SVYASA, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana is a University that has been created following the ideals of education from Swami Vivekananda. I found the website surfing the web. The program seemed interesting so I decided to follow the one month Yoga Instructor Course (YIC).
I came to the university straight from Gokulam, Mysore. The train ride from Mysore to Bangalore was very easy. The train was not crowded at all and it was just a three hours journey. But once in Bangalore things got more complicated. I called SVYASA and they told me that it was just five minutes away from the train station. That was great news but it was a bit odd because I was sure that I read on the website that it was about 30km away from the city center. So, anyway I took a rickshaw and once we arrive to the place I realized that this was not the university at all, it was what they call the City Office. Ok, I had to admit that this was not a useless trip cause I had no idea how to reach the university anyway. They were very kind to explain me how to get there. I had to take another rickshaw to go the bus station (one of the most chaotic and dirty bus stations that I've seen). From there I had to take a bus to a place called Jigini and from there another rickshaw to the campus. This was a one hour and a half journey and not such a nice one because of the traffic, the pollution and because I was new to this town. And the worst thing is that I have to do this trip 4 times cause I needed to go to the FRRO to register myself..... another nightmare.
Finally I arrived at the campus but as soon as I arrived I got a bad feeling. I cannot tell what exactly it was, it just didn't feel right, it didn't feel like a place where I would like to stay at all. Just a few minutes there and I already wanted to leave. I actually got a similar feeling the day that I had explored their website, but... you know... there was only one way to know how it really was.
The YIC was going to start the 1st of September but I arrived 15 days earlier. I called them before and they had told me that I could stay there until the beginning of the YIC, but what they didn't tell me is that you are allowed to stay in the campus only if you are following a course. So I had to sign up for the Promotion of Positive Health (PPH) - Yoga Therapy course. Some times they call it PPH and some times Yoga Therapy so I still don't know what was the real name. This is a weekly course so the idea was to follow it for three weeks until the beginning of the YIC. I decided to pay only for one week to see how it would go. I had to pay US$225 to follow a one week course that I didn't really wanted to do and nobody could tell what the course was exactly about. I had to discover it on a daily basis. I was a bit lost the first day cause I didn't know where to go. The schedule that they've given me was not updated and it didn't include the locations of the classes. I think they gave me the final schedule in the middle of the first day.
As soon as the course started I was even more convinced that this was not the right place for me. I didn't wanted to stay there at all and certainly not for a month doing the YIC. The first day everything was bothering me. I didn't like the hatha yoga teachers at all, they were students that had been studying there for only 2 to 3 years and they seemed to have only an academical knowledge. I didn't like their teaching style at all and I found mistakes in everything that they did. I didn't want to get any advise from them and I didn't want to talk to anybody at all. As you can imagine I was actually having a really bad attitude, my cup was definitively full. It took me some time to realize this but then I tried to empty my cup.... well, at least a little bit :-) It took me a couple of days but then I was able to make the best of my time at the university and with a bit more objectivity I decided that one week there was definitively more than enough for me. My sincere intention was really to follow the YIC course and even another course that they call YIN - Yoga Intensive - (some students told me that they never heard about it) but just after a few days or even just minutes I totally changed my mind. So I cannot tell you how exactly the YIC is but this can give you an idea about the experience. I heard that almost none of the foreigners that come to the YIC course likes it. I guess this just have something to do with teaching style and culture. I talked with several Indians and they all seemed to love the course but for all of them this was the first experience with yoga.
I cannot tell what exactly made me feel the way that I was feeling, but if you want to know a bit more of the course and what I like and didn't like you can continue reading.
- I was very enthusiastic about going to a yoga university that follows the ideals of Swami Vivekananda, he is like one of my heroes, but although there was a big monument of him and a picture from him here and there I still didn't feel his presence at all, everything felt just so empty.
- The university did feel like a university, but in the negative sense, I mean in the bureaucratic work and in the academical formation of the students. They learn yoga in a very technical or academical way, and even that doesn't feel right. I hated the hatha yoga teaching style, it was horrible. They talk all the time, is like a continue chattering so you can not enjoy any of the asanas (postures) that you are doing. Imagine somebody telling you to relax, expecting you to relax, but telling you to relax again and again without any time for you to really... relax!. It's ridiculous. And they teach everything in such a mechanical way. I didn't feel a heart, passion or love for what they do. I didn't like the sequences either, maybe I am just too used to the Sivananda style; and it was extreeeeemly slooooow, is like Hatha Yoga for a 80 years old person with no flexibility at all. On top of that there was something in their attitude that I hated. Is like somebody starting a new job right after finishing his university studies, he thinks he knows everything and tries to surprise everybody with his knowledge but in reality he doesn't know anything at all!, no real life experience. Besides, I would normally expect from a teacher to know more than the book but with a few questions that I made I realized that they knew only exactly what the book says or even less.
- Although I was following this PPH course, also called Yoga Therapy, in none of the classes nobody explain us how the practices were related to health, actually they didn't explain the practices at all! Sometimes during the lectures they would mention something but it was nothing specific because the lectures where for almost all the students of all the programs.
- There were very few foreigners at the campus. I just saw a couple of japanese and koreans. I was not surprise since the campus doesn't feel like foreigners friendly. In the YIC that had started the first of August there was only one foreigner. Luckily for me there was a girl from my own country, Ecuador! and even from my own city! What are the odds? She is doing one of the long term programs, a three years program! That's very impressive. She must be a real yogi to survive there for 3 years :-P and she has almost completed her first year. She really made my week. We talked a lot about yoga, life and we were able to share so many experiences from the university and from past courses. She also gave me a very good tip about another place to follow yoga courses in Bangalore, the Atma Darshan Yogashram.
- I found the schedule quite silly. We would have a relaxation practice just one hour after lunch and another relaxation practice right after dinner; a sure way to fall sleep. You can find the full schedule at the bottom of this post.
But of course not everything was so negative. There were also some very good points for being there:
- If you are a foreigner this would be an excellent opportunity to get very close to the Indian culture. You will be sharing plenty of time with Indian teachers and classmates.
- Most of the lectures during the Maitri Milan were excellent. Some of them were given by the Professor H. R. Nagendra, the chairman and also faculty member. He inspires respect and appreciation, he is very knowledgeable in Indian Philosophy and Yoga and for many he is indeed a real yogi. He use to work for the NASA and as a consultant for the Harvard University. To the regular students he give classes on the Upanishads, and I heard they are excellent. There is also a swami in the Campus. Unfortunately I didn't manage to talk with him but I heard many good comments from other foreign students. He also gives classes for the long term programs.
- They have a good collection of books to sell and also a library. They sell books from the Bihar School of Yoga but also many books written by Prof. Nagendra and other professors of the university. I read the book that I received for the 1 week course and, although the editorial looks very cheap, the content of the book was pretty good. The books seems to be based on research from different sources but also based on the experience gained with real cases treated at the University, based on different ancient yogic texts and based on the insights from Dr Nagendra. I ended buying two more books although I didn't want to buy more cause I already have enough and my backpack is already quite heavy.
- The university works also as a research institute and they have lots of papers published based on studies performed in the campus. So if you are interested in research and the application of yoga as a therapy for different kind of ailments then this is the place to be.
- There is a lot of knowledge, techniques available for you to learn. OM meditation which includes practicing external trataka on the Om symbol and loud chanting of the OM; Mind Sound Resonance Technique (MSRT) which is actually the repetition of certain mantras verbally and mentally to induce a meditative state of mind, this is actually a very interesting technique; Cyclic Meditation (CM) which is something like a deep relaxation technique, very sloooow and boring (I prefer Yoga Nidra); Pranic Energisation Technique (PET); Instant Relaxation Technique (IRT); Quick Relaxation Technique (QRT); and Deep Relaxation Technique (DRT)
- I like the fact that we did practice the Yogic Kriyas and not just talk about them. Actually we didn't talk about them.... unless I missed that class. The kriyas included The Neti (nose cleansing with solution made of water and salt), Jala Neti ( cleaning of the complete nostril passage using a sort of rubber string) and Vaman Dhouti (drinking about 1 liter or more of salt water and then throwing up everything to clean the stomach) but I didn't feel that I was getting good advise while we were doing the practices. We also practice Trataka (gazing at one point) using the flame of a candle. We did this for 2 or 3 days I think.
- The classes normally started on time but for some strange reason I was always late :-P
- For me the food was pretty good, maybe that's just because I looooved Indian food :-P It was Indian vegetarian but not too spicy and you can eat as much as you want. I hated the breakfast, they would offer us only soup, but I always manage to sneak into the kitchen and order some fruit with curd (yogurt), perfect for me :-). But please, don't ask me about the cleanliness, even the Indians in my class were complaining about that. That's a bit funny since one of the Niyamas (fixed rules) from the Ashtanga Yoga path mentioned in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras is "Saucha" which means "Cleanliness".
So, in conclusion, if I had to stay at this university the only thing that I would do would be to go to the morning lectures, talk with the swami and read the books. I certainly wouldn't like to learn their teaching style neither their Hatha Yoga style. But I do have to admit that there are some positive things so it is up to you to make the best of your stay if you decide to follow any program here.
The daily schedule:
04.30 to 05.00 AM Wake up and ablution (make yourself ready)
05.00 to 05.30 AM Om Meditation
05.30 to 06.30 AM Special Technique (Just Hatha Yoga practices)
06.30 to 07.00 AM Yogic Kriyas
07.15 to 08.00 AM Maitri Milan (reciting verses of the Bhagavad Gita and a lecture right after)
08.00 to 10.55 AM Breakfast (in the time table it actually said "juice" be we never got one) and free time (or a treatment in naturopathy if you paid more)
11.00 to 11.55 AM Lunch and rest
12.00 to 12.55 PM Parameters (they would measure your heart rate, blood pressure, weight, etc.)
01.00 to 01.55 PM Cyclic Meditation
02.00 to 03.00 PM Lecture
03.00 to 03.40 PM A snack (again, juice according to the schedule) and/or a natural treatment if you paid more
03.45 to 05.00 PM Special Technique and Pranayama
05.00 to 05.55 PM Tuning to nature (walk around the campus or do whatever you want)
06.00 to 06.25 PM Bhajan (chantings)
06.30 to 07.25 PM Dinner
07.30 to 08.10 PM Trataka or Mind Sound Resonance Technique (MSRT).
08.15 to 09.25 PM Happy Assembly (games) or Satsang. After a few minutes in my first "Happy Assembly" I tried to ran away and I promised myself never to come back :-P we were doing this game of running around chairs and then when the music stop trying to find a place to sit. I was trying to loose all the time but I always had a chair next to me :-/
09.30 PM Juice/Special Drinks ( I never received this)
How to reach the university?
From the Bangalore train station take a rickshaw to the Kalasipalya Bus Stop. From there take the bus that goes to "Jigani". Once in Jigani you need to take a rickshaw to the university. Just ask for Vivekananda Ashram or Prashanti Kutiram.
For more information you can visit the SVYASA website.
- What to Pack for Your Next Travel and Yoga Adventure to India
- Guide to Ashrams in India: Yoga Retreats in India and More
Where to register in Bangalore?
The foreign registration office is in Infantry Road, Commisioner of Police. This is very close from the MG Road area. It takes about 20 minutes walking from the Brigade Road and MG Road corner but it certainly not a nice walk. A rickshaw should be about 17 rupees but almost none of them will like to take you there cause it is to close for them.
Phone: 91 80 22942186 / 22943246
Fax: 91 80 22200920
To read about other ashrams that I've visited please go to the Ashrams page.