Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville

»An Indian ashram experience in the American heartland«


Satchidananda Ashram is not a yoga retreat in the Western sense of spa treatments and deluxe accommodations. It is instead, in the Indian ashram way, a spiritual place that opens its doors to those seeking a personal journey. Using yoga as a pathway to inner harmony, this ashram brings all that is holy from the ancient motherland of yoga to the heartland of the modern world.

  • What we love
  • Delicious vegetarian food, served buffet-style
  • Integral yoga, a blend of styles and meditation
  • The ashram’s yoga philosophy is easily incorporated into all belief systems
  • What to know
  • No luxurious extras provided
  • Remote location with no outside distractions or entertainment
  • Classes are optional, self-discipline is a must
  • Why go
  • Peaceful natural setting
  • Authentic ashram experience
  • Well-rounded Integral Yoga

Satchidananda Ashram, more popularly known as Yogaville, is the real-ashram deal in the uber-Western setting of the United States. Between the authentic experience and the moderate fees, this is one of the best places for a purist yogi to spend a few days or even a month.

The yoga philosophy here is founded on Integral Yoga. In essence, Integral Yoga is a series of stepping stones toward inner peace. Each element of the human body and spirit are targeted, and each stage has it's own yoga-name. Most yogis are familiar with Hatha Yoga, the basis out from which all other yoga styles are borne. Hatha is about poses, breathing, diet and other physically purifying practices. Integral Yoga goes a little further, adding to Hatha Yoga, with practices of the other branches of classical Yoga like Raja Yoga to harness the mind, Karma Yoga to teach the value of selfless service, and Japa Yoga which utilizes mantras and chanting to calm the mind. Developed by Swami Satchidananda, Integral Yoga is gaining in popularity around the world and has one of its strongholds here in Yogaville.

Among the best offerings on the list of programs are the Teacher Training Course and the 'post-grad' courses available to qualified yoga teachers. Taught in the basic Hatha style, the Teacher Training Course is a rigorous but rewarding schedule packed with lessons in asanas, pranayama, chanting, cleansing, anatomy, diet/nutrition, and the skills needed to teach.

The post-grad courses specialize in different subjects and include some interesting choices. Yoga for People with Cancer and Chronic Illness, for example, is hard-hitting yoga - not for faint-hearted teachers but for those who want to use their strengths to really help others. Yoga for the Special Child Teacher Training is only for those yoga teachers who wish to reach out to children with mental or physical disabilities, and if anecdotal reports are to be believed, the training gives all the skills necessary to do so. Most of the advanced courses run over a period of two days to a couple of weeks.

All of them are residential programs only, in an echo of the gurukulam style when a student would live in the home of their guru, becoming completely immersed in the yogic lifestyle. An average day of the Teacher Training Course means waking at 6am for meditation, followed by an assortment of yoga classes, workshops, training sessions, a midday meditation session at the remarkable LOTUS Temple and vegetarian meals in the communal dining hall throughout the day.

The general courses are very accessible to the yoga and/or ashram novice. One of these is a silent retreat, which is exactly that – silent. Although it includes some times of speaking, most notably during yoga instruction, they are mostly a chance to reconnect with the inner self. Some programs are more practical and include weight-loss programs, women's empowerment retreats, yoga for the treatment of depression, advanced pranayama for meditators, and a host of other choices. There is also a yoga camp for kids, an interesting alternative to the standard summer-camp experience.

The ashram's most eye-catching feature is the LOTUS Temple, a convenient anagram for Light Of Truth Universal Shrine. Although the pink and aquamarine building should look a little hokey, or at least reminiscent of the color choices popular during the 1980s when it was built, it is actually a place of great peace and contentment (the lotus is an ancient symbol of spiritual unfolding). Oftentimes, although photos give a good visual impression, they give nothing of the 'feel' of a place, and nowhere is this more true than at the slightly unusual-looking LOTUS Temple at Yogaville. Perhaps all those decades of meditation and silent contemplative gratitude have seeped into the stone as much as the bright colors originally did.

About the area: Buckingham

Buckingham is a sleepy rural section of Virgina whose hills roll lazily and life moves slowly. This is a place where seasons are distinct, and the sun-kissed meadows of summer are a far cry from the picture-perfect White Christmas snowcaps. Summer temperatures in the middle of the year are a pleasant 20 degrees C (around 65 degrees F) while winters dip a little under freezing. This is not an area for the thrill-seeker, but perfect for those looking for a gentler pace of life, close-knit communities, and the simple pleasures of clear skies and sparse populations.

Image credit: Satchidananda Ashram

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