One of North America’s oldest yoga ashrams just turned 60.
Yasodhara Ashram, a yoga retreat and study centre on Kootenay Lake, was founded by Swami Radha in 1963.
It can still be found on its original land, with a few new additions, including the Temple of Light, which replaced the previous temple that burned down in 2014.
Current president, Swami Lalitananda, says when Radha originally found the land that would be the ashram, it was little more than an old, deserted farm with a couple of little cabins.
“She had come back from India in the mid-1950s. She just felt that yoga was not a thing [here]. There were a few people interested, but not that many. And she felt in the city that people were so distracted that they couldn’t settle their minds. So she was looking for a country place, and after a big search, this is the one she found.”
She adds that Radha could not have picked a better place.
“It’s just one of the most beautiful places in the world. We’re right on Kootenay Lake. A lot of the land is unspoiled. There are just so many birds and animals and quietness. I don’t think there could be a better place for people to come, to relax, to open, and to really think about things.”
Now, 60 years in the future, Lalitananda says people are still coming to relax and explore their spiritual side.
“There’s something here. The beauty of the land, the teachings that we have that really seem to help people, the restorative feeling of relaxation, getting away from ordinary life, just to get a breather and reset and think about where they want to go from here.”
Lalitananda says there is both a physical and a spiritual aspect to yoga.
“In fact, this whole ashram is based on the spiritual side. It’s symbolized by our Temple of Light, which is this beautiful building that’s a white dome with eight entryways. And that was symbolic of allowing each person to find their own way to the center. And in the center is a skylight.”
She says people of different backgrounds, religions, and opinions can find peace and unity there.
With 60 years behind them, Lalitananda and the ashram now look to the future.
“We’re a small organization and we are adaptive, so we have to think ahead and, at the same time, be in the present and work with what we have,” adds Lalitananda.
“One of the things that we’re thinking about right now is succession. Like many places, our really long-term people are getting older, and so we keep inviting young people to deepen their connection here and see if people want to carry on for the next 60 years.”