As we follow the wooden sign through a forest near the small town of McMinnville, Tennessee, just over an hour from Chattanooga, nothing hints at the amazing sight we’re about to enjoy.
There, in the middle of the Cumberland Plateau, the afternoon sun reflects off the copper-coloured roof of the largest meditation hall in North America, the impressive Mahima dome, centre of the Isha Institute for Inner Sciences.
Highlights of the Institute
The Isha Institute for Inner Sciences is based on the teachings of Sadhguru, founder of the Isha Foundation and a visionary yogi who has repeatedly been invited to speak at the United Nations and international economic forums. Here, in the middle of Tennessee’s beautiful nature, guests from all over the world are invited to deepen their mental and physical well-being. Along with Ayurveda treatments, there are daily programs in yoga and meditation, all suitable for beginners and advanced participants. Twice a day, there’s also fantastic home-cooked international vegetarian food. You can even stay here for an extended period of time to take longer workshops and learn how to cook this delicious food. In the surrounding forests, there are accommodations for visitors, and anchoring them is a little square surrounded by trees where we enjoy our evening with warm weather, fantastic food and live music around a bonfire.
Although there are many festivals with international guests throughout the year here, United Nations World Peace Day brings hundreds of guests and spiritual thought-leaders from all over the world together for inspiring discussions, accompanied by a day-long program with Hatha yoga, group meditations and live music.
Attending a group yoga class
Activities around Isha: Exploring Nature and Charming Towns
After an early meditation class, we’re off to scout the more than 1,000 acres of untouched nature that belongs to the centre. Together with our group, we hike through a nearby forest until we reach one of the seven waterfalls that are close to the Isha. Afterwards we reach an almost magical place: From a bluff high above, we have seemingly endless views of the deep green forests and valleys of the Cumberland Plateau. Especially early in the mornings, when the mist slowly emerges from the tree tops, this is an ideal meditation spot. In the afternoon, we rent mountain bikes and explore the various paths around the Isha.
The next morning, we drive to the nearby Cumberland Caverns, an extensive cave system that we tour in a Jeep. Again and again, we pass through large and wonderfully lit cave rooms on our tour. One of these rooms, the Volcano Room, is the venue for the live concert series Cumberland Caverns Live. Only a few minutes from here is the Collins River, so we rent a kayak after a short lunch break and spend the afternoon on a relaxed paddle trip surrounded by beautiful nature.
In the evening, we drive into McMinnville, only 20 minutes away – a nice little town with a fountain, historic town hall and small boutiques and restaurants along Main Street. Here we enter Juicy's Wellness Cafe, where we spend the rest of our evening.
Cycyling a forested trail near the Institute
It’s not easy to leave this peaceful place and its wonderfully earthy energy. I’m looking forward to returning soon and spending more time at the Isha Institute!