A couple weekends ago, myself and a couple other health & fitness bloggers, Erin & Mary, took a trip to McMinnville, Tennessee for Free Yoga Day at the Isha Institute of Inner Sciences. Up until I received the invite, I had not heard of the Isha Institute and never would have guessed that a yoga retreat center was living just outside of the small town of McMinnville.
The first thing you see when arriving at the Isha Institute is the 39,000 square foot dome structure referred to as Mahima. In this building, yoga sessions and guided meditation sessions are held. They’ve hosted groups of 1,000+ people in this building! Can you imagine?
After a brief tour and overview of the Isha Institute, we attended a Upa Yoga session in Mahima. Upa yoga simply means physical yoga to relieve stress and boost energy. The session started with an introductory video about the Isha foundation and Sadhguru, the founder, followed by some breath work and a practice called Yoga Namaskar. While we watched the instructional video for this, I was thinking “Oh, that looks simple enough”. Doing this pose properly was really challenging and I have some work to do!
The next activity on our agenda for the day was something I’m quite skilled at doing……EATING!
The meals at Isha are prepared by volunteers who have come from all around the world so the menu is eclectic and authentic. Everything we had to eat was incredible. This Green Gram Coconut Salad was one of my favorite things we ate–it was crunchy, refreshing, and the fresh coconut was delicious. The mung beans (aka green gram) are sprouted which means they’re easier to digest and the nutrients are more easily absorbed by the body.Have you tried sprouted mung beans? Try this recipe from the @ishafoundation! Click To Tweet
Then there was this flavorful, vegetarian red curry with brown rice. Wishing I had filled my bowl up with more of this one! We also tried a pasta dish with a smoky tomato sauce and local, seasonal vegetables. I was impressed to learn that they make their own pasta, bread, cheese, and yogurt at Isha. For just $10, you can enjoy their vegetarian lunch or dinner buffet during Free Yoga Day.
Here’s a picture of our blogger group enjoying lunch outdoors! Thanks to the Isha team for sharing this photo 🙂
After lunch, it was time for a hike. The Isha Institute sits on 1,400 acres of the Cumberland plateau and has hiking trails, mountain biking trails, and gorgeous bluff views like the one we hiked to.
Once we returned from the guided hike, there was a short cooking demonstration in the dining hall that was open to all visitors. We tried the Sanjeevini, which contains millet, rice, peanuts, sorghum, mung beans, black chickpeas, ginger, cardamom, and cloves. When boiled with water it can be served as a beverage or made into more of a porridge. It’s recommended to add a small amount of jaggery for sweetness. I don’t keep jaggery on hand so I’ll be using honey to sweeten the Sanjeevini that the kind folks of Isha sent us home with. The taste reminded me of eating kettle corn!
We then went back to Mahima for guided meditation. Meditation is not something I’ve actively tried before so I was looking forward to giving this a go! They gave us the option of sitting on the floor Indian-style or sitting in a chair and if I was doing this exercise over again, I’d choose to sit in a chair next time. Sitting cross-legged on the floor for 20+ minutes made my legs go to sleep so all I could really focus on was the tingling/slightly painful sensation in my legs (#meditationfail). 🙂A look inside Free #Yoga Day at the @ishafoundation in McMinnville, TN Click To Tweet
Our tour concluded with a stop at Adiyogi: The Abode of Yoga. The large meditation hall serves to recognize Adi Yogi, the first yogi who lived over 15,000 years ago, and is open from 8am-8pm for meditation and to re-energize. This is the newest edition to the Isha Institute and it is architecturally stunning. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside so you’ll just have to see it for yourself.
Whether you’re a novice or an experienced yogi, there’s so much to gain from spending time at the Isha Institute. They welcome people for weekend getaways and also have studio apartments available for those who want to stay longer.
The next Free Yoga day is November 26th—check out the schedule and RSVP on their site if you’d like to attend. I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions about yoga and the Isha Institute, so please leave me a comment below!