Welcome sign for the Sivananda Ashram located in Nassau, Bahamas. I spent 3 days in this beachside Garden of Eden, relaxing, taking yoga classes, attending lectures, chanting, meditating and eating delicious vegetarian cuisine. It was a great experience!

What can I say about this little slice of paradise that lies just on the outskirts of its alter ego, the behemoth Atlantis Beach Resort? A million thanks and praise for keeping close to its roots and cultivating a virtual Garden of Eden for those wishing to escape the hectic demands of everyday life. The Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat Bahamas was established in Nassau in the 1960’s according to the teachings of two founders of this particular yoga lineage, Swami Sivananda (1887-1963) for whom the yoga centers are named, and his disciple Swami Vishnudevananda (1927-1993) who founded the International Sivananda Yoga Vendanta Centres (there are more than 60 worldwide). Their mission: to spread peace, health and joy through yoga.

Now, many of you are thinking “Why does she need to go to a yoga center to escape the demands of everyday life? She lives on a boat for goodness sake”. Well, as my friends and family know, I received my yoga teaching certificate (RYT200) a year ago at the Green Monkey in Miami Beach. Since then, I’ve been interested in learning more about the spiritual and philosophical aspects of yoga through Satsanga (inspirational readings/lectures, chanting, and meditation) and Pranayama (breathing techniques). This place was perfect for that!

They had early morning meditation, spiritual talk and chanting followed by a 2 hour yoga class at 8am, workshops in the afternoon, followed by another 2 hour yoga class, dinner, chanting, and meditation before concluding with an invited guest lecturer. The day was intense, mind-filled and soul rewarding. With a 45 minute walk from our boat through the Atlantis resort to the Yoga Center each morning, I missed the 6am meditation but was able to stay for the evening session. The morning Yoga class was held at the beach platform – an open air wood deck – facing east. Perfect for the breathing exercises and the 10-15 sun salutations that began each class!

Breakfast/lunch at 10am was a delicious assortment of vegetarian dishes; soups, stews, rice, roasted and raw vegetables, salads, oatmeal, yogurt, freshly baked breads, fruits and herbal tea. Everything looked so yummy, it was hard to go through the line and pass over any of the dishes! Most of the time my plate was so loaded anyone would have guessed that I hadn’t eaten for days before that meal. Of course it was only after I had left the Yoga center that I read about their eating philosophy of “eat only when you are hungry” (no problem there, because we only had 2 meals a day and I was definitely hungry) and “eat simply and slowly”, just take from a few food groups and follow the 1/4 principle: eat until half the stomach is full, fill the other quarter with water to aid digestion and leave a quarter empty to accommodate the natural gases that evolve during digestion. Oops, gotta work on that one…live and learn I guess!

Brunch was followed by two afternoon lectures and/or workshops designed to enhance your understanding of yogic principles and practices. I attended a workshop on the power of positive thinking and gained further insight into the many controlling factors of the mind. We all know how important positive words and actions convey our feelings and emotions to others, but this was the first time that I heard concrete steps to achieve a more positive attitude to develop inner peace and harmony.

Here are a few of the key points we went over:

1) Speak only positive words about others; avoid judgements, and only say things that are truthful, have goodness for something, and are useful for somebody. If you need to complain, make sure you do it to the person in charge that can do something about it. Idle chatter (complaints) and gossip don’t improve anyone’s situation.
2) Calm the mind through yoga/meditation or by finding a focus (hobbies and activities we love). This enables us to enjoy the “now” moments more fully and more often.
3) Be content with what you have and don’t have. Appreciate all that you have and have achieved.
4) Stop questioning “why” something unfortunate has happened to you and instead ask yourself “how can this help me and what is the message for me?”
5) Live in the “now” moment and enjoy each day without worrying about the past and future (guilt and worrying are two bad outcomes of using our imagination because it robs us of enjoying the present moment with our friends and family).
6) Surround yourself with positive people and events; try not to saturate your mind with too much negative news (programs on TV, newspaper, internet, movies, literature). Negative news and stories are everywhere. One has to live in the real world (not only a “happy bubble”) so stay informed, do what you can to help a situation and then move on from it. Bombarding yourself with unhappy/unfortunate events does not change them for the better. Remember, get informed, do something, then move on.

I hope you all find this information useful. I know it has given me a powerful way to redirect my thoughts and actions for the better. I have two favorite quotes which I would like to share:

“To achieve world peace, nations must be in peace; and in order for this to take place, cities must be in peace. For cities to be in peace, families must be in harmony. And for this, individuals in the families must be in peace.”

“Be the example of change that we want to see in the world.”

Simple and powerful ideas.