Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hard Times Are Jamming the Ashrams

"The Himalayan Institute is one of many retreats where cash-strapped spiritual seekers can participate in work-study programs in which they pay typically $300 to $900 a month in exchange for a few hours a day of service, like washing dishes, cleaning rooms or weeding gardens.

As the unemployment rate has risen and people have sought refuge from the harsh economy, these work-exchanges have become a hot commodity. The Himalayan Institute received twice as many applications for its summer work-study programs this year as last — its August session is full, with 22 people, compared with 11 last year — and so did two similar retreats, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in Carmel Valley, Calif., and Satchidananda Ashram in Buckingham, Va. (which is better known as Yogaville).

The people who run these programs say there seems to be a link between the troubled job market and the rising popularity of yoga retreats. Todd Wolfenberg, director of marketing at the Himalayan Institute, said he has seen an increase in applications from recent college graduates and people with professional careers. “I suspect that is due to the fact that they haven’t been able to find a job after college or are leaving a job,” he said. The center has traditionally attracted people whose lives permit extended time off, like writers and entrepreneurs."

Click here to read more from the 7/16/09 edition of the New York Times