The journey begins at the airport in Montreal. That's when you realize that you are indeed in another country. The signs are in French and English. In the airport, most people speak both languages but more than a few do not speak English fluently and the vast majority speak English with a strong French accent. I've been taking this trip annually now for 10 years of so. I never learned the language. Just saying that makes me feel like a stereotypical arrogant American. Of course, we're all Americans aren't we, both in the North and in the South. After exchanging some US for Canadian Dollars I met my host just beyond baggage.
Each year I'm picked up at the airport by a karma yogi from the ashram. Karma yogis perform selfless service. It is a spiritual practice of surrendering the ego by being one of many, by serving without expectation of reward, by serving from your heart. Ashrams are run by karma yogis. Without them, there really is no ashram. Karma yogis cook and clean, take care of house-keeping, cultivate the gardens and handle registration for programs. Some serve for a month, some for year and some for their whole lives. In many ways, a Swami is really just a karma yogi with the deepest commitment.
Swami Mahadevananda is the acharya or senior spiritual teacher at the ashram. But without Pralad, his ashram administrator and his wife Saraswati, I am not sure how it would run. Along with raising a family on the ashram grounds, the two of them seem to coordinate all of the activities here. Swami Mahadevananda is a direct disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda, the founder of the Sivananda Yoga Organization and himself a direct disciple of Swami Sivananda, the widely acclaimed Self-realized Master who passed away in 1963 . Swami Vishnu passed in 1993. The organization is now run by his most senior disciples. Together, they form an executive board and they have expanded the organization all over the world. The teaching of Swami Vishnu Devananda and Swami Sivananda are alive and well.
The ashram grounds are beautiful. There are flower gardens everywhere, large outdoor decks for doing yoga and indoor halls in case it rains. There is also a swimming pool and sauna. The real attractions though are the Krishna temple on the lower grounds and the Ayappa temp above the ashram. Enter the temples and you could be in India. You would never know the difference.
The Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy Certification Course began today. The students will be with me and my co-teacher Sri Devi, for almost two weeks. Today we began our exploration of traditional ayurvedic and yogic philosophy. Tomorrow we explore the doshas and the how to determine constitution. As the course progresses we will explore Ayurvedic and Yogic psychology and then the healing aspects of raja yoga, the traditional eight limbs of yoga articulated by the Sri Patanjali. Students will spend lot of time learning about the energetics of each asana and how it affects the physiology of the body. This is the core of Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy and it leads to an understanding of to organize a yoga class to bring balance to the doshas of the body.
I'm looking out the window of my room. The hillside is a lush green with hints of early fall color. I'm sure that ashram will be a glow on reds and yellow in just a couple weeks. At the edge of the forest, a yoga teacher stands giving instruction to a small group of students exploring the shoulder stand series.
The Sivananda Yoga Camp is a beautiful and sacred space blessed by the energy of enlightened masters. A visit here certainly touches the heart of every guest.
Dr. Marc Halpern is the founder and President of the California College of Ayurveda and the author of the popular book, Healing Your Life; Lessons on the Path of Ayurveda. A leader in the profession, he is the co-founder of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (USA) and the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine. He also sits on the advisory boards of Light on Ayurveda Journal in the United States and the Journal of Research and Education in Indian Medicine in India. Dr. Halpern’s contributions to the field have earned him the highest level of awards in both countries. He has published hundreds of articles in popular journals and magazines of Ayurveda and Yoga and is a regular speaker at Ayurvedic and Yoga conferences. A Doctor of Chiropractic, a Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist, A certified Yoga Teacher in the Sivananda tradition, a Specialist in Holistic Medicine, an author and teacher, Dr. Marc Halpern gives 100% to his passion for healing and removing the causes of suffering.