Satyananda Yoga

»The home away from home for East Coast Australian yogis«

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An ashram is only as good as it’s unhappiest resident. Or at least that’s how the paraphrase goes. Luckily for our readers that makes Mangrove Creek Ashram a very good place indeed. The only interruptions to the steady daily hum of laughter and good conversation are the periods of Sacred Silence that last from the evening until the morning - and the quiet, intense concentration on tasks great and small.

  • What we love
  • The lovely National Park setting
  • The opportunity to deepen yoga study with the two-year sadhana program
  • Complete flexibility with length of retreats - from a day to years
  • Structured courses of study are accredited by the Australian government
  • What to know
  • No mobile phone reception
  • No smoking on the main grounds but there is a designated smoking area outside the gate
  • Winter nights can be very cold, so bring lots of warm clothing and bedding
  • Why go
  • Authentic ashram experience
  • Excellent guided yoga and meditation
  • Plenty of nature-based activities

The largest residential ashram in the southern hemisphere, Mangrove Creek is the flagship of the Australia branch of the Satyananda Yoga network. This is a true ashram in the Indian sense of living communally and bringing the yogic spirit into all facets of daily life. Set against a backdrop of tangled Australian wilderness and the tidal river that refreshes the land each day, Mangrove Creek calls many first-time guests back, either for regular personal retreats or even to live here a while.

Retreat lengths are extremely flexible and run from a single day with no overnight stay to as long as two years. Mangrove Creek is not exclusive - anyone who needs a gentle space to relax and recharge is welcome to be here, along with their children. The principles of Satyananda Yoga are based on making a yogic life accessible to all, even those with limited time. Perhaps especially to those with limited time, who may need the techniques the most.

The day begins early on the ashram. The birds (Mangrove Creek calls them the ‘singing alarm clock’) roust most guests out of bed at 5 am for a 5.30 am yoga session. Chanting is a 15 minute vocal and spiritual warm-up before breakfast at 7, with Karma Yoga at 8 and the rest of the day’s activities beginning at 9. For those not enrolled in early morning classes, this 9 am gathering, where the day’s activities are explained, is a good time to make contact with others in the Mangrove community, especially after the introspective silence of the previous evening.
Karma Yoga is the practice of selflessly serving the community and all guests who are not participating in structured retreats are encouraged to give Karma Yoga a go.
Among other activities, there is a Yoga Nidra session in the early afternoon. Ostensibly a yogic meditation session, it is sometimes a game of spot-the-newbie when the light snores from too-relaxed guests who are not used to the early mornings give away their position!
Dinner is early, at 6pm, with the evening sessions of Satsang, Kirtan, and special activities filling the time until Sacred Silence begins at 8.15. This period of silence runs until 7.30 am (except for those taking the 5.30 am yoga class) and is one of the crucial aspects of ashram life. Although sometimes frustrating for newcomers, it is in these times that the mind is encouraged to slow down, dispense with the irrelevant fripperies of normal daily chatter, and simply be with itself. The irritation felt by many is often a precursor to self-discovery, and once the rhythm of ashram life is adopted, there is much benefit to be found in these quiet times.

Standard accommodation is in a triple-share room. There are discounts for those who opt to stay in six-bed dorm rooms or on campsites. Equally, there are extra costs for those who opt for double or single rooms, or those with ensuite facilities (standard bathrooms are shared). All rooms are clean and comfortable although luxury is not a priority here, so simplicity rules the day. Heating is supplied to rooms during the times when it is most likely that guests will be in them, but does not run day and night. Although the summers here are extremely warm, the winters are not so. Mangrove Creek rightly points out that colder weather is more supportive of introspection than sunny summer days, but still recommends bringing plenty of layers to bundle up in so that experience can be spiritually valuable without being physically miserable.

Food is completely vegetarian, and although not sattvic, those who are eating diets that exclude onions and garlic can be catered for. There is some use of eggs and dairy although these tend to be kept to a minimum. Brown rice, dahl, tofu, curries of all kinds, fresh fruit and herbs are featured heavily on the menu and although eating food that you actually have to chew is not common in a modern lifestyle, this food range is fairly easy to become accustomed to.

An ashram life may sound somewhat austere and it’s true that the fun of Mangrove Creek is something of a step back in time. This is joy that is unplugged, so volleyball and kayaking will take the place of Net-surfing and playing X-Box. This is no hardship though, as the smiling faces - young and old - can attest to. Part detox, part spiritual renewal, part simple fun ... Mangrove Creek is a lovely example of how ashram living can be demystified and enjoyed by even the most jaded 21st century folk.

About the area: Mangrove Creek

Mangrove Creek is a small settlement on Australia’s East Coast, surrounded by magnificent National Park. About 90 minutes drive from metropolitan Sydney, Mangrove Creek is worlds away from the hustling city. This is where Australia shows its best (rambling bush, tidal rivers, and birdsong loud enough to drown out all thought) and its worst. Those stories about huge snakes and venomous insects are not little fictions designed to scare tourists. Insect repellant is a must in these areas, as is caution when bush-walking so as not to frighten snakes into attacking (unlikely, but possible). Winters here can be extremely cool, and August temperatures of 0 degrees C (32F) are not unheard of. Summer days, on the other hand, are somewhere at the other end of the spectrum. Mid-30s are normal (95F) while the mercury can sometimes rise as high as 42C (107F).

Image credit: Satyananda Yoga

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