by Katharine Fletcher
“Om. Om shanti.” This year, the peace mantra echoes with special meaning through the Laurentian Mountains.
Fifty years ago, Swami Vishnudevananda founded Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp in Val Morin, a picturesque village north of Montréal. In celebration, yoga enthusiasts from beginners to advanced are visiting, honouring Swamijii’s vision for world peace while doing yoga practice, satsangs (meditation, chanting and yogic philosophy discussions), plus special classical dance workshops.
Although daily routines last from 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., ashram life is tranquil. Days unfold gently: participate in meditation, yoga, karma yoga (selfless service where you help in the kitchen or, like I did, sweep the temple), and enjoy homemade vegetarian meals.
And every day has ample free time for activities such as hiking, bird watching, massages or reading.
Days flow, resembling transitions from one yoga posture to another, where experiencing ashram life is simultaneously restful yet stimulating. It is restful because the ambiance is peaceful, stimulating because yoga and meditation release inner energies.
Interesting fact: In 1971, Swami Vishnudevananda was nicknamed the “Flying Swami” because he distributed peace pamphlets over Belfast and the Middle East while flying a two-engine Piper Apache. Known as the Peace Plane, the heritage aircraft decorated by Peter Max hangs in a special museum onsite.
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