I Tried Spiritual Healing In India—and It Was Nothing Like I Expected

In early March, five days after yet another romance failed to launch, I found myself in India having an Eat, Pray, Love moment. Before you roll your eyes, let me just say that the “Pray” part of the book is exactly where I stopped reading. No disrespect to Elizabeth Gilbert-it just didn’t resonate with me. And now here I was on the brink of my own cheesy soul-searching journey in the spiritual motherland while mending a broken heart.

What saved me from groaning at my own cliché story was knowing that I was really in Delhi for two other assignments, covering the growing feminist movement in India. So checking out the new Holistic Wellness Retreat at the ITC Grand Bharat, a luxury resort in Gurgaon just outside Delhi, was a bonus. What happened during my week stay, however, I never saw coming.

The plan was to fill my days with Ayurvedic treatments (deep, third-eye-cleansing oil massages), a healthy diet (no caffeine or alcohol, lots of fruits, veggies, and lean meats, and minimal sweets), yoga, meditation and spiritual healing rituals. While I was excited to work with the resident Ayurvedic physician, Cheruvally Sreenarayanan, on optimizing my mind-body connection, I was most intrigued to meet Visiting Master, Leela Isani, a spiritual teacher, Reiki master, and holistic healer who was in town for three weeks. I hoped she might help me solve my love problem (falling for the wrong people).

When Leela first stepped out to meet me at the resort’s lavish 3,250-square-meter spa, I immediately assumed that she was a guest from the West like me, and not my sage spiritual healer. Dressed in white from head to toe with matching silver-white hair and piercing blue eyes, she was far from what I had imagined. Her German accent confirmed she was not Indian. Born Sylvia, Leela explained she had adopted the Sanskrit name some years ago as India became her second home.

After a gentle hour-long yoga session together, we went for breakfast, where I put on my journalist cap and interrogated Leela. Without hesitation, she opened up about her family, a near-death experience at age 6 (car crash), and the passing of her beloved Italian husband to cancer a decade ago. I was careful not to reveal too much about myself before our afternoon session, though I did admit my desire to find my soulmate as she had one fateful day at the Frankfurt airport.

We returned to the beautiful spa for our first spiritual healing ritual. In a warm, candlelit therapy room (one of 12), she handed me two decks of cards. They looked like the tarot kind without the vivid imagery. Instead, they only featured a German word or phrase written in tiny font at the top. I shuffled the decks separately, and as I did, one card flew facedown on the floor. Leela set it aside and asked me to pick a card from each deck. I drew “great-grandmother” from one and “miracle” from the other. The card that had dropped read “daughter.” This fascinated Leela, who informed me that the decks offered few options for familial ties.

From there, she asked me to stand up and jump around while shaking my body. She joined me and explained, “This helps us loosen up and get out of our heads.” Then we did a standing sequence while facing each other. After lifting our hands skyward a few times and holding them there, we brought our hands to heart center. We took 12 deep breaths before opening our eyes, staring at each other while linking our fingertips.

“We look at what we call the ‘soul view’ and the connection of the soul. This is very important,” she said. It was hard to look deep into a stranger’s bottomless pupils, but I fought the urge to look away and held her bright blue gaze. After 30 seconds, she asked me to lie on my back on the massage table. For the next 45 minutes, Leela rested her hands on various parts of my body-head, hands, arms, feet, stomach, etc.

Occasionally, when she touched me, I felt a zap, like a tiny electric shock. What was this sensation, I wondered. I had never experienced another person’s energy like this before and was confused. (Related: What Is Energy Work?) At one point, she began speaking to me about my heart and my body, but by then, I was so deeply relaxed, I was in and out of consciousness. I wasn’t asleep but in a meditative state. Still, I was hyperaware of the heat emanating from her hands on my forehead and blazing orange color of my eyelids, as if I were directly under a light bulb. I peeked to see if Leela had, in fact, turned on the overhead lights, but the room remained only candlelit.

When the session ended, we sat down to discuss the experience, and she immediately asked if something was wrong with my kidneys. I couldn’t believe the question. I was born with a kidney impairment and hadn’t disclosed this information to her. How did she know?

“Kidneys symbolize partnership. They come as a pair. In Germany, we have a saying, ‘This affects my kidneys,’ which means that an emotion is touching you very deeply,” Leela said. She assured me that my body was healthy though not working in harmony and that it needed self-love to heal some emotional baggage that I might be carrying from my female lineage. We came back to the “great-grandmother” and “daughter” cards and that’s when I began connecting the dots.

I opened up to Leela how my mother, who is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic (DR), was orphaned at age 9. She was raised mostly by nuns in a convent or with her aunts before moving to NYC and meeting my father about four decades ago. That’s the extent of what I know about my mom’s life before me. Though I’ve been to the DR many times and met several relatives, none of them have talked much about our family’s history. My mom’s strange secrecy never bothered me until I entered therapy two years ago in search of why I kept choosing the wrong mate. Somehow it came back to my complicated relationship with my mom (no surprise). Her overbearing and critical ways were becoming too much for me in recent years, leading to many misunderstandings and, most of all, a lack of acceptance on both our parts. Despite being close and talking daily, my mom and I just couldn’t get on the same page.

Now, here I was with Leela, who was telling me to investigate my ancestors on my mother’s side in order to “heal” and restore harmony in my body. It was eerie how quickly she got to the crux of my issues. I couldn’t make sense of it, nor did I have the energy to try at the moment. Feeling drained from both jet lag and the intense session, I went through the motions of the rest of my day (lunch, Ayurvedic treatments, dinner), then went to sleep.

The next day, I met with Leela for a heart-opening, boundary-setting meditation. During the 30-minute moving meditation to music, I followed Leela’s lead, mimicking her footsteps and hand motions. While this “dance” felt a little hippy-dippy at first, I thought, Well, this is what people come to India to do, right? So I embraced it and committed to the whole nine yards. In no time, we were completely in sync, flowing at the same fast pace and exhaling audibly throughout the high-cardio exercise. With sweat glistening on my forehead, I was relieved when Leela instructed me to stop, sit, and finish the meditation with closed eyes on the mat. After another 15 minutes, we transitioned to Shavasana, which is when I felt a confounding electric zap at the sole of my left foot. I shifted my position to shake it off and somehow missed Leela changing the music and making her way to the top of my mat. She unexpectedly placed her hands near my temples and began speaking. It was her voice, but she seemed different. Transformed.

Leela began talking about my maternal great-aunts, all four of whom passed away years ago. They were in the room with us, she said, and they wanted me to know they were protecting me. They had chosen me as “the one” to heal the family from generations of pain. She also told me about my guardian angel, who has been with me since birth, and the archangel Chamuel, who was looking out for me, too. While all of this was happening, the holiest music was playing in the background (the kind you’d hear at church). Though I grew up going to Catholic school and Sunday mass until I left for college, I hadn’t felt connected to my faith in more than a decade. None of this made sense to me, but I kept my eyes closed, and tried to remain open-minded and focused.

When Leela stopped and removed her hands from my head, I opened my eyes, shot up to a sitting position, and asked, “What just happened?!” The look on her face was just like mine: Bewilderment. She couldn’t explain what compelled her to change the music and deliver this message to me. I asked her if she was a medium. She nodded, but explained this was a rare occurrence for her.

The next morning, before breakfast, I decided to FaceTime my mom from bed to have a good laugh about my great-aunts’ supposed visit. I told her everything, and she just looked at me, not at all in disbelief. A sadness seemed to wash over her, which I didn’t expect, and she acknowledged that it must be true: My four great-aunts and grandmother were/are with me. Tia Linda-she singled out-was clairvoyant. What?? I had no idea. Apparently, Tia Linda had received many premonitions throughout her life that were proven true. She even predicted the death of the infamous Dominican dictator, Trujillo, who died not far from her home.

Speechless, I didn’t know what to say, so I remained silent, and she continued to divulge family secrets that she had been hiding from me and the world for…who knows how long. The worst of it was a story about my great-grandfather who had asked a prostitute down the street to move because she was a bad influence on his young children. She refused, and in retaliation, he burned down her home. No one was hurt, thankfully, but the woman was so enraged that she sought black magic in nearby Haiti, and returned to my great-grandparents’ home to put a curse on our family for five generations. The stories that ensued about my great-aunts and their children implied that the curse must have had some effect (e.g., my mom ending up an orphan).

Quickly doing the math, I discovered that I’m the fourth generation . Maybe this is what Leela meant about me healing the family? Did the “miracle” card that I pulled on that first day mean that I would end this so-called curse?

I rushed to meet Leela to tell her everything my mom had told me. She was shocked and thrilled to hear about this major breakthrough with my mother. I had been working toward this very moment for years, but for some reason, my mom never came clean. And maybe that was partly my fault? I needed to open my heart and mind completely, while simultaneously setting boundaries to protect myself, so that she could finally open hers. It wasn’t so much the information about my family that changed our relationship, but the fact that my mom could unburden herself from this weighty secret. She could finally let it go.

When Leela and I met for our final spiritual healing session, she noted right from the beginning that my eyes had changed. And when she began placing her hands on my body, she instantly felt that my organs were more in tune.

“You knew that your body was okay, but all this worrying had made you not feel good. You have a sensitive body. You are affected when you absorb too much of other people’s energy. That’s why it’s important for you to say ‘no’ from time to time,” Leela said. I took her words to heart and left the resort the next day, feeling lighter, literally from the healthy Ayurveda diet, and figuratively from the healing.

The next eight days flew by like a dream, and before I knew it, I was in a taxi from JFK to my parents’ house in Queens, where my older sister met us. We spent the next several hours sitting around the kitchen table with my mom, hearing story after story about mi familia in the DR. I was beyond grateful. Who would have guessed that I had to go all the way to India to get my mom to share intimate details of her past. I’m so glad and relieved that I don’t have to wait any longer to really get to know-and accept-one of the most important people in my life. And maybe I can start accepting others, too, like that mate I’ve been looking for.

ITC Grand Bharat offers five Ayurveda-based wellness packages ranging from 3 to 21 nights. The five-night Holistic Wellness Retreat that I experienced starts at $2,493.27 per person.

  • By Cristina Goyanes

ANCIENT INDIAN ENERGY HEALING [PART II]: Practices for physical, mental and emotional well-being

Last updated on April 9th, 2019 at 04:09 am

Updated: March 29, 2019

The human body operates in harmony with the energy system of the universe. It’s a latticework of energies, vibrating at different frequencies, encompassing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects.

It has been perfectly created to function optimally, provided we observe the laws of nature.

Modern lifestyles can create havoc within our energies and disrupt their healthy flow, resulting in congestion and blockages, leading to dis-ease.

Re-connecting with the ancient Indian wisdom of energy healing practices allows us to empower our body’s innate capacity to self-heal, and return us to our natural state of wholeness.

Self-healing practices include:

Mudras

The holistic practice of balancing the vital energy throughout the body by joining different combinations of the fingers and thumbs.

It’s believed that the human structure is a miniature form of the universe, composed of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air and space, each of which corresponds to a specific finger or thumb. Holding specific fingers and thumbs together for a short period of time allow the elements to regain equilibrium, which creates a positive effect throughout the entire being, to encourage our body’s natural healing response. Traditionally, mudras were practiced in conjunction with pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) to attain a higher state of consciousness or to channel the vital flow of energy to an area of the body that required healing.

Mudras can be practiced while sitting, walking or lying down during meditation.

The Kalesvara Mudra assists in eliminating addictions of cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and food, by deeply calming and balancing the energy of the mental and emotional body.

  • Place the tips of the middle fingers together.
  • Place the tips of your thumbs together.
  • Place the middle joints of your index fingers together.
  • Bend your ring and little fingers inwards.
  • Point your thumbs towards your chest.
  • Stretch your elbows outwards.
  • Relax your body and breathe slowly and deeply.

Practice two times a day for thirty minutes in total.

The Tse Mudra assists in lifting the spirits to relieve depression and grief, by empowering the energy of the emotional body.

  • Place your hands on your thighs with your palms facing upwards.
  • Place the tips of your thumbs on the base of your little fingers.
  • Inhale slowly and bend your four fingers over your thumbs.
  • Retain your breath for a few seconds.
  • Exhale and open your hands, releasing worry and anxiety.
  • Repeat eleven times.

Practice three times a day.

The Surabhi Mudra assists in relieving pain and inflammation, by detoxifying and strengthening the energy of the physical body.

  • Place the tip of your left little finger and the tip of your right ring finger together.
  • Place the tip of your right little finger and the tip of your left ring finger together.
  • Place the tip of your left middle finger and the tip of your right index finger together.
  • Place the tip of your right middle finger and tip of your left index finger together.
  • Relax and extend your thumbs.

Practice three times a day for thirty minutes in total.

Facial Acupressure

The holistic practice of balancing the energy throughout the bodily systems by applying gentle pressure to specific points on the face that correspond to the body’s organs and glands.

It’s believed that our face reflects our inner physical, mental and emotional health and the upper, middle and lower areas of our face are associated with the upper, middle and lower parts of our torso. Indian energy healers study the face as a means of diagnosing health imbalances. Self-facial acupressure is effective for restoring our skin’s youthfulness and assisting our natural capacity to heal, as it reactivates the vital energy flowing through our bodily systems. Traditionally facial acupressure was applied during an Ayurvedic head massage to calm the mind, body and spirit.

Relieve stress – gently massage the nervous system point for two minutes, in small circular motions. It’s located at the centre of the forehead, at the hairline.

Improve concentration – gently massage the mind points for two minutes, in small circular motions. They are located one inch above the centre of each eyebrow.

Empower digestion – gently massage the liver points for two minutes, in small circular motions. They are located on the inside edge of the eyebrows, above the bridge of the nose.

Assist in detoxification – gently massage the lymphatic system points for two minutes, in small circular motions. They’re located at the jawline, directly below the eyes.

Beautify the skin – gently massage the small intestine points for two minutes, in small circular motions. They’re located under the cheekbones, directly below the eyes.

Regulate elimination – firmly press the bowel point for one minute, three times a day. It’s located at the middle of the chin.

Chanting

The holistic practice of repeating a mantra, for a short period of time, to detach from the external world, bring our awareness to the present moment and return to the essence of our being.

A mantra is the rhythmic speaking or singing of a word or sound. It’s believed to calm the restless mind and rid it of negative thought processes to create tranquillity and mental purity. Chanting starts loudly, gradually becoming quieter and ends almost silently. This resonates with the energies of the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of our body, to restore inner peace and awaken our latent healing energies. Traditionally, chanting was practiced with great devotion to reconnect with the divine light and love within us to experience the unity of life.

The Traditional Om Chanting Exercise is believed to have a positive effect on the nervous system, for the awakening of the latent physical, mental, and spiritual powers.

  • Sit comfortably with your legs crossed.
  • Close your eyes and inhale deeply through your nose.
  • Retain your breath for a few seconds.
  • As you exhale through your mouth, chant the sound ‘Om’ in one long note (one chant during a continuous exhalation can take up to thirty seconds, depending on your lung capacity).
  • Start the sound loudly as an ‘aahh’ at your solar plexus.
  • Continue the sound as an ‘oohh’ at your chest, allowing it to become quieter.
  • Round your mouth and end the sound as an ‘mmmm’ allowing it to become gentle and quiet, as you close your lips.
  • Repeat eleven times.
  • Observe the stillness within your body and the tranquillity within your mind.

Practice two times a day.

Crystals

The holistic practice of placing the Earth’s natural stones within the body’s magnetic field to restore the flow of healthy positive energy within and around the body by removing toxic negative energy.

The Earth is crystalline, as it’s composed of minerals, and our bodies are crystalline in essence; therefore our energies resonate harmoniously with the vibration of crystals. Each crystal possesses a unique chemical make-up which determines its healing property and appearance. Placing a crystal in our energy field or on a chakra allows our body to raise its vibration to that of the crystal. Traditionally, the Earth’s natural stones were well known for their capacity to encourage self-healing and were widely used to treat the organs and systems of the body, mind and spirit.

Crystals to empower specific chakras and encourage energy flow

Garnet – Corresponding to the root chakra, it’s stabilizing, revitalizing and assists in protecting one from negative energies.

Carnelian – corresponding to the sacral chakra, it’s rejuvenating, balancing and assists with the manifestation of one’s dreams and desires.

Sunstone – corresponding to the solar plexus chakra, it dispels irrational fears and phobias and assists in reconnecting with one’s personal power.

Unakite – corresponding to the heart chakra, it strengthens circulation and assists in opening the heart to give and receive unconditional love.

Blue Lace Agate – corresponding to the throat chakra, it strengthens communication skills and assists in calming the emotional body.

Moonstone – corresponding to the brow chakra, it balances emotions to reduce anxiety and assists with intuition, wisdom and spiritual powers.

Golden Topaz – corresponding to crown chakra, it balances the endocrine and exocrine system and assists with instilling peace of mind.

Raw food diet

The holistic practice of eating food in its whole, unrefined and uncooked form that’s positively and negatively balanced, supplying the body with a plentiful supply of solar energy and active enzymes.

Food eaten in its raw, natural state has a detoxifying, calming and balancing effect on the energies of our body, which instills a similar effect on the energies of our mind and emotions. All the nutrients required by the body are available in plant-based food, in a form that’s easily assimilated. Traditionally, fasting was recommended during illness to allow the body’s energy reserves to be directed towards self-healing, however, adopting a raw food diet for a short period of time can have similar health benefits.

Include the following Indian foods to empower the immune system and initiate the body’s natural healing response:

Gooseberries – the highest source of vitamin C, these berries are known to rejuvenate bodily systems and work as a natural immune-booster and nerve tonic.

Ginger – an anti-aging tonic that reduces inflammation and encourages healthy oxygenation to strengthen the body and ground the emotions.

Turmeric – contains anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-microbial properties to reduce inflammation and purify the blood and slow down the aging process.

Cardamom – improves digestion and empowers the nervous system to reduce stress, nervous tension and anxiety to relieve cravings.

Sprouts – Sprouted nuts, seeds and legumes are extremely nutritious, highly alkaline and detoxifying to calm the nerves and strengthen the body’s stress response.

Ghee – also known as clarified butter, it’s rich in anti-oxidants, which calms the nervous system and restores the immune system—extensively used in India to nourish the body and detoxify the mind.

Healing visualizations

The holistic practice of creating positive images of healing within the mental body, which allows the emotional body to respond by becoming receptive to the healing, which subsequently initiates the healing process in the physical body.

Our body and mind are intricately connected and our thoughts have a direct influence on our physical health. By using the power of our mind to envision our healing in process, we’re disciplining our nervous system to react in a positive way, resulting in the desired outcome.

The regular practice of healing visualizations allows us to detach from our past limited beliefs to release our fears and bring our awareness to the present moment to enable us to create a healthy future. Traditionally, there was an innate awareness of the mind, body and soul connection and healing visualizations were practiced through daily prayer.

The Empowerment Healing Visualization relieves stress, anxiety, fear and panic.

Practice two times a day.

  • Sit outdoors in nature, with your feet in direct contact with the bare earth, grass or sand.
  • Close your eyes and visualize the colour green.
  • See the colour green as a dense vortex of deep green healing energy.
  • Sense the dense vortex of deep green healing energy spiralling in the earth, beneath your feet.
  • Feel its magnetic force gently drawing your energies downwards, through the soles of your feet.
  • Visualize yourself being rooted into the earth below.
  • Allow your entire being to feel at one with nature.
  • Bring your awareness to your body.
  • Your body feels safe and grounded by the deep green healing energy.
  • Bring your awareness to your mind.
  • Your mind feels still and centred by the deep green healing energy.
  • Bring your awareness to your emotions.
  • Your emotions feel balanced and peaceful by the deep green healing energy.
  • Bring your awareness to your breath.
  • Visualize the dense vortex of deep green healing energy, attracting your inhalations, pulling them deeper within your body.
  • As your breathing becomes deeper, your body becomes relaxed, your mind becomes calm and your emotions become balanced.
  • You feel grounded, centred and in control.
  • Observe this feeling of empowerment within your body, mind and emotions.
  • Create a positive image of this feeling of empowerment within your body, your mind and your emotions.
  • Draw upon it during times of stress, anxiety, fear and panic.
  • Open your eyes gently and repeat aloud,
  • “I trust in the power of my breath to instill strength, stability and harmony throughout my entire being.”

As we strive to meet the demands of our busy lifestyles, we can easily become detached from nature, yet our inner wisdom intuitively reminds us to care for our body and mind holistically. By re-connecting with the ancient Indian wisdom of self-healing practices, we can cleanse, calm and empower our energies naturally, to restore balance, harmony and peace of mind.

This is Part 2 of a two-part article. Read Part 1″

Read What is Energy Healing for even more info on this topic”

Vera Kaur grew up with traditional Indian holistic therapies and lived in ashrams, where she observed the remarkable results of the self-healing practices used by the energy healers. Vera would like us all to be empowered with this knowledge, to take responsibility for our own well-being. ‘Diagnose, Treat, and Cure All Dis-ease with Traditional Indian Holistic Therapies’ Available at http://www.verakaur.com

Spiritual Travel in India: Where & Why to Give it a Try

Long-time yoga practitioner Mariellen Ward shows you how to get the most out of your spiritual travels through India.

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Since the dawn of recorded time, people have been gathering for spiritual practise like yoga and meditation all over India. But where to start?

Whether it be on the banks of the Ganges River in Rishikesh, on the ghats in Varanasi, in the high Himalayas, or on the hot plains, here’s how to start your spiritual journey.

  • Why India is the Best Spiritual Destination
  • Yoga and Meditation Retreats in India
  • Beginner’s Yoga to Advanced Yoga in India
  • Yoga in Rishikesh
  • Yoga in Mysore
  • Yoga in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Goa

Why India is the Best Spiritual Destination

First of all, several of the world’s major religions were born in India, including Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

The sense of spiritual fervour is palpable. There are mandirs (Hindu temples), mosques, gurudwaras (Sikhs place of worship), and churches everywhere you look.

Varanasi. Photo credit: Mariellen Ward

Small temples and shrines are set up on roadsides, in banks, even in underground parking garages. Seemingly every day, there’s a religious festival of one sort or another.

People in India practise their religions overtly, and take their spiritual beliefs very seriously.

You might see your bank teller in a suit and tie at work, but later, performing a time-honoured puja on the banks of a sacred river, wearing an orange robe with tilak marks on his forehead.

Yoga and Meditation Retreats in India

The spiritual undercurrent in India has given rise to several forms of practise: the two most well-known in the west are yoga and meditation. You can find ashrams, retreats, and centers all over India.

Yoga comes from the Hindu tradition and includes meditation as a core practise. This is one of the differences between yoga in India and in the west – where it’s seen as more of a physical exercise.

Meditation is also associated with the Buddhist tradition, and it’s the main form of spiritual practise in Buddhism.

Though Buddhism was born in India, it’s now practised more prevalently in other countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, and Bhutan.

There are many forms of meditation in India along with yoga, including Transcendental Meditation and Vipassana.

Sarnath, India. Photo credit: Mariellen Ward

Beginner’s Yoga to Advanced Yoga in India

You can find all types of yoga and meditation all over India, from beginners to advanced. You’ll find there’s much less of a distinction on styles of yoga – or indeed even on the concepts of beginner or advanced partitioners.

If you’re already practising yoga at home, you can ask your teachers and colleagues for a recommendation in India.

Or, you can wait until you arrive and trust that you’ll find the right place. Here are some tips for finding a yoga teacher in India from Yoga Journal.

It was very near the end of my first trip to India that someone suggested I visit an ashram near Rishikesh. I was tired when I arrived, and had a nap. When I woke, I knew I had found my spiritual home – I had never felt more rested in my life. And yet, I arrived there by chance.

Yoga in Rishikesh

Rishikesh in north India is the picturesque spot where the Ganges River tumbles out of the lower Himalayas.

It’s often called the world’s capital of yoga, and makes for a great place to start your spiritual journey.

The peaceful valley is lined with ashrams and yoga and meditation centres, and people from all over the globe come here to study, practise, and chill out.

I liked Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram, which is owned and run by an Indian yogi and his Canadian wife. Here, you get the best of both worlds: authentic yoga teachings and western standards of comfort and cleanliness.

Yoga in Mysore

Yoga is also prevalent in Mysore, a small town in Karnataka, a few hours away from the capital of the state, Bengaluru.

Mysore is the center of the Ashtanga Yoga world, as the founder, Pattabhi Jois, established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute here in 1948.

For several other recommended yoga centers in Mysore, check the About India page on yoga in Mysore.

Yoga in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Goa

Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Goa in south India are also popular spots for yoga retreats.

The Sivananda organization has a center near Trivandrum that’s located among lush forest greenery. And you can find yoga retreats all along the tropical coasts of these states.

These retreats vary in terms of accommodation standards and prices, from simple to luxurious. There’s a spot for just about every budget.

You can stay for just a few days, do a one or two-week yoga retreat, or take an in-depth yoga teacher training course, which usually lasts a month.

I loved my stay at the Ashiyana Yoga Retreat in North Goa. Located right near the beach, with good teachers, delicious food, and a wide range of accommodation options, Ashiyana offers both relaxation and serious yoga practise.

By Mariellen Ward, World Nomads Contributor – Tue, 30 May 2017

Spiritual Travel: Retreats and Pilgrimages

Gyandev and Diksha McCord

Nayaswamis Gyandev and Diksha are long-time teachers and ministers at Ananda, as well as experienced leaders of retreats at home and abroad. Diksha directs Ananda’s Meditation Teacher Training program. Gyandev directs Ananda Yoga® and Ananda Yoga Teacher Training. Both lead workshops on a wide range of topics in the spiritual life. They have led retreats and pilgrimages to India, Hawaii, Costa Rica and Israel.

Nayaswamis Krishnadas and Mantradevi are longtime teachers and ministers of Ananda, Krishnadas and Mantradevi have helped establish Ananda communities in Seattle, Portland, Dallas, and Los Angeles. Currently, they both work at The Expanding Light, regularly leading pilgrimages to India, Europe, and other places of inspiration. They have been sharing Yogananda’s teachings for decades and lead many workshops at The Expanding Light.

Keshava Taylor is the spiritual co-director of Ananda’s meditation center in Delhi, and he has been leading pilgrimages in India for the past 13 years. In 1984, Keshava became a founding member of Ananda’s European center in Assisi Italy. There he began his love of leading pilgrimages while guiding groups in the footsteps of St. Francis and tours of Renaissance cities. Keshava and his wife Daya have lived in India since Ananda’s work began there in 2003.

Sitabai has decades of experience as a walker and hiker in the California Sierra Mountains leading children and families and has twice completed the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. She did an amazing job planning and co-leading our first highly successful Camino Plus Pilgrimage in 2019.

Nandadevi Traymar has been a long-term practitioner and teacher of both Hatha Yoga and meditation in her home country, Argentina. She has served at the Expanding Light Retreat for two years working with the Karma Yoga Program, supporting people in their efforts to strengthen their spiritual lives. Nandadevi is a native Spanish-speaker who has enjoyed taking walking pilgrimage in Argentina.

Melody Hansen has served for several years at The Expanding Light Retreat, and is the Director of Level One Hatha Yoga. extraordinary yoga teacher, who conveys her great knowledge of yoga asanas—from physical mechanics to spiritual upliftment—with a blend of graciousness, authority, and fun. She is able to help students experience that depth in their yoga practice.

Annapurna DeLyle graduated from Ananda Institute of Living Yoga, in Bothell, Washington, and has been teaching yoga since 2007. She has been a student of Ayurveda since 1990, and continues her education with Kerala Ayurveda School in Wellness Counseling. She loves teaching yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda and helping others discover their natural energy, health, and joy.

Spiritual trip to India – A Place to reconnect with yourself

We’ve all had those ‘Eat Pray Love’ moments, when we find ourselves asking questions that go beyond the ‘what should I eat for dinner tonight?’ or ‘what should I do this weekend?’. Existential questions, that can sometimes be hard to deal with, and lead towards a path of spirituality. Travel, then, provides a great way to reconnect with your inner self, and discover answers that elsewhere you might not find. When you travel to India you can find yourself, because it challenges you as a individual. It is different from any other country because of it’s unique traditions, culture and it also just gives you a sensory shock. So, personalizing a Spiritual trip to India is not only about religion but an awakening of the senses.

Travelling for Spirituality is an age-old tradition, after all, to leave behind the familiar in hopes of finding answers, whether it’s following spiritual travel routes like the El Camino de Santiago in Spain, that’s attracted Christian pilgrims for scores of years, or just heading out for a hike to clear ones head.

India is a country that lends itself very well to spiritual trips. The very culture of the country is deeply rooted in spirituality and discovery, and there are countless spiritual travel routes in India that one can choose to follow. India is the land of yoga, of Ayurveda, of sadhus and hermits that leave their lives behind in a quest to find answers. Not that we’re suggesting anything that extreme! But it is a country that has called out to countless people, looking to discover a little something more about the world. If you do find yourself beginning to ask these questions, here are few suggestions for a spiritual trip to India.

Yoga in India

Go on a Yoga trail

The practice of yoga is an ancient one, and has spread to all corners of the world in a variety of forms and methods. But, India is the birthplace of yoga, and it is here that you will find it being practiced in its most pure form. You can sign up for a course at yoga ashrams across the country, all of which offer different programmes and styles. The yoga ashrams in north India, especially around the spiritual hubs of Varanasi and Rishikesh, are the best known, but there are plenty of yoga ashrams in South India too that you could consider. You won’t need to commit to a full-fledged course if that’s not what you’re looking for, instead you could just sign up for a one-day course to see if yoga is the right fit for you. We can help you find the best suited programme for you and your needs, so don’t get overwhelmed by the options!

Trace the roots of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is another ancient Indian practice, or even a way of life, that has spread across the world. Most people are only familiar with the medicine or it’s massages. However, Ayurveda is so much more than that. The ayurvedic philosophy believes that each individual has a mix of three elements of nature – air, earth and fire, and that by maintaining a balance of these three, you will find inner peace. It is widely believed that the traditions of Ayurveda in South India hold truest to its roots, and it is here that you will find some of the best options for a holistic programme that will immerse you in all the benefits that Ayurveda has to offer.

Go soul searching with Vipassana

Vipassana is a Buddhist tradition that is about discovering the nature of reality. It’s a form of meditation that involves detaching yourself from the outside world and following the principles of Dharma, the law of nature. This is not something that you can undertake alone, as you need a teacher to guide you along the path. There are certified vipassana courses in India that you should consider if you think this is for you. We can help you find one that fits in best with the rest of your travel plans!

You can see a sample Spiritual trip our Client Stephanie took across India highlighting different spiritual experiences

Spiritual trip to india

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