I speak very highly of Mangrove Yoga Ashram. For me it is truly 'a home away from home.'
To get to the ashram I took the local school bus from Gosford station. I must say, this was an eye opener - the kids were loud and boisterous, I laughed most the way through shock! Friends of mine had driven to the ashram and lost their way using their GPS system. I have since taken public transport and driven to the ashram using the clear directions given on the website.
Coming back to my first trip.....after the rowdy bus ride, I was picked up from the end of Mangrove Creek road by a friendly ashram resident, I had so many questions about the venture and the 5 min drive barely touched the surface. Once arriving, I was greeted by the receptionist who checked me in, told me my room and gave me a map with a daily timetable.
I found my room, dropped my bags and went to the 5.15pm asana class. Different to the yoga I was familiar to; it calmed my mind and settled me into the environment. After class there was a dong for dinner. I followed the others to the dining area, picked up a plate and fork then stood in line. Eagerly I watched the people ahead of me - 'what was for dinner?' I wondered. Holding my plate up to the servers I was given rice with cashews, a yellow lentil soup (which I later found out was called dhal), baked pumpkin and potatoes and some steamed greens. There was help yourself salad greens and condiments. The food was very yummy. People were sitting at chairs and tables and also on the floor. I found a corner and began eating as I watched the vibe of action.
Some people were dressed in orange, yellow or white, this intrigued me. A few helpers sat at the same table. They were doing a wwoofing stay (willing workers on organic farms). I asked many questions and found out that the different coloured clothes symbolized different levels of commitment to the tradition. After dinner I followed the crowd to wash my plate then went back to my room. I was staying in a shared room, staying with someone I hadn't met yet.
The rooms were clean and simple with a toilet at the end of the veranda, the bathroom block was close also. There were different accommodation options available but I choose the standard. The lady I was sharing with came to the room. She too was doing a personal retreat stay, we chatted for a bit and just after 7pm I heard a bell ring, we made our way to the practice room. There were cushions and chairs, we were encouraged to sit at the front so I took a stash of cushions and blankets to prop myself up. The evening program was introduced as kirtan - which is a practice I was familiar with. The room was filled with about 25 others. Some had just arrived for the monthly farm project retreat, others on a personal retreat stay, some were wwoofing or attending the yoga relax retreat (starting the next day) and there were also the residents of the ashram. I felt welcomed. After kirtan there was the practice of mouna - sacred silence, which was new for me. I walked to my room and my roommate was there, it was different not talking to her, but refreshing to be able to do my own thing and not have to interact.
The next day began at 5am with a bell. I had a warm shower and went to the practice room. The morning class was well balanced with asana, pranayama and meditation. The breakfast dong rang at 7am, so from the class I got my breakfast. It was muesli and bananas. Help yourself to milk, yogurt, black and herbal tea. There was a GF option. Everyone was still in silence. The silence made me more attentive to the beautiful sounds of nature. I sat at the tables outside to eat and admired the tranquil lush setting. At 7.45am there was vedic chanting for 15 minutes. Then at 8am there was the practice of karma yoga (self-less service). Staying on a personal retreat it wasn’t a requirement to attend, but I wanted to join in. Everyone gathered at reception and someone gave a short spiel on what karma yoga is. Then people were given different tasks for the hour. I was sent to the kitchen and there I washed lettuce that had just been picked from the garden!
At 9am there was a visitors meeting. This was a chance to find out what was happening for the day and to meet some other guests. I enjoyed the meeting. It was informative, inspirational and I could ask questions. Depending on the type of stay chosen, there are different karma yoga (self-less service) projects allocated in the morning and afternoon. The wwoofers were given their schedules, I too could help out or go on a bush walk with one of the residents. I love walking so opted for that. We trekked up to the caves and saw the beautiful view of the valley – well worth the hill climb. The leader on the walk had a leech on her leg, surprisingly this didn’t seem to bother her, she just flicked it off and said ‘they’re harmless’. I liked her easy going attitude, this I found many of the residents had. After the walk was morning tea. I met with many new guests who had just arrived for the yoga relax retreat.
After morning tea, I checked out the library. There was an array of books, the best variety of spiritual, philosophical, religious and yoga books I have seen.
Just before lunch I notice the people from the farm project returned from the farm. They had bought back a ute full of fresh produce. This was lovely to see. At 12.30pm there was lunch, which was as per usual very tasty.
After lunch I browsed the shop, purchased some of the amazing smelling ashram made soap and went back to my room to read and pack. At 2.30pm there was yoga nidra, deep relaxation (my favourite practice) then at 3pm, afternoon tea.
At 3.30pm I was driven to the bus stop for my journey back home. I have returned many times and plan to continue, Mangrove Yoga Ashram truly is a home away from home!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Secluded in Native forest north of Sydney, the Mangrove Yoga Ashram is a well established yogic environment that welcomes people from all walks of life. Visitors can stay either long or short term choosing from a wide variety of retreats and or yogic living options. The ashram environment is optimum for reconnecting with oneself and exploring yoga in its broader sense. A typical day in the ashram includes an early morning asana, pranayama and meditation class; chanting; karma yoga; Satyananda Yoga Nidra® (guided meditation/relaxation) and evening programs with satsang (talks with swamis), meditation, chanting and kirtan. Accommodation, vegetarian meals and classes are inclusive. ... more less