Tuesday, May 28th, 2013 - Carlson

Trips to India aren't just for leisure, often it is a spiritual and educational experience. Yoga and meditation being a major part of their culture, ashrams are becoming a popular destination. But where are these retreats?

Yoga originated from India over 5000 years ago. It is a valuable part of their culture, however yoga as we know it in the western society is a development of what was a path to spiritual enlightenment. Modern yoga, focuses more so, on the physical aspect of the practice. There are different types of yoga but they are all based on structured poses and breath awareness. A popular style of Yoga in the western world is Hatha, this gentle form of exercise is used for stress management, physical well-being and relaxation.

It is popular nowadays for people to travel to India and spend time in an Ashram or Meditation centre for a retreat or even to do long yoga courses. These centres are all over India and each one offers something a little different from the next. Here are 5 places that offer Yoga or Meditation or a combination of the two:

Basunti is located in the North of India in a beautiful wildlife reserve, overlooking the Beas River right near a small city called Pathankot. The closest international airport is in Amritsar, the cultural centre of the Sikh religion and also home of the Golden Temple. Booking accommodation in Amritsar is a good idea as a break from the travelling and also to visit the famous sights. The trip to Basunti from the airport takes about 4 hours by car.

Retreats are available throughout the year run by different teachers offering different styles of yoga and meditation combinations. Classes are conducted outdoors and the sessions are designed to fit the season and time of day. All teachers are fluent in English and qualified Yoga teachers.

Kriya Yoga is based on an ancient meditation practice where breach is the main focus. The retreats are structured programs of meditation as well as times of silence. These retreats are conducted all over the world, including one in the south of India, Hyderabad. Hotels in Banjara Hills are recommended if staying in Hyderabad.

Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre in New Delhi offers weekend retreats for those wanting a shorter time commitment. The centre also offers daily classes for people travelling and just wanting to do a class here and there. Hotels in Connaught Place or Noida hotels are a good option to be central to transport and activity hubs in New Delhi.

In Khajuraho, North India, the Arhanta Yoga Ahsram offers 10 day yoga retreats in Summer and Autumn for small groups. Meditation, yoga, philosophy discussions and massages are part of the daily schedule at these retreats. Situated on 17 acres of green land, surrounded by hills, Khajuraho airport is the closest airport to the Ashram. There are hotels near Khajuraho airport you can stay at on your way to and from the retreat.

Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram is a yoga centre in Chennai offering a range of international programs on yoga. The Heart of Yoga is a 4 week course, on the principles of aimed at people interested in becoming yoga teachers and getting qualifications, it is offered twice a year during the second half of the year. Accommodation in Chennai is not included in the course, so one will have to arrange a hotel in Madras or Mamallapuram accommodation by Temple Bay is a beautiful area to stay in while attending the course.

If you're travelling around India before or after your retreat, Radisson Blu has some lovely Ghaziabad hotels, accommodation in Ranchi and hotels in Ludhiana if you're looking for a nice place to stay.

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Paul Monteath
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