Sivananda Yoga Ashram, Woodstock and Tibetan Monastery

I am sitting here next to the Esopus River in the Catskills in Phoenicia NY. I was told this little town was really pretty, so I came here and come to find out…tubing the river is the thing to do. I got myself a vanilla ice cream cone dipped in chocolate and came down by the river. The weather is wonderful. It is so nice and peaceful that I decided to sit on a rock and start this email. However, of course, there is no cell reception, so this is going into a word doc until I have email again.

My yoga ashram adventure: I arrived at the Sivananda yoga ashram Sunday around 3 pm. I had no idea what to expect, so just planned to play it by ear. I paid for 2 days, and thought I’d see how things went, and I could always stay longer. It is in Woodbourne, NY [southern tip of the Catskills], which is just north of the NY/PA border. The ashram is in the mountains and just beautiful. It’s in the middle of nowhere [no cell phone/internet reception], and not easy to find. They have chairs facing an amazing view, so I read until the afternoon yoga session.

This is the daily schedule:

5.30 am wake up [yes…I know. Bell rings at 5.30 and then again at 5.45]
6.00 morning mediation session [1.30 to 1.45 hrs]
8.00 morning yoga [1.45 to 2 hrs]
10.00 brunch
11.00 karma yoga [volunteer at the camp]
4.00 afternoon yoga [1.45 to 2 hrs]
6.00 dinner
8.00 nite meditation [1.30 to 1.45 hrs]

Yoga was done on a covered platform outside overlooking an incredible view. The weather was in the 70’s. Very nice. At dinner I asked about the mediation, thinking it would be around 10 – 15 minutes. Come to find out, its 30 minutes of silent mediation, then 1 hour of chanting, then a ‘lesson’. So, I start to freak out. I may be able to make it thru the silent mediation, but an hour of chanting? Oh-oh. This is what I was concerned about.

In the temple, I got into my seated position with everyone else. 30 minutes in that one position is a longggg time. My legs were falling asleep, but the place was so quiet, you could hear people’s stomachs growling. NO ONE was moving at all. I became very uncomfortable and looking around, and no one is moving. I decided that that I couldn’t take it any longer and had to stretch out [and people are approx 2’ from each other]. You know when your leg falls asleep, and you need to stretch out and shake it awake, so not only am I invading other people’s space, but then I am making these waking up my leg noises.

The whole time during the silent mediation I am thinking how I can get out of future meditations/chanting. Since it’s twice a day, I wonder if I’ll be missed if I don’t show up, or should I just leave after the mediation and miss the chanting, or do I do the ol’ extended ‘bathroom’ break… And I am thanking goodness that I have only signed up for 2 days because I can’t imagine staying longer.

I finally made it thru the silent mediation, so now comes the chanting part. The swami set up a mic and a hand-push organ and everyone started singing. Then they handed out bells, drums and tambourines! It’s a sing-along!! And the song is really fun. Very melodic and also trance like. Everyone sings very well. I have no idea what they are all saying, or even what language [Sanskrit] they are singing in. Everyone knows the words by heart. They keep mentioning Hare Krishna. Hmmm…trance like song and Hare Krishna? That chant/song went on for 20 minutes. The other chants weren’t as much fun, but were ok. So, I left there thinking that the chanting part was actually going to be ok. There was this one chant that was 4 lines of 4 words, and each word, no kidding, was at least 15 characters long. That chant/song went on for 10 minutes. Another was just 2 lines of 4 words, and that too went on for 10 minutes. Repetition is key.

So, I went into the mediation part just dreading it, and it ended up being kinda fun [except for sitting in one position during the silent mediation part].

I went to bed and got back up before 6 am and we did it all over again.

The silent mediation was easier this time. I’m not sure if because second time around I knew what to expect so it was easier, or because it was 6 am and during part of the mediation I was actually asleep. Probably the latter. I am a bfast person, and am not used to getting up with no bfast. During the times of the silent mediation that I wasn’t asleep, I was wondering how I was going to make it thru 2 hours of yoga with no bfast.

I was hoping that they would sing that one chant again that I really liked…and they did! Come to find out they always start off with that chant.

I went to the morning yoga class, and the 2 hours just flew by. The only strange part was, was that the ‘routine’ was the same as the day before. Different instructor, but the same asanas in exactly the same order.

At brunch, I sat next to a young woman [Lily] who seemed like she was probably the only other person there who maybe didn’t know what was going on. Come to find out, EVERYONE there was on a work study program [around 25 – 30 people], and her and I were the only ones there on ‘vacation’. She arrived on Sunday too, and didn’t know what was going on either. She looked young, but I was shocked to later find out she was only 15! She certainly doesn’t seem 15. She signed up to stay a week, and was camping.

After brunch I went over to her tent to find out if she wanted to walk the 3 miles into town with me. My secret agenda was to find some coffee. She said she wanted to go, but was groggy, cuz she hasn’t had any coffee. Excellent! I felt as though we were two teenagers sneaking away from home to get something naughty [actually, one of us really was a teenager]. We decided to drive into town. Which was brilliant, cuz the one block of stores definitely didn’t have any coffee. Now, that would have really been a pisser if we had walked 3 miles and then no coffee! So, I kept driving. The area has a large Hasidic Jew population, and there are these little towns that are one or 2 blocks long. No coffee. However, there was a Chinese food restaurant in each town. About 10 miles away, you should have heard the sounds of joy in my car when we saw a …Dunkin Donuts!! I would venture to guess that this was the first time I had such feelings towards a Dunkin Donuts.

We got our coffee and started dishing about the ashram. And it was as though I was dishing with myself, cuz every thought and/or question I had, she verbalized. This place is definitely NOT for beginners, and no one tells you what you need to do, or should be doing. Not friendly people. Everyone pretty much lives there…some for years.

The next yoga session again, was the same as before. All their yoga sessions are the same [repetition is key to everything here]. This is a spiritual place that has yoga, not a physical/yoga place that also has meditation.

I was planning on staying a day longer, until I found out that the yoga sessions are all the same. So, the reason I came was for the yoga, and that same routine got old real fast.

I was only there for 2 days…48 hours, but it felt like a week. Lily, who was supposed to leave on Sunday, told them that she would be leaving Thursday morning.

I would say, that if someone wants to jump start a weight loss program, that they should be dropped off [so no car], and with 4 hours of yoga a day, and a strict vegan diet, without a doubt, you would lose weight. All that for less than $500/week!

When I left, I decided to hike around the Catskills – and headed towards Woodstock. There is a Tibetan monastery in Woodstock. I decide to go see this monastery, and from there I would hike approx 3 miles up this mountain to see what is supposed to be an incredible view. So, I get to the monastery, and it looks like a white square building and not at all what one would think a Tibetan monastery would look like. There is a sign stating “do not enter” due to construction [which there was none going on since it was after 6 pm]. Of course I don’t let this stop me, so I enter the area anyways. I was taking a picture, and this lady comes up and asks me why I’m taking a picture…what for? I was caught off guard by the question, cuz why else does someone take a picture of something? She told me I shouldn’t be there, due to construction. [fyi – I was also looking like a wreck. I had done yoga for 2 hours earlier, had hiked various places along my way getting to Woodstock, rode my bike all around Woodstock – and found this really cool B&B to stay at.] I told her that I had just come from a yoga ashram and they told me I needed to come here to the monastery. THAT bought me a ticket inside and a personal tour! The temple inside was really cool, and what one would expect.

She insisted that I meditate in the temple. Great…just what I needed more of! I went over to a room where people were chanting. However, there was no organ, no tambourines, no drums there. Just several people speaking Sanskrit in a very drone-like manner.

I then left to haul *ss up the mountain. It was getting dark – I had spent too much time in the temple. I gave myself 40 minutes to go up as fast as I could, then I would have to come down due to darkness and the surface/earth was not something I would want to manage once dark. I ended up not making it to the top. And I couldn’t get that darn Hare Krishna song out of my head the whole time I was hiking. Not til later did I read that at 1.6 miles there is a cabin and some ruins. Wow. How pathetic am I…I hauled ass up there as fast as I could, and I didn’t make 1.5 miles in 40 minutes! Ha.

I got back down the mountain, took a shower and left the B&B at 9.12 pm for dinner. Come to find out…the town closes up at 9 pm. I asked some skate boarding dudes where I can get some dinner/food. They thought for a bit, and mentioned Woodstock’s version of a 7/11. Great.

3 Comments »

  1. KrakenSkulls Said,

    May 10, 2010 @ 5:54 pm

    I enjoyed reading this. Thanks.

    Did you ever talk to Lily again?

    How would one call for help with no cell coverage?

  2. jquick99 Said,

    May 11, 2010 @ 10:24 am

    Yes, I still keep in some touch with Lily. She’s now at university in the midwest.

    Re NO cell phone reception: At the office, there was a land line phone. So, one could use that if there was an emergency.

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