At Om in the Mountains

Mimi Ghez at Yogaville in Virginia: Glad she had the chants.
Mimi Ghez at Yogaville in Virginia: Glad she had the chants. (Provided By Mimi Ghez)
Sunday, October 29, 2006

Mimi Ghez of the District is the latest contributor to our Your Vacation in Lights feature, in which we invite Travel section readers to share the dish about their recent trips. It's a big, confusing travel world out there, and you can help your fellow travelers navigate it. Your hot tip can be the next guy's day-maker; your rip-off restaurant, the next family's near-miss. To file your own trip report -- and become eligible to win a digital camera -- see the fine print at the end.

THE TRIP: A long weekend at Yogaville (yes, Yogaville).

WHO WENT: Me and my orange sticky mat.

WHEN: July 2006

WHERE: Buckingham, Va.

WHY: To participate in a weekend seminar on "living the life of your dreams" held at this pan-religious spiritual community in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Sounds pretty good when you're between jobs.

GETTING THERE WAS: Interstate 66 to 29 to 64 to 20 to 655 to 601 to 604 to fork in the road to Yogaville. The instructions indicated it was a 3 1/2 -hour drive from Washington, but it took me 5 1/2 with traffic, thunderstorms and dark roads, putting me in Yogaville after the first yoga session had ended.

BEST THING ABOUT MY LODGINGS: I stayed at Ramalinga Nilayam, one of the back-to-summer-camp dormitories on the grounds. No locks, no theft, no shoes. My seven bunkmates and I fell asleep to the sound of a deep-relaxation CD.

I CAN'T BELIEVE I . . . paid good money ($228) to be awakened at 5:30 a.m. to meditate. By breakfast time (8:30), my bunkmates and I had chanted "Om" together, sweated out an hour and a half of integral yoga and practiced deep breathing using our fingers to cover first our left and then our right nostrils in what felt relaxing but looked like someone picking her nose. By the end of the weekend, I had actually: envisioned myself 20 years in the future while lying with my legs up a wall, jumped over a broom to commit to my dreams in a room of cheering women, and participated in a beautiful Saturday evening chanting program called Kirtan, at which several sari-clad singers led an audience call-and-response of Sanskrit holy words in hypnotic rhythm. "Raama Raama Raama Raam . . ." Not my usual weekend.

CULTURAL FAUX PAS: Asking the women in my dorm room what they were going to wear to yoga class.

FAVORITE FOOD: Dessert, of course -- plum mousse with yogurt. I'm not used to all-vegetarian-all-the-time, but mmm, the food was good. But newbies, beware: no caffeine, no sugar, and the salad dressing is made from water (but it wasn't half-bad).

COOLEST ATTRACTION: An enormous meditation hall shaped like a giant pink lotus flower, which also houses a collection of scripture and artifacts from the world's major religions. A sign in the meditation hall welcomes all: "Truth Is One, Paths Are Many."

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