Free yoga resource library

What Is An Ashram?

ashram life

Ashrams have existed in India for thousands of years, functioning as centres of spiritual inspiration, teachings and dedicated practice.

They were often located in remote regions, amidst forests or mountains, but this was not always so. Most villages would have had an ashram of some kind, where the sacred teachings were passed on.

Ashrams still exist high in the Himalayas and in other secluded spots in India, set apart from the noise and busyness of the world to facilitate deep reflection and focus. And they can also still be found nestled within villages, as well as in towns and cities - there are over 300 ashrams in Delhi alone. Further, since the 1960’s a few authentic ashrams have been founded outside India, such as Mandala Yoga Ashram here in Wales.

Ashrams now range from one-person establishments with barely enough room for a handful of visitors to stay, to large institutions with hundreds or even thousands of residents.

Ashrams differ from monasteries in that for most people a visit to an ashram is a temporary retreat rather than a permanent withdrawal from the world. At the same time, a stay in an ashram is also significantly different from attending a workshop or course at a retreat centre.

An authentic ashram is a sacred place where the atmosphere is charged with transformative energy, built up over time through the presence of an enlightened teacher and/or a long period of continuous spiritual practice.

They are usually basic in material terms, providing a simple environment that is light on modern comforts and largely free from the usual distractions of modern life. But on the other hand they are rich in spirit.

People generally go to an ashram to find space to reflect on the deeper meaning or purpose of their life, to study a particular teaching or set of teachings, or for a period of intensive spiritual practice. Moreover, at most ashrams there is a strong spirit of selfless service and an ethos of working towards a goal that is greater than one’s own ego-fulfillment. Different ashrams emphasise different paths and teachings, but all share a broadly similar ethos of focused endeavour aimed at inner growth and transformation. 

If we look at the etymology of the word ashram we find the Sanskrit root śram, which means ‘hard work’ or 'toil', with the prefix ā meaning ‘towards’. So, we can see that ashrams are places where we can ‘work towards’ a particular goal. Ashrams are indeed often places of deep inner work, and at times intensive physical endeavour too, with the goal being the realisation and expression of deeper understanding, wisdom and joy.

This generally requires facing and resolving our deep-seated personal problems and negative tendencies so that we can become free from their destructive hold on us - an arduous task which can be very grueling ‘toil’ indeed!

The word ashram also has another Sanskrit root: ashraya – meaning ‘refuge’ or ‘retreat’. This meaning points towards the fact that undertaking inner work within an environment set-up for the purpose can be of enormous value. There are two main reasons for this.

Firstly, because the material simplicity of ashram life and its freedom from distractions runs us quickly up against aspects of ourselves that we can otherwise easily avoid. This brings clear focus to the task at hand. And secondly because the issues or blocks we are faced with can then be worked on under the guidance of a wise and experienced teacher or teachers and within a supportive community of others on a similar path. Together, these two aspects of heightened awareness of internal realities and the support of teachings, teacher and community are a powerful combination that can truly help us to catalyse a transformation of our life.

In this way, the ashram tradition is as relevant today as it ever was.

By providing a focused space for us to look inwards to see how we function on a deeper level, and the multifaceted support to help us deal with what we find, they facilitate a process that is valuable both to the individual and to society. For the more deeply we can engage with this process the more spiritual nourishment and inner strength we uncover in ourselves, which not only brings deeper meaning and joy to our own lives but also gives birth to gifts we can share with the world.

The Ashram Sangha

The Ashram Sangha is our online community, a space where those who feel a connection with the Ashram can receive ongoing teachings and support from us in the comfort of their own homes. It's our way of making the teachings and spiritual life of the Ashram as accessible as possible to anyone anywhere in the world.

The Ashram Sangha is offered as a subscription service, 14-day free trial and then only £25 per month (cancel anytime).

As a member of the Sangha you will receive the following:

· daily and weekly practices delivered to your inbox
· one 1-hour live practice session per week
· open access to our monthly live online mini-retreats
· inner-circle membership of our online yoga community space

Find out more and start your free trial today

Receive Ashram Teachings Straight Into Your Inbox

Sign-up below and we'll send you new teachings and practices as soon as they appear in our resource library.

Mandala Yoga Ashram | Online Yoga Courses

Online Courses

We offer two kinds of online course: live courses broadcast via Zoom, and self-study courses provided through our own online portal.

Browse our online courses
Mandala Yoga Ashram | Online Community

Ashram Sangha

The Ashram Sangha is our new online hub, a space for us to support all those who feel a connection with the Ashram, its teachings, and its vibrant yoga community.

Find out more
Swami Nishchalananda | Mandala Yoga Ashram

Online Satsang

Join Swami Nishchalananda on Zoom for one-hour satsang sessions. These free sessions usually take place twice per month. Register below to receive invites.

Register for Satsang

Residential Retreats

Our residential retreats are rare opportunities to go deep into the mysteries of yoga in an environment of great natural beauty and focused spiritual energy. Set in 25 acres of lush gardens and grounds, nestling amidst beautiful, remote hill-country in Southwest Wales, UK, the Ashram has been a hub of spiritual practice for over 35 years. During that time it has been a place of profound learning and transformation for thousands of people from all walks of life. We currently offer fully residential retreat courses of between 2 and 10 days in length, as well as longer sadhana courses combining multiple residential retreats with guided home-study.

Explore our residential retreats

Our Founder

Mandala Yoga Ashram was founded in 1986 by Swami Nishchalananda on his return from India after spending 14 years with his Guru, Swami Satyananda, studying all aspects of yoga and imbibing the true essence of this ancient tradition. Swami Nishchalanda ('Swamiji') is recognised as a genuine Yoga Acharya - a Master of Yoga.
More about Swamiji

Charitable Status

The Ashram is a registered charity whose mission is to uplift humanity through the teachings of yoga, advaita and tantra. As an independent institution not affiliated to any set of religious beliefs, the purpose of the Ashram is simply to help people to remember their own sacredness and the sacredness of all that exists.
Registered Charity No. 1195209
Donate to the Ashram

Our Address

Mandala Yoga Ashram
Pantypistyll, Llansadwrn, Llanwrda,
Wales, UK, 
SA19 8NR
Tel: +44 (0)1558 685358
Email: [email protected]
Contact us

Join our mailing list