Quick Guide: Satyananda Yoga Ashram

This week, I headed out to a well known Satyananda Ashram in Rocklyn, Victoria. For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s pretty much a secluded dwelling planted in an {often} hindu style learning environment centered around the world of yoga.The DEEPER world. I’m not just talking about the ‘Asana’ (poses) you see on the mat here, but the philosophies, meditation, mantras, karma yoga (selfless work towards a greater goal), Satsang (spiritual talk) and a WHOLE LOT of time for self reflection.

“Equanimity is Yoga. Serenity is Yoga. Skill in actions is Yoga. Anything by which the best and the highest in life can be attained is also Yoga.” – Swami Sivananda

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Welcome to Rocklyn Satyananda Ashram

So, what’s it REALLY like to go off the grid (mentally, physically and electronically) and into a place of spiritual silence? Below is a timetable for the “Personal Retreat” I chose from the menu:

  • 5:30 am Wake up
  • 6:00 am Yoga & Meditation
  • 7:30 am Breakfast (Vegetarian – oats, fruits, buckwheat, curds/yoghurt, tea)
  • 8:00 – 8:30 Karma Yoga “Awareness in Action” (selfless work around the ashram such as cleaning, gardening, cooking/preparation that doesn’t satisfy your own personal needs, but helps the needs of others around you)
  • 8:30 – 11:00 am Free Time
  • 11:00 am  11:00 am Morning Tea (Tea & Fruits)
  • 11:30 am Yoga Nidra (Deep relaxation in a trance like state where you are fully conscious)
  • 12:00 pm Lunch (Vegetarian – potato, breads, vegetables, rice, quinoa, salad etc.)
  • 1:00 – 3:00 Free Time (Study, reading, relaxing, self-lead yoga, walking, hiking, bike riding, activities etc.)
  • 3:00 pm Afternoon Tea (Tea & Fruits)
  • 3:30 – 5:00/5:30 Free Time
  • 5:00/5:30 Meditation or Haven (Fire Ceremony)
  • 6:00/6:30 Dinner (Vegetarian – vegetables, lentils, rice, bread, chickpeas, salads etc.)
  • 7:30 pm Evening programme – Mantra Chanting, Kirtan (mantra in song), Satsung (Spiritual talk)
  • 8:30 pm – 8:30 amMouna (silence)

DAY ONE: 

Arriving after an almost 2 hour drive, I’m eager to get settled in and set up. My mind is fast, ticking over what I’ll do in my free time and coming to terms with the fact I have no mobile reception (thanks Vodafone). I chat to a few people already staying as we sit down for tea, and wait for the 11:30am bell that sends us to Yoga Nidra (this one is from the Bihar School of Yoga I visited back in 2012). My FAVOURITE time of the day.

My first introduction to the food is bland potato cooked two ways, and am suddenly more grateful for the meal I had at a whole-foods cafe in Ballarat hours earlier.

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All Meals Come STRAIGHT from the Garden or Neighbouring Farms

After lunch, I set off solo to explore the surrounding woods, leaving my voice behind – and hopefully gaining some clarity, peace and a good dose of endorphins. I arrive back around 2pm, in time for afternoon tea and to greet new arrivals.

5:30 pm and I’m off to the first 30 minute mediation focused on stillness in body and mind, and getting comfortable sitting in Sukhasana (basic seated pose). I leave the practice feeling quiet, fulfilled and with a serene sense of internal silence. I stay for a few moments before heading outside to sit by the lake for a silent and solo dinner – at my choice.

DAY TWO:

 5:30 am and my alarm sounds as I hear mantra’s through the loud speakers being spoken in a strained Indian voice comparable to those of Bollywood music clips. High pitched and arduous to listen to at the crack of dawn. I leap out of bed, shower and sit in the mediation room covered in a blanket, my mandala draped around my neck and eyes closed ready for the teacher (Swami) to arrive. We go through some basic yogic poses before laying in Shavasana (corpse/final resting pose) and listening to a guided meditation to allow our minds to become still and ready to lap up the goodness of the morning Mantra chanting sessions.

Porridge and fresh blackberries for breakfast in silence. Karma yoga in meditation hall folding the blankets to perfection. I leave at 9:00 am after my duty is finished, and drive to Daylesford for contraband chai (I struggle with following rules sometimes) and to escape the cold rising from the earth. Arrive back in time for morning tea chats and a powerful, more focused Yoga Nidra.

Lunchtime arrives and I pack my bag quickly after for a mindful hike. 3 kangaroo’s and an Echidna later, and I’m back in time for afternoon tea, (fruit and tea), then spend some time sunbathing, reading and writing.

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Brown Rice, Lentil Dhal & Lettuce – Nourishing and Vegan Friendly

5:30 bell chimes for meditation. This time it’s an Aum meditation. I get deep into my trance and don’t really want to get out of it.

6:00 pm and I grab a plate of the most delicious mix of baked and stir fried veggies, brown rice, salad and leftovers from lunch. Plus there’s an addition of sweet chilli sauce. My heart sings. I head out to the grass stretch in front of the lake and sit with my legs crossed in silence enjoying the subtle flavours, and being grateful for the food that has fuelled my day. I have tea, then silently head to my room to write again before chatting with my two new BFF’s and going for another (more intense!) walk around the outskirts of the Ashram, skipping out on the evening programme. I hear the Kirtan calls on the way back in, take a few photos and stomp around my room to get to 20,000 steps for the day. Yes. I’m still connected to technology and clearly my ego hasn’t calmed down yet. Bed at 8:20pm, and a little time to read “Brain on Fire”.

DAY THREE:

I’m the fourth person to arrive to morning class just before 6am, and find a spot on the floor. Mat, blanket and cushion make the area mine. I sit in silence in half lotus, with eyes closed and blanked wrapped around me like a sausage roll. The Swami arrives to guide as and we get into our slow and steady Hatha yoga practice for 30 minutes before concluding with a brief meditation and morning mantra chanting. There’s something I both equally love and hate about this last part of the practice, but can’t understand yet what it is.

8:00am and today I’m sent to the kitchen to help clean the oven. Using bi-carb soda, vinegar and a cloth, I mindfully clean until I’m dismissed at the end of the job.

9:00am arrives, and again I get this pang of want to head to the nearest city, sip on a Chai (substituting my coffee to steer clear of the anxiety it brings), read my emails, send some messages and call my mum. I limit myself to an hour before heading back to the ashram, and go for a walk around the grounds before morning tea at 11:00am. I do a few impromptu asana’s – my body feels like some stretch and balance.

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Outside the Sacred Space & view of the Gardens

11:30am and the bell rings for Yoga Nidra. I get excited and drop my conversation with my Ashram friends to nab a spot and get deep into the practice. I few gentle yoga moves prior, and I’m ready to “arrrrrrrrum” (relax as they say in India).

12:00pm I wander quietly out front of the hall, and look at the lake. Then my bare feet on the grass. I feel connected. I head into for lunch and look at my plate with a tang of resentment – kitcheri (again), roast potato’s and pumpkin, some wilted greens and some salad. I try the spiced walnut chilli dressing and feel excited about the added flavour; then guilty for throwing away 1/3 of my plate of food. Bland food doesn’t do it for me. I wash up, grab my backpack and trainers and head out on a new path through the Wombat Forrest.

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“If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will take you there” – Lewis Carrol

I arrive back in time for tea, and feel like I stink the ashram out with a mix of sweat and dirt. I grab a herbal tea, orange and small apple and sit with my friends and we chat about life, and how it will go forward after leaving. We talk about love, life, work, travel, study and vision boards, and then I slowly get up (should have stretched) and head for a luxurious shower to wash my hair. After, I didn’t even reapply my make-up. Growth. I head outside with my yoga mat to get some sun, and get bitten by a big black ant. I get angry, then feel bad for the ant and for shoving him off my illuminated blue mat. Everyone loves shiny new things, and I don’t know why I didn’t assume the ant would think the same.

5:30 pm and it’s announced that meditation will be another round of Yoga Nidra. I got deep again, but not as much as pre-lunch. Afterward, I still felt that sense of stillness, and had the urge to look at my naked feet on grass and wanting to connect to nature. Weird.

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Meditation & Hatha Practice Room across the Lake

The dinner bell rang, and in my heightened state of hunger, I was second into the line. Wholegrain pasta with basil pesto sauce, cherry tomatoes and freshly cooked vegetables. Side of lettuce. I had my helping, ate, and was still ravenous. In fact, I still feel like I’m waiting for dinner to be announced. Don’t get me wrong, I’m BIG on vegetarian dining, but when I leave the table and don’t feel nourished or full, I ask questions and wonder if my body is processing the nutrients it’s receiving. I feel like sugar, and escape quickly to the car to grab a few mints to try curbing the rising anxiety of hunger and cravings.

I left the conversationalists shortly after, and retired to the peace of my room. Today a lot of new people arrived like shiny new toys, and now, all I want to do is escape the ashram to find quiet outside of its walls. Tomorrow I will re-assess. I’m craving the real world, but enjoying the yoga nidra, hikes, meditation, diet and philosophical conversations. I also like having the afternoons to read, write and laze in the sun while the world goes by and not feel like I have to “be” anywhere. My mind is calm.

DAY FOUR:

5:30, my alarm goes off and I feel weary. A little slow to get out of bed, but still stumble to the shower, wash, do my make-up (ego remains in tact), and head to Asana, meditation and mantra chanting. Today I’m feeling more settled into the mantra chanting, and belt them out like ballads. Yesterday’s annoyance of the “Durga”mantra, suddenly become empowering and I didn’t feel like I was uncomfortable as I sat with my hands in “Hakini mudra” which is great for spiritual and emotional power, and enhances concentration.

Next was buckwheat porridge and banana, with a side of fresh yoghurt. I ditch the yogurt this time (I’m supposed to be dairy free), and make a cup of black tea with Soy. My Karma yoga is 30 minutes of washing dishes in the kitchen, and I’m full of excitement, quickly asking for another job before I’m told my duties are finished for the day. I head to my car, ready to head in for my hour of internet  – but feel a bit of a pull to stay in lieu of going.

I arrive in town, order a soy cappuccino and let the intensity of the caffeine brew within me. I wait as I get online, and see how this energy is going to pulse through my veins. 20 minutes later, my hands are shaking and I feel the need to get “grounded” as anxiety begins to creep into my mind and body.

11:00am, and just in time for morning tea of apple and herbal tea. It calms me. 11:30am and more people have arrived for the weekend, full of excitement and questions of “how do you do this?” “how many times have you done this?” “how long have you been practising?” then the conversation flows to more trivial things like work, money and matters of the first world. I disconnect and find my spiritual clan of the week before heading into Yoga Nidra for the final time. I wonder how the coffee will impact my ability to shift into the deeper realm of sleep yoga, but I manage to get deeper than ever.

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Feeling Grounded

12:00 pm and it’s lunchtime. Rice and Dahl (see photo). Never my favourite, but I need nourishing; and food is fuel. I say my farewells to two of my favourite girls departing on new journeys, and head into the Wombat Forrest solo. Today, I’m armed with music, headphones and a voice that SO LOUD it lets the wilderness know I’ve found my roar again. After 90 minutes in one direction, I decide it’s time to turn around as I feel a little light-headed, perhaps even delusional… I like to think it’s my intuition asking if I’m crazy walking in such heat with less than a litre of water, zero reception and just my #crazywhitegirl self.

3:40 pm I head back to my room for an hour of what I like to call relaxation yoga – simple stretches held for up to 10 minutes to release any DEEP muscles that are still holding their game post hike.

5:30 is time for Devi Havan. Havan is both an offering to our world for the benefit of all, and an opportunity for personal transformation in short. Devi represents Energy or Shakti, which is both the infinite cosmic force or luminosity and the energy inherent in all of creation; and she may be personified as the Cosmic or Divine Mother in any of her myriad names and forms. The ceremony can sometimes be called “fire ceremony” as it is 1 of the four elements utilised during the session. The ceremony got me centered in a deep place, forgetting the world around me and focusing on the moment, the ideals and the mantra’s being chanted all around me.

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Cool. Calm. Ceremonial-ised.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, I felt perplexed; not knowing whether I wanted to sit, walk, chant or be alone with my thoughts. All of a sudden a wave of excitement rushed over me, and I knew what I wanted – Home. I was done.

Although I was planning one last night, one last early wake-up; I felt like I had gotten all I came for and was ready to utilise what I learned and take it back to my world. I packed, cleaned and drove home with the sun-setting over the beautiful landscapes that make up Greater Victoria. Peace – within and without.

“A wise man is he who is always satisfied because he wants nothing. He is happy by himself, inside himself within his soul” – Bhagavad Gita

 

Until the next adventure,

Love & light,

Monique Elouise (Ma Mani Padma) xx

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Passionate about self growth, Im traveling the world to learn more about holistic fitness from varying cultural perspectives. While I stay put for a few months at a time, I like to 'live as a local' volunteering at health retreats, getting deep into workshops, training, cooking, meditating, dancing and anything that will keep me holistically fit while letting intuition guide me. My end goal is to help others how become deeply in tune with themselves, learning to listen to theit inner voice, conquer their demons and create a stronger version of themselves through health and fitness.