Tuesday, July 12, 2011

17) My Sadhana Intensive ( SI) Course experience

I did the  Sadhana Intensive Course ( SI ) at the Sivananda Ashram ,Madurai ,India at 2009 and repeated again at 2010 and these were life changing experiences for me .I did my Yoga Teachers Training Course (TTC) in 1998 and my Advanced Yoga Teachers Training Course ( ATTC ) in 2004 at the Sivananda Ashram , Neyyar Dam ,India and while TTC and ATTC were itself had a major impact on me ,it was the SI course that really created the big shift in me and brought me to the current state of solitude that I am right now .

About the Course :
 The SI course is only  for the people who have completed the Sivananda TTC .It is not open to any other student however advanced he /she may be .It is a 2 week course i.e full 14 days of intense Sadhana without any breaks in between and right now in the Sivananda Ashrams it is offered in India ( Madurai , Uttar Kashi ) , Canada ( ValMorin , Quebec ) and in Sivanada Ashram in France .
 The maximum no. of candidates allowed  is 26 ( sometimes this rule is relaxed and few additional people are accomodated ) . The course is conducted in a very secluded atmosphere that is pure and unpolluted and away from noise and away from external people .The course is based on developing a personal intensive Yoga Sadhana according to the Classic text " Hatha Yoga Pradipika" .
There is no group/guided  practice here and each and every candidate is required to do his /her own Sadhana as per the instructions given at the beginning of each day .Sometimes the practices are modified according to the capacity of the individual .Each student is required to maintain his/her own personal sadhana diary and note down their own experiences and problems and the same is shared in a group discussion at the middle of the day .
The Diet in SI :
 The students of SI course are given a very special diet that is free of oil ,salt and other spices and is usually a very bland diet  involving boiled vegetables , chapatis , yogic kitchidi ( not the usual spicy one ) ,simple dal and some fruits ,fruit juices . Every morning the students are given a glass of Almond Milk which is very conducive for Pranayama practice .
Some restrictions :
All the students are required not to use cell phones , telephones ,emails etc during this 2 week period .It is a sort of Electronic detox for 2 weeks .However there is no Military like discipline enforced and students are morally expected to abide by these rules and many do so .

 Some background regarding the SI Course :
Everyone knows that Swami Vishnu devananda started the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres world over in late 60s and he was the person who first started the concept of  Yoga TTC , Yoga ATTCs etc . Before starting the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres , Swami Vishnu devananda was a disciple of Swami Sivananda in Rishikesh and he used to do intense Hatha Yoga Sadhana in his own hut in Uttar Kashi on his own and  developed enormous amount of Prana that he used later for his Yoga Mission world over . In Mid 80s some students of Swami Vishnu devananda in Quebec asked him about the secret of his abundant energy and he said that it was due to his intense Hatha Yoga Sadhana based on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika that he did on his own when he was a disciple of Swami Sivananda . The students wanted to know whether he is ready to share those Yogic secrets and Swami Vishnu devananda told that there is no secret in this sadhana but it involves a high degree of self discipline and self control as it is a very intense sadhana for many months to be done under seclusion under strict control of diet and other external factors . However seeing the interest in the students , Swami Vishnu devananda told that he will give a trailer to this sort of Sadhana and hence compressed the essence of this 6 month sadhana in 2 weeks so that people can get a feel of what it is to do undergo a rigorous yoga sadhana .This was how the SI course came in to being in 1986 at the Sivananda Ashram in Val Morin , Quebec ,Canada and slowly it came to be given even in their  Indian Ashrams .Swami Vishnu devananda designed it mainly for the Sivananda teachers / staff to energize themselves each year so that they turn out to to be better yoga teachers and are able to give more energy back to their students .

The Course Schedule :
All the students are required to get up early starting from 5 a.m in the beginning and as the course progress they need to get up still earlier at 4 a.m or so and after finish their bath , toilet they need to do the basic yogic kriyas on their own ( Jala Neti , Sutra Neti , Uddyana Bandha etc ) and assemble for the morning Satsang ( Group Prayer and Meditation ) . After the Meditation and Group Chanting is over , there is a talk on Adi Shankara's  Text Viveka Chudamani .After the satsang is over students are given a glass of Yogic  Almond Milk and they assemble for the instructions for the day . 
 First all the students chant the Sankalpa (i.e Vow ) for the day and then the teacher gives out the type of practice to be done for the day .All are required to do the basic Sivananda Asana routine of  Surya Namaskar and 12 basic postures to start with before starting the pranayama routine .  The main thing in this course is the pranayama practice . So each day the pranayama practices are given and their rounds keep increasing day by day and also new pranayama's are introduced progressively as the course progresses . So at the morning session the teacher introduces the new pranayama to the students and also demonstrates how it should be done . Later Mudras and Bandhas are also added and they are also demonstrated as and when they occur .
Initially the course starts with 2 sessions of practice , morning and evening and later it progresses to 3 sessions , early morning , mid morning and evening sessions .
After the morning session , students go for the lunch and later each student is given some work to do ( Karma Yoga ) and it can be cleaning the toilets , the yoga hall , the garden etc and it is usually kept mild and only for 30 mts or so .
Then the students assemble for the afternoon group discussion where the Hatha Yoga Pradipika text is read and discussed as well as each student shares his /her own morning sadhana as well as previous day's evening sadhana's experience . This is the time where the teacher sometimes modifies the practice for each student based on the problems they encounter .For some he may tell them to lower the counts , for others to lower the ratio ,for others to skip bandhas etc etc .
In afternoon the students are given a glass of some fruit juice or coconut water or water melon to cool the system .After this the next session of Sadhana starts .
In evening the students assemble for the supper and after that they assemble for the night meditation and satsang and at night the holy text SriMad Bhagavatahm is read and after that students retire to bed early and the schedule repeats again .
Sometimes early morning there is a Homa ( Fire Ritual done ) and sometimes in evening there is a Mass Lalitha Sahasranama or Vishnu Sahasranama Puja ( Ritual ) will be done .This is basically done to keep the negativity away and also to energize the students and the atmosphere of the entire ashram plus also to invoke the divine blessings .

 Experience of the students during and after the course :
 Each and every student has varied experience during and after the course and one cannot standardize the same .Some students cannot progress after a few days and hit a block and they struggle a lot in completing , some fall sick for a few days and then recover quickly  and some remain sick for a longer period .The sickness is due to the fact when the Sadhana is being done the body is getting purified  at the physical, mental and emotional level and all the toxins start coming out . That is why students are required to prepare themselves well for a few weeks / months before they do the course otherwise they will have a tough time during this course .Some students have a smooth sadhana for the entire 2 weeks , some have a sea saw like sadahana with its ups and downs .Initially it is very easy for some but later as it keeps getting tougher not many people can withstand it .But as I said earlier that this is not a military camp where people are forced to do everything that is being ordered . There is no compulsion or pressure on any student to do the day's practice . Each and every student is encouraged to do what is best for his /her own capacity and not to force themselves .In Ashtanga term this is like a sort of Mysore Style Pranayama practice - do what is within ur capacity .
Also students are advised not to put their Ego in to the practice and learn the art of surrendering as only divine grace can guide them to a successful practice .As a symbolic gesture of surrender and bhakti each and every student is required to prostrate at the altar before and after they finish their sadhana in each session .
Again after the course each and every student has a different experience and while some are motivated to repeat it again , others feel once is enough and that they do not have the courage to do it again .

My personal experience of the SI:

In 2009 when I first did the SI course  ,I had initial difficulty in adjusting to the course but was later able to pick up and move smoothly . In 2010 it was a smooth experience all along as I was more psychologically prepared .I had an intention of repeating this course in 2011 but then I did not have the favorable situation to do it .Anyway I was happy to do it twice and get a feel of what real Yoga  Sadhana means .
The SI course helps each student to understand what his /her own potential is ,evaluate his /her own commitment to the path of Yoga and for me it gave me a great shift in understanding the greatness of this wonderful Hatha Yoga Sadhana and pushed me further in to making Yoga as my entire life mission - not just as a career but to put my time ,energy and resources in going in to this subject of Yoga  deeply from various dimensions and bring out my own yoga teachings based on this personal discovery . Also after the SI course was over I was  getting lot of indirect signals not to get involved in any external activity that involved me being an extrovert but rather focus on those activities that helped me remain more in solitude and focus on my own personal sadhana at home . This upset many of my friends / relatives as I stopped interacting with them a lot , avoided taking part in functions , get togethers etc etc .Previously I used to run and help lot of people in doing lot of  their personal work or when they visit my town , I used to meet them / take them out etc but now I was saying a big NO to many of such things as all of those activities were sapping my energies and even when I tried doing them  ( after my SI experience ) I ended up burning my fingers  and this gave a clear indication to me that it is high time I put a full stop to such an activity . For some who are curious as to why this change in my attitude I tell them that after my SI have changed a lot and if they try to relate to me in the same way as they were with me before I did the SI course then they are in for a disappointment . Some are hurt by this , some are disappointed by this behavior of mine but I cant help it . I have to acknowledge this shift in me and respect it and move ahead in the way it wants me to go . But at the same time it helped me strengthen the bonds with some close friends , students within India and Abroad and with whom I share a very special spiritual bond  and they say that they feel  a  very special warming energy in my presence and I continue to nurture those good relationships and are also open to those sort of good relationships and now that I am on the path of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga /Structural Iyengar Yoga ,I am forming new friends through various Ashtanga/Iyengar  bloggers online and I hope to meet some of them in real life  and have wonderful discussions related to Yoga and other healing techniques .
I can continue to write many more as to how SI course helped me develop a big shift in my perceptions about my life in general and about my yoga sadhana in particular but I will reserve it for another day .The above is best what I can write about now .


  1. Krishna, thank you so much for writing this. It is very helpful to understand how it is done at the Sivananda ashram, and this is a very interesting program, I liked how it is tailored, and how it is up to the student, so the real intensity of the sadhana is revealed and only to onself. I understand they are not opening to anyone who has not done Sivananda TT, I suppose it means that once you make your choice of lineage, then such a rule discourages students from jumping around.

  2. Thank you for writing this, Krishna. I found it very interesting. I am currently looking to complete my first yoga teacher training, but the options are so vast it is difficult for me to choose one. Best, Aimee

  3. Thanks for this info Krishna,
    I'm doing the SI in Fance in August 2012 and I didn't find so much information on the net so your comment was very helpful,

  4. Thank you so much Krishna,I was searching for some info on SI.This is very useful.Planning to do SI in Sept 2013.

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