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Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat 3.0

Paradise Island, New Providence Island, Bahamas

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Authentic yoga retreat and spiritual community on Paradise Island
  • Spectacular white sandy beach is free of crowds
  • Two vegetarian buffet-style meals served per day (included in price)
  • Two mandatory yoga classes and meditations per day (included in the price)
  • Rooms range from beachfront suites to tent space
  • Thai yoga massage and therapeutic massages available
  • 24-hour access to cold drinking water and hot water for tea
  • Specialty courses and yoga teacher trainings available
  • Boutique and bookstore on-site for snacks, clothes, and books
  • Free Wi-Fi

Cons

  • Not a typical vacation experience -- mandatory schedule!
  • Rooms are basic and most have shared bathrooms/shower stalls
  • No meat, cigarettes, or alcohol allowed on property (pro for many who come here)
  • Arrival times are limited; pick-up is done only via boat

Bottom Line

Those looking for a relaxed vacation with some yoga thrown in should look elsewhere. This is a serious ashram by an established group (there are nine Sivananda Yoga Ashrams throughout the world) and the 5:30 a.m. wake-up bell proves it. Guests focus on postures, breathing, positive thinking, and meditation, and have some free time to take advantage of the beautiful beach setting. Seemingly a world away from neighboring mega-resort Atlantis, this five-and-a-half acre, mid-range oasis has a range of accommodations from tents to Beachfront Suites (most rooms have shared bathrooms, though). Two vegetarian meals are prepared daily right after each two-hour yoga class , while morning and evening satsangs (a mix of meditation, chanting, lectures, singing and dancing) help create a sense of community. Extra workshops and lectures are built into the daily schedule, and there's a wellbeing center for massage treatments and Ayurvedic body treatments.

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Scene

A true ashram feel, complete with covered shoulders and lowered voices

All incoming guests arrive to Sivananda the same exact way: via boat from Nassau to a wooden dock that has a brightly painted arch to signify "arrival." Though guests might see cruise ships in the distance on the short ride over, it feels miles away from tourist crowds -- and especially far from bustling Atlantis, its closest neighbor. Guests carry their luggage (backpacks in most cases) through a garden pathway, past temple areas, outdoor seating areas, and signs quoting positive messages, before reaching the front desk. There can be a wait, as it takes some time to go over paperwork and the slew of information about the day-to-day schedule and the rules. Expect the schedule to start immediately -- or at least after attending one of the daily orientations. If arriving in afternoon, then guests can attend the 4 p.m. yoga class (two hours long), dinner, and evening satsang.

Guests get woken every morning when the bell rings at 5:30 a.m. (second bell at 5:45 a.m.) for morning satsang. It's still dark out, and guests, as if in slow-motion, make their way silently through the trees, with covered shoulders, to the Garden Hut for two hours of meditation, chanting, singing, and lectures. Then it's off to the first two-hour yoga class. There are varying levels of yoga, and the schedule and location of each class is posted on the billboard and then announced at the end of satsang. After this is the first of two meals: brunch. Meal times are the best opportunities for guests to interact with each other, but like the first day at a new school, it may be a little awkward to get the hang of meal-time etiquette. By the second day, it becomes easier. There are plenty of seating areas for meals and to hang out and use the Wi-Fi during the day.

Free time is built into the early afternoon and allows guests to attend extra workshops and lectures or to hit the beach. Then, at 4 p.m., it's time for more yoga. The regimented schedule is great for those who enjoy routines and who want a get a good night's sleep.

Location

A tropical island oasis that is accessed only by boat from New Providence Island

Sivananda is not a typical hotel or relaxed vacation setting in the Bahamas, and this much is clear when first entering the property. Instead of driving over the bridge to Paradise Island from Nassau, via taxi, like everyone else, guests at Sivananda arrive by boat. But first, they will have to take a 15- to 20-minute taxi from Nassau International Airport to a dock and wait for the next scheduled pick-up. If arriving from overseas during an off time (late at night for instance), they should make a call in advance to the ashram and make arrangements for pick-up. The boat ride across the bay only takes about five minutes and is free of charge.

Guests are expected to stay on property during the stay –- the idea is to stay and focus on self and practice. Therefore, this is not a normal holiday. It can feel a little stifling for some who get antsy being in the same place for too long.

Rooms

Several accommodations to choose from with varying views and amenities

There are eight types of room accommodations spread out over five and a half acres of this tropical garden. Rooms are basic and clean and guests are expected to tidy up after themselves during the stay (cleaning products and brooms available). For those staying in the units that share bathrooms, there are a handful of individual bathrooms in the main building, but most will have to use an outdoor communal area that has several shower stalls on one side, and bathroom stalls on the other. A row of sinks sits against the wall with soap for hand-washing. Except during peak hours -- before morning satsang and after evening satsang -- it rarely feels crowded here.

The highest category room is the spacious Beachfront Suite that has two double beds. These units receive a lot of natural light and have wood floors and private bathrooms with tub/shower combos. A kitchenette area has a small mini-fridge, sink, and hot water kettle. The porch has two plastic Adirondack chairs and a small table plus a beautiful view of the ocean. Beachfront Double Rooms have two single beds instead of double beds.

The Double Bedroom option is a simple shared room with private bath and air-conditioning. If reserved solo, there will most likely be a roommate of the same gender assigned here, too.

Single rooms have single beds and they use the shared bathrooms and showers. Not all of these have air-conditioning, though.

The Garden View Double Rooms are located in the garden areas of the ashram and have two single beds or one double bed for couples (this needs to be requested in advance).

Dormitory rooms are same-gender rooms with three to four beds (there’s an eight-bed room for groups) and use shared bathrooms and showers. Bedding and towels are provided.

There are two tent options. For a reduced price, guests can bring their own tent and pitch in a range of spaces, in which case they are expected to bring their own gear, bedding, and towels. Or they can stay in a Tent Hut –- a 10-by-10 foot furnished and powered tent with either a single or double bed, nightstand, small closet, and lamp. Both options use the shared bathrooms and showers.

Features

Yoga, community satsangs, and two meals per day -- all included in the price

The biggest feature is this ashram itself and the routine schedule that is adhered to by all who stay. Those looking to expand their yoga practice will be happy to delve into the two, two-hour mandatory classes per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. That’s fourhours of yoga in a day. Those who are only used to 60- or 90-minute classes need not worry. Quality instructors move classes at a slower (but still challenging) pace with rest periods between poses. The spectacular beach setting provides a perfect swimming spot for a quick dip to cool off after yoga class and before the meal.

In addition to the yoga, there are two satsangs per day, one at 6 a.m. and one at 8 p.m. These are also mandatory, though no one really keeps track. The format of satsangs can change but they usually start with 25 minutes of meditation with nothing more than the the sound of birds and rustling trees in the background. This is usually followed by traditional chanting (sheets provided), lectures, singing and/or dancing.

Food is prepared twice daily by a kitchen crew. Brunch is served from 10 to 10:45 a.m. and dinner from 6 to 6:45. The theme can change daily depending on the kitchen crew. All meals are served buffet-style –- with usually a chant to start things off. They are lacto-vegetarian meals consisting of a range of salads, soups, grain, and bean dishes. Granola and yogurt is made in-house, and all meals have fresh baked bread and herbal tea served out of a large tub. There are a range of seating options by the beach or on large communal tables which helps get people talking to each other. Clean-up is done as a community too, and some people volunteer (karmic duty) to wash the dishes in large sinks, along with the trays and silverware. Cold drinking water as well as hot water for tea are available 24 hours a day here.

In the afternoons, there are workshops and lectures that are offered but not mandatory, and a schedule of daily events is posted on the billboard by the reception area. The wellbeing center provides Ayurvedic consultations, Ayurveda body treatments, and massages, including therapeutic massages and Thai yoga massages; the latter combines elements of yoga, shiatsu and acupressure.

The health hut boutique is a small store and cafe –- though hours are limited, and even more so during the “off season.” Here, guests can purchase smoothies, healthy snacks and baked goods, books, organic clothing items, yoga products, and natural soaps (among other toiletry items). Washer/dryer tokens are available in the boutique.

Wi-Fi is free throughout the property, and it is pretty reliable in the main dining area. Bring your own yoga mat or pay to rent one.

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