Indian culture is varied, rich and has a diversity that attracts hundreds of thousands of spiritual seekers from across the world. Yoga, a combination of the physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines, originated in ancient India with a mention in the Rig Veda, while some of the earliest references to meditation are found in the ancient scriptures of India and Nepal.
Yoga and meditation were designed to go together. While yoga helps strengthen the physical being, meditation helps unite the individual self with cosmic consciousness — a higher form of consciousness than that possessed by an ordinary person. Thousands of years before yoga and meditation became popular in the Western countries, India invented and practiced both.
India has an array of ashrams or centres which strive towards healing the mind as well as the body. The ashrams range from five-star accommodations to basic dwellings, but each one offers the enlightenment for the spiritual seekers. So whether it is a Guru that you are in search of, or a long stretch away from the maddening race of life, or just some peace and tranquillity, here are the five best ashrams/ centres (in no particular order) we are proposing to our traveller readers and communities.
1. Tushita Meditation Centre, Dharamsala
Tushita Meditation Centre is well known for the study and practice of Buddhism (Tibetan Mahayana tradition). The ashram literally rests in the clouds, on the mountains above the town of McLeod Ganj (the seat in exile, of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama), Dharamsala, in Himachal Pradesh.
What It Offers
- It follows the teachings of Buddha through the medium of spirituality.
- A simple life and focus on silence are the key factors of Tushita ‘Mahayana’ Meditation Centre.
- It provides a homely, conducive and disciplined environment for people of all nationalities and backgrounds, to learn about and put into practice the teachings of the Buddha.
- The centre organises drop-in events and courses based on Buddhist philosophy and meditation.
- For the highly experienced students, there are also intermediate courses and group retreats.
2. Isha Foundation Ashram
Founded by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev in 1992, the Isha Foundation is a non-profit organisation located at the base of the Velliangiri Mountains in Tamil Nadu.
What It Offers
- Isha Foundation strives towards fostering people’s spiritual and physical well-being through yoga.
- It is very contemporary in approach and keeping in mind the present-day requirements, conducts various outreach programmes such as environment rejuvenation, which in turn gives the inmates a sense of purpose.
- The Isha Yoga, a customised system of yoga, is the core of the foundation’s activities.
- The foundation has a 3-7 days’ introductory course called the “Inner Engineering”, which teaches guided meditations and a powerful inner energy process for deep inner transformation.
- There are also other courses like: Hatha yoga, yoga for children, advanced meditation programs, sacred treks, and mind and body rejuvenation retreats based on Ayurvedic principles.
3. Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondichery
Located in the beautiful town of Pondicherry, in Tamil Nadu, this ashram was founded by Sri Aurobindo, and a French saint Mirra Alfassa known as the Mother, in 1926. The ashram today has grown into a diversified society with thousands of members including many foreigners, especially from France, forming its permanent followers’ community.
What It Offers
- The Aurobindo Ashram is again very contemporary in its outlook.
- It is working towards the creation of a new world where humanity will be the essence of every being.
- The ashram is essentially a vibrant centre of life in a modern urban setting where there is the perfect blend of the material and the spiritual worlds.
- It does not believe in renunciation of the material world.
- It has 80 different departments and the participant seekers can spend their day in any one of them.
- The ashram does not have any prescribed practices, rituals, compulsory meditations, or systematic instructions, but believes in going with the free spirit and connecting with the supreme presence in the universe.
- There are collective meditations held in the ashram.
4. Art of Living International Centre, Bengaluru
The world-renowned Art of Living Ashram was founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in 1982, and is based in the Panchagiri hills, 36 kilometres southwest of Bengaluru, near Udipalya village. The ashram through its courses strives towards a stress-free life as well as evolving the self.
What It Offers
- The ashram has self-development programmes based on breathing techniques, meditation and yoga, which in turn help in relief from stress.
- The revitalising breathing techniques help restore the natural rhythms of the body and mind.
- It is a voluntary organisation which is involved in initiatives at uplifting humanity.
- Art of Living courses basically aim at enhancing the life of an individual.
- There is a 3-day “Foundation Course” programme (Art of Living Part I), which is a residential workshop.
- The other courses available include: Art of Living II, yoga, meditation, Vaastu Shastra, Vedic math, and youth training courses.
5. Ayurveda Yoga Meditation Resort, Coonoor
Ayurveda Yoga Meditation Resort located in Coonoor, is an award-winning and trusted ayurveda and yoga centre. Established in 1950, this facility is located in the beautiful and pristine Nilgiri mountains where the air is fresh and the surroundings breathtaking.
What It Offers
- The resort promises a genuine and authentic experience of ayurveda, yoga and meditation.
- Kerala ayurvedic treatments there are available for numerous ailments.
- Every day apart from personalised treatments there are sessions of reviving yoga.
- The visitor becomes one with nature there, with activities like organic gardening and healthy cooking.
- The day in the resort ends with meditation for spiritual and mental relaxation.
- It also teaches the visitors ways to live a healthy life and preventing diseases.
Time to Pack Your Bags
India has a wealth of ashrams for those seeking spirituality, inner peace and a means to get relief from stress. So over the next holiday break, pack your bags and head for any of these renowned ashrams in India to bust that stress.