Ashrams are places to practice yoga, meditation, and other spiritual practices in order to evolve and grow spiritually. Usually, they are located outside a village or town in a quiet, peaceful space. They consist of only basic facilities such as living quarters, a dining hall, a yoga hall, a library, and gardens. In an ashram, there is no place or need for luxury, but to break free from unhealthy habits, patterns, and indulgences, one must return to the essentials.
The Origins of Yoga Ashrams
Ashrams traditionally house a guru or holy master or teacher who lives in the ashram with his family. People visit the ashram for spiritual guidance. Visitors become a part of the ashram's daily routine and help out with chores while pursuing their spiritual goals.
Since Ashrams were originally founded as Indian hermitages or places of solitude, and remain so even today, Ashrams still play an influential role in traditional Indian culture. Up until about 100 years ago, ashrams also served as places for children to receive education. However, over the past few decades, Ashrams have spread across the world and have become more accessible to foreign tourists.
Spirituality is an integrated part of Indian culture, and so are regular visits to temples and Ashrams. In India, it is an inherent belief and a deeply internalized concept that,
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
The Difference Between an Ashram and a Monastery
While the concept of an Ashram can be compared to a monastery, the comparison falls short. Ashrams are not only the abode of monks, saints, and spiritual teachers, but they are also open to all, No matter their faith, background, or age. They are welcome no matter what they believe in.
In today's world, many people want to live spiritually, yet they do not want to become a monk and leave everyone and everything behind. Ashrams provide a middle-ground, allowing people to temporarily abandon their daily routines and relinquish their regular dependency habits. During this time, balance can be restored to one's life, and one can attempt to maintain that balance upon returning to daily 'normal' life.
Why is it Beneficial to Study at an Ashram?
Ashram life consists of waking up early with the rising sun. We practice breathing exercises, meditation, singing chants to release emotions, eating simple food, practising Yoga exercises to improve the body, as well as discussing philosophies to open your mind.
It helps you realize the importance of the things in life we generally take for granted. It also helps you reflect on your mental conditioning, your habits, and your addictions, which you may confuse with necessities.
Today's Western and Westernized civilizations suffer most from stress, an imbalance between emotion and logic, and a lack of discipline. Yoga Ashrams provide a safe space free from distractions and routines, and a chance to remove excess emotional and material baggage. Visitors can reflect on their lives and discover what really matters in them.
How to Choose an Ashram?
It is imperative to choose an ashram wisely since ashrams are not sectarians, they do not teach or preach any particular religion, faith, or guru. A true ashram only focuses on self-development and self-awareness. The ashram experience may seem intimidating at first, but it will ultimately give you a sense of priority and the importance of things in your life.
An ashram can provide peace, self-introspection, and a break from routine for those who seek them.
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