center in India.
A popular pilgrimage center, Buddhists from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Tibet, Bhutan and Japan have monasteries within walking distance of the Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya.
The center hosts 10-day beginners’ courses in Vipassana, and 30-day courses for the more experienced. Their new site, the Dhamma Bodhi International Meditation Center, organizes 10-day courses and other courses through the year.
The atmosphere is strict and one must maintain silence except for discourses, discussions with the teacher and necessary inquiries.
The full schedule includes seven or eight periods of sitting meditation every day, alternating with walking meditation, light meals and an evening discourse.
The meditation training begins by focusing your mind on the rising and falling of the abdomen while breathing, and progressively extends to all other activities such as walking and eating. ‘Having faithfully, earnestly, and diligently followed the instructions with full awareness and mindfully, the meditator will enter into the stages of insight one after one,’ says Dr Rastrapal, the abbot. Gradually, one moves towards the realisation of the Buddha’s assertion that all aspects of existence are impermanent, experimentally.
Accommodation and Food
Dormitories are available at the center and simple meals are provided. You need to bring your own blankets, pillows and cushions.
Other than this, the center offers a motley collection of basic bungalows and tents.
There are no charges, as the center believes that the work is for the benefit of society. However, donations can be made to enable other seekers to avail of the same services.
How to Get There
Patna, the nearest airport, is 100 kms away. Gaya, 10 kms away, is the nearest railway station. A bus or taxi can be taken directly from Patna or Gaya.
Contact: The International Meditation Center,
P.O. Bodhgaya 82423, Dist Gaya, Bihar, India
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