This is a collaborative post.
India is a beautiful and colourful country to visit. But for those who practise yoga also as a lifestyle, it can be a journey of a lifetime or even a bucket list item to tick off to visit a real yoga ashram. Yogis and yoginis all over the world dream of being able to stay in an Indian yoga retreat to practise, learn and grow both skills and mind. Maybe even complete a yoga teacher training. India has always attracted travellers who’s looking for not only adventure but a spiritual experience as well.
A trip to India certainly can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be. Choosing the right time to travel (although some some ashrams are only open from October through May) and compare rates always help, as well as applying electronic Indian visa entirely online (costs £109,95 per person). Find the Indian visa application here – this makes things so much easier. You won’t need to take your passport to a desk or anything. The travel permit is sent by e-mail within a couple of days. Applying for an Indian visa is necessary for all trips to India. This applies to tourist as well as business travellers, but also to minors. Since a few years, the Indian visa can be applied for entirely online. After approval, the document is sent as a PDF-file by e-mail. It does not need to be applied to the passport at the consulate.
My main advice is to look for the value you get for your money: the quality of the teaching, that you’re comfortable with what the ashram offers and the amount of mainland travel involved getting to the retreat. Because if you want to hide in the middle of the Himalayas to find your spiritual peace – that might be an expensive trip.
There are of course a lot of luxury retreats to choose from but if you’re looking to travel as green as you can – here’s what you need to know.
One of the basic rules of the ashram is clean living, meaning that no any kind of intoxication is allowed. No alcohol, smoking, drugs, nothing at all. Most of these are harmful for you and the environment as well. But I suppose, this should not be a problem to anyone who wants to live in an ashram for a few weeks. Toxic free body and mind is important to maximise the benefits and one of the core basics of yoga philosophy.
India is one of the best spiritual places in the world. Spiritual lifestyle and consciousness go totally against consumerism and throw-away lifestyle. Being aware of our actions and focusing on spiritual development shift the mindset. Also, normally you’d book a minimum of 10 days – some even want weeks or months – so during the longer period of time, you can definitely achieve the spiritual goals that you have in mind.
The do no harm principle of yoga in India means in all ashrams you will only be served with meat free dishes. Sustainability is another great reason to eat Indian food. Since it is an overwhelmingly plant-based diet, it is good for the environment as well. (A 2018 study published in Science postulates that meat consumption is set to increase as the result of human population growth and rising affluence, which will increase greenhouse gas emissions and further reduce biodiversity. Meat consumption needs to be reduced by up to 90% according to a 2018 study published in Nature.)
Whilst most ashrams are quite eco conscious by default, some are even more: cottages made of recycled materials or with reclaimed wood and other natural building materials (like mud mixed with cow dung). Some more luxurious but eco-focused retreats use solar halogen lighting, natural composting toilets and waste management using micro organisms.
Location and environment
The more you have to travel, the less green your trip will become – so keep that in mind when picking a retreat. Secluded, rural ashrams surrounded by nature only are not easy to access. But, it’s not impossible. In fact, lot of the best retreats you can find on the island of Goa and in Rishikesh and you have lots of options to get to these places from trains to planes – but again, it might not be the greenest of travels.