My Ashram Experience – Phool Chatti Ashram In Rishikesh, India

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It’s amazing where you will end up if you stop carefully analyzing situations and follow your instinct. That is how I ended up at Phool Chatti Ashram.

The day before I enrolled myself into a seven day introduction to ashram life, I paid a visit to the ashram located 5 km from Laxman Jhula, high up in the mountains in a lovely town called Rishikesh. As soon as I arrived at the ashram, two friendly dogs, a few dozen white pigeons, countless curious monkeys, a vast amount of vegetation and a lovely lady and ashram yoga instructor Lalita Ji greeted me. I felt an immediate sense of belonging and calmness take over my body and mind from the moment I stepped foot in the ashram. Without hesitation, I told Lalita Ji to sign me up for seven days of ashram life. At that point, I knew I was going to have a unique experience, but I didn’t know in seven days my life would drastically change.

My ashram life consisted of following a rigorous schedule that began each morning at 5:30 AM and ended at 9 PM. Each activity from dinnertime at 7:30 PM until after lunch at 1 PM the next day was done in complete silence. The daily program was as follows:

Wake-up Bell (5:30 AM) – At 5:30 AM sharp, the bell would ring for everyone at the ashram to wake up and start their day. You’d think when there would be conflicts when ten people are sharing one bathroom, but it worked out that everyone got as much time at they needed without any frustrating.

Meditation (6 AM – 6:30 AM) – At 6 AM each morning, the meditation hall would smell like sandalwood incense and be lit by a single candle. Here, I would sit in half lotus position, close my eyes and try and still my mind. I found morning meditation to be the most difficult as my my mind was awake and excited for the day ahead. Throughout the week, I got better at morning meditation and found it an essential part to the beginning of my day as it made me more aware to my surroundings and helped me to really live in the present moment.

Mantra Chanting (6:30 AM – 6:45 AM) – This involves the repetition of sacred Sanskirt sounds to enter into clearer states of consciousness. Different sounds have different effects on human psych and can uplift you to a higher self and you develop mindfulness. The sound of the mantra is a mental object, and paying attention to the sound of the mantra can be a form of meditation. Bringing the mind back over and over again to the mantra, the mind can become more unified and less scattered. We become more attentive and present. I found this to be very fun and revitalizing exercise. It really calmed the mind and brought a lot of positive energy and calmness to everyone.

Yogic Cleansing (6:45 AM – 7 AM) – This technique involved clearing the nasal and sinus passages with warm water and salt using a nati pot. The process involves pouring the water down one nostril at a time and tilting the head so that the water runs through the nasal passage and out the opposite nostril. During this process, it is important to open your mouth so you are able to breath. As complicated as this sounds, it’s actually a very easy process that anyone can do and is very healthy for the body.

Breathing Awareness (Pranayama) & Hatha Yoga (7 AM – 8:45 AM) – Traditional Hatha Yoga is a holistic yogic path, including disciplines, physical postures (asana), purification procedures (shatkriya), poses (mudra), breathing (pranayama), and meditation. The breathing exercises helped to get rid of any excess water from the sinuses from doing the yogic cleansing. Taking deep clean breaths in and out helps to get rid of all the bad air and fills your body with clean air. This practice leaves you feeling refreshed and calm.

Breakfast (9 AM) – The bell rang at 9 AM, just after we completed our daily Hatha Yoga and breakfast consisting of porridge, fruit and chai was served. Everyone enjoyed their breakfast in complete silence, appreciating and enjoying each bite. We all sat in the courtyard where the birds chirped in the trees surrounding us, the water flowed from Ganga behind us and sun shone from the sky above us. I’ve never enjoyed breakfast as much as I did at the ashram. 

Karma Yoga (10 AM – 10:30 AM) – After breakfast each day, everyone staying in the ashram was assigned a daily chore. Whether it was cleaning the washrooms, sweeping the courtyard or tossing out the garbage, everyone worked together to make sure the ashram was kept clean. This is known as Karma Yoga which means performing selfless actions as to benefit others without expecting anything in return.

Contemplative Walk (10:30 AM – 12:30 PM) – This was my favorite part of the day as walking mindfully in nature, with all of your senses alert, is a very special experience. Each day I walked through nature, to beautiful waterfalls in the mountains to bathing streams along the Ganga. The walks were done in complete silence which allowed me to connect with myself and nature like I’ve never done before. When you walk in silence and focus on each step you take and breath you breathe, you are able to really feel present which makes you feel so alive. Having the ability to only focus on the present allowed me to see, smell and feel nature on an entirely different level. I felt like I began a new relationship with nature and had a better understanding and appreciation for all living things.

Lunch/Tea Time (12:30 PM) – Lunch time was in complete silence. It always consisted of chapati, vegetables and dal. I tired to close my eyes while the meal was being served and just relax and breathe in the smell of the spices. When everyone was serve their meal, we gave thanks to our food and ate. I ate very slowly to enjoy each and every bite. I examined my food before I put it in my mouth and thought of the process it took to get on my my fork. I chewed each bit slowly to feel the texture of the food and taste and really appreciate the flavours  It was a really different way to eat and a much more enjoyable experience. It’s also good for the body as well as the spirit.

Free Time (12:30 PM – 3 PM) – This time was spent doing whatever I wished. It could be doing chores such as laundry, practicing meditation, having deep conversations with people or being silent with nature.

Lecture & Discussion (3 PM – 4 PM) – This involved discussions between the whole group staying at the ashram along with Lalita Ji and Spiritual Guide Randi Ji, on how to apply ancient yoga philosophies to modern life. This was also a time when we could share our experiences at the ashram and ask questions or seek advice on the path of spirituality.

Breathing Awareness & Astanga Yoga (4 PM – 5:45 PM) – Astanga Yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures—a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind. This was my favorite type of yoga. It challenged me and helped me to become more flexible and strong.

Temple Ritual and Bhajans (after sunset) – Each night we gathered around the temple at the ashram to participate or watch the evening pooja. This was a special event each night as it was an opportunity to witness and take part in the dedication to the Hindu Gods. After the short bus sweet temple ceremony, we gathered in the music room where we each played an instruments while chanting various mantras that were dedications to the Hindu Gods. Religious or not, it was a positive atmosphere filled with joy, laughter, peace and calmness.

Dinner (7:30 PM) – The dinner always consisted of chapati, vegetables and dal. Every meal was slightly different each night, but all were very tasty. Dinner was eaten in the dining hall in complete silence just as lunch and breakfast.

Meditation (8:30 PM – 9 PM) – This was one of my favorite part of the day. During this time, we did thirty minutes of various type of meditation. We did guided, self, music and mantra meditation, all which were unique experiences that had different effects on me. One night we did a mantra meditation that brought me into a whole new level of consciousness that I had never experiences before. The briefest and clearest way I can explain this is I was able to place my mind in the gap that exists between my thoughts. I was able to not think at all for a long period of time, yet I was completely conscious of it. This was an amazing experience that has changed my life.

On the sixth day, everyone at the ashram collected a bunch of wood and made a massive bond fire. Here we shared sweets and chai, sang songs and laughed. On the seventh day, we had a fire ceremony where we wrote down something that we wanted to get rid of in our lives and offered it to the God Ganesh (remover of obstacles).

At the end of the seven days I spent in the ashram, I felt an amazing sense of self and strong connection with the here and now. I felt like I could appreciate each moment that I was living and feel present in that moment. I’ve started a new relationship with nature that continues to grow each day. I appreciate everything more and respect all living beings more. This is truly the beginning of something special and every moment feels like the best moment of my life.

 

 

 

 

 


Have you ever stayed in an ashram? What was your experience like?

Kristen Sarah is a full-time traveller, tiny home owner and adventure junkie. She has one of the leading YouTube travel channels and is the head honcha of award-winning travel and lifestyle website, Hopscotch the Globe.
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36 Comments

  1. Amit
    July 6, 2017 / 5:46 am

    Hello,

    I was just reading the excellent book “Sacred Waters” by Stephen Alter and stumbled on this site while looking for the three-and-a-half day hiking (pilgrim) route from Phoot Chatti to Devprayag.

    Great reading for nature and spirituality. Guests before me asking about hiking options may also benefit.

    Thanks for a terrific blog.

    Amit

  2. ku.r.jayah
    May 7, 2017 / 9:01 am

    harekrishna! i am women 48 age spinster and i would like to lead my rest of my life till krishna takes me with him in ashram by doing some service .is there any ashram to accomdate me.anyone knows details about this kindly rerly.Harekrishna

  3. April 21, 2017 / 9:17 am

    Hello !
    Thanks for the article. I was in India, thinking going to Ashram, and I was looking for one.
    I saw you article, and I really had a good feeling with PHOOL CHATTI ASHRAM.

    So I decided to get in. I spent 1 week there and it was such a great experience ! I really learnt so many things about myself.
    I also enjoyed Rishikesh. I\’m going tomorrow to Haridwar then Varanasi.

    Thank you for giving in a way the chance to spend time in this Ashram, and change a part of my life 🙂

    Stan Malko (From France)

  4. March 3, 2016 / 3:17 pm

    Hi there! Great article you have, I would also want to share my thoughts that Meditation indeed has positive effects not only in the body but also in the mind, a total holistic wellness that brings us to know our inner-self better. It gives us a peace of mind that helps us have a much better perception about our lives.
    Our advocacy is to promote the positive effects of meditation, yoga and inner wellness.
    Help us, visit our website at http://www.iamthechangeiseek.org and also http://www.goodreads.com/kathleensuneja. You can also download the app at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.goodbarber.iamthechange.
    Thank you and have a great day!

  5. January 23, 2016 / 2:58 pm

    Amazing ddescription.

  6. Ekaterina
    June 30, 2015 / 7:03 am

    Hello! Please advise is it possible to use phone? not to chat with someone but to let my family know I feel good. Is there time to visit Rishikesh? Or you stay the whole week in the asram without goinhg outside? What are the condisions for sleeping? how many persons per room? You said it’s one bathroom and toilet, right? Is it allowed to read and to write? Cause I read about some ashrams where it’s not allowed. Thank you.

    I’m laning my trin middle september – as I have only 2 weeks consider 1 week in ashram and 1 week somewhere in Kerala also for youga, meditation and ayurveda. May be can advise something in this region.

    • July 1, 2015 / 9:27 am

      Yes you can use your phone outside of the Ashram if you absolutely need to but it’s advised not to as this is a silent retreat. You will be in and around the ashram for the week and won’t have time to explore Rishikesh while you are at the ashram. You can either pay extra to have your own room at the ashram or they will partner you up in a room with someone else but you will have your own bed. The bed and rooms are clean and comfortable. I believe there were 2 toilets in total. Yes, you can absolutely read and write. In fact, it’s encouraged and will make your experience that more valuable. If you are looking to do yoga in the south of India, check out Mysore.

    • November 21, 2016 / 3:23 am

      I feeling alone in all time I don’t want to stay here my parents don’t love me please relief me from here

  7. Lene Pels
    January 17, 2015 / 8:10 am

    Hi + thanks for sharing your experience and pics from the Phool Chatti ashram. I am looking around the net and talking to people who’ve been to Rishikesh – I was recommended the Kriya Yoga Ashram closer to the town – but it looks so big and from a video seemingly very noisy. I am seeking a quiet place, so the Phool Chatti ashram seems to fit that need. Do you have any idea of the cost for 7 days? Are we talking 100’s of us$? I hear Kriya Yoga Ashram is about $8 a day and you can sort of just do what you want and show up when you want (?)… in other words it’s up to you how you structure your day. Maybe that’s why it’s so cheap. I’d perhaps like a longer stay – so mayb start with Phool Chatti and the very structured program and then perhaps find a moore loose ashram….any suggestions? Best wishes , Lene

    • January 21, 2015 / 4:37 pm

      Hi Lene! I loved Phool Chatti when I was there. It was very quite since it’s up in the mountains away from the hustle and bustle of Luxman Jhula. On top of that, the retreats are silent, so there is no talking allowed except during reflection time. It didn’t cost me much when I was there. I think $100 for a week…maybe less. They have changed their prices. I would say email them to find out, but I checked out many ashrams while I was there and this was one was the best in my opinion. http://www.phoolchattiyoga.com/

  8. ravi
    October 10, 2014 / 7:56 pm

    Heading to Rishikesh in couple of hours from Delhi. Would love to stay there for few days and be one with residents there. Do they accept walk in aspirants?
    Ravi

    • October 11, 2014 / 11:59 am

      Hi Ravi! How lucky are you!? Rishikesh is my favourite place. I’m not sure if they will take walk ins. You would need to call them or head up there to meet with them and ask. It all depends on the time of year. Things are always changing.

  9. naven
    April 2, 2014 / 9:24 am

    whats are cost to stay at pool chatti ashram.
    i want to do something different for my 40th birthday and would like to just drop in at on of the soul cleansing ashrams. any ideas for me?

    warm regards
    naven

    • April 7, 2014 / 10:50 am

      Hi Naven. I’m not too sure how much it costs at the moment. The last time I heard was that the price increased a little bit. I would send them over an email to see what their rates are. I also stayed at ashrams that only charged me a couple of dollars for my room. The vegan farm I stayed at in the south also worked the same way. I paid $50 for 2 weeks I believe and that covered food costs. Of course, I spent my days working on the farm and within the community..but that’s part of it all. Sounds like a great way to spend you 40th birthday!

  10. March 30, 2013 / 9:40 pm

    Hi Kristen, thanks so much for your write up of your stay at Phool Chatti. I came across it whilst searching reviews. I’m intending to head to head there 29th Sept-5th Oct this year, which will include my 40th birthday. I’m a solo female traveller so pleased to hear the area is safe. Trying to get my head round Rishikesh and what else there is in the area, and have read some talk of some yoga teachers not being 100% legit. So am glad to hear everything is fine with this place. Also that Rishikesh can be reached by walking from there. I really am looking forward to bathing in the Ganges on my 40th, seeing waterfalls (one of my favourite things!) and doing as much yoga exercise as possible. I feel much more happy to go ahead and book now I have read your blog. I will have 2 weeks after this to see more of India, but thought I may go to the Hill Top Swiss in Rishikesh for a couple of days (to see more of Rishikesh). I might like to see Varanasi, Haridwar, and/or Shimlar in this time. Although I would LOVE to go on a trek or see National Parks. Do you know if there is anything within easy reach of Rishikesh? Thanks again 🙂

    • kristenj
      March 30, 2013 / 10:16 pm

      You’re going to fall in LOVE with Rishikesh because it’s really hard not to. I ended up travelling around South East Asia after spending 3 months in India and day dreaming about Rishikesh…so i ended up going back for another couple of months instead of going to Laos and Vietnam. Rishikesh is one of my favrouite places in the world. You can rent a moped and explore nearby cities. It’s really fun to do that. You can find a lot of things to do around the area and within in Rishikesh. There are quite a few waterfalls to hike to nearby. The one near Phool Chati is my favourite waterfall. It’s also easy to get to Dharamsala from Rishikesh. So if you want to head more north, I would suggest also going there. This is the place where many Tibetan refugees live and is home to the Dalai Lama. Really beautiful place to spend some time. Enjoy!

  11. September 26, 2012 / 11:07 pm

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  12. Letty
    September 26, 2012 / 1:59 pm

    Hello Kristen,
    Great to read this experience. I will stay in Phool Chatti at the end of October and your story gives me more understanding of what I can expect. I have some questions.
    1. Is it possible to walk from Rishikesh to Phool Chatti? (because I will stay 4 weeks in Rischikesh and want to have a look at Phool Chatti as soon as I arive)
    2. Is it okay to walk around Rishikesh and around Phool Chatti when you are a woman alone?
    3. What is the weather at the end of October and the beginning of November?
    4. Is it really necessary to wear white clothes?
    5. Is it posible to skip some yoga if it is to heavy (because I have some problems with my back)
    I would realy appriciate it if yoy could answer this questions!
    With love!
    Letty

    • kristenj
      September 27, 2012 / 2:15 am

      Hi Letty!

      How exciting! You will be in Rishikesh the same time I was there the first time I went. To answer your questions:
      1. Yes, it is possible to walk to Phool Chatti. I would stay in Luxman Jhula because it will be closer. It might take you a little bit to get there but if you ask people where it is they will direct you.
      2. Yes of course. Rishikesh is the calmess most friendlist, save place. I never once felt in danger at any time. Just try to avoid going along the Ganga at night alone. Basically use common sense. Don’t go anywhere that is dark and secluded by yourself..that kind of thing.
      3. It will be perfect weather. Not too hot, not too cold. I would wear a sweater in the early mornings for meditation, but then it would get hot during the day. It’s the best time to be there.
      4. On the last day of your stay in Phool Chatti, there is a ceremony and everyone wears white. It represents purity and cleansing yourself. It’s not a must, but you will want to, trust me.
      5. You only do what your body tells you you can do. You will tell the teacher at the beginning if you have problems and she will work with you.

      Hope thisanswers everything!

      Have SO MUCH fun!

      Kristen xxx

    • September 30, 2012 / 3:43 pm

      Dear Kristen,

      Thank you for your clear answers. I will buy some wite clothes in Rishkesh. I am looking forward to be at Phool Chatti.

      I have an other question. Do have experiences with trekkings when you stayed in Rishikesh. We want to do a trekking (5-7 days) and saw a lot of possibilities on the internet, perhaps you have an advice.

      With warm regards
      Letty

  13. Nilla
    September 25, 2012 / 12:58 pm

    Hi Kirsten. thank you for sharing your experience at Phool Chatti. We have been in contact with this ashram and are planning to spend a week there this x-mas. What time of the year were you there? I’m afraid it will be very could when we’re going. Is there anything you suggest we should bring with us? Or something we should quiery after before our visit?
    Are you an experience yoga practitioner? We have quite different levels of experience.

    • kristenj
      September 27, 2012 / 2:20 am

      Hi Nilla,

      Christmas time will be cold. I had to buy a winter jacket and wear all of my clothing under it. haha. I don’t even think the ashram is open to outsiders around that time? I may be mistaken, but I’d double check. I went in October and November and left in December right when it was getting really cold.

      I would just suggest bringing warm clothing. The ashram has everything else you need, and so does Rishikesh.I would also bring a notebook. You may want to write down your experiences. Everything else I would bring is just the basics you would bring anywhere. The doors have locks and they will give you a key to the room as well. Everything is really clean and the food is great.

      This experience at Phool Chatti was my first real experience with yoga. I had done some yoga at the gym previous to this, but this experience was my introduction into this lifestyle and I learned A LOT. No matter what level you are at, you will benefit from this experience.

      Kristen xxx

  14. April 16, 2012 / 12:41 pm

    beautiful experience. It would be quite challenging for me, as my mind is never quiet. I feel like an ashram experience would be exactly like Elizabeth Gilbert’s (book Eat Pray Love) to me. Prob a journey I should def. try one day. Beautiful way to put it, loved the post, saved it for future reference. 

    • Anonymous
      April 16, 2012 / 1:12 pm

      It was and always will be a challenge to quiet the mind, but this experience was one of the best I’ve ever had.  I’ve never felt so close to nature and all of my senses were heightened. It was really amazing.  This is also where I fell in love with yoga.  You should definitely try it one day.  It’s a challenge, but so rewarding.

  15. March 2, 2012 / 6:16 pm

    I so want to try this while I am there, but don’t know if I can do it. We’ll see how it goes…

    • Anonymous
      March 2, 2012 / 10:10 pm

      It was one of my most memorable experiences.  I really learned a lot and saw life in a new way.

  16. October 26, 2011 / 11:48 pm

    ben yalvardım hep tanrıya sen diye!

  17. shantaram
    October 10, 2011 / 11:01 pm

    It is been wonderfull to find someone has been there and describe it because i am going in 10 days to this ashram and i was a little afraid about i was going to find there, now i more looking forward to arrive to Phool chatti ashram!!! thank you for sharing your experience!!

    • Anonymous
      October 11, 2011 / 1:12 pm

      Hi shantaram!  First of all, great name. I love that book!  I am so excited you will be going to Phool Chatti.  You are going to be there at the same time I was last year.  That’s so exciting.  I’m pretty jealous I must add. Just go in, with an open heart and mind and try to do the 7 days without talking.  Trust me, it add A LOT to the experience.  I’d love to hear about what your time at Phool Chatti.  You should send me over an email when your done.  Have an amazing time in Rishikesh!  It’s the best place ever.

      • Shantaram
        October 12, 2011 / 12:15 pm

        Hi!! Thank you i like this name too, i have the book but i didnt finish yet hehe… so you were without talking seven days really??? well  i dont know if i could do ..hehe
        I was in Rishikesh last year the same period more or less when the yoga festival was, i really loved the stay there thats why i want to come back again, 
        i will tell you how was my experience in Phool chatti 
        ciao!!

  18. Cheryl
    September 3, 2011 / 11:01 pm

    Great writing and summary – I plan to be here in 8 weeks.  Thank you for sharing.

    • Anonymous
      October 11, 2011 / 1:12 pm

      Cheryl!  I’d love to hear about your experience at Phool Chatti.  Send me an email if you’re up for it!

  19. November 13, 2010 / 8:00 am

    I have not much time, but I’ve got many useful things here, love it!

  20. Beth
    November 11, 2010 / 9:32 am

    Holy kamoke girl…hm…I’m thinking next xmas I’ll have to hit up this ashram!!! Awesome!! ~Beth 🙂

  21. Siya Zarrabi
    November 7, 2010 / 10:56 pm

    Incredible.

    I feel more relaxed and connected just reading that. Their daily activities are so beneficial and spirited. It would be very relaxing to be in silence for the majority of each day, it gives you a chance to absorb your surroundings. The food portion stuck out to me because I never stop to think about the growth process of what i’m eating and marvel of natures creations.

    I can tell you are changed, your thoughts are clearer and your spirit is glowing.

    I look forward to your teachings.

  22. Alvin Monteiro
    November 7, 2010 / 11:38 am

    Hi Kristen,

    Greetings from Malaysia, my name is Alvin. I came across your blog and reading through what you are doing now, I am totally amazed with your RTW plan. Somehow I would love to do a RTW trip as well, but at the moment I just have to put it on hold until I have a solid financial to support myself. I bet the ashram experience is just one of the many wonderful experiences that you are going to share with your readers. I am looking forward to read your blog and be inspired! 🙂 Happy travel and have a safe trip. Till I read the next posting 🙂

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