Monday, June 25, 2012

Arsha Yoga: Yoga retreat at a beach near Fort Cochin, Kerala, India

Not so far away from Fort Cochin, about two hours bus drive, there is a peaceful ashram called Arsha Yoga Gayathri which is just in front of a paradise beach. A dear friend had recommended me this place so after two days in Fort Cochin practicing yoga with Sajee I decided to follow her recommendation and visit Arsha Yoga Gayathri. I loved the place, it is an ideal place for a personal yoga retreat or holiday to just relax, enjoy the beach and practice yoga.


About Arsha Yoga Gayathri


The ashram is owned by a very friendly couple, Harilal from south India and his wife Meera from Czech Republic, both very dedicated yogis.

The location of the ashram is just amazing, right in front of a paradise beach called Gayathri Beach. Such a peaceful and calm atmosphere. They own two neighbor houses (a white house and a yellow house) that they use for the yoga courses. They have rooms in both houses where they receive the guests but the main house for the courses is the yellow house where there is a small yoga hall at the roof top.



Gayathri beach is peaceful and beautiful, a long white sand beach full with coconut trees. You can hardly see any people except for a few villagers now and then and not a single tourist. Completely the opposite compared to Palolem Beach where I had stayed just a week earlier. But if you go very early in the morning to the beach (around 6 am probably) you might find a not so pleasant view since all locals go to the beach to have their morning bowel movement. A very healthy practice but not a nice view specially at the beach. I never came so early to the beach but the other ashram guests told me about it.


Yoga courses offered at Arsha Yoga


Harilal and Meera offer several yoga courses during the year like Vedic Psychology and Yoga Therapy and they also have the regular Yoga Holiday program for any guest that wishes to stay at the ashram to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and practice yoga at the same time.

While I was at this ashram there were about eight people following the yoga therapy course, they were all very friendly and they seemed to really enjoy the course. I was the only guest for the Yoga Holiday so it was very peaceful for me but they did invited me to join some of the lectures for the yoga therapy course which were very interesting

One thing that I really liked about Arsha Yoga is that they give free yoga teacher training courses in the local language to locals from the region as charity work. Some of these students would come for the evening Satsang (spiritual gathering) and very enthusiastically join the chantings. I think this is a great way to spread the teachings of yoga and get involved with the local community.


Yoga Retreat at Arsha Yoga Gayathri near Fort Cochin


Arsha Yoga path towards the beach
Arsha Yoga Gayathri is an excellent location for a yoga retreat, to relax and practice yoga joining the Yoga Holidays program but you need to be aware that there is a daily schedule that is mandatory to follow for all guests and there is also a minimum stay of three days.

The schedule is not so difficult to follow and you still have plenty of time for yourself. The schedule is very similar to the Sivananda Ashrams schedule but the main difference is that you only have once a day satsang and more free time unless you are doing one of the intensives courses.


Arsha Yoga Gayathri Daily Schedule


06:00 - 07:00 Pranayama and Meditation
07:15 Tea
08:15 - 10.00 Asana Class
10:15 Brunch
11:00 Karma Yoga
13:00 Tea
16:00 - 18.00 self yoga practice
18:15 dinner
19:30 meditation and satsang
22:00 lights out


Roof top with view to the beach
During my free time after Karma Yoga I would just go to the beach an meditate under the shadow of some of the coconut trees. Excellent place to meditate! After one hour or so I would swim at the beach and then 4pm I would do my own one hour and half yoga practice on the rooftop of the white house with view to the beach.

The food was delicious but sometimes I felt that I needed just a little bit more. I guess I got use to ashrams where you can basically eat as much as you can.

The evening satsangs were nice. We would have a short meditation, probably 20 minutes and then we would continue with the Jaya Ganesha chanting which is the main chanting at the Sivananda Ashrams. I was looking forward to chant the Jaya Ganesha, I hadn't heard it for a long time and although while I was at the Sivananda Ashram I felt sick of it (twice a day for three months it was just too much) after a whole year I was missing it. One thing that I like about this chant is that at the Sivananda Ashrams there are several changes in the rhythm which makes it more fun but surprisingly at Arsha Yoga they chant it very slowly and they keep it at the same speed and rhythm during the whole chant. That was a bit frustrating, sometimes I even tried to speed it up by playing the drums slightly faster but this had no effect.


Another thing that was strange for me was that although the location was beautiful calm and quite I didn't feel that special spiritual atmosphere that I have experienced in many other ashrams like at Santosh Puri Ashram where I stayed a week later. It's difficult to say why, perhaps it was just my imagination. I felt that the presence of the gurus was missing to be able to really call it an ashram. Don't get me wrong, I would definitely recommend this place to anybody but I felt that this something was missing. Maybe they should place some big portraits of their gurus at the yoga hall and do regularly havans or fire rituals to elevate the atmosphere of the place although they do close the evening satsangs with the Arati. For this reason I prefer to call it a yoga spot or a sadhana spot instead of an ashram, but I do like the place.


Ashram activities


I don't know what other activities they offer at Arsha Yoga Gayathri besides the activities included in daily schedule but I'm sure that if there is anything going on in the area Harilal and Meera will make their best to share that experience with their guests. The second night Harilal and Meera were very kind to drive us (all the ashram guests) to the small town so we could experience an incredible Kerala Hindu Temple Festival (click on the link to watch the video). It was fascinating, I was so happy to be at the right place and at the right time.


How to get to Arsha Yoga Gayathri ashram near Fort Cochin


From Fort Cochin the best way is to go the the boat jetty and take the boad that drops you to the opposite boat jetty near the KSRTC bus stand. From there take the Guruvayur bus, get off at Vatanapally and then take a rickshaw to Edasheri beach. If you have any doubts you can call them by phone and they will guide you. You can find their contact information at their website www.arshayoga.org

There is also an online community for those interested in yoga therapy arshayoga.ning.com



After a few days of enjoying the peace and tranquility of this beautiful sadhana spot or yoga ashram Arsha Yoga Gayathri near Fort Cochin I took a flight to Pushkar in Rajastan to visit a dear yogi friend. After a week in Rajastan I traveled to Haridwar and stayed at an ashram that another friend had recommended me a few years ago, Shri Santosh Puri Ashram. I loved this place and the people, such a positive energy.

12 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this blog and your reviews! I've been looking for a site with honest experiences. It's so hard to choose where to go from a distance. I'm leaning towards this beautiful place. It will be my first ashram holiday and first time to India. Would you consider this area safe for women traveling alone? Thank you and namaste :)

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    1. Thanks to you roos vdv. I know I'm really late to reply but yes I think the area is safe enough for woman traveling alone. Did you ever make it there? How was your experience?

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  2. typo in schedule?
    16:00 - 06.00 self yoga practice

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    1. Oh yeah, it should read 16:00 - 18:00. I'll correct that soon. Thanks for pointing that out

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  3. I tried to reply to your answer four times.. but for some reason my reply doesn't get published.. (maybe it has to be approved first? In that case please delete all other tries) I should've copied my reply instead of having to type it again..

    Anyway, I didn't go to India as this ashram was fully booked and the rest didn't feel good. If you have other recommendations for ashrams near a paradise beach, I'd love to know ;)

    Instead I went to Nepal and found a beautiful and peaceful Tibetan Buddhism center in Pokhara. I completely loved it, it was perfect for beginners, but I don't think their main program is suited for experienced yoga people. After that I did an 8 day trek into the Himalya. Which I would recommand to everyone! :D

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    1. Hi Roos vdv. I think I know that peaceful Tibetan center in Pokhara. Small and beautiful place. I took some yoga and meditation classes and I really enjoyed them so I would recommend it to anybody. But I still need to do that trek! :-)

      The only ashram that I know near a beach is the Sivananda Ashram in Kerala. It's about 45 min from Kovalam Beach or from Varkala Beach but, it is an ashram so if you stay there you'll need to follow the discipline which can be challenging. You could go to the beach with the people that you'll meet there during the days off, I think every Friday. Hope this helps :-)

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    2. Oh and I'm sorry that you had so much trouble publishing your comment. They do need to be approved first but I didn't receive any other comment from you in my inbox, so maybe it was just a problem with the connection :-)

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  4. Hi Marco, I think it was the browser. For some reason I couldn't login on Chrome, but it was working fine in Firefox. This is the centre I went to: https://www.facebook.com/FPMTPokhara. I loved it and they have some really good yoga lessons, but overal it's mainly very accessible for beginners. I just really really loved the building, garden and atmosphere.
    You should really go for that trek into the Himalaya! That's something else! So happy I did that :)
    Tnx for the tip. I still want to go to India this or next year, so I'll definitely come back to your website then :)

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    1. Yeah that the same place that I've been to, love it too :-) and thanks, yes someday I'll do that trek as well :-)

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    2. Hi Marco. How long did you spend at Arsha Yoga Gayathri? I am planning on spending 1 month there for the yoga therapy course , so any advice would be great. Thanks

      Jason

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    3. Hi Jason. Well this was a while ago, can't remember anymore. I guess I stayed for a week or so. I think I wrote everything I know about this place in this post so I don't have anything extra to advice you. Good luck and I hope you enjoy the course.
      Namaste

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  5. hello,, would like to ask how much cost a day in that ashram.htmlat retreat? thank you for the very deeply informative blog..

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