Sivananda Yoga Ashram: Effecting Life Changes, Beyond Health and Well-being

Have you ever thought about making the change you want to see? The Sivananda Yoga Ashram allows you this opportunity to escape from the stresses of modern life and learn enough to go back and make a change to ease those stresses. Let Kayti Denham inspire you with her story.

Bahamas, Paradise Island, 25 July 2011. Thinking about taking that giant stride towards a more balanced life? Wish to take some time off to reassess life and yet meet the demands of your job and personal commitments? If you are, you may want to consider leaving all that behind for a moment and readjusting your life at a yoga ashram - one that can support you in not only letting go, but also going back in.

Connecting with nature and within at Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat.

At the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat in Nassau, Bahamas, the trainers are familiar with the challenges of not only giving up old habits and finding a new path in life, but also the issues that can arise when re-entering a family or a professional life. Giving up certain things to practise a life that includes a daily routine of disciplined yoga, meditation and vegetarianism would be challenging. But when this is done in a supportive environment like the ashram on Paradise Island, it can help create the disciplined foundation that a true change requires.

The Sivananda Ashram runs courses throughout the year, mostly with the average person in mind: yoga asana courses, sessions in the healing arts of music and chanting, and even a course that combines yoga and permaculture (the practice of sustainable agriculture with the asana meditations of Yoga Sutras). There are also expert courses by specialist practitioners who are leaders in their field. An example would be the training for yoga teachers who can work with children with attention disorders or special physical and mental needs who can benefit from yoga practices.

Yoga and meditation, with teacher counselling, help with effecting life-changing decisions.

Yoga and meditation, with teacher counselling, help with effecting life-changing decisions.

Accordingly, the options are vast at this ashram - you can enter a world where your vision can transform into reality... be it to become a yoga teacher, unlock the mysteries of the inner mind or to connect more deeply with music and dance.

Located on Paradise Island, a short ferry ride from the Bahamanian capital of Nassau, the ashram is a tropical sanctuary of peace and serenity. Staffed by mostly volunteers and set within a pretty coconut grove, its communal spaces allow for friendships to develop and for healthy appreciation of the natural world.

Raw and healthful foods combined with yoga training, meditation and the location create an ideal combination for anyone looking to make their ‘shift’. As Gandhi is often quoted as saying, ‘Be the change you want to see.’

Members of the ashram cooking up a nutritious, healthy breakfast together, and what fun!

Gaia Discovery attended the two-hour public yoga sessions that take place each morning at eight, and caught up with one of the newly qualified yoga teachers, Mahashakti, over a delicious vegetarian breakfast. Mahashakti while relishing her four months in the Bahamas, is looking forward to taking her new qualification as a yoga teacher and combining them with her studies as a nurse to bring a new holistic awareness to her personal and professional worlds.


Living and dealing with the change you decide

The transition back into the world of responsibilities and expectations is the focus of our conversation. Many people make the decision to effect change. However, when it comes to confronting their families with their newfound vegetarianism or re-shouldering the pressure of jobs and facing the effects of living in a ‘modern’ society, these decisions can be even more challenging. Might be easier to walk away from it all.

Challenges faced by a vegetarian can be overcome with a scoop of love.

The ashram leaders are well aware of this. As such, they provide special sessions to help people understand some of the ways in which they will be challenged in order to maintain their new practices, and also how to cope with the pressure that often comes from family members who resist change. One of the most challenging aspects can arise from making the choice to become vegetarian or to give up alcohol. The inclusion of yoga and meditation into daily life can be seen as picking up another form of exercise and most people are more than happy to accept that in a friend or family member.

It is when the fabric of kinship seems threatened that difficulties arise. Bonding occasions, from a simple Friday night with the gang, to Thanksgiving, Christmas or Passover, celebrations that are typically celebrated with foods from animals and or alcohol, where a refusal to partake in the same way as previously can cause resentments to arise are of particular challenge.

How does a person deal with possible derision and resentment that others close to them may feel when they essentially reject the ‘old ways’? Mahashakti’s insight was to be as authentic as possible- be yourself, but your new self; don’t create a situation where you put yourself in a different place to someone close to you just because you no longer wish to eat meat or drink alcohol. By being non-judgmental you can allow the other people around you to still enjoy their choices, and if they see and appreciate your choices you may end up influencing theirs. But don’t place any expectations on them or yourself to bring this to fruition.

And, if you feel that you may not live up to your own expectations, if the temptation to ‘go along’ is greater than your desire to remain in a place you chose at the Ashram, be easy on yourself and consider why you made the choice in the first place. Always be ready to forgive and understand yourself.

Vegetarianism helps boost health, prevents animal cruelty and reduces carbon footprint of food industries.

Consider the benefits of the choices that have been made, the vegetarian diet that not only enhances personal health but the health of the planet, the choice for organic non-processed foods that means eating more natural foods, the choice of not drinking alcohol that helps gain and maintain clarity of thought.

It’s like a typical romantic comedy, at last, despite all odds, the original dislike, the obstacles, the best friends, the family and all that, love saves the day. Changing life can be like that. And the challenges of the new, falling in love with a different way of being, and getting people to accept that is not always easy but, as Mahashakti implied, if you let the love shine out everything will work out alright in the end.

Photos courtesy of Sivananda Yoga Ashram.


E-mail: nassau AT sivananda DOT org