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Adventure Guide: Ashrams in India and Beyond
Text by Ian Dille   Map by Joel Holland

Map: Kerala, India

The Love Test: Ahram Photo Gallery >>

Feature Article: Downward Facing Boyfriend >>

Ashrams cannot guarantee their guests enlightenment, but the monkish routine at the remote spiritual retreats—replete with intensive yoga sessions, a strict vegetarian diet, and karma guidance—is sure to clear the mind and boost fitness. Here, four ashrams in India and beyond. 

1) Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari
South India's home of Sivananda yoga promises a boot-camp-like daily schedule of yoga classes, meditation, and chanting—all set against the rolling jungle of India's mile-high (two-kilometer-high) Western Ghats ($15 for a twin room, including meals; $11 for dorm-style lodging; www.sivananda.org/neyyardam).

 
2) Shree Vithal Ashram
A less regimented retreat in Rishikesh—where the Ganges emerges from the Himalaya—Shree Vithal offers rafting tours down the river and treks through the foothills in addition to the daily asanas ($10; www.shreevithalashram.net).
 
3) Mount Madonna Center
Accomplished guest instructors host weekend-long yoga retreats at this 355-acre (144-hectare) center nestled among California's Santa Cruz Mountains and overlooking Monterey Bay ($324, including tuition, cabin lodging, and meals; www.mountmadonna.org).

4) Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp
Founded in 1959, the worldwide headquarters of the Sivananda Yoga Centres is located in the Laurentian Mountains, an hour north of Montreal. It follows the same daily schedule as the ashram in Kerala ($120 for a weekend camp with shared-room lodging; www.sivananda.org/montreal).

GETTING THERE:
Air India offers daily flights from New York into Trivandrum, a 20-mile (32-kilometer) taxi or auto rickshaw ride from the ashram ($1,400; www.airindia.in).
 
OUTSIDE THE ASHRAM:
Go on a lion-spotting safari in the nearby Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary, overnighting at the park's Agasthya Rest House ($15; www.keralaforest.org/html/tourism/neyy.htm).

In March you can party like a true Keralite at the ten-day Thirunakkara Arattu festival held at the Thirunakkara Temple in Kottayam. Festivities include all-night performances of traditional theater, Kathakali, and processions of ceremonially painted elephants (free; www.keralatourism.org).

March is also the perfect time to cruise Kerala's 560-mile (901-kilometer) network of coastal and inland waterways. Rent a houseboat (essentially, a wicker-roofed rice barge) in the neighboring district of Kollam, then meander through coconut-lined canals, sleep under the stars, and eat meals prepared by an onboard chef ($16.50 an hour; www.dtpckollam.com).

Ashram Photo Gallery >>

Feature Article: Downward Facing Boyfriend >>

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