It’s about a 100 degrees outside and the mosquitoes up here are not afraid of the Sun. We’re in Yogaville – a place which sounded ‘cool’ when we found it on the map and decided to visit. You know, for some yoga and meditation, it’ll be fun! Anyway, i think we’re the only people here (out of 200) who had no clue about what this place is. Basically, it’s an ashram which means a community or ‘a religious retreat for hindus’.
The founder is this dude from India, Sri Swami Satchidananda, who came to the States in the 60s and opened the show at Woodstock amongst other things. Since the 60s was a time of peace, love and hippies, the teachings of peace, love and harmony were very popular as you can imagine. Long story short, he never returned to India, instead found a piece of land here in Virginia and created this community of acceptance of all faiths. There are these random buildings, like the Lotus centre that looks like a lotus flower in the middle of the forest in Virginia, right next to the homes openly advertising their support for Trump.
I think a bit of back story is in order. Why are we here, i hear you ask. Well, you know Google maps, right? We zoomed around Virginia and found Yogaville, right near FarmVille (lol) and it sounded interesting. I mean, Yogaville. Whatchatalkinbout?! One of my reasons for travelling the world is to visit various yoga and meditation retreats to see how others do it and to enjoy a bit of spiritual mind-body activity as well. Some of you might know that we’re planning on opening a wellness retreat after our travels, so what we’re doing now is basically research. I want to see what works and what doesn’t, how everything is set up and what are the visitors saying. So of course i wanted to see what this oddly named place was about.
Next thing you know, we’re sitting in a dining hall that reminds me of a high school gymnasium with 200 other people. Some of them wear orange (shwamis – some higher spiritual followers of the Dude), some white (we think they’re yoga teachers) and everybody has a wrist band to say they belong. People burst into random smiles and hug each other in the hallway. Everyone is super friendly and for an introverted Nordic person like me this is highly strange (don’t worry – it’s not you, it’s me). Charlene however, copes with extroverted kindness much better than me and actually is brave enough to speak to some guests who turn out to be normal humans like us. She literally jumped right in and offered to volunteer as a clean up crew in the kitchen after dinner leaving me to stare down at my lentils all by my lonesome in the aforementioned dining hall. Well, at least she got some karma yoga done.
We signed up for a weekend here which includes daily meditation sessions and yoga so we took part in a few classes, like the 6am meditation class (result!). We also held back a bit and didn’t join all the holy blessing ceremonies because, to be honest, after a whole day of om shanti and hare hare i felt a bit overwhelmed. Last night I ended up taking a walk in the forest and hugging a tree to get away from portraits of holy bearded people. Interestingly, i developed a strong desire to do something anti-spiritual, like buy a gossip magazine and actually read it, too. But since we’re not near a store, we watched Orange Is The New Black on Netflix instead (there’s wifi here!).
The place itself is beautiful – the forest, the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance, there’s even a river. The lotus flower building with its meditation room is very serene. We’re right next to the Shenandoah National Park which offers beautiful views across the landscape. If you’re looking for a spiritual getaway, this is a place for you. I, however – and whilst being grateful about the whole experience, am looking forward to continuing our road trip.