Located in the idyllic Laurentian mountains, one hour north of Montreal, the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp attracts visitors from all corners of the world. They come out to the Ashram for nutrition and massage courses, weekend retreats, yoga teacher training, or just as an escape from the stresses of harried city life.
Founded by the late Swami Vishnudevananda in 1957, the Ashram is renowned as a haven of peace and tranquility in a world with too much information and too little wisdom.
The Krishna Temple overlooks rolling hills, where guests sit for daily satsang. Each day starts off with a 5:30 am call to the temple, where Swami Mahadevananda leads communal meditation and chanting. A flavourful vegetarian breakfast follows. Every day brings two yoga classes, a lecture or workshop, two communal meals, and free time to hike and explore.
Some guests are Montreal regulars and make their way out for weekend visits. Others come for the internationally renowned yoga teacher certification, a one-month program with eight hours of yoga instruction a day. Still others are in search of spiritual fulfillment, wandering from city to city, and some come to reconnect with themselves. The demographic is diverse, from children to the elderly, Hindu to atheist. Nationalities are equally varied, with guests from Austria, California, Argentina, and India. But within hours of arriving, all are imbued with a peace that radiates through the grounds. Independent guests are sure to make many friends.
My first morning, I watched in awe as my yoga instructor demonstrated a hand stand. She supported herself with her forearms, tucking in her neck and lifting her legs to the sky with effortless grace. She was perfectly inverted. She later mentioned casually that she had just celebrated her 78th birthday. When I confided my fears about attempting the posture, she just looked at me blankly. “If you think you can’t do it … then you can’t do it,” she told me simply.
Another afternoon found me hiking up the hill to a Hindu temple. I walked the grounds barefoot, enjoyed an impromptu Indian meal, and chatted with a Hindu man from Sri Lanka and a young Jewish woman from Toronto about religion. We sat alongside a pond with the water trickling. “You would never see this normally,” the woman said thoughtfully. “A Hindu, Christian and Jew sitting next to a temple talking about religion.”
A recent New York Times article notes that Ashram vacations have spiked since the economy went downhill. Without a doubt, extended immersion in yoga and meditation far surpasses the benefits of an hour-long class in the city. Five days at the Ashram went above and beyond my expectations. It’s not a whirlwind tour of Europe, blazing through ten countries in as many days, or a physically taxing hike through the rainforests of Costa Rica—it is truly a vacation of the mind. A stay at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp may be the first real vacation you’ve ever had.
See the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp site for more information or to book a stay. A one-week stay varies from $285 to $510, depending on accommodations — you can camp out, get a cabin, dorm room, or private room with shower.