I have lived a total of almost eight weeks of my life in an ashram. Once two and once six weeks. Even if I would not describe myself as a typical yogi today, the influences of the time in the ashram on my life are still noticeable today.
In the end, it is, of course, up to you whether you go to an ashram. I would always listen to your gut feeling. I try to base all my decisions on it, and I have never regretted one of them.
Nevertheless, based on my personal experience, I would like to give you a few reasons why I believe you would also benefit from such a stay.
1. A calm and relaxed Mind
In today’s hectic time, in which more and more external influences try to divert our attention away from us and control our lives, it is challenging to stay with oneself.
Youtube, for example, has the goal of making our experience on the platform so good that we spend as much time as possible on it. Facebook and Instagram are no better; that is probably clear to everyone. I think you know the phenomenon that you only go to Instagram to check something, and then suddenly, half an hour has passed.
But we don’t even have to go that far. Even our job, our friends and family want attention from us.
Neither one nor the other is a problem. On the contrary: Our job, family, and friends are important, and if used correctly, Facebook, YouTube, and other tools can enrich our lives.
But if you are only on the outside, you probably react exclusively to the events and influences in your life without paying attention to what you want and what is right for you. Therefore, it is vital to take time for yourself and go inwards. As always, it is all about balance.
Staying in an Ashram helps you to take time for yourself.
I want to be honest with you. In the ashram, I have never once asked myself big questions about life. I was there to learn. But just the daily routine, meditating, singing, Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, and all the time away from my laptop or mobile phone changed me. After only two weeks, I came home as a completely different person.
The weeks after my return were almost surreal for me. I was more relaxed and at peace with myself than I had ever been before in my life. No matter what happened, nothing could upset me, and I only pursued the things that were important to me. I was generally just happy with myself and my life.
It was much easier to concentrate and focus on one thing without being distracted.
Most interesting, however, was the fact that I had lost all interest in women and sexuality for a while. This may sound strange to some people. I can only say that it is refreshing not to run around driven by urges all the time. It was very liberating because women suddenly couldn’t control my mind anymore. Unfortunately, the effect lasted only six weeks.
Leave your mobile phone and laptop off as often as possible during your stay. The more you take care of your problems and friends back home, the less you allow yourself to find yourself.
I had to fly there twice to understand this. During my second stay, I had to take care of some things at home; therefore, I was more often on my mobile phone and laptop. I would never do that again. Although the second stay was almost three times as long, the effect of inner peace and well-being was much more significant after the first stay.
I can now even understand why it is recommended to talk to others as little as possible. In my opinion, don’t force it if this is a problem for you. Already by being present with where you are and what is going on inside of you without trying to distract yourself all the time, you will do plenty of good for you. Believe me: The world will continue to turn without you.
The need for leadership is nothing unusual. If we want to learn something new or be really good, it is normal to look for someone to help you. That the coaching market has exploded in recent years is a clear indication of this.
And it also makes sense: Why should we all reinvent the wheel when there is already someone who has built it. This way, we can reach our goals faster, and working under the leadership of someone else is ultimately easier. Even if many people are not aware of it, knowing what to do theoretically, will not directly allow you to do it. There is an emotional component that many people forget.
In the particular case of personal development, we are often our greatest enemy when it comes to changing ourselves. Because our subconscious does not like to let go of the familiar.
For years I went to workshops and seminars and took private coachings. Although I had the theoretical knowledge, I could not do this on my own back then. I had so much resistance that I simply distracted myself with something else. Even today, when it is getting easier and easier to deal with my emotions, I sometimes have to force myself to do it.
The ashram was a real support for me. The structure, the daily routine, and the clear guidelines make it easy to take action. The fact that it happens in a group also helps, of course.
Shri Yogi Hari – the Guru
There are few people I hold dearer than this old man.
His wisdom, knowledge, and the clarity with which he communicates, I have seldom been able to experience with anyone else. He always wanted to reach the highest and brought his yoga practice to a level I have not experienced with anyone else. When he teaches, it is clear that he speaks from experience. He will also tell you immediately if he has no experience in a subject. For me, this makes him a very authentic, honest, and credible teacher.
Even if he can be abrupt and rough in his manner in between, he is one of the most loving and generous people I know.
I am deeply grateful for everything he has done for me and for everything he has given me. Whenever I think of him, I am happy. That means I sit there with a grin on my face every single time.
If you want to know more about him, here is a summary: Shri Yogi Hari
3. Like-minded People
I like to meet people who have similar world views and share my interests. If you are interested in spirituality, personal development, meditation, tantra, healthy eating, or other yoga-like topics, you will meet people with whom you can have profound and fascinating conversations.
If you want to establish a regular yoga practice in your life, some time spent in an ashram will help you a lot. The structure and the common practice make it easy to meditate and chant for two hours every day and do another three hours of hatha yoga. To develop this discipline alone is much more difficult.
But once you are in flow, it is easier to continue. When I came back from my first stay, I got up at 5 am every morning to do 90 minutes of yoga. I did this for two months before I started a workout plan that required six times a week, 2 hours a day. Both at the same time besides my job was not possible for me.
5. Better Voice
A side effect that I noticed, especially after my six-week stay, was a change in my voice. The daily singing helped to free and open it up. By the end of my visit, I was a much better singer.
The Yogi Hari Ashram
The ashram is located in Miramar, less than an hour from Miami. It is a small paradise in the middle of a city and so inconspicuous from the outside that probably hardly anyone would notice it even if you drove right past the street.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, it is a true retreat from the world. Theoretically, it is even possible to live there without even leaving.
The place itself is fantastic. Everywhere grow exotic fruits like mangos, lychees, coconuts or bananas on the trees, bushes, and palms. In the middle of the property is a small lake, on the shore of which there is a deck that is used for Hatha Yoga practice in good weather. And right next to Yogi Hari’s house is a pool that the students can use.
For me, it is a small paradise.
If you are worried about the weather, I recommend flying there in winter. I have been there once in November and once in May/June. The weather in November is much more pleasant. This is also no problem for those who can cope with high humidity and alternating high temperatures and rain showers. I have experienced both and got along well with both.
If you are interested in learning more about the Ashram, you can always visit the official website: Yogi Hari Ashram
6. Unity of Body and Mind
In my opinion, one of the biggest problems of our western society is that we have started to separate body and mind. They are one and should be treated like this as they are interdependent.
The fact that the body influences our mind should be clear to anyone who hasn’t done any sport for a long time and then started to exercise regularly again. As a result, we have more energy, are in a better mood, and feel more comfortable in our bodies.
But I would like to go one step further. Our body is the place of our emotions. Western society still emphasizes on thinking, not realizing that the body stores our emotions. Neglecting our bodies may work well for quite a while. Yet, in my opinion, it is also the reason why many people have mental health issues, as we have never learned to deal with all these suppressed emotions.
Even though many people consider yoga to be just a physical exercise, it consists of 6 main paths:
- Hatha Yoga: The physical practice for which yoga is mostly known. It consists of pranayama (breathing exercises) and asanas (yoga poses). The body and all its systems are strengthened, purified, and refined through this practice.
- Nada Yoga: Singing or the study and application of sound vibrations as a means of healing and elevating emotions and the mind.
- Karma Yoga: selfless service to society to overcome the small egocentric self.
- Raja Yoga: Meditation or the analysis of the mind to gain control over it
- Bhakti Yoga: Bhakti means intense love for God. Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion and uses the heart and the feeling of love to reach the highest state.
- Jnana Yoga: Jnana means knowledge. It is the path that begins with the mind and leads to self-knowledge.
All these paths should lead you to enlightenment or at least help you to do so.
If you have paid attention, you will have noticed that only one of these paths, Jnana Yoga, takes thinking as its approach. All the others deal with our bodies and emotions. In yoga, body and mind are regarded as one.
I know from myself that I often walk around being in my head. But well, what do I expect, I was paid to think as an engineer for ten years.
Nevertheless, the daily practice in the Ashram has helped me tremendously to develop a better feeling for my body, to feel where I keep tension in my body, and to be aware of what I feel. I still have a long way to go. However, examining my body over a more extended period has helped me a lot.
It is essential to be “embodied” with so many other advantages, especially when you deal with other people. But I will go into this in another article, so as not to go beyond the scope here.
7. Physical Fitness and Well-being
I didn’t go to the Ashram to lose weight or to get fitter.
However, both times, I found that the physical practices and the excellent food in the Ashram made me fitter, lose weight, more energetic, and more comfortable in my body.
In Germany, I usually need about 7-8 hours of sleep. In the Ashram, I got along perfectly with 5-6 hours.
In the sequence of pictures, you see me at my second visit in mid-2019. The left image is at the beginning of the Yoga Teacher Training, the middle picture two weeks later, after the course and the right picture again three weeks later, when I finished the Advanced Yoga Teacher Training. For five weeks, I was amazed by the transformation.
If you have any questions or even your own experiences with an ashram, please feel free to write a comment.
Live authentically! Be great!