Organization: Eco Yoga Park
Location: outside Buenos Aires, Argentina
Story by Julian Vega
Posted on April 26, 2015
Eco Yoga Park outside Buenos Aires, is one of many in over twenty five countries. The aim is to provide a community based experience in a natural environment where you have the opportunity to get involved in anything from bio-gardening to eco building. The parks are run by Hare Krishna’s….as they are fondly referred to. While this is a name we associate these saffron robed people, they are practitioners of Bhakti yoga…or the yoga of love. Love for everyone and everything without exception. Within these parks they show us how to get back to a basic style of living and eating, thus promoting a healthier lifestyle and a greater connection. It is a great opportunity to remember how fulfilling life can be without the noise…and “stuff”!
Eco Yoga Park
The first of many wonderful things happened when I was on my way to Eco Yoga Park. It’s close to General Rodríguez, about forty kilometres west of Buenos Aires. To travel on the buses here, you need a Sube card, or a pocket full of change….but no one really gives coins as change. I had the card but didn’t think to check the balance before I caught the bus….I also didn’t remember that it would be about thirty pesos for the longer drive. I got on the bus with my big pack on my back, small on my front….and I’m still carrying my original backpack in the hope of being able to sell it….or find a good person to give it away to. Anyway, I put my card on the machine and it says insufficient funds. When I asked him where I recharge, he pointed to the station…about ten minutes walk each way…with with my life on my back. I tried to back out but no one behind me moved, then this lovely old lady sitting in the front seat told me she’d pay on her card and I can just give her the money. I put my pack down in the seat behind her and sat next to her while I got my money out….I never left that seat, she was fabulous!! I don’t know what it was about the way she spoke, but I understood ninety percent of what she said and we chatted all the way. She’s eighty…but you’d guess closer to sixty, lives on her own and when she’s not traveling long distance she rides her bicycle everywhere. An amazing woman and very funny, she made me get my backpack from the seat behind us because she didn’t trust anyone not to go through it! She made sure the bus stopped for me and relaid my directions to a local guy that was getting of the bus at the same stop as me. He walked me to the spot where I called a taxi before heading to work. The taxi arrived as I did, so no call was required and I arrived at the yoga park just in time for the first of many delicious….organic, vegan meals. Incredible…and certainly a great start!
Our crop :)
The park itself is a good few acres. There are multiple dwellings around the property in varying styles of handmade, eco buildings. It is a tranquil place and you begin to feel relaxed immediately. Work begins at seven in the morning, we stop for up to an hour for breakfast, then work until midday. The organic garden is about as large as you’d want it using only manual labour. The work is not hard, although once a crop is finished, digging and turning up a garden bed, then turning again with compost is most definitely an honest day's work. Other than that the work is easy….harvesting, watering, picking leaves or seeds so they can be used to replant next season. Lunch is at one thirty and is most definitely the best meal of the day. There is always salad, a vegetable dish, rice or homemade bread, soup and lots of other little treats. The cooking is done by the monks and “mothers”, the food is fantastic….and plenty of it! After a few days I realised that I hadn’t been hungry since I arrived, so I cut down on the carbs that were offered and focused on the fresh nutrients. Although it was always delicious, breakfast was a little too sweet for me, I’m not a huge fan of too much sugar…but given that was my only complaint, I was pretty damn happy. Pamela is a wonderful Chilean lady who had come as a volunteer for a week….two years ago. She decided to stay and completed a yoga teacher training course, her yoga classes are wonderful and she also helps runs the kitchen. She cooked us some great meals….but every time Nimai cooked we were all in taste bud heaven!! This man has a natural gift for cooking and balancing flavours…which is difficult in their kitchen. One of their beliefs is that you must enter the kitchen with clean hands and a clean mouth. You cook with love for Krishna and so you cannot taste the food inside the kitchen. They can go outside to taste, but they have to rinse their mouth each time they re-enter. I’m not sure if Nimai spent a lot of time outside tasting his food, or he was just knew, but his food was outstanding every time. In the end we started cheering him each time he cooked….olé, olé olé olé, Nimai, Nimai….which always made him go shy and humble….so deserved though.
Outdoor Spanish lessons with Matias
There were ten volunteers at the park already, the two Aussie girls had only arrived the day before, but the rest of the group had been there almost a month….all originally only planning to stay up to a week. It was this core group that really enhanced my experience in the park and I feel so grateful to have spent my time there with them. The park itself creates a wonderful community feel, but with these people it became like family in such a short time. Matias and Cielo are Argentinian and have decided to stay to study Bhakti yoga. It turns out that Matias has a natural talent for teaching so he started Spanish classes for us with the help of Cielo. She doesn’t speak much English but has the most wonderful laugh that always lightens those around it…and was onto us on with our Spanish pronunciation. In general, we didn’t speak as much Spanish as I had hoped, but there were plenty of meal time conversations about our respective languages so we were always learning. Efrain is from Columbia, his wife Bella from Puerto Rico. They are traveling around South America on a motorbike with sidecar….it’s an awesome beast. He pulled it out to take everyone on rides around the park….you could hear shouts of laughter from every passenger that rode! Efrain was also our unofficial leader…kind of like dad…even though he’s not old. :) He always puts in one hundred and twenty percent to everything he does and is basically a top bloke! Bella is equally delightful and looks like she’s smiling even when she’s not. I was lucky enough to receive a Reiki session from her before I left….heaven!
Chris teaching me acro yoga
I’m not sure if it’s always the way at a place like this, but it seemed that everyone had something to share. Chris is a German guy who had completed his yoga teacher training course in Peru, on the days when there was no yoga he led the class for us. I was stoked because he leads the sort of classes I really enjoy…bonus! He also taught us some acro-yoga and we had an awesome afternoon in front of the temple….with some great photos as well. Dani was my roommate and fellow smoker so we would often go out the front to sit and smoke. We had some wonderful conversations and discovered that we were are very, alike….following a similar journey. Sally and Sophie were like sponges with all the new information they were hearing, and I was able to share a lot of my experiences with them. Alonzo, originally from Israel, had gone as a volunteer but ended up staying as the handyman. Given he has spent most of his life practicing natural therapies, I learnt a lot from him. A lovely English lady, Claire arrived the day after me and one night in the dining room she taught us some ballet moves. It was so funny seeing everyone trying to learn the positions, plies and jumps. On this night Bella also taught us how to samba and salsa….seeing her and Efrain dance Salsa together was brilliant…….Then there was Joseph….a fabulous young man from New York, whose zest for life is difficult to put into words. He was our community builder, games co-ordinator, laughter king and teacher of juggling, swinging pois, yo-yo’s and Kendama. Most people left being able to swing a poi, juggle three balls or improve their yo-yo and Kendama skills. He has quest to help people see how much better life can be if you always make time for play.…to keep the child inside alive….something I also believe. I found it so refreshing to observe Joseph being able to express himself so freely and energetically. For such a young man he is an old and wise soul. His enthusiasm for learning and sharing is wonderful and he certainly made a few statements that got me thinking. Pedro arrived in our last few days and had almost as much energy and enthusiasm as Joseph, it was a shame he was not there the whole time with us, as I think he and Joseph had a bit of a bromance…they certainly bounced off each other’s energy. Pedro also came with a terabyte of music, movies and audiobooks so he was a very popular man…..plenty of download sharing happening. Then there was me..I had the pleasure of doing six haircuts and a head massage….and of course contribute to the noise with my loud laugh!
The staff at the park consisted of Swami Padmanabha, a man who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of truth within. The literal meaning of Swami is a master, however Swami himself would say that he is still learning. Then there is Hari and Nimai, both monks and the mothers…as they are fondly referred to, who are all students of Bhakti yoga. The word mother would indicate age, however these delightful young ladies are not old at all. Despite this, they exude a wisdom and kindness that you would find in your mum. While we identify these people as Hare Krishna’s because of the song they are usually heard singing. I found it interesting to learn that this is not so much of a religion, but a way of life. The basic principles are that you let go of attachment so that you can know the truth within, and therefore connect more deeply to the soul. This allows you to discover the truth and love for yourself, and the divine.…so that when you do love, want or desire others or other things, it is for the right reasons and not a reflection of something missing within you that you are trying to fill. These were all principles I was relatively familiar with, as I have learnt them during my own search for something greater. Because this is not a religion as such, more like a set of life principles to follow, there is no discrimination. You can be anyone you want to be, and you can love anyone you want to love…..sounds pretty simple to me! The thing I noticed most with these devotees, is their passion for life. They possess a level of happiness that you do not see to often….always smiling, laughing and singing. Hari oversees the running of the park and although he is still so young, there is a calm wisdom about him far beyond his twenty-three years. After an enlightening talk by Swami that had left my head in a spin, Hari spoke to me at length when I asked for help. He shared his knowledge willingly and I certainly learnt a lot from him. Nimai is younger again and full of energy and a passion for his devotion that, I believe, will allow him to reach people who would never consider some of these concepts of a better life. I saw in him the potential to become a great and inspiring leader. Govinda, as I understand, is close to being a Swami. One night in the temple she spoke about attachment and letting go of attachment….perfect timing given that the next day I accidentally, permanently deleted all my photos and music from my computer….but that’s another story! Although Govinda is fully swathed in white robes, there was an incredible beauty about her that I have never seen in another woman. It was almost like she was shining a light from within. She spoke with ease and knowledge of another old soul. Although I can’t name them all, I also can’t finish without a mention for Goura. She sometimes ran our yoga classes, but anywhere you found her, she was bounding with joy and always had a hint of mischief in her…fun, fun fun. Really caring and inspiring people.
The start of a small party
During my stay I was also fortunate enough to experience a taste of what a full blown Hare Krishna party might be like. The Hare Krishna mantra is repeated over and over again to music, almost always to drums and whatever other music that can be played. Whether it be an instrument, the tinging of cups, drumming of tables or just the energy of the dance that comes with it all….any music is perfect. I would love to experience a full on party of theirs, I can’t even begin to imagine the energy there. On two different nights our dining room turned into a party. It was usually Nimai playing the drums and calling the song…. Hare krishna, Hare krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. He would call and we would repeat it in the rhythm he had set for that round. The energy builds and builds with singing, dancing and jumping. Try to imagine the most pumping mosh pit at a rock concert or electronic dance music party….and multiply that by a lot….and this was just in our dining room with less than twenty people!!! I consider myself pretty energetic, and when it comes to music and dance, I am often the last man standing….but I’m pretty sure I would be out danced at a Hare Krishna party!! Our parties only ended when Nimai had lost his voice! So much fun, so easy to be had, and left every one of us positively beaming as we went to bed.
I feel like I may be starting to overuse the word grateful, but there is no other word for me to use. The people who shared this experience with me will always have a place in my heart. I could not be more thankful to have been with this particular group of volunteers, they enhanced the experience tenfold. I have learnt so much about myself and I leave the park a better person than the one who entered. I am incredibly grateful to gain an insight into the teachings of Krishna and the Bhagavad Gita. Even if one was to have no interest in becoming a devout follower, there is a lot for us to learn and certainly a more positive way to view life. The world would be a better place, that’s for sure!!
Such an inspiring group of people!!