I recently had the pleasure of visiting Swami Satchidananda's Ashram-Yogaville in Virginia, USA which is the headquarters for Integral Yoga. Here, people of many faiths and backgrounds come together to study and practice the principles of Integral Yoga. Integral Yoga, as taught by Swami Satchidananda is a complete Yoga. It combines the many facets of Yoga including the practices of Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Japa Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga. This spiritual centre and it's teachings are designed to serve as a model of how we can live and work together in harmony, while still enjoying and honouring individual differences.
Located near the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Ashram is situated in 750 acres of serene landscape and offers a number of sacred spaces dedicated to contemplation and meditation in particular the beautiful Light of Truth Universal Shrine (LOTUS) which is built in the shape of a lotus blossom. Each major faith is represented by an altar within each petal of the Temple, upon which rests a carved scripture of that faith. In the centre there is one altar that holds a central light which sits below a beautiful yantra in the ceiling. Swami Satchidananda is regarded as one of the greatest Yoga masters of all time and as an apostle of peace. Many speakers from all over the world who share his vision of peace have visited the LOTUS to share their wisdom of different faiths and deliver the message of harmony among all people of all faiths. Truth is one, paths are many.
When I arrived at the Ashram I felt like a silent witness to all that was happening around me. It was like I could see the pureness within those around me and I could feel the peaceful vibrations. It was through these silent observations that I could feel my mind sharpen like never before. I attended talks, meditation & contemplation, chanting, spiritual study and spent time doing yoga and walking along beautiful trails. These trails lead through woodland into open spaces where Swami Satchadananda once lived, practised yoga and where his tomb is situated.
During these peaceful walks, the clarity and connectedness not only to nature but also to the knowledge of the higher self, I'm not this body, I'm not this mind, I'm an observer, was liberating. As a Radiographer, I've always had an understanding and passion for atoms and have questioned for many years "who am I amongst others, how are we connected?" I grew up having little respect for religion, I often associated acts of wickedness with religion. Moving into my professional career in Radiography and then into my Yoga practice opened up a doorway which allowed me to study, analyse and reflect upon how 'I' as an atom am connected to the Universe. I knew I felt a connection to something but I didn't know how to make sense of it. Einstein famously said "the important thing is to never stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."
At the Ashram I had much time to contemplate. I can see that having greater knowledge and wisdom that comes with self-analysis and spiritual study, I've really been able to deepen my Yoga practice. I can now make more sense of where I fit into the world. Although I will continue to question and analyse, I now see my life merely as a play and my visit to the Ashram as a scene from that play where I've been part of the most wonderful Act. Shakespeare said "all the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players, they have their exits and their entrances and one man in his time plays many parts."
Over a Year ago, during my Raja training I took on my spiritual name of Shanti Sahar (Peace Awakening) and during my visit to Swami Satchidnanda's tomb, I was blessed with my spiritual name. I'm dedicated to the teachings of Swami Satchidananda and moving forwards I will continue to embrace any opportunity to share my knowledge about the essence of Integral Yoga and it's wonderful teachings. My practice of Bhakti Yoga, Japa Yoga, and Jnana yoga were beautifully embraced during my stay and my visit to the Ashram will stay with me forever. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to share in the experience of peace, joy, love and light that living a yogic lifestyle offers and as I return to my usual day to day life, I am left with a neutral feeling, where I feel blissfully centred and grounded.
Earlier this year I was involved in organising a children’s yoga and relaxation class at a local homeless shelter. The shelter does some amazing work in the community to support vulnerable children. It was a pleasure to be with these children and work with two fellow yogis who are each great yogis.
Children’s yoga is always fun. I’ve worked with many different teachers and what’s great about being with kids is that as teachers we get to be childlike and parents can get involved too. Being childlike we get a glimpse of our own true nature, we see ourselves childlike again, roaring like lions, moo-ing like cows and meowing like cats, brilliant fun.
A personal favourite of mine is where we sit like Little Frogs, trying not to move, being really still and quiet. Sometimes as Little Frogs we can feel vulnerable but we can be tough as well, like a strong tree. As Little Frogs we can imagine the most beautiful places to sit, maybe next to a big strong tree where we feel good and safe. Little Frogs Yoga & Mindfulness classes are available upon request.
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