Zenya Yoga Academy Family Yogaville Retreat
It was a Thursday evening class at Zenya Yoga Academy and Beate Rose, my favorite instructor, introduced us to a place called Yogaville. As a Charlottesville resident, she had been visiting this magical ashram for years now and wanted to share some experiences she had while practicing and meditating in this sacred space. Located in the rolling hills of Buckingham, Virginia, Yogaville is a special oasis offering yogis and religious groups alike a space to soak in the powerful healing properties of nature while practicing yoga, meditating and diving deeper into the spiritual realm.
Founded by Sri Swami Satchidananda, Yogaville welcomes all through the practice of integral yoga. Integral Yoga is composed of all the branches of yoga, creating a way of life centered around spirituality and connectivity. The more Beate talked, the more enthused the class became and it didn't take long before we were begging her and Christine Griggs (one of the most beautiful souls I've ever encountered) to take us. She thought this would be a great idea and told us that she would talk to Christine to see if we could arrange a yoga retreat as an optional supplement to our teacher training course. That Saturday, we were thrilled to find out that the plan was a go.
Since we were a large group, we were able to book one of the larger accommodations which was a ranch style home overlooking a beautiful valley and river. There were 4 bedrooms so we had to bunk up which wasn't an issue because at this point, we considered ourselves a yoga family. A tribe if you will. The kitchen was industrial sized and the fridge was filled with food upon our arrival. In addition, there was a large enclosed porch with floor to ceiling windows and sweeping views of the valley, river and mountains. The house itself was very out of touch and extremely dated, but the space felt sacred and the location was prime.
After we had arrived and settled, we huddled together to discuss our itinerary. Of course there were multiple yoga classes per day, but we were able to pick and choose which of them we wanted to attend. Between classes we had scheduled meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and set times for our group to gather and take our own classes as they related to our training program.
The classes would take place in the beautiful window room which couldn't have been a more perfect place. Several of these classes were taught by Beate's husband, Dr. Rose, who was actually one of my favorite professors at CNU. I took his "Meditation, Mindfulness and Happiness" course and came out on the other side a whole new person. I was absolutely thrilled when I found out he would be joining us and instructing some of our classes.
At that time, we were about ready for dinner so we went to the dining hall where we took our seats at long cafeteria style tables. Before serving the food, we were all asked to join in on a chant-like prayer to offer thanks for the food we were about to enjoy. Afterwards, we were invited to help ourselves to a vast vegetarian spread which included a mile long salad bar, lentils, beans, every veggie you could imagine, potatoes, and meat-substitutions. Other nights we would indulge in pasta dishes and casseroles. We knew we would be in for a treat over those next few days when we looked out of the dining hall window to find a stunning rainbow arching overhead.
Over the next couple of days, our group was able to experience Yogaville in all it's beauty and history. We visited several temples, shrines and monuments with gorgeous views of the natural Virginia heartland landscape. Dr. Rose spearheaded our journey by supplementing each visit with stories, history, fun facts and insightful thoughts.
When I grow up, I want to be like Dr. Rose. He radiates happiness and has a smile that lights up rooms and never leaves his face. He is animated, enthusiastic and excited about life. The pure thirst for knowledge touched each and every one of us that weekend and I can 100% say our experience wouldn't have been half as good if he wasn't there with us. I'll always treasure the time spent with him in this environment and at CNU.
Everything was awe-inspiring and absolutely beautiful. The holy structures were doused in color and covered in details. Every major religion was accounted for throughout the decor, architecture and interior spaces. Places like these really put into perspective how special it is to be alive and be connected to one another.
I felt as though I was in a painting or work of art wandering around the grounds while learning and growing. The magnitude of how beautiful it was there leaves me with a lack for words, but I remember being overwhelmingly humbled.
The yoga classes were the perfect amount of intense yet relaxing and challenged me in the best way. One of the more intense sessions was a Yoga Nidra class which allowed me to enter an almost sedative state.
The meditation was unlike any other. I don't know if it was just the environment or what but I fell into very deep meditative states that I've never been able to enter before. A few of the sessions were guided, which was extremely helpful for the times when we had no instruction. The time we spent meditating on our own accord was in one of the temples, in a quiet, dimly lit room filled with holy artifacts from several different religions. We ended up learning a lot about each of the different "main" holy texts which included Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Taoism, Judaism, and several more.
Our free time was spent exploring the grounds, drawing, practicing yoga and sitting out on the balcony at the house, watching the sun set behind the mountains. I couldn't help but feel the strongest sensation of connectivity—to the earth, other people, myself. It's like my soul just took a huge gulp of refreshing water after a long period of extreme drought and thirst. I felt replenished.
Overall, it was quite the enlightening experience. I'll admit that there were times that the place felt slightly cult-like with the chanting and spiritual dancing activities, and the vegetarian fare really took a toll on our bowels, but besides those minor details, it was quite the adventure.
Will I return? Maybe. It's not a hard no, but it's not an over the moon yes. I could see myself going back there if I feel like I'm losing myself and my practice or if I need a little holy water to jump start my spirituality again, but for now, I'm going to cherish the time I did have and look forward towards the next opportunity.