Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm

For the last 5-1/2 years, I have spent almost every Saturday evening at the Yoga Farm in Grass Valley, CA which is a Sivananda ashram. There is so much to write about this place that I don't know where to start or how to structure it, but I figure I'll begin with discussing how I found out about it and what drew me there.

In subsequent posts, I'll write more about some of the things that I have learned there including the diet, asana practice, programs and guest performances that I have experienced over my many visits.

First visit

I first read about the Yoga Farm in the January 2005 issue of Sacramento Magazine. I didn't actually visit until many months later in the Summer.

When I inquired about the lineage, I was told that the ashram was founded by Swami Vishnudevanda, a disciple of Swami Sivananda. I hadn't heard of either of them. I now know that Swami Sivananda was a prominent spiritual master who had many famous disciples including Swami Satchitananda who founded the Integral Yoga Institute and Swami Chinmayananda who founded the Chinmaya Mission.

I got a brief tour of the place. I remember the nice aroma of the food from the kitchen as I passed it. I walked along a few of the trails and had a brief chat with one of the visitors that I happened to run into. I remember talking about the stomach problems I was having back then -- acidity, bloating, etc. -- and he told me he had had stomach problems in a previous life as well, but he was now over them because he had learned to just take life as it came.

I thought the place was very peaceful but I wasn't sure what to make of it. I left thinking I might be back some day. But I soon forgot all about it.

Second visit

In May 2006, as I resigned at my job in preparation for a new one, I went through a lot of stress. (I don't deal well with change, and it felt like life had just been tossing me around.) At that time, I don't know how, but I just thought of this place and aroma of the food from the kitchen. I called them and asked if it was OK if I just stopped by for dinner and nothing else. They said that would be fine. So I went there for dinner. The food was all vegetarian (I was vegetarian even back then) and tasted really great. Their Teacher's Training Course (TTC) was in progress and the place was bustling with activity. I chatted with some of the students there and then left. The next morning, I found that the food had an amazing effect on my digestion. My stomach had never felt as good before. And so I went back the next day.

The next day I decided to stay for satsang. Satsang began with a short meditation (about 20 min) followed by devotional chants to music followed by a discourse. I left after Satsang which was around 10 pm. Despite that being a stressful time for me, I slept better than I had slept in months. The chants reminded me of some of the chants I had learned during childhood, but there were several that I didn't know.

And so I returned for the food and satsang day after day for the next 2 weeks.

Saturdays

I then had to start my new job which was in the Bay Area. I wanted to keep coming back to the Yoga Farm to learn more about the Hindu philosophy, the mantras, and of course to enjoy the food which had allowed me to experience what normal digestion was supposed to feel like. As a result, I decided to maintain a weekly commute to the Bay Area and keep my "home" in Rocklin so that I could keep visiting the ashram. I decided that I would visit the ashram at least once a week (every Saturday), and if the effect wears off, then I'd relocate to the Bay Area. 5-1/2 years of visiting almost every Saturday and the effect hasn't yet worn off. I still enjoy the food, enjoy the discussions that I have with visitors and staff there, and enjoy the meditation and satsang. It helps me maintain a balance in my life between materialism and spirituality. It has taught me that there is more to life than the rat race of material existence.

Other days

I sometimes visit on other days as well. Since the schedule is more or less the same 365 days of the year and since they are open to visitors every single day, it takes little planning to visit. Many a day I have spontaneously decided to go up there to spend the evening. I usually get there by meal time, which is at 6 pm and then attend the evening program leaving at 10 pm.

They also have programs around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve and that is where I usually go to spend my evenings on those days.

It has truly been a blessing for me to find this community of like-minded people in a spiritually uplifting environment. I have met some wonderful people there and enjoyed many interesting conversations on topics such as food, holistic health, and the meaning of life.