ashram – noun – (especially in South Asia) a hermitage, monastic community, or other place of religious retreat.
Staying in an ashram is hands down one of the best experiences I have ever had. For my yoga practice, my mind, my body and my soul. Like a lot of travelling you meet fascinating people and truly get the time in this almost monastic community to ground, take time out of real life, read, think and just be. It’s the simplest form of a yoga retreat without the five star hotel trappings and massages!
Whenever I mention staying in an ashram I get tonnes of questions so I thought I would give you all an idea of what a typical day at Anand Prakash Ashram in Rishikesh looks like.
5am – Wake Up
Not nearly as bad as it sounds, especially once you get used to the timetable because you begin to offset your entire day. Silence is kept between 9pm and 9am so it’s quiet nods to your fellow ashram dwellers as you head to morning meditation
5:20am – Morning Meditation
The morning meditation practice is guided and for half an hour. It tends to start with a body scan, some pranayama or another way of dropping inot your body and then stillness and silence. Depending on the time of year this is either held in one of the yoga studios or on the roof terrace. It’s particularly special on the roof terrace as the light begins to creep over the hills.
6am – Morning Yoga Practice
Anand Prakash practices it’s own style of yoga designed by Yogrishi Vishvketu (the founder of the ashram), Akhanda Yoga. Akhanda Yoga is a holstic approach combining asana (postures), breathwork (pranayama), sound (mantra), meditation and yogic wisdom. The morning practice includes all of these elements in a 90 minute practice either on the roof terrace or in one of the yoga studios.
7:50am – Fire Puja
The fire puja ceremony is one of the most devotional practices at the ashram and dates back to the ancient Vedic times and ancient Ayurvedic science. This ceremony involves chanting hymns and mantras as well as offerings to the fire of ghee (representing water) and herbs (representing earth) which are transformed by the presence of the fire and air. This helps to purify the atmosphere while bringing thanks and blessings to our surroundings.
8:30am – Breakfast
The ashram serves three vegetarian meals a day and they are so good! Breakfast options vary from porridge to subtly spiced rice dishes to banana samosas always washed down with herbal tea and accompanied by dates. Breakfast is always eaten in silence apart from the chant that is sung by everyone before starting to eat. The simplicity of chanting in unity and eating as a community is one of my favourite parts of ashram life.
Om, Brahma panam, Brahma havir, Brahmagnau, Brahmana hutam, Brahmeva tena gantavyam, Brahma karma samadhina. Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
The Vast is oblation. The Vast is the offering, The Vast is the one who offers. The Vast is the sacrificial fire. The Vast shall be revealed to one who sees Pure Consciousness is all things.Chanted before every meal starts
9am-12:30pm – Free Time
On all days other than Sunday there is now free time to do with what you wish. This could be reading, journalling, meditation, cleaning your room or maybe going for a walk down to the Ganges. For me mornings were always the time to go for a wander to the the river to sit and watch the birds dipping into the water and to pick up any grocery bits and bobs I needed.
On a Sunday morning it’s time for Karma yoga which is giving back to the Ashram and Rishikesh. This normally involves cleaning the ashram communal areas and we also went on a litter pick on the banks of the Ganges too. It may seem futile but we were joined by the sweetest young Indian boy who was very enthusiastic so maybe a change is happening
12:30pm – Lunch
The food at the ashram is incredible, varied from day to day and so yummy but I’ll be honest my favourite part is always the chapati’s! I swear I always come back from India made mostly of chapati.
The ashram food is all vegetarian and also sattvic meaning there are no pungent flavours such as garlic and onion. What there is though is daal, rice, vegetables such as pumpkin and broccoli and various curries. So delicious. Like breakfast you chant before eating and everyone eats together, sat on the floor. At lunchtime you can chat and get to know your fellow ashram dwellers.
1-4pm – Free Time
The ashram builds free time into your schedule to ensure time to reflect, meditate and read, encouraging participants to spend only a little time in the markets of Rishikesh and instead focus on their own spiritual practices. This afternoon free time is the perfect opportunity to curl up with a good book or your journal on the roof terrace, maybe with a slice of cake from the bakery down the road! (I’ll share that in my Rishikesh guide soon as the carrot and ginger cake is amazing!)
There is also the opportunity to take a cookery class at the ashram in the afternoons which is amazing and you learn so much about the food they cook every day.
4pm – Afternoon Yoga Practice
The afternoon yoga practice is Akhanda yoga style and once again takes place for 90 minutes like morning practice. The structure of the practice is broadly the same with different themes on different days
- Opening chants and mantras
- Pranayama – often kapalabhati, alternate nostril breathe or brahmari (hummingbird breath)
- Sun salutations
- Asana practice including standing postures, balancing, other pranayama or cleansing techniques, seated postures and inversions
- Savasana (relaxation)
- Seated meditation
6pm – Dinner
Dinner once again is a lovely combination of daal, rice, curry, vegetables and chapati all of which you can have seconds or thirds of should you wish! Monday, Wednesday and Friday dinners are held in silence but other days are again a lovely place to get to know other people from all around the world.
7pm – Kirtan
Tuesday’s and Thursday’s are exciting evenings at the ashram as it’s kirtan time. Kirtan is a time to bring the community both in the ashram and Rishikesh itself together. A time for chanting and singing, for playing instruments and dancing and it is so joyful. Everyone gathers around the fire puja fire and sings, chants and smiles together
9pm – Lights out
Ashram life ends early with lights out at 9pm but when you’re up at 5am it doesn’t really feel that early!
The bedrooms at the ashram are basic but clean and comfy. All have an ensuite and a little balcony for hanging your washing on. The rooms are designed to be shared by two people which is a great way to meet other people.
Interested in trying it for yourself?
Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram is in Tapovan, Rishikesh. A stay currently costs 1500INR + tax a day for all yoga classes, food and your room and can be booked by emailing email@example.com .
If you have any questions either pop them below or drop me an email using the contact form