In October, Mr. Bob Clark's Comparative Religion Senior Seminar visited Yogaville, a unique community, spiritual center, and Yoga academy in Buckingham County. Here, Allie Edmonds ’20 reflects on her experience.
Nestled along the banks of the James River, Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville is one of the world's premier Yoga destinations, retreat centers and living Yoga communities. With a unique community, spiritual center, and Yoga academy, Yogaville opens doors to spiritual growth. Founded in 1980 by world-renowned Indian spiritual leader Swami Satchidananda, Yogaville welcomes visitors with the phrase truth is one, paths are many.” On October 7, 2019, the Comparative Religion Senior Seminar ventured to Yogaville to experience this serene oasis in the heartland of Buckingham County, Virginia.
We arrived at the ashram at 9:00 a.m. to practice Hatha Yoga with Reverend Kumari, our resident guide and instructor. A combination of surya namaskar asanas, chanting, meditative breathing deep relaxation, and guided meditation, we practiced for 90 minutes in the Integral Yoga Academy. The practice also incorporated less common yogic exercises, such as rotating and stretching our eyeballs. After the serene meditation, the Reverend also explained the significance of Swami Satchidananda’s Integral Yoga, which blends the power of various branches into one complete practice and serves as a gentle and holistic approach to benefit one’s mind and body. After we finished the practice, we reflected on this peaceful experience, and Emma B. ’20 even commented that she “had never felt her mind truly at rest” until that moment.
After the Hatha class, we took a short bus ride to the interfaith Lotus, or the ‘Light of Truth Universal Shrine,’ which highlights the interfaith commonality of world religions. In the shrine, we observed a circular room that honors various faiths and philosophies and sat in the center to interview the Reverend, who discussed the history of Yogaville and her spiritual journey. After a brief meditation in the shrine, we ascended hundreds of stairs to the Kailash overlook and Shiva Nataraja Shrine, where we observed a Shiva Nataraja statue, discussed religious symbolism and enjoyed a panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Shortly after our venture to Kailash, we returned to the ashram and enjoyed a vegan meal in the community dining hall. Meals at Yogaville are vegetarian and served cafeteria-style, featuring mostly fresh and locally-sourced foods. Before the meal, we practiced gratitude with an opening prayer in both Sanskrit and English, and ate mindfully in silence as a resident senior Swami Mataji recited Swami Sachidinanda’s work. We sat together at cafeteria tables surrounded by Yogaville members and large, framed photos of the late Satchidananda and other spiritual leaders from various religions and philosophies. After lunch, we had the opportunity to discuss Yogaville with both seasoned residents and temporary retreat participants. At 2:00 p.m. we embarked on the hour-long bus ride home, and reflected on the visit as we passed the 1000-acre serene, wooded landscape.