"Life is a race, every day we work mindlessly to achieve goals set by the respective companies that we are working for and sometimes feel stuck in this vicious cycle. Society has set certain boundaries, taught us perceptions and we have grown up believing the same. Nobody ever questions this cycle.", said my friend who has recently quit his well-paid corporate job to join Isha Foundation as a volunteer.
And in an instant, I realized I am no different, I also have learned what society has taught me and I only occasionally dare to raise questions. Well, my mind remains clogged with so many thoughts, so many fears and there's a constant fight between choosing what I am passionate about or the corporate job.
So, when I heard about Isha Foundation I was immediately convinced to go there. It is a huge foundation started by Sadhguru who promotes Yoga and its vast spectrum of benefits. They also explain how yoga and meditation can help you to have clarity of thoughts.
With a lot of curiosity, I researched a bit more about Isha Foundation and decided to visit the center in Coimbatore. I quickly dropped an email for the inquiry and got the revert within a day.
The very first thing that must be kept in mind is that you don't need to be Sadhguru's or Hinduism follower to go there and they do not force you to be one either. I am also not a fan of places that rigorously promote religious propaganda. This place has more to do with Yoga and Meditation purely. As I sipped my coffee sitting in the café at Isha Foundation I looked around the people from across the globe who have flown this far to find the purpose of their lives.
How to reach
The nearest airport is Coimbatore Airport, 35KM away from the yoga center. You can hire a cab which will take around 1.5 hours to reach the center.
To my great surprise, there are regular bus services available from the Gandhipuram Bus station. There is a separate stop inside the bus station where you will find buses going only to Isha Foundation. You can quickly recognize the stop as there is a creative installation there dedicated to Isha Foundation. Every day hundreds of people commute to the center by bus. Bus tickets will cost only 40 INR per person.
You can also choose to drive from Coimbatore or any nearby city like Bangalore.
Coimbatore is well connected to all major cities like Bangalore. Ticket will cost you 700-900 INR per person for AC 3 Tier compartment from Bangalore. You can hop on a local bus from Gandhipuram bus station which is 1 KM away from the Coimbatore railway station.
Apt Time to visit
You can visit here all through the year, every day they have some new activities for volunteers as well for first-time visitors. But yes, there are certain occasions like Mahashivratri, Full Moon night, etc when they conduct exclusive activities. Now Mahashivratri is very auspicious for them because Lord Shiva is the originator of Yoga and is also known as Adiyogi (means the first yogi in the universe). There is a flood of people visiting the yoga center during Mahashivaratri. Please ensure you plan well in advance.
The Ashram provides luxurious as well as economical accommodations. Exuding a serene ambiance, the accommodation at the Isha Yoga Center welcomes you into a relaxing space.
There are around 70 rooms at Nalanda Conference Center. These are slightly expensive yet the most comfortable rooms. These rooms have Ensuite bathrooms & basic amenities and are fully furnished. Non-AC rooms are available starting at 2,500 INR & air-conditioned rooms from 3,500 INR per night. You can avail of a discount if you take up the volunteering program.
Nadhi & Alayam cottages
Nadhi & Alayam are basic rooms the same as the rooms of a 3-star hotel. It has a twin bed, functional space, and attached washrooms. Charges per night start at 1300 INR depending upon the number of occupants.
Thennai is the cheapest option available in private rooms. There are two-story houses with one room at the ground level and others at the top. The area is surrounded by trees and plants and looks very beautiful. Rooms are tiny with attached a bathroom, floor mattresses and can accommodate only two people in one room. Also, if you need hot water for bathing you have to collect it in a bucket from utility area nearby.
All the above room rates include two-time meals at Biksha Hall. I would recommend booking the rooms two weeks before your visit.
If you've signed up as a volunteer, you can stay for free at Volunteer Accommodation. It is a big hall with bunker beds and common washrooms. But for volunteering, you must have completed at least one Isha Yoga Program before-hand like Inner Re-engineering.
You can inquire for accommodations at https://isha.sadhguru.org/center/isha-yoga-center-coimbatore/accomodation
The premises of Isha Foundation is huge, huge in a way that will go beyond your imagination. It is spread over an area of 150 acres at the foothills of Velliangiri Hills. There is a huge snake sculpture at the entrance gate, the other side of the entrance gate is from where people head towards Adiyogi sculpture.
Once you enter the campus, there is a concrete pathway that leads you inside through security checkpoints. On one side of the pathway, there are shops selling snacks, beverages, and souvenirs. Camera, mobile phone etc are not allowed inside the premise if you've come for one day visit. However, if you're staying at the center, you're allowed to carry your thing but remember photography is prohibited.
Don't expect that you're going to chill there and do nothing because for every day they have a schedule of different activities that you can participate in. Although there's no compulsion of getting involved in each of them but to understand the motive of yoga I would recommend being active as much as possible. Also, as the campus is huge and certain areas are under construction so you might struggle a bit to find places. Ask people around you for the directions otherwise, you will end up wasting a lot of time. Be ready to walk a lot, all the venues are far off from each other. There's no harm in walking a little extra, right?
People from Across the Globe
You will find people of every age at Isha Foundation doing yoga and meditation. The vibes are very much different and will instantly give you relief. Around 2000 volunteers are living at the center. It has thousands of visitors coming in every day from a variety of cultural, religious, and economic backgrounds. Many seeking just spirituality and a healthier lifestyle.
During my two days there I didn't hear a word about "god." People don't talk about heaven or hell, superhuman controls, or victory over evil. Instead, they talk about ways to improve lifestyle and consciousness.
Inside the Yoga
Centre Dhyanalinga Shrine
The main attraction of Isha Yoga center is the Dhyanalinga Yogic Shrine. Dhyanalinga Yogic Shrine is a spherical pillar-less brick dome somewhat similar to popular Hindu Shivalinga.
At the entrance, there are volunteers carrying placards to instruct the visitors to stay silent. No one is allowed to speak once they have entered inside the shrine. The most intriguing part is you're not supposed to pray or perform any ritual, instead, you have to practice meditation at the temple. There's utter silence inside, you can listen to your own breath. The vibes inside the shrine were so serene that they helped me to calm myself down. As I continued to unwind myself, I slowly became more aware of my subconscious thoughts. I'm not lying when I say that after 15 minutes, I almost dozed off. In fact, some people were snoring as they passed out while meditating. Imagine how soothing it was that your tired mind immediately convinced you to sleep.
The Linga Bhairavi Shrine or Devi temple
This temple has same religious vibes just like any other Hindu Devi Temple. The devi at this temple is also said to fulfil wishes of devotees. As per Sadhguru all that human beings consider as wellbeing will be theirs, if only they earn the Grace of Bhairavi. A few volunteers can be seen deeply meditating in the corners of the temple. I concluded that all you need is a place with good vibes and it gets easier to meditate.
The Adiyogi statue is a 34-meter-tall excluding plinth, 45-metre-long and 7.62-metre-wide statue & has been recognized by the Guinness World Records as the "Largest Bust Sculpture" in the world. On weekends and some special occasions, they conduct a laser show at Adiyogi statue which I would recommend everyone to watch. During the show, they explain about the origin of Yoga and the concept of Adiyogi through light & sound. Before the show, they chant some soul-soothing mantras which would give you goosebumps.
Biksha Hall is a place where all the people staying at the Yoga center have their food. People sit on long mats lined up on the floor and those performing the Seva or volunteering for the day come around serving food for the day. Meals are served only twice a day, 10 or 10.45 a.m. and 7 or 7.45 p.m. Yes, you read it right, but do not overestimate your appetite. As the food menu for every day is designed in such a way that even if you eat twice a day your stomach will remain full. Food served at Biksha Hall includes salad, rice, dal, chappati, sambhar, veggies, and millet porridge. Fruits, Chutney and boiled peanuts are also served with the supper.
The meal is south Indian fare that's hearty and tasty. People who want to avoid spices A not too spicy version is available and portions are unlimited; you can eat as much as you want. And the best practice is that everyone washes their own stainless-steel plate and glass themselves.
Pepper Vine Eatery
Also, to cure your hunger pangs, there is Pepper Vine Eatery- open 8.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. It is a large gazebo structure surrounded with green creepers and plants. It serves various snacks at nominal prices. Don't forget to try freshly baked cookies and grapes juice.
Theertha Kunds- Chandra Kund & Surya Kund
These are two water bodies inside the premises. Taking a dip in the pool before entering the Dhyanlinga increases our receptivity to the energies of the Dhyanalinga. The Chandrakund is for women and the Suryakund is for men. These pools are said to be designed in a way that has tremendous healing power.
Shopping Complex- Isha Shoppe
Isha Shoppe is a brand that offers a vast range of products from crafts to clothes to health & beauty. It is focused on providing an expression to the natural creative instincts of rural people and restoring traditional means of earning a living. You will also find books and DVDs of Sadhguru if you want to know more about Yoga and its principles.
Many of us might not be able to connect with the concepts of Yoga. But Isha foudation is much more than that, it mainly focuses at the mental well being and how to lead a healthier lifestyle. So next time when you feel like things are falling apart and you're stressed out, head to Isha Foundation, Coimbatore. I bet you would love the vibes and aura of the place.