I wanted to love this place, and I wanted to love this experience. I did my TTC there (Teacher Training Course), and I stayed as a guest for several days after the program. I have been practicing yoga for 15 years, and was finally able to do a Teacher Training Program. I did research beforehand, but I did NOT realize what I was getting into.
The place is extremely religious. The staff is extremely unavailable. The schedule is ridiculously rigid. You will be sleep deprived, fed high carb, low protein food, and forced to live the way the most hard core religious yogis do (and as they did 1500 years ago).
I think I found this appealing, as I was researching programs, because I wanted to learn "the roots" of yoga, where it came from. The best part about this program is the philosophy classes. They are taught by a Swami and a true scholar. Whether you agree with the material or not, the people who teach these classes have a thorough, grounded understanding of this complex material. This is a fantastic find, but everything else you have to go through to be able to listen to these lectures is simply not worth it. One other positive about the TTC is that, as a TTC student, we are able to hear 7 am and 9 pm lectures (mandatory) from guest speakers who are at the ashram holding their own courses. Some of these were fantastic, some were awful. You will be made to sit through them either way.
Everything else about the program was extremely disappointing. I was open-minded and "toughed it out" the first week or two, in the name of giving it a full shot. You will be told you will adjust and begin to experience some transformation or something awesome if you do everything they say.... So I stayed open minded and gave it my all. I wanted more than anything to love this program and to connect with my own spirituality.
By week three, I felt so physically awful (exhausted, terrible back and neck pain from having to sit for 12+ hours on a tile floor per day, completely constipated from the carb heavy food and lack of physical exercise) that is was extremely hard to enjoy any aspect of the program.
I was in tears, and I tried talking to the "counselors" and staff members - each of which told me the same thing BEFORE even listening to me: adapt, adjust, accommodate, which is one of the ashrams "mantras," that, at times, we were made to chant (when we were put in ridiculously uncomfortable situations).
One theme of the ashram and the TTC program is that you, as the student and as the individual, have no voice. Meaning, you are there to learn what they tell you. You are made to participate in everything (for literally 16 hours a day), and your feelings, thoughts, opinions mean nothing. You are not even allowed to ask questions during most of the lectures and asana classes.
It was really awful. I considered leaving, but there are no refunds allowed AT ALL once you have paid. Two weeks into the TTC, I decided I was going to leave earlier than planned after the program. I had planned to be there for 5 nights after the program to relax and enjoy the setting, but I no longer wanted to do that after being there. I was charged for the full price of these extra days upon arrival - something that neednt had been done - and though I gave a two week notice and had just spent 3300 on the TTC, and paid in advance, as I hadnt even needed to do, and was leaving the ashram early because I was sick (physically, FROM the program), they would not issue me any type of refund AT ALL. Not even a partial refund. This is one example of how rigid the ashram is. The ashram was absolutely dead, by the way, because early June is their low season, so I was not taking anyones room. I thought this was unreasonable. Moreover, not only could I not get a refund, I still to this day, can not even get a response for my request for a refund. I began asking, sending emails and leaving messages 4 weeks ago, and have still only been told no, they would look into it, and cant get an actual response.
Anyway, I was told I would "struggle" in the program while I was in it but would feel amazing afterward. The only goodness I felt was the relief of being done. It is nearly 2 weeks since the end of my program now, and I still feel terrible. I feel awful, physically. I gained weight there, because I was not allowed to exercise - because you will simply have no time - I feel stressed, I feel depressed. Ive been sitting for 16 hours a day for the last month eating straight carbs going on 6 hours of sleep a night. I usually take really good care of myself (exercise, stretching, sleep, nutrition), and though I tried so hard to be open minded, after participating this program, I feel terrible. One of the worst parts of it was being so unheard, as a student.
Like previous posters have written, there is a strong cult-like vibe there. Very strong.
Be careful. And as I say this, I am sad, because I wanted to have a great experience. I have waited 2 weeks to write this review, on purpose, because Ive been hoping the bad would fade away, and I would be left with positive feelings or impressions of the program, but unfortunately, I am not.
A few tips that may help you:
Realize that if you go there as a TTC student, you are a number. Noone cares about your thoughts or feelings about the program, either before or after. They do not care about anything except continuing to do exactly what they are doing - which is living in the way the founders, Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnu-Devananda, lived and taught. You have no personal rights, very little personal freedom. It feels very oppressive.
One more thing: The Asana. It is brutal. It has not changed since invented hundreds of years ago. Terrible alignment, given what we know today about the physical body. You can very easily get injured. Again, you are not able to adjust anything. It must be practiced exactly as they teach it. If it doesnt work for your body, you sit out. You can either do it their way or lay in savasana on your mat. It was absolutely terrible. The asana teacher we had for our entire program was terribly rigid and mean, and she was the teacher for each and every of the 30 days.
A few specifics:
We were told that we were not allowed to leave lectures or classes unless we REALLY had to go to the bathroom. We were told unless we were rushing out and going straight to the bathroom and back, we could not go. We were told that if we werent HURRYING, this meant we didnt really have to go and we shouldnt go. We were told that if they were suspicious of where were going and/or why, they would follow us and make sure we were only going to the bathroom.
This type of behavior coming from teachers in such a strict and demanding (and…spiritual..?) environment is an example of how they try to "break you down," and build you up in a way that makes you stick in sivananda. It is dehumanizing and degrading, and, worse yet, that is the point.
To me, yoga is about acceptance. I expected to be accepted for who I am and what I believe in this program. I was not. It is very hard to be there unless you are prepared to decide to believe exactly what they believe (which is religious in nature; you, the student, know nothing, you must learn everything from the 3-5 teachers who are staff).
This felt very much like military boot camp or like prison. The point very much is to "break you down," and as a mental health therapist and an educational psychologist, I have grave concerns about if this is healthy (and possibly even safe) for the individual. Especially for those who go with an open mind and an open heart to pursue their inner, most personal selves. It seems unethical.
You just need to know what you are getting into if you decide to do. You need to know you WILL be sleep deprived, you WILL NOT be listened to, in any way; you will eat straight carbs; you WILL NOT practice yoga on the beach or on the beach platform - this is for guests, not TTC students; the schedule posted online is NOT what you are made to adhere to: you will NOT HAVE the breaks in schedule that are posted online. Each class runs late, and you get no time in between. I was upset about this the first few days and spoke to several people, each of whom told me, too bad, adjust, adapt, accommodate, and I will feel amazing at the end of 30 days.
NO ORGANIC produce. All conventional produce shipped in from FL. Over cooked veggies, little variety. Little veggies, honestly. Mostly oatmeal, granola, rice, potatoes.
To sum it up, I am sad I didnt love this program. I wanted to. I went with an open heart and an open mind. I had no voice while I was there, as a student. I was treated gruffly and roughly. I was not listened to; my opinions meant nothing. And worst, I felt awful upon leaving, and I still feel awful, 2 weeks later. It is extremely stressful and not enjoyable.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Yoga Retreat is a spiritual center & retreat place offering courses and workshops and yoga vacation. The daily schedule includes two yoga classes, two Satsangs (meditation sessions) and two vegetarian meals. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat Hotel Paradise Island
- Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat Bahamas/Paradise Island