Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama Ashram, Rishikesh

Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama

Ever since I watched Swami Rama's lectures on the Patanjali's Yoga Sutras I felt connected with him. So much wisdom and with so much conviction. I felt like if he was indeed a great yogi and I got very interested in his teachings. I watched all his lectures and I read a couple of his books like "Living with the Himalayan Masters". But I still needed a more direct experience so I decided to visit the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama ashram, in Rishikesh founded by Swami Veda Bharati, one of Swami Rama's main disciples.




A yogi friend from Ecuador, Gustavo, also recommended me the ashram. He said "Swami Veda is probably one of the greatest yogis from the modern times." Soon I contacted the ashram and planned a visit by mid 2012. But guess what... I couldn't wait any longer so I decided to go earlier than I had originally planned. I felt like I needed to be in a place deeply involved in meditation where I can get the right guidance to continue with my own practice. This seemed to be the right place.

And luckily I was not mistaken. If you are serious about meditation and about all aspects of yoga philosophy then this is the place to be. They call it the "Himalayan Yoga Tradition" and their main goal is the practice of meditation. Every activity, every teaching, every practice that is carried on at this ashram is with one goal only, meditation within the Himalayan Tradition. And that's exactly what I love about this place. I've spend about three weeks at the ashram and I liked it so much that I have already planned another visit soon.


The ashram


Though outside the ashram the area is not that nice as soon as you cross the main gate it feels like been transported to a totally different place. My first impression was that it looks like a resort. It is very green with grass, trees and flowers all around the place.

Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama

Swami Rama Ashram Cottages

Swami Rama Ashram Cottages

It is the most western friendly ashram that I have visited so far. The accommodation for the guests is incredible comfortable. There are 36 nice brick cottages with different capacities (single, twin and family size) including kitchen, living room, air conditioner, fan and hot water. What else do you need? I can certainly stay here for months and months without any problem.

Swami Rama Ashram Cottages

Swami Rama Ashram Accommodation

Swami Rama Ashram accommodation

Swami Rama Ashram accommodation

Unfortunately there is plenty of pollution in the air, dust and smoke probably, but that's the same all around Rishikesh. You can notice the pollution by looking at the mounts nearby during the day. I heard that it depends on the season. When it rains, the rain water clears the sky and you can clearly see the mounts during the day and the stars during the night.

In the main building, besides several offices, there is one big hall called "Meditation Hall" which is used for the meditations, for the physical practices and for lectures. There is a bookstore that sells Swami Rama and Swami Veda's books but also books from other traditions like Sivananda's books and Bihar School of Yoga books; and there is the audio visual room where they play video recordings from Swami Rama or Swami Veda's lectures.

Swami Rama Ashram Meditation Hall
Meditation hall


After crossing all the cottages for the guests you can find a small library which is mainly dedicated for the gurukulam students. Guests are not allowed to borrow books from the library though at the reception they have several books that can be borrowed by the guests. Next to the library there is the "Knowledge Center", a small hall that can be divided in two rooms for lectures, guided meditations or hatha yoga class. In front of the knowledge center is the dinning hall and behind this two buildings is the gurukulam building with accommodation for the gurukulam students.

Swami Rama Ashram Library

Swami Rama Ashram Gurukulam

Swami Rama Ashram Canteene

Ashram programs


Spiritual retreats

Visitors that come and stay for a while at the ashram can join the spiritual retreats or guests program. That's the same program that I was following. This program include lectures, video visualization and the physical practices (joints and glands exercises and hatha yoga) as described in the schedule below. The lectures and video visualization will introduce the visitor to the Himalayan Yoga Tradition, to Swami Rama's life and to the basic practices.

The very first lecture was "breathing and meditation" (you can already see the emphasis that is made on meditation) and they even explained how to fold a blanket to be able sit comfortably for long periods of time. Other lectures cover subjects as pranayamas, dynamics of breathing and philosophy of hatha yoga.

The morning practice is mainly focused on the "Joints and glands exercises", usually known as Pawanmuktasana Series. These are very simple exercises, like neck rotations, which work on all joints from head to toes. But the main work is not on the physical level, rather on a subtle level so they are performed very slowly with full mindfulness, with awareness of the breath and of every single movement.

The afternoon class is mainly focused on the Asanas (physical yoga postures). It's a very gentle class, they are also performed slowly, with mindfulness and breath awareness and usually with a break "centering" between each asana. There is no emphasis at all in performing advance or complicated asanas. So if you are looking for an intense asana practice then this might not be the right place for you. The teachers usually quote one of Swami Veda's saying. "Touching your knees with your nose is not Hatha Yoga, even a clown can do that and backwards, but that doesn't make him a yogi".

There is a short book called "Philosophy of Hatha Yoga" written by Swami Veda. It's very interesting and goes very deep into the subject. It can give you an idea on how Hatha Yoga is seen from this tradition.

The guest program is not intense at all, and you might need to push a bit to make sure that you get the necessary classes for you. Some days I didn't have any lectures because there were no teachers available. But that was my experience during May which is actually the summer break so it might be different between October and April where there are more senior teachers and guests at the ashram.

One thing to keep in mind is that you'll need to discipline yourself. They don't force you to attend the lectures or practices. There is actually a lot of freedom which can be good or bad depending on how you see it. It is up to you to make the best of your stay at the ashram. I tried to stick to the program, read and also do my own practice but sometimes it felt a bit boring. Maybe because I was staying during the summer break and there were almost no other guests.


Daily Schedule:


This is the basic schedule for all programs.

4:15 Bell Ring
05:00 to 05:15 Morning Prayers
05:15 to 07:00 Joints & Glands Exercises/Hatha Yoga
07:00 to 07:30 Pranayama (breathing practices)
07:30 to 08:30 Meditation
08:30 to 09:30 Breakfast
10:30 Gurukulam Student Classes and Guest Program
12:30 to 13:00 Pranayama (Breathing practices)
13:00 to 14:00 Lunch
14:00 to 14:30 Digestive Breathing
14:30 to 16:15 Free
16:15 to 17:30 Hatha Yoga Class
17:30 to 18:00 Guided Relaxation
18:00 to 19:00 Meditation
19:00 to 20:00 Dinner
20:00 to 21:00 Guest lecture, Satsanga or special program
21:00 Prayers

Silent retreats

Those who have already covered all the basic teachings and have develop their own meditation and yoga practice can request a silent retreat which is basically to dedicate yourself fully to your own practice for a period of 3 days, 7 days, 40 days or even three months.







Himalayan Yoga Tradition Teacher Training Program

Twice a year at the ashram, in October and in March, they offer the Himalayan Yoga Tradition Teacher Training Program (TTP). It is quite interesting actually. The program is divided in three different levels and each level represent a total of 200 hours. But to complete each level you need to complete a one year long distance assignments after participating in the first two weeks of residential training. After the first two residential weeks the rest of the program is continued online. You'll get access to their website where you will receive and submit the assignments and a mentor that will follow you up and monitor your progress so you can complete the program from wherever you are in the world.

Update 30/07/2012: I completed this training in March 2012 and I wrote an article about it. You can find more information here:Himalayan Yoga Tradition Teacher Training Program


Gurukulam program

And this one is for the very serious yogis that are really interested in their sadhana (spiritual practice) and it is the main program at the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama ashram. The gurukulam program can be of three years, five years or even ten years! One of the main difference versus the TTP is that it is a fully residential program with a break between June till September where you can leave or stay at the ashram if you like to. The program starts in October and ends in May. The advantage here is that you are on-site and get constant support of senior teachers and other students plus the guidance of Swami Veda Bharati. The purpose of this program is to prepare teachers to guide people into meditation.

To know more about the Gurukulam program you can visit srdg.ahymsin.org

Ashram services


Internet: There is one computer at the reception with internet access. They also have wireless however due to frequent power cuts it usually stops working during the day. If you have a smart phone then I can recommend to get an Airtel sim card and use the mobile internet service. Airtel has a pretty good reception at the ashram.

Boutique: There is no shop at the ashram but there are a few small shops outside where you can get basic things like soap and washing powder.

About the food


Hmm this is always one of my favorite topics :-) But honestly I'm not that enthusiastic about food here, specially after staying at the Sivananda Ashram in Madurai. Over there lunch and dinner was one of my favorite times of the day but at the SRSG is not that special. I guess it is good way to practice sense pleasure control :-) But I do like that the fact that we have three meals a day. It is much better for my body weight and it is easier to avoid over eating.

Swami Rama Ashram Food

Swami Rama Ashram Food

Popular Swami Rama books in Amazon.com


Living with the
Himalayan Masters
Meditation and its
Practice
The Art of
Joyful Living
The Royal Path



Related blog posts



How to reach the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama Ashram


From Haridwar bus stand which is just 2 minutes walk from the Haridawar train station you can take a direct public bus to Rishikesh. When I called the ashram they told me to ask the driver to stop at the Koyal Grand Stop, a restaurant at the crossroad with Virbhadra road and from there take a Rikshak instead of going all the way to Rishikesh. This was not that easy cause nobody in the bus knew this place. But if not a big problem, the Rishikesh bus stand is not so far away from the Ashram.

After getting off the bus, either at Koyal Grand Stop or at the Rishikesh bus stand just take an auto rickshaw and ask for Seema Dental College. Every rickshaw no it. It should cost between 40 or 70 rupees. You can also take a shared rickshaw which would be 7 rupees.

Ashram address

Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama
Virpur Khurd, Virbhadra Road,
P.O. Pashulok, Via :Rishikesh
Uttarakhand, India - 249203

From the ashram to Rishikesh proper

To reach Ram Jhula or Laxman Jhula bridge you can take a shared auto just outside the ashram, on the left side, to market (7 rupees) and from there change to another share auto (these one are bigger and bluish) for 5 rupees. The total journey should be around 20 minutes.


Contact information


Phone: +91 135 2450093, +91 135 2453030, +91 135 2450596
Fax: +91 135 2450831
email: sadhakagrama@gmail.com


Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama Ashram related websites


www.himalayanyogatradition.com
www.bindu.org
www.swamiveda.org
www.themeditationcenter.org

AHYMSIN: Association of Himalayan Yoga Meditation Societies International
Website: www.ahymsin.org
e-mail: ahymsin @ gmail.com

20 comments:

  1. Namaste!
    Great post. Very informative.
    I´m doing some research on this ashram, your article has helped a lot.
    Can you tell me, how much they charge for single room for one night?

    Is there a need to book in advance?
    I´m planning my trip to Rishikesh on september-december.

    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Ekadashi, thanks for your comment. Yes I would suggest that you write them in advance to let them know if you are coming. The charges varies according to your region. For Indian Nationals I think it was some where around 600 rupees per day and for western countries around USD30. For other developing countries they have a different rate. The price includes accommodation, lodging, food and the open yoga and meditation classes. To get the right rate for you I suggest you contact them directly

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  3. Hy Marco!Do they welcome benevolat .;would i be able to stay overthere with my 2 boys ;;I plan to get to India by Februrary ..Not sure yet wher i ll stay i wanna get a training either At the Pattabhis Jois shala in mYsore or the sivananda one in Madurai as the one in Uttarkashi answered me they have a such small structure that they will not be able to accept my boys while i ll be at the training .;thanks for sharing your experience .Could you advise me with the visai need to apply as i wanna stay at least 9 month to one year Thanks a lot .Namaste

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi, I'm sure that at the SRSG you'll be able to stay with your boys and they'll probably feel very comfortable there since the ashram is pretty big and with lots of green areas and you could probably have a cottage only for you. But in February-March there is going to be a special event and the ashram is full booked so I suggest you contact them in advance and give them your dates to make sure that they will have space when you are planning to be there.

    I guess you could also bring your boys at the Sivananda ashram in Madurai. They have a few rooms with two or four beds that you could use if you don't want to stay in the dorms but you'll need to contact them in advance.

    If you are going to Mysore you'll need to find your own apartment cause they don't offer accomodation but they can help you find an apartment. the KPAYJI is not an ashram, you only go to the shala for the ashtanga yoga classes and the rest of the day you are on your own.

    I hope this helps, good luck
    namaste :-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for your post, very clearly, I heard that not easy to register Teacher Training Program? and hơ many people in class?

    Thanks a lot.

    From Vietname

    ReplyDelete
  6. Not easy to register? Hmmm I don't think I had any problem registering. I think we where about 15 in the class. You are very welcome :-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am interested in staying for two weeks in jan. I would like to inquire as to the rate for an American woman? Can you also tell me what airport I will fly into?
    Thanks- lisa

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi,

    I am interested in yogis living in Himalayas. I have an research study project on spirituality and yogis of Himalaya. can you help me in this regard.

    Santosh

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Santosh, you will likely enjoy the book by Sawmi Rma:
      Living with the Himalayan Masters

      Delete
  9. @ Lisa: Hi there, you would need to contact the ashram directly to find information about rates and accomodation. I included the ashram contact information in this article. I think the closest airport is New Delhi

    @ Santosh. No I don't have any information about yogis living right in the Himalayas but if you find something please do let me know :-)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Marco, first of all – thanks for this great post!

    I've been around Swami Rama ashram just today and I must say it doesn't look nice from the outside at all. couldn't tell if it's still functioning.

    A very good friend of mine, Kiran, is the disciple of Swami Jnaneswara who inturn is the disciple of Swami Rama. I must acknowledge the whole Swami Rama crowd is extremely intelligent and hold some deep insights into philosophy and stuff.

    The other day I read a commentary on the Yoga Sutras by Swami Jnaneswara at his website, http://swamij.com . Now, that's what I call brevity and deep insight!

    Should anyone need a neat explanation of the yoga sutras, head straight to swamij.com . Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with this website in any way; I simply love it :-)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi Himalayan Yoga Academy, which ashram did you visited? Sadhana Mandir or Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama? Well, both ashram don't look that nice from the outside but from the inside they are very beautiful. Swami Jnaneswara teaches at Sadhana Mandir. I have seen his website, he has some great content but haven't spend much time reading it.

    Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I don't really know if it was Sadhana Mandir or Sadhaka Grama. It's the one in the Seema Dental College area. Judging by the pictures of the inside in this post and my impressions of the outside, I conclude that the Indians don't care much about their exterior directing all the attention to the interior.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The ashram is the most beautiful, relaxing and calming place; full of lush greenery and divine silence. And, it begins beyond the main gates. Cannot judge such an authentic Indian ashram by its gate and the road outside :)

      Delete
  13. one can fly into Dehradun from delhi and an hour or so taxi drive brings you to rishikesh and to SR Ashram

    ReplyDelete
  14. Can you please tell where to start for beginner level course in swami rama sadhak gran

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To join for a beginner level course in Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama, kindly visit the ashram as a guest. The guest programme is designed as a tailor-made, individualized retreat, especially for beginners. Don't forget to write to them @ sadhakagrama@gmail.com / ahymsin@gmail.com before you plan to arrive, so they may book your cottage in advance.

      Delete
  15. Hi Marco,
    Wonderful piece and very thoughtfully written. The ashram offers non-initiate programs in addition to their regular running schedule. Do you have any insight to the differences between these? The non-initiate program is in August, but it may work better for me to go later when there aren't offering a non-initiate program.
    Have you also heard anything about their Science of Breath program?
    Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Interesting blog. Rishikesh has many ashrams offering daily basic yoga and meditation classes. Though I too am impressed with the lectures of Sawami Rama and am contemplating spending some time there. The ashram looks good. I have been visiting Rishikesh regularly over the last few months in search of self realisation, spirituality. I have been staying in main Rishikesh near Ram Jhula in Yog Niketan Ashram. I feel better there as the feeling is different when you go near the ganges or stay in the ashram complex. The food and routine in all these ashrams is made to meet the requirement of a disciplined life, simple living and simple eating. All these are part of Yogic philosophy. As Swami Rama explained that you cannot just start doing meditation, you need to understand what is meditation and prepare yourself to reach the final stages of meditation. Yoga is a scientific philosophy. Rishikesh has amazing positive energy and if you are mentally prepared and understand then you will be able to experience it.

    ReplyDelete