INDIA EXPERIENCE: Realization of a dream
Sunday, July 22, 2001 & Monday, July 23, 2001
Enjoying nature and practicing yoga can be rejuvenating for the mind and body. Sunday and Monday were spent hiking the beautiful mountains of Ponmudi and experiencing life at the Sivananda Ashram. Hiking on the mountains was adventurous and exciting, and practicing yoga and meditating was refreshing.
After an early rise and long bus ride to Ponmudi, we were thrilled to hike and have a breakfast overlooking the cloud-topped mountains. The landscape was lust and green and the air was refreshingly cool. The guide cut some walking sticks for us among a leech-infested brooke. The hike was steep enough to be a challenge, but reasonable enough to reach the top. It was quite a feeling of accomplishment when we made it to the peak. The physical exercise was also appreciated. The beauty of Ponmudi will be forever etched in our minds. After Ponmudi, we stopped at a tea shop. The humble tea shop was rich in character. One man served all of us chai by pouring in a special way. He demonstrated his talent by holding the chai high above his head and pouring into the cup far below. This was a fun stop on our way to the ashram.
Yoga is the science of healthy living, positive thinking, and spiritual realization amidst the stress and chaos of the material world. After four weeks of travelling, visiting the Sivananda Ashram provided discipline, yet relaxation. After our arrival, we ate dinner in silence, as per the rules in the Ashram. This is practiced to increase one's awareness and aid in digestion. We then were able to shop in the quaint boutique before going to our rooms. The residing Swami then kindly briefed us on the science of yoga and life in an Ashram.
The work and goal of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta centers is to promote and disseminate the practice and philosophy of yoga. The Sivananda Yoga Ashram emphasizes proper exercise (yoga postures), proper breathing (pranayama), proper relaxation (savasana), proper diet (vegetarian), positive thinking and meditation (Vedanta and Dhyana). The center was founded by Swami Vishnu Devananda (1927 - 1993). Swami Sivananda (1887 - 1963), who was Swami Vishnu Devananda's guru, stated that the philosophy of the center is to serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realize, be good, be kind, and be compassionate.
After our lecture, other residents of the Ashram joined us for a meditation. It was difficult for the novice students to sit in the lotus position for 30 minutes, but also beneficial. The Ashram runs a disciplined schedule: - 5:30 am Wake up; 6:00 am Group meditation, chanting and talk; 7:30 am tea time; 8:00 am Hatha yoga class; 10:00 am vegetarian meal; and the rest of the day is full with other activities. We left soon after brunch to take a tour of the rest of the Ashram, nestled within 12 acres of tropical splendor, and lies in the foothills of the Sahyadri mountains in South India.
We were lucky to see more of the landscape by boat. It was exciting to know we were travelling through waters occupied by crocodiles and our ears were filled with the formidable roars of the lions from the nearby Lion Safari Park. We saw crocodiles at a sanctuary after lunch at a hotel. Overall, we enjoyed our experiences of Ponmudi and the Sivananda Ashram. Every unique experience has been so far enriching and memorable.
"22 hair pin curves to the top of the mountain - Awesome beauty and scenery, just a perfect way for me to connect to my higher power."
"Reflection:- Every women should know when to try harder ... and when to walk away."
"When a soul needs soothing ... Yoga may be the answer."
"I actually climbed up a mountain and stood on its peak. It was wonderful to finally breathe fresh air ! "
"I woke at 5:30 am to attend a yoga session for the first time. My body was stiff from the bus ride, but after doing the stretching and breathing techniques, I felt rejuvenated afterwards."
"The spirituality of the Western Ghats at Ponmudi will remain in my soul forever. The mystique of being one with the mist of the clouds invokes an incredible appreciation for life."
Jarrod D Gray
"Most people do not get to see the gates of heaven even after death, but visiting Ponmudi today I felt as though I have seen where heaven meets earth while still alive. "
"While ascending up to the peaks of Ponmudi, the frequent hair pin curves seemed like an uninteresting sidenote compared to the entrancing views from my bus window. After arriving tired and overcome with exhaustion, the aesthetic beauty that only a simple ashram could provide was a breath of fresh air much needed."
"The visit today made me realize that if I had any ailment at all, steam baths, herbal treatments, and cows would be the first thing I would treat it with."
"I must admit that making up at 5:30 am and twisting my body into unfathomable positions hardly appealed to me. Mani, however, made the experience entirely enjoyable and surprisingly gratifying. I hope I am able to continue at home."
Sarah M Gallop
"Hiking on the mountains. Hiking was so much fun ! The air was very cool, it felt good. This is the first time I was able to wear my sweatshirt. The leeches were not a huge threat, there was only one that jumped on my shoe."
"Homeopathic treatment: - After taking a tour we were introduced to some herbal plants. I got to smell a curry leaf. It reminded me of the dining hall before we eat."
"Eating in a large dining hall, with thirty people, in total silence is a little unnerving. I understand how this silence is part of the yogic experience."
"Getting up early to go for a hike at the scenic mountains of Ponmudi was well worth it. I can't believe we climbed to such a height. The Sivananda Ashram was quite an experience as well."
Kathleen M Jelen
"The cultural program that my friends at Loyola put on was wonderful. It was a great display of Kerala dancing. I was very tired when I got to the yoga center but after a morning session of yoga, my outlook changed in a positive way. I was rejuvenated."
"The yoga center was situated in a beautiful location amongst a great forest and large fresh water lake. There were many beautiful flowers that I hadn't seen before."
"It was relieving to be in such cold waters. I enjoyed the hiking completely. The scenery was beautiful and the guide was very informative. The fried chicken was excellent. I think all the non- vegetarian students loved it. We get walking sticks that were nice and Hari wrote in Hindi on mine. It is a beautiful language."
Welcome to Photo Session
2. Ponmudi Hills
3. Sivananda Ashram
to Summer 2001