You can easily drop more than five grand on a yoga retreat. Massages, organic cuisine, world-class instructors, surfing, sky diving, skiing, you name it, can all be part of your blissful adventure. Or, you can save a little money and gain enlightenment by doing it the old fashioned way, and earn it.
Blissfully set on one of the most pristine and magical beaches of Paradise Island in the Bahamas, the Sivananda Yoga Ashram offers a chance for people to “work” for their retreat, and gain the benefits associated with getting your hands a little dirty.
This type of yoga retreat proves to be one of the most rewarding experiences, not because you can lounge on the beach all day in between laying on your yoga mat and a massage table, but because you learn to live like a true yogi, by working hard and stepping outside of your comfort zone.
I don’t doubt the schedule at the Sivananda Yoga Ashram is designed for that very reason. Waking up at 5:30am, traipsing over to the temple in the dark, chanting for an hour and a half on a cold concrete floor, and then doing two hours of yoga asanas before a slight breakfast of tea and raw veggies, is not something the average person does on a daily basis.
I have been there. If it wasn’t for my karma yoga assignment of cleaning toilets and scrubbing floors, or the long lectures of highly philosophical yogic scriptures, staying awake for the second two-hour yoga class might have been a challenge. At first, I didn’t think that any amount of Mr. Clean or the Bhagavad Gita could replace a much-needed afternoon nap, but as time went on, I was convinced otherwise.
Rushing to the dining hall because I heard they were offering plain boiled potatoes for dinner in lieu of the standard steamed broccoli, I ran into one of the resident swamis. He asked me how I was handling the rigorous schedule. Without thinking (thanks to my daily meditation practice) I responded, “Yes, it is tough, but all this hard work is making me happy.”
After four weeks of sleep deprivation, a daily caffeine withdrawal headache, and an unrelenting hunger pang, I was strangely, very happy. I credit the Sivananda Yoga Ashram’s yogic schedule of discipline, selfless service, and study of the scriptures for waking me up and breaking me out of the daily ruts that bog so many of us down.
If you are genuinely interested in a life changing experience, look into visiting a traditional yoga ashram such as the Sivananda Yoga Ashram in the Bahamas. As hard as it may sound, your experience will keep giving, long after your retreat is over. Not only can it save you a few thousand dollars (Sivananda Yoga Ashram offers trades and work study programs), you will also learn how to be genuinely happy and content with your life, no matter how hard it seems.