Cabin at Sivananda Ashram & Yoga Retreat in the Bahamas
The recession has affected different people in different ways. Some people are taking advantage of the situations that they’re in to change careers, travel the world and practice karma yoga. That was the case for Steven Odnoha, when he lost his job at Intel in September 2007. After Mr. Odnoha received his pink slip, he drove three days from Rio Rancho, N.M., to the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale, Pa.
The Himalayan Institute is one of many yoga retreats where hard up spiritual seekers can participate in work-study programs in which they pay typically $300 to $900 a month in exchange for a few hours a day of work, like washing dishes, cooking, or cleaning rooms.
According to the people who run these programs, there seems to be a correlation between the recession and the rising popularity of yoga retreats or ashrams. Yoga retreat programs can be as short as an overnight visit or can last for months or even years.
Not everyone who visit an ashram are cash-strapped or down on their luck. When I visited the Sivananda Ashram & Yoga Retreat in the Bahamas, I met several karma yogis who were there for various reasons and for various lengths. I met a lady who was diagnosed with brain tumor six months earlier. Against her doctor’s orders, she booked a one-way ticket to Nassau, and started her own healing program: a combination of distant energy healing from a Qi Gong Master in San Francisco, daily practice of meditation and hatha yoga, healthy diet and karma service.
I met a family of three – a mother and her two teenage daughters. The mother, fed up of the rat-race in London, England, and frustrated with how spoiled her children were getting, decided to uproot the family to live a modest lifestyle at the ashram.
There was also the lady from Germany, who’s life-long dream was to become a writer. She sold everything that she had, moved to the ashram, and penned a story based on her experiences there. I also met a gentleman, who sold all his material possessions in order to travel the world; the ashram was one of his many destinations.
Karma yoga is not for everyone. You’re required to follow a strict program usually consisting of: a 5:30 am wake-up call, yoga and meditation twice daily, and vegetarian meals eaten twice a day, in addition to your karmic duties. I have yet to do a karma yoga program at the Sivananda Ashram, but it’s in the works. Like some of the people mentioned above, I dream a life of simplicity and giving. And one of the ways I can achieve this is through karma service at an ashram or yoga retreat.
Ashram / Yoga Retreat Programs
For those of you interested in embarking a karma yoga lifestyle, here’s a list of yoga retreats that can get you started.
Have you been to an ashram? Done karma service? What was your experience like?