Atma Darshan Yogashram is a small and beautiful yoga ashram in Bangalore. It's branch of the Bihar School of Yoga, a very well known and respected ashram in Bihar founded by Swami Satyananada Saraswati. Bihar School of Yoga is also famous for it's great collection of yoga books, like one of my favorites, "Taming the Kundalini," so you can find all the BSY books at this ashram in Bangalore.
I heard about the Atma Darshan Yogashram during my stay at SVYASA, but after the experience that I had at SVYASA I was very sceptic about doing anything in any other place. I didn't even want to stay in Bangalore anymore. I wanted to leave right away but since I still needed to arrange some papers at the FRRO (Foreign Registration Office) I had no other option but to stay. So I decided to give it a try.
I gave them a call and, as usual in India, I didn't get any clear information from them so I just went directly to the Ashram, which is pretty far from the MG Road area. I brought my backpack and all my stuff with me not knowing for sure if I would stay or not but as soon as I stepped in the ashram I knew that I would stay.
The experience was so different compared to my previous experience at SVYASA. Just after a few days I decided to prolong my stay for one more week. I felt so comfortable and at peace, although this was the first time in my life that I was missing a chair! There were no chairs in the ashram at all.
Ok, there were only two chairs at the office, which are normally use by the people working there, and around the main hall there is a bank but made of stone so you can imagine how comfortable it is to sit there. That means that whenever you want to sit and relax or just read a book you need to sit on the floor or on your bed. It's funny, I never had this thought in my life before. Lol.
I feel very satisfied with the residential course that I took. During my stay I had the opportunity to learn and practice a lot following the Swami Satyananda style of Yoga. I had regular classes of Nidra Yoga (a deep relaxation technique), Antar Mauna (a pratyahara or sense withdrawal technique), meditation, pranayamas and a bit of asanas. And the videos with the discourses by Swami Satyananda were excellent. There were so many interesting topics like mantra, Kriya Yoga, Tantra, the necessity of a guru and many others.
About the ashram
The ashram is just beautiful. It has a beautiful garden at the entrance and the stone construction and the dark floor from the main hall give it a kind of zen style. It has two big halls for classes and two small rooms that are also used for classes and chanting located on the main building.
The main building has two floors and a terrace. On the ground floor there is the main hall with a statue of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, a big portrait of Swami Satyananda (the founder of the Bihar School of Yoga) and in the middle a statue representing Patanjali. On the 2nd floor there is another big hall. It has big portraits of Sivananda and Satyananda and a TV where they play videos with discourses from Swami Satyananda and Swami Niranjanananda.
There is another hall which is standing alone on the right side of the entrance to the ashram.
The Ashram is not that big, it has capacity for only 5 residencial students but they are mainly oriented to give non residential courses. There are two rooms, one with two beds and another one with three beds. During my first week there was just one Indian lady doing the same residential course and at the end of the second week a guy from Holland joined.
The ashram is located in the city, about 18 Km away from the MG (Mahatma Gandhi) Road area. There are many small shops around reachable by foot and a few internet cafes. There is a nice hospital just in front of the Ashram (Sagar Hospital) which can be very convenient if you fall sick. The location is quite convenient but the downside is that it is a very noisy area.
There is a big playground around the ashram, on the back side and right side of the ashram, which is used by kids to play cricket, balmington or whatever they can play so you can hear them playing all they long and very frequently you will see balls flying into the ashram. The roads nearby the ashram are quite busy so you better don't forget to bring your earplugs to sleep in the night. Still, there is a pretty peaceful atmosphere inside the ashram.
But the best thing is the people. There are four guys and three girls taking care of the ashram and giving the classes. They have all received different type of initiations by Swami Niranjanananda like Mantra Diksha, Jignasu Sannyasa and Karma Sannyasa. As they've explained me these are the different steps or initiations before becoming a Poorna Sannyasa, a full time renunciant or Swami. They all look very young but they have plenty of experience in the Satyananda tradition and they are really nice people. It's so much easier to empty ones cup and be humble :-)
They take care of administrative work at the Ashram and everyday they dedicate at least one hour doing the cleaning of the ashram as seva (selfless service), but their main job is to give the classes to the students. There is also a lovely Swamiji who is probably in his late 70ties and another Karma Sannyasa, probably in his late fifth-ties, who is the accountant, but I think nobody has ever seen him laughing... or even smiling. There are also two ladies working in the kitchen making the food and te.
About the food
The food is great, I loved it, Indian vegetarian and not spicy at all. And there was usually plenty of food but most of the times I was the only one going for a second dish :-P. The only problem that I found is that there are no fruits offered with any meal, not even breakfast. But it is not such a big issue since you can easy go out and buy the fruits that you like, of course that will be from your own pocket. I usually bought bananas, apples and curd (yogurt) for my breakfast. Hmmm delicious :-)
I was a bit disappointed, or actually very disappointed, that at the eating time everybody would come at whatever time. Normally one of the cooking ladies would ring the bell to let you know that the food was ready (not always on time) but still everybody would come whenever they wanted. The tradition in an ashram is that everybody would sit at the same time, wait that everybody has food on their plates and then make a prayer together before start eating. This unfortunately didn't happen in this ashram.
About the rules
Like any other ashram they do have some rules for the residential students, however here it was not that strict. You can certainly ask permission to leave the ashram in case you need to do something like buying fruits or washing powder. I actually went out almost everyday due to different reasons but normally you should try to remain in the ashram as much as possible. I don't think they appreciate if you go out too frequently.
Yoga Courses at Atma Darshan Yogashram
They have different classes running during the weekdays and also on weekends. Actually the main purpose of the Ashram is to offer non residential courses about yoga and meditation but they do offer weekly residential courses as well. The residential courses starts normally on Monday and ends on Saturday morning but you can stay until Sunday. Sunday is a day off so you can do whatever you want, like going to the center of Bangalore or visiting some places.
According to what they told me they develop the schedule for the residential course according to the requirements of the student so if you want to spend more time on meditation, asanas or pranayamas you just need to discuss it with them. But be careful with what you ask because in this tradition they can be a bit conservative. I asked about the Bandhas and they reacted like if I was talking about one of the most secret techniques ever. However in their website they did mention "advance courses on Bandhas, Kriya Yoga and Pranayamas". So the course will be tailored to your requirements but also based on their judgment of what you really need.
They teach what they call "integral yoga" which is a complete experience in the yoga way of living. That includes not only Hatha Yoga (cleansing techniques, asanas, pranayamas) and meditation but also chanting (Bhakti Yoga, devotional acts) and seva (Karma Yoga). I guess the Gnana Yoga (wisdom path) is covered by the visualization of the speeches given by Swami Satayananda or Nirandananda.
This is similar to other schools but in this ashram there is a lot more emphasis giving to the chanting of mantras than anything else. At 5.30 in the morning we would have a half an hour session to chant the mantras but also at the beginning and at the end of each class and at 5pm there was another chanting session. I always skipped that one. Additionally every Saturday at 6.30 pm there is a sort of celebration called the Havan where they would chant the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra 100 times.
They do make a lot of emphasis on explaining that all this mantra chanting has nothing to due with religion and that it is very positive for your health due to the vibratory/resonance effects of the mantra on your physical body and on your psyche. I wrote more about the effect of the mantra chanting in: Mantra Chanting for Health, Wealth and More. You'll also find a video with one of the havans at the ashram.
I took this other video during the celebration of Krishna's birthday at the ashram.
I like their teaching style. The hatha yoga classes include in-depth explanations for some of the postures and the teachers always mentions who shouldn't perform which asanas. I was in the intermediate level. The classes are quite slow but I loved the postures and the sequences. But it was not intensive at all.
Although the session was for one hour and a half we were only able to cover just a few asanas each day because we would do them slowly and after each asana we would spend some time trying to experience the effect of the asana in the body. We would also do mantra recitation at the beginning and at the end of the class, pranayamas and relaxation. So don't expect to do quick progress in the physical postures, but you will certainly feel very calm and relaxed by the end of the class.
My teacher for the meditation and yoga nidra classes was a lovely young Indian girl from Munger, Bihar. Although she looks so young she already has 7 years of experience teaching yoga. She is great, she is so calm and has such a lovely voice that I could never avoid to sleep during the Yoga Nidra classes :-D She would sit directly on the floor over her mat but she wouldn't change her posture at all during the class, a very good sign. I normally used two cushions to sit on the floor and I would still be feeling uncomfortable. I made so many questions and she always had a good answer based either on what she has study from the books or based on her own experience.
Ashram Daily Schedule
This is the schedule that they gave me during my stay. It is not always the same schedule, it also depends on the requirements of the student and the different courses that are going on during that week. It was actually a very easy schedule, plenty of time to relax, read or to update your blog ;-)
05.00 Wake up bell
05.30 to 06.00 Chanting of Mantra
06.00 to 07.30 Class (Hatha Yoga: Asanas and Pranayamas)
07.30 to 08.30 Breakfast
08.30 to 09.30 Participation in seva (Karma Yoga or selfless work e.g cleaning) with inmates
10.00 to 11.00 Class (Meditation)
11.00 to 12.00 Lunch
12.00 to 13.30 Personal activity time
13.30 to 14.30 Video visualization (talks from Swami Satyananda or Swami Niranjanananda
14.30 to 15.00 Tea time
15.00 to 16.00 Class (Yoga Nidra: Deep relaxation technique of conscious sleep)
16.00 to 17.00 Free time
17.00 to 18.00 Chanting
18.00 to 19.00 Dinner
19.00 to 20.30 Study time
21.00 Lights off
How to Contact Atma Darshan Yogashram
Phone: 080 26664016
Fax: 080 26669972
Address: Dayanandasagar College Road, Kumaraswamy Layout, Bangalore 560078. Next to the Telephone Exchange, opposite to the Sagar Hospital
The Ashram is located about 18 Km away from the MG Road area and it took me about 20 minutes with no traffic. The rickshaw charged me 150 Indian Rupees (according to the meter).
There are a few internet cafes nearby but the only one that I found with facilities to skype was:
ABISYSTEMS, Computer Sales & Service.
#1655, 6th Cross Kumaraswamy Layout 1st Stage,
Phone: 080 2666 5447 / 080 4216 1072
I really enjoy my stay at this ashram so if you are in Bangalore or if you are planning a visit anytime soon I suggest you do pay a visit to this ashram and consider staying there for a few days to do one of the residential courses. To read about other ashrams that I've visited you can go to Guide to Ashrams in India: Yoga Retreats in India and More.