Mahadevi Ashram – Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
The Mahadevi Ashram and Kaivalya Yoga School, is village-like ashram tucked away in the trees on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Nearby San Marcos (the Goa of Central America), is famous for it’s yoga and healing scene here in Central America, but can get a little out of hand with young Californian festival-types descending on the lake for some RnR and alternative partying during winters. If you’re looking for something a little more authentic, then look no further than Mahadevi in the neighbouring town of Tzununa.
A year ago, I was living in San Marcos, taking the Moon Course at Las Piramides and Kaivalya was the place to be twice a week for Kirtan by donation. Kirtan is devotional signing to God and a pillar of any Bhakti yoga practice. In my experience, it’s more fun in the East than the West, but many people find the gentle, slower, calmer Western version of mantra signing to be both soothing and more structured as an intro. Personally, I like the chaos of a good old Sivananda ashram Satsang filled with dancing yogis, old ladies banging tambourines and a lot of off-key singing. But I’m a glutton for punishment like that.
In any case, the Kirtan at Kaivalya (now at Mahadevi at 12PM o Sundays) is the best I’ve seen here in Central America, regardless of your tastes. And some really bitchin’ people were going weekly when I was living at the lake. Skip forward a year and they are firmly planted in their retreat space just one dock over on the lake.
Tzununa is a sleepy Mayan town about a 15 minute walk from San Marcos down the lake, so the privacy factor is almost 100%. Mahadevi is mostly known for retreats, although you an join in daily morning meditation, yoga classes and weekly Sunday Kirtan’s for donations. They host a great 200 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training as well as yoga and meditation retreats – all of which include great little cottage-type accommodations among the lush greenery of Guatemala.
The Darkness Retreat is one of their more interesting and in-demand retreats where essentially you are deprived of light for days, weeks, or even months in a specialized pod space on site. Darkness is a way to take your practice to the next level, or just to really go deeply into yourself. If you have never heard of this type of retreat, then please click here to get that curiosity satiated.
What is most important to mention about Mahadevi is that it’s an ashram built on love. Because their background is in Bhakti yoga – or the yoga of devotion to God, there is a lot of singing, celebration, and focus on kindness to self and others. Unlike many ashrams the world over, there is a much more gentle schedule, a lot of private accommodations and the vegan meals are delicious. It’s less austere than other ashrams I have been to with more of a feeling of checking into a beautiful cottage retreat. Mahadevi can feel like a warm hug on a cold day, and that is just fine by me.
Here’s a video tour of the space and what some yogi’s have to say about it.