Yoga on the mountain. — Photo courtesy of Shannon Morgan
Have you ever wanted to go on an Eat, Pray, Love-style retreat? You can. You can retreat to an ashram like the one author Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about in her bestselling memoir by visiting Yogaville, the Satchidananda Ashram near Charlottesville, Virginia.
What in the World is an Ashram?
The Integral Yoga Academy for yoga instructors at the Satchidananda Ashram — Photo courtesy of Shannon Morgan
An ashram is a spiritual retreat center. Gilbert stayed at one in India but there are several throughout the United States, primarily in New York and California. Ashrams are communities of like-minded people living simple lives, practicing yoga and following the teachings of a guru.
The Yogaville community practices Integral Yoga, the spiritual teachings of Sri Swami Satchidananda that emphasize yoga as a life practice, not just a physical practice. They practice doing good and being good.
Visitors come to Yogaville to practice Integral Yoga, to experience the ashram lifestyle or just to "get a little rest and relaxation in a spiritual setting in the [middle] of rural Virginia."
For your visit, you'll stay in either a dormitory or a guest house, depending on your preference and budget, and you'll nourish your mind, body and soul through yoga and meditation.
What You'll Eat (or won't eat)
Guest stays at Yogaville range in price from $75 to $140 a night per person and include accommodations, yoga classes and three vegetarian meals daily. But don't let the absence of meat on your dinner plate deter you. The food is delicious. And everything is labeled, so if you're gluten-free or dairy-free you'll know what to avoid.
There's no caffeine in the main dining room and no alcohol allowed on campus. There is, however, a cafe where you can buy coffee if you need a fix. They also serve food and other non-alcoholic beverages if you miss a meal or need a snack. Just be mindful of the cafe's unusual operating hours.
Where You'll Pray
Practicing prayer pose above the LOTUS at Yogaville. — Photo courtesy of Shannon Morgan
Ashrams are spiritual places but that doesn't mean you have to be religious to visit. Yogaville is non-denominational. Prayer takes the form of mealtime blessings and meditations.
There are several sacred spots on campus that are reserved primarily for mediation. Kailash is a beautiful hilltop shrine that overlooks the James River, the Blue Ridge Mountains and two additional sacred spots: Chidambaram, the final resting place of the ashram's founder, and the Light of Truth Universal Shrine (LOTUS), an interfaith shrine that celebrates the world's religions.
Why You'll Fall in Love With Yogaville
Yogaville is beautiful, peaceful and quiet. Its isolated but not completely disconnected from the world – there is wi-fi. In between yoga classes and guided meditations, there's plenty of time to read, write, sleep and think.
There are also several hiking trails if you're inspired to go for a walk in the woods. Just heed the trail signs; difficult really does mean difficult.
Trails signs guide the way. — Photo courtesy of Shannon Morgan
Yogaville is a great place to escape, to rest, recharge and reconnect – with yourself, your partner or your friends. But if you can't make it to Virginia, check out one of these ashrams instead: Sonoma Ashram in California, Shoshoni Yoga Ashram in Colorado or Ananda Ashram in New York.