Ashram celebrates 50 years in Nevada County | Leaf Probably

11 years ago today, the United Nations declared June 21st the “International Day of Yoga”.

Now one of the oldest ashrams in the United States – the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm – celebrates half a century of retreat and radical living between Grass Valley and Auburn.

“We have been in this country for 50 years,” said Swami Sitaramananda, director of the farm for 27 years. “It is one of the first serious ashrams in this country and we are very proud.”



Swami Dharmananda, who has lived at the farm since 2007, said ‘ashram’ means retreat or retreat.

Guests will participate in the integrated movement as soon as the morning bell rings at 5:30 a.m., Dharmananda said, adding that the bicentennial celebration will include a Fall Labor Day program, an interfaith Thanksgiving retreat and a holiday program planned for this winter includes.



“We don’t just teach movement, it’s a lifestyle,” Sitaramananda said, adding that by integrating other dimensions of one’s health, it helps yoga practice feel like self-therapy.

Sitaramananda said her community — made up of 10 to 15 full-time people — participate in a conscious lifestyle designed to free them from superficial pressures. Although the lifestyle requires adherence to certain guidelines, it is not necessarily isolated as some religions require their followers to be.

Since the retreat center was founded half a century ago, numerous temples to Hindi deities, a permaculture garden, a lavender hill, an alpaca goat farm and numerous guest facilities for retreat participants have been built.

Aside from visiting BriarPatch Food Coop and Hills Flat Lumber for resources on cooking and building, Swami Dharma said her community has ties to the School of Ayurveda.

“People are moving to Nevada County because of us,” Sitaramananda said.

Sitaramananda moved to Canada from Vietnam during the war in the 1970s. After graduating from college, Sitaramananda turned to yoga as a meditative practice due to her burnout as a social worker. Since then, she has served the needs of her community by contributing to culture change, as opposed to government outreach.

“You go within to solve problems,” said Sitaramananda.

FARM LIFE

The yogi lifestyle is not necessarily “strict,” Sitaramananda said.

“It follows the law of nature,” Sitaramananda said, adding that avoiding certain substances like tobacco helps people live more balanced, harmonious lives.

People meditate in the Brahma Vidya Hall, one of five temples and halls on the farm’s grounds. The Hall of Self-Awareness has images representing the lineage of gurus behind the organization’s teachings.
Submitted to the Union

A regular life requires self-discipline, said Sitaramananda.

Sitaramananda became the head teacher at the farm in 1995, shortly after working in a similar managerial role at the organization’s San Francisco location, a location she planned to give up during the pandemic.

Sitaramananda said that the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers is a non-profit organization named after one of the most influential spiritual teachers of the 20th century and founded by his disciple Swami Vishnudevananda. There are over 50 Sivananda locations – ashrams, yoga centers and affiliates – around the world.

Sitaramananda took over the organization’s Nevada County territory shortly after the death of retreat space founder Vishnudevananda in 1993.

Vishnudevananda discovered the 80 acres in 1971 and chose a home of sorts because of their natural beauty, Sitaramananda said, adding that Vishnudevananda’s original idea was to offer a comfortable resting place between the two regions that Vishnu associates with work and recreation – San Francisco and Reno.

According to the farm’s head teacher, Sitaramananda, or better known as Swami “Sita,” the need for healthy practices to balance and center the self in the fast-paced, modern world has only increased since the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the pre-existing population society has aggravated. existing mental health problems.

Located between Grass Valley and Auburn, the ashram was closed to the public during COVID-19 and offered online classes — even yoga teacher training — a whole new form of outreach.

Sitaramananda said the ashram is maintaining its online options but noted how it was born out of necessity at a time of required isolation.

Sitaramananda said the ashram looks forward to personally connecting with people whose desire to explore alternative ways of life has only increased over the course of the pandemic.

“California is avant-garde,” said Sitaramananda. “We just want to remind people that we’re proud to be here.”

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer at The Union. She can be reached at roneil@theunion.com

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