We arrived in Yogaville really late to a cute house situated in the middle of the forest; we couldn’t see to much but it reminded me slightly of a place where you would hide the bodies or people get murdered…well it was night time in the forest. This was also not helped by Triin’s references to the movie “The Wrong Turn”, but to be honest at that point I was so tired I didn’t really care if there was a killer on the loose as long as could sleep first and maybe after breakfast, cause I was starving as well.
As per our Airbnb host’s emailed instructions she was asleep so we went through the unlocked front door and to the right was our beautiful and large en-suite room. In the morning after an epic sleep, our gracious host left a note about a cafe nearby that serves breakfast. We, of course, got nicely lost and ended up in front of a closed gated tea shop in the middle of nowhere. We walked back to the main road in the blistering heat to these white buildings we saw before, it was a mere 5 minutes’ walk that due to the sun and heat felt so much longer.
We located the Reception to these white buildings and it seemed like they had yoga and meditation classes, plus several workshops to which we could passes for the day, the weekend or a month – perfect. You could even become yoga instructor there. We decided to join them for the weekend starting the following day. It started to dawn on us that this wouldn’t just be a yoga session in Yogaville but something far more serious, this realisation happened after we had paid and had lunch in the hall. We met loads of people and everyone was super friendly, lots of people have been coming there annually and some eventually moved there. They did have an orientation session in the evening that we decided to join to find out what this place was about.
At some point when we were walking around the ashram we ran into our Airbnb host Rhonda who worked at Yogaville. She must’ve recognised us from the slight ‘oh shit where are we’ faces as she was driving by on her way to her house across the road to check on her cats and we drove with. We had a lovely discussion about the the ashram and her story how she came to Yogaville, the place and it’s people were extremely fascinating. She recommended we attend the evening orientation to learn more about the place, how it came to be, she also recommended what else to do in the area.
In the afternoon we drove around and explored the surrounding area. We decided to get some beer and wine for the evening because soon we were going to move from Rhonda’s to the Yogaville grounds and we were only starting to realise what that meant. In the evening we went to the orientation and the penny dropped, we were at an ashram which is basically a hardcore spiritual place, so this was definitely not just going to be some easy yoga in Yogaville. The guru – Swami Satchidananda from India – had founded the movement of Integral Yoga back in the late 60s followed by the opening of Yogaville in Virginia in 1979. He had been asked by an American artist who to come to America because America needed him to fix things. The Guru was even the opening act for Woodstock in 1969.
The Guru had had a vision which said (and I totally agree with it) that religion is supposed to bring people together and not separate them. The emphasis was on the importance of being respectful of other religions whilst practicing your own beliefs. The Guru took a massive step further and decided to build a place where everyone would be welcome, a building called the Lotus where people could meditate and was dedicated to all the religions. I love the idea that to respect each other and that it should indeed bring people together. No right and no wrong. Acceptance and respect, what a beautiful message indeed. The other swamis were also there to help you. They were the people that had dedicated themselves to the religion and dressed in orange (think hare krishna). One of the swamis used to be a catholic nun and had left the church to follow Swami Satchidananda.
The other guests at Yogaville were also very interesting: one lady had been coming for 7 years and finally moved to Yogaville, another person was a teacher of mythology to teenagers.
Back at the Airbnb we got a good account of what it was like being a local and about some of the people that had come there from our awesome host Rhonda. I really enjoyed her stories and her very relaxed demeanour, we spoke until late before going to bed tired, nervous and excited.
So the next morning we woke at 5:30 and attended the 6:00 guided meditation. I had heard and been at medications where we Ommm or say Ashanti (Peace) but the Hariom was a new one for me. I was taken aback at first because I was wondering if we are going to sing Hari Krishna next… To my surprise I quite enjoyed the chanting. I found it very relaxing and meditated longer and deeper then I had before.
Next we did some Hatha Yoga, it seemed that the Ashram was about gentle exercise but much more about the mind and meditation. I’m kinda glad I found out after I had paid for it because usually I was much more into yoga than meditation so it forced me in a way to relax and go with the flow. The yoga was definitely not like the time I did yoga with my friend Maibritt at the gym, where I sweated so much more then I had in a full on gym session. I miss those days.
We had breakfast and then went to a Talk about Yoga in Daily Life, which was interesting because it was about loads of different yogas and what you get out of them. After another meditation class we had dinner and after I helped in the kitchen to wash dishes, they call it Karma Yoga: to do something to help and wanting nothing in return.
After lunch we did a guided tour and were taken to the Lotus building and another shrine. It was truly beautiful and I was so impressed by what a person with vision can accomplish. The views were amazing and I like that all the people around you are so happy and friendly and the atmosphere is so good there. I know Triin didn’t quite feel the same so you’ll have to read her account. I don’t feel like I would go again but I’m happy that I did go.
It had been a long and productive day. We finally returned to our Airbnb and told Rhonda about our day, she had been impressed that we had woken up for the meditation after going to bed so late. We were only staying at Rhonda’s for 2 nights because at the Ashram you could get accommodation and food included. I was sad to leave because we both enjoyed Rhonda’s company, but luckily because she works at the Ashram we would bump into each other. So we moved all our things literally across the road.
Sunday I woke up exhausted and felt like all my energy had been taken away but I did manage to go to another meditation before going back to bed for a nap whilst Triin went to Yoga. We had some breakfast, went to another class and I went for another nap. I was burning out at that point, travelling all the time and constantly doing something. Also we had a long conversation about the food at Yogaville – whilst they obviously only do vegetarian, we felt that the food was ok but were lacking in some ways. We weren’t getting all the oils, nutrients and protein that we were used to and ended up going to Subway at some point for a tuna sandwich. On one occasion there was seeds with the salad and we got so happy, even one of the swami’s commented that she also begs them to buy more seeds.
Right after one of the meditation sessions Triin told me that we still need to go see the Amish people. So after breakfast on Monday morning and a quick last meditation at the Lotus building we headed for Lancaster Pennsylvania.