The Living Yoga Training (LYT) program at Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville is a twenty-eight day residential program designed for conscientious seekers to establish or deepen their practice. Within this supportive Ashram environment, participants, fondly called LYTs, immerse themselves in Integral Yoga, learning Hatha Yoga and meditation, studying spiritual philosophy, and performing Karma Yoga (selfless service) around the Ashram. In this post, we’ll hear from three LYT alumni, Karen, Ninette, and Roy, to learn about their experiences, challenges, and insights from the Living Yoga Training program.
1. Why did you decide to take the LYT program?
Karen: I was led to Yogaville while seeking a clean slate and guidance on how to be more peaceful in my daily life. After my first visit in 2013, I fell in love. It had routine, study, community, people, nature, and amazing food! I decided to make the LYT program a part of my ‘exit strategy’ from a decade of working in corporate offices.
Roy: I decided to take the LYT program because I was putting off moving back to Miami for a job I didn’t want. I found Yogaville through an NPR article online, and that was all I knew. It seemed like all the best things: yoga, philosophy, vegetarian diet, asana practice, and an intentional community. I wanted to reconnect with parts of me and things I’d stopped doing like healthy communal living, growing food, feeling good.
Ninette: When I first heard about a place called Yogaville, I thought ‘what in the world?’ I didn’t go for a few years until finally, I did a 3-day program. I didn’t understand it all and was intimidated by the people wearing orange outfits (monastics) however, I found everyone to be more genuine and peaceful than anyone else I knew. When I heard about the LYT program during the satsang service, I knew I wanted to do it.
2. What challenges did you encounter?
Roy: The devotional practices and culture were a big surprise. Before coming to the Ashram my understanding of Yoga was limited to asanas (physical postures) and meditation. My feelings about and relationship with my idea of God, are things I’m still working with today.
Once enrolled in the LYT program, participants begin adjusting to their new schedule. Five days a week, LYTs rise early for 5AM meditation, followed by a 90 minute Hatha class. Following the mornings’ sadhana (spiritual practice) is a breakfast of whole grains, fruit, and tea. For many, waking before sunrise is a challenge in itself. Three times a week the group meets to study the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali’s Sutras.
Ninette: As I was fully detoxing from qutting my job and junk food lifestyle, I found that I slept a lot. It felt hard to move my body for almost 3 weeks and rising early was difficult at the beginning, but the habit stuck and was easy to maintain after I left Yogaville.
Karen: One thing that challenged me was adjusting to always being around a community, even during sleep and meals. This also ended up being one of my favorite things about the program, but at first, it was certainly a love-hate relationship, wanting to be around others but then at other times, needing to find privacy and space to myself.
The community gathers to share three meals a day in the Sivananda Dining Hall however, fortunately, there is no lack of space to stretch out as the Ashram grounds spread across 750 acres of forest in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia. The LYT program provides free time for self-reflection and rest, and for those who enjoy moving meditations or connect best amidst nature’s beauty, a stroll to one of the Ashram’s majestic shrines can be a daily joy.
3. Greatest takeaways from the experience?
Ninette: After four years, the lessons still come. There is so much I gained. First- Karma Yoga. I liked that phrase, Karma Yoga, as I would cringe at the term ‘service’. But now, when I see how even my smallest actions can make an impact for someone else, I realize this understanding has made me a better person in all aspects of my life.
The Ashram relies on the self-less service of every individual to support the community and LYT participants do their part performing 21 hours of Karma Yoga each week in morning or afternoon shifts. Service may be in the kitchen, on the farm, housekeeping or landscaping.
Karen: I realized that every moment of life is an opportunity to practice awareness. The mundane aspects of daily life are as significant as the greatest milestones and the divine is in every aspect of our existence, within everything and everyone around us. Committing to a change in my lifestyle created a massive shift in my entire perspective of life that has sustained itself through today.
Roy: Two weeks in I knew I was going to stay for the Ashram Yogi Farm program. I felt great and Yogaville was beautiful. Sharing my meals with friends, day after day, made me happy in ways I’d wanted to feel for a long time: connected, cared for and interested. After years of thinking of gardening, I was about to get the opportunity to serve a community while I learned how to grow organic produce. Yes please.
Following the successful completion of the LYT program, individuals are able to extend their stay at the Ashram through the Ashram Yogi Program, a commitment of two or more months working around the Ashram, at the farm, or in the kitchen. For shorter periods of service, LYT alumni can return to the Ashram to work as a support staff member for as few as three nights to a stay of six weeks.
4. Who can benefit from the LYT program?
Roy: Well aside from everyone, I’d say that 40 to 50-year-old guys, who after having sat in office chairs for about 20 years and eating wings regularly, are trying to live healthier lifestyles. Those guys have tons to benefit from the LYT program.
Karen: Anyone interested in truly learning the meaning of inner focus and development, and how our relationship with Self impacts the world around us every moment. The lessons extend far beyond the time spent at Yogaville and continue to present themselves again and again in my daily life.
Ninette: I can’t recommend the LYT program enough for anyone on the yogic path or even just exploring spirituality. The growth, compassion, grounding and overall foundation I found here, is unsurpassed.