How to find an authentic ashram in India for a yoga retreat

Staying in an ashram while visiting India is a great way to learn new things about yourself while discovering inner peace and learning new ways of interacting with the people and world around you. However, not all ashrams are created equally, and while some offer the real deal in terms of a spiritual retreat, others are merely tourist traps.

Here are a few tips to help you choose the right ashram:

Kids learning yoga along the Ganges River, Varanasi.
Kids learning yoga along the Ganges River, Varanasi.

Decide what you want from the experience

Some ashrams focus largely on meditation, while others offer an extensive yoga programme. Although many ashrams seem similar at first glance, they all vary in terms of what they offer as well as the setting and the type of people they attract.

Before deciding on a particular ashram it is important to take a little time to think about what you want to study or learn and find an ashram that meets your needs. If you decide to stay at an ashram that focuses on yoga, it is also worth bearing in mind that there are many different kinds of yoga, so choose the type of types of yoga that you enjoy.

Choose your location

Ashrams can be found scattered all over India and some are easier to get to than others. Many of the ashrams in areas of India that are popular with tourists tend to attract large numbers of backpackers who visit in search of a little spirituality.

If you are looking for a tranquil experience you might find that you are better off avoiding these touristy mountain towns and finding an ashram that is situated a little more off the beaten path.

Vishalakshi Mantap at Art of Living Ashram, Bangalore, India
Vishalakshi Mantap at Art of Living Ashram, Bangalore, India

Check out the lodgings

Generally speaking, your ashram lodging will be basic, although some are naturally more basic than others. If you are used to staying in luxurious hotel rooms, you may want to seriously consider whether you will be comfortable sleeping on a thin mattress on the floor.

Many authentic ashrams will allow you to exchange labour for lodging and meals, which tend to be vegetarian.


Most genuine ashrams are not run to make a profit and will not charge a fee. These establishments run on donations and people are invited to contribute what they can afford. If staying at an ashram comes with a hefty price tag, the chances are that the centre has been created mainly with profit in mind.

A sadhu at Vashista Ashram in Guwahati, Assam, India
A sadhu at Vashista Ashram in Guwahati, Assam, India

Research the gurus

The style of the person teaching you will tend to vary as much as the actual ashram itself and it is a good idea to check this out in advance. Some ashrams may not have an English speaking teacher on hand, while others may simply offer accommodation and do not provide a teacher at all.

Seek out recommendations

The best way to find an authentic ashram is to search the internet for recommendations. Traveller’s boards on various websites often feature recommendations as well as reviews of various ashrams.

Some of the most popular in India include the Isla Foundation Ashram, the Art of Living Ashram and the Osho Ashram in Pune.

Check out momondo’s flights to India page for more information about India during different times of the year, as well as the best value flights to any of the cities you choose to have your retreat!

Photos credit: Brian Holsclaw, Gaurav Mathur and Giridhar Appaji Nag Y.

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