Sally Frank, Owner of The Bindu. Sari Weston, Studio Director…. What happens when two yoga teachers become students for a weekend?
This Mother’s Day weekend saw us heading up the highway to Buckingham, Virginia – home of the Satchidananda Ashram, otherwise known as “Yogaville.” Loaded up with our yoga mats, plenty of yoga leggings, books, journals, and some contraband chocolate (sh!!), Sally’s Subaru ferried us on our pilgrimage to the back roads of Virginia.
As we got closer to our destination, we got a little anxious about the directions, and consulted not one but 3 different sources: Sally’s GPS, my GPS, and the directions from Yogaville’s website. As it turned out, our trying to heed too many masters meant that we got brilliantly lost in the last hour of driving, a metaphor for life.
Finally, we connected with a friendly guy at the guest services office, and we arrived at Yogaville just in time for dinner. We clicked off our cell phones, took off our shoes, and prepared to immerse ourselves in a weekend of quiet contemplation and practice.
Unplugged: The Sounds of Silence
One of the most striking things about our trip was the experience of being totally (well, mostly) unplugged for two days. Settling into a habit of looking up and around at the peaceful surroundings, instead of down at a screen, was calming. We had great conversations with other people staying at the ashram, and each other. We went to bed early and slept well. We took in the beauty of the grounds and the woods around the ashram. While we both know this in theory, it was freeing to discover that the world actually kept on turning, even when we couldn’t check our texts and emails every few minutes. There was a peace that pervaded the grounds and smiles of the ashram and its residents, and because we were unplugged, we were able to tap into that peace and soak it in.
Yogaville and its unique shrine, the Light of Truth Universal Shrine (LOTUS), was created to provide “a permanent place where all people could come to realize their essential oneness and to know the infinite peace that lies beyond the grasp of the finite mind.” The shrine is unique in that it includes altars, texts and other representations of “all faiths known and yet unknown.” We loved meditating in the LOTUS, where a central beam of light shines down into the center of the room, but is also divided into rays to represent the major faiths. In the dining hall, the walls are covered with large photographs of gurus and teachers from all faiths. As we honor our own individual spiritual paths, we also honor the Light that is the source of each.
The style taught at Yogaville is called Integral Yoga®. The aim of Integral Yoga® is to “promote harmonious development of every aspect of the individual,” through six different aspects of yoga ranging from hatha yoga (asana, pranayama, mudra, diet, kriyas, etc) to bhakti yoga (path of devotion), to japa yoga (repetition of mantra). You can read more about Integral Yoga® here.
We attended several hatha yoga classes of varying levels while at the ashram, and really enjoyed the variety and the departure from our usual practice. The instructors were kind and knowledgeable, and their instruction was at a calm, measured pace that allowed us to truly turn inward and feel our own practice with ease. The classes also included ample time for chanting, pranayama, and mudra practice. In our first class, a Level 1 practice, we were about 20 minutes into a 90 minute class when the instructor asked us to lay down in savasana. We stared at each other across the room in surprise, and were subsequently thrilled to find out that, in Integral Yoga, it is common to take savasana about 3-4 times throughout the class! Will we carry that practice into our classes at The Bindu? You’ll just have to come and find out. In any case, simply getting to be students on our mats was a vacation for us both, and we reveled in it.
And the Food
Kale. Chard. Arugula, fresh from the garden. Simple entrees ranging from gluten-free, vegan pizza to chickpea patties, to incredible soups. Fresh ginger tea every day. We ate tons of delicious, healthy food made fresh every day, with love. And… we’ll also admit to patronizing the ashram’s lovely café that served fresh coffee and sweet treats every day.
“We’re all just walking each other home.”
This quote by Ram Dass reminds us that we’re all united on our paths, however individual they might be. Our trip to Yogaville was a chance to reconnect to the Source that nourishes us, and to bond as friends and fellow travelers on the path in a way that helps us serve our own home, The Bindu. Experiencing yoga in a different way, and taking time to recharge, made us appreciate and look forward to being with our own community again. On the drive home, clarity and experience meant that we did NOT lose our way this time. 🙂
And as we step into the studio to teach this week, it is with a deep appreciation for all the gifts of yoga in our own lives, and the hope that we can transfer some of the unplugged peace of the weekend to our students.