Your body temple
Sacred, breathing, chanting, still
No idol chatter
Last week, I took some time for myself at the Sivananda Yoga Ranch in Woodbourne, NY. Nestled in the Catskill Mountains and surrounded by sleepaway camps, it was a really nice way to get away. (The Groupon deal made it easy, too!) There were three daily requirements: 1) to participate in an asana class, 2) to participate in satsang, and 3) to participate in karma yoga (help clean up or garden). Otherwise, I was free to stare at the hummingbirds in the amazing flower garden, detox in the wood fire stone sauna, sleep or whatever.
The price of admission includes dorm-style sleeping quarters and two vegetarian meals each day. For a larger fee, there are private rooms available. For less money, you can pitch a tent.
I happened to get there on Srikrishna Jayanti, Krishna’s birthday, so there were special events planned. In addition to the daily vegetarian meals (dairy or non, usually marked), there were sweets! The kitchen yogis went above and beyond, providing date balls rolled in coconut and sesame seeds, chocolate chip cookies, a type of pudding made with banana and coconut and mango gelatin sweets.
We sang and played music for about three hours while a Hindu priest prepared for the midnight ceremony. It was my first time witnessing a ritual like this and I was riveted. At midnight the marble statue of Krishna was bathed, given a new wreath of marigolds and a new set of clothes by the priest. We drank tea and ate sweets afterwards, then promptly passed out. Nearly everyone had been awake since 5:30 a.m., so there was much exhaustion in the room.
The next morning was a late day, so we were up at 6:30 to silently meditate. What a difference a morning of silence makes! After a little singing was an asana class until about 10, then breakfast. In the afternoon, more asana practice, then dinner, then more singing, then bed.
The Sivananda Ranch is a very welcoming place. The people that live there full time are very devoted to the teachings of Sivananda and to his idea of yoga and Hinduism. While I am in no way religious, I respect the right of others to do their worship thing. Spiritual seekers could be drawn in to the ideals and belief system being taught there. It also seems like a fun way to spend some post-college years, going from ashram to ashram around the world, learning the Sivananda yoga style and songs. The style seems designed to bring in westerners in to promote peace.
All in all, I found the people to be generous and welcoming, the atmosphere to be very peaceful and beautiful. I appreciate the incorporation of music into daily yoga practice. I would go back. Simple yoga and fresh air does a mind-body good.