Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville in Buckingham, Virginia, is the headquarters for Integral Yoga® International. Here, people of many faiths and backgrounds come together to study and practice the principles of Integral Yoga. This spiritual center is designed to serve as a model of how we can live and work together in harmony, while still enjoying and honoring our individual differences. In this article from Kosmic Life, you’ll get an overview of this spiritual center.
While Hinduism in general has been very accommodating of the westerners who’ve approached it, very few American ashrams offer the level of meaningful integration with the western lifestyle that Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville does. They do it coming and going! While extending a warm welcome to newcomers, they deliver the ongoing support necessary to turn starry-eyed Yoga practitioners into credentialed Yoga teachers.
In contrast to other Hindu teachers, Swami Satchidananda’s approach has been very scientific and practical, stripping away the trappings of popular Hinduism to reveal the central principles of both physical and mental disciplines. Besides teaching asanas (postures) and pranayamas (breath exercises), Swamiji also used to instruct his students in simple but subtle matters of diet, sleep and other facets of physical well-being. Hatha Yoga is presented as a discipline that readies and steadies the physical being for more subtle spiritual work. Bodies can be very distracting!
Sri Swami Satchidananda
Sri Swami Satchidananda, the founder of this place, first established his school, the Integral Yoga Institute, in New York City in 1966. His long and illustrious career included, besides IYI and Yogaville Ashram, the founding of multitudinous programs for prisoners, addicts and chronically ill; the calling together of his interfaith colleagues — including the Pope and the Dalai Lama — in ecumenical and eclectic contexts to discuss pressing world issues, the receiving of the U Thant Peace Award and the Albert Schweitzer Award, and the delivering of the keynote address at Woodstock Music Festival in 1969. On the health care front, he worked with western doctors in both research and clinical settings to develop new remedies and protocols for intransigent medical problems.
The grounds of the ashram feature the LOTUS (Light Of Truth Universal Shrine) which houses altars representing all of the world’s major spiritual traditions within its sacred geometrically configured lotus-petalled dome. The exterior is 108 feet wide, the interior 54 feet (1/2 of 108) wide and 27 feet (1/4 of 108) high. This sort of symmetry creates a space that is very conducive to meditation…as do the yantras (sacred diagrams) representing each of the seven chakras embedded in the architecture from foundation to ceiling. In fact, every element of this space was planned to represent and reflect the flow of kundalini in the body.
As Swamiji’s lineage was of the Saivite tradition, the ashram also features a Chidambaram (incarnation of Siva) shrine, and a seven-foot Nataraja (Siva as Lord of the Dance) statue. Also on the premises is Satchidananda Farm, which supplies produce to the ashram’s vegetarian kitchen and community.
The daily schedule consists of a repeating alternation of meditation, hatha yoga and karma yoga periods. Most days start with the choice of meditation sessions (5–6:15am or 6:20–7:20am), followed by an hour of Hatha Yoga, followed by breakfast from 8–9am. Then comes a full morning of Karma Yoga (selfless service), punctuated by a half hour of meditation at the LOTUS from noon–12:30 before a 12:45 lunch. More Karma Yoga occurs all afternoon with breaks for Hatha Yoga sessions and meditation in the early evening. Finally, there is an evening program (usually a talk and kirtan) staring at 7:30.
In the midst of all that, there is a Siva puja at the Nataraja statue daily at 11:45am.
All weekends feature Saturday evening satsang (community gathering and inspirational talk) and kirtan (devotional singing) at 7:30pm, and a Sunday morning talk on practical aspects of Yoga.
Workshops and Retreats
Beyond teaching methodologies in meditation and spiritual exercises, the Yogaville ashram bends over backwards to make sure you have just the right length of time to have the Yoga experience that’s right for you, offering everything from 2-hour lecture classes to 10-day silent retreats to month-long teacher trainings. You can even craft your own personal retreat for 2-4 days, taking in classes and meditation sessions as desired, and getting guidance in your practice from ashram staff. Of special interest to newcomers would be the Welcome Weekend, which is actually offered just about every weekend, and which includes tours and introductory videos and talks in addition to the usual meditation and hatha yoga sessions.
Yogaville offers an extensive array of weekend programs for the general public and yoga practitioners of all levels with the same eclectic approach for which Swamiji was famous. Some of the current listings include: Yoga for Athletes, Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy, 4th of July Weekend Chanting with Krishna Das, and an Earth Day/Passover celebration. Local health practitioners in a variety of healing arts, provide services in Reiki, chakra balancing, Alexander Technique and a diversity of massage techniques to visitors and the resident community.
For those who want the full-immersion experience, you can inquire about the Living Yoga Training Program, a semi-volunteer scheme wherein you get room, board and access to all programs for $250 per month and a certain amount of seva or Karma Yoga, with a one-month minimum stay.
Location & Visiting Hours
The grounds of the Yogaville ashram cover almost 1,000 rolling acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains of rural western Virginia, along the banks of the James River, the closest city being Charlottesville. While visitors will find everything they need for a happy and wholesome stay at the ashram, you should take note that there is no public transport between Charlottesville and the ashram, though the ashram staff will cheerfully arrange a pick-up or drop-off for $40 each way.
108 Yogaville Way
Buckingham, VA 23921-9726, USA
Source: Kosmic Life