From Samantha Gregory, New York, NY
“I have been to the Ashram twice, last year and the year before, and I cannot say enough good things about the experience. My first time, I was worried that I would not get through it, but then I was pleasantly surprised. It is intense and every minute of your day is managed: you do daily ten to fifteen mile hikes in this gorgeous setting, take yoga for three hours as well as other classes. But there are always trainers or instructors to encourage you and make sure you are okay. In a way, it’s like having a personal trainer twenty-four-hours-a-day. And at the end, you have these incredible massages.
The other guests were amazing when I went. We all came from different backgrounds, but everyone was really motivated. There were also lots of different levels in terms of fitness: some people had run marathons; others had only been working out on tred mills at the gym. That said, you should be in relatively good shape before coming here since the activities are demanding.
There are three single rooms and the rest are communal, as are the bathrooms. You can request the singles, but it’s pretty much luck-of-the-draw. All the rooms feel like a 1970s spa: the beds are comfortable but it’s not high luxury, which feels appropriate considering the point of the Ashram. It’s a bit like camp—but with all the services and great food and constant attention, I would say it’s far from rugged.
The food was fantastic and really opened my eyes to how much we eat in our daily lives and how little we actually need. I mean, at the Ashram you’re hiking and exercising all day and you eat 2,500 calories. And it’s enough; you actually feel full. One word of advice to people who are planning on going (besides booking at least a year in advance): get off caffeine and especially Diet Coke way before you arrive. The first two days feels like detox and the Diet Coke withdrawal is the worst. I actually gave it up entirely after my first time there. Also, get off the sugar!
Some guests came to the Ashram to lose weight, but that’s not really the point. It’s about achieving bigger goals and the sense of accomplishment you feel after a week there is incredible. You’re on this energized high that miraculously lasts at least six months after. I honestly think it’s the best thing I ever did. It was a life-changing experience.”
WHAT TO KNOW: The Ashram (the name comes from Sanskrit and means “spiritual refuge”) was founded by Catharina Hedberg and Anne Marie Bennstrom in 1975 and has since grown into one of the world’s most famous active retreats. A high number of guests are return clients and there’s always a wait list (sometimes up to nine months). Often there are cancellations, though, so you may end up getting a spot sooner than you think. The Ashram is open all year and retreats run from Sunday to Saturday.
When to Go: Considering the long daily hikes, you’ll want to avoid the hot summer months and plan a trip for the spring or fall instead.
The Basics: A week at the Ashram costs $4,000 and includes all meals, activities and massages. Single rooms can be requested but most guests share accommodations. The Ashram is located in Calabasas, California, some thirty miles northwest of Los Angeles. 818-222-6900; www.theashram.com.
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