Based in Sydney and enjoys writing about travel, yoga, food and other crafts though not exclusive to these topics. Follow me on Twitter @KatieKohlbeck
Published July 21st 2012
Taking a break from the fast paced life of the city is something that we all need from time to time and if you're into yoga and meditation, there certainly isn't a shortage of retreats to choose from. But heading to one of the many in or near Australia can be a difficult option for individuals trying to stick to a budget or can't afford time off from work. Fortunately for Sydneysiders, Mangrove Yoga Ashram is situated a mere 1 ½ hours north of Sydney near Peats Ridge and offers space to feel like you've been far removed from the city. The ashram follows the philosophies of Satyananda Yoga but there's no need to be a devoted yogi in order take in a retreat. All you need to do is show up, be present and open to the experience.
The ashram offers a range of retreat options varying in duration, activities and focuses. One popular option is their bush regeneration program, which is an opportunity to work on maintaining the surrounding bushland and trails. In exchange you receive meals, accommodation and access to the daily activities like asana practice or guided meditation. There's a small fee associated with the program but is still a great option if you need to escape the city on a tight budget. Check out the calendar on their website for all the upcoming retreats, which can be anything from a special evening event or yoga relax weekend. If the structured style doesn't appeal to you, opt for a personal retreat which is completely flexible and you can take part in as many or as few of the daily activities as you wish.
The days start early at 5am when everybody is gently waken up by a central singing alarm clock that rings out through the ashram grounds. Observation of silence begins each evening at 8:30pm and continues to the following day until 7:30am. So this is especially great news for non-morning people. No need to make small chat with others as you enter the cool morning air on your way to 5:30am asana practice. After about 90 minutes of gentle and awakening poses, practice is followed by a modest breakfast of black tea and porridge (enjoyed in silence). By the time 7:30am rolls around, you're free to chat again and continue on with the rest of the day's activities including karma yoga. This special hour is set aside for everyone at the ashram - residents and guests - to 'give back' back to the ashram through tasks like folding linens and blankets, sweeping floors or cleaning the bathrooms. It's good karma, you see.
Other activities one could anticipate on a given day include meditation, yoga nidra, theory classes, kirtan, a creative activity or a spiritual film screening. While the daily schedule is full, it's also very relaxed and you'll never feel pressured to participate in any session or activity. If you're not feeling up for a guided session, you're free to just enjoy the surroundings. Check out the library for a book to enjoy under a tree, hire out a kayak from the ashram or take in the scenery on a bushwalk.
However, for the most meaningful experience, try to immerse yourself into the community and participate in some of the sessions that are new to you like chanting, yoga nidra or a healing ceremony. You just might learn something new about yourself to take back to the hustle and bustle of city living.
Further information about Mangrove Yoga Ashram can be found on their website.