Sweat Away Your Sins at The Ashram

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My first thought on writing this article was to present an overview of what a week at The Ashram boot camp consists of from diet, exercise regime, environment and so on. However, in reflecting on the entire week I realized that my experience goes deeper than a schedule or list of activities.

A week at The Ashram puts your mental and physical strength to the ultimate test – and then some. Can you hike 70 miles during the week stay on a vegetarian diet with no sugar, caffeine and alcohol? Can you keep up with the daily post-hiking schedule that includes a weight-training class, yoga and water exercise class in the pool, along with surprisingly very competitive pool volleyball? Most importantly – why would you do this?

The answer is quite simple – to detox, lose weight and find yourself. But wait – there’s more that factors into this equation of depriving and torturing yourself, so to speak.

Visitors to The Ashram are 80 percent returnees, with females comprising at least 70 percent of the crowd. A true break from juggling career and family, along with a divorce or impending divorce, makes this the perfect retreat.

Upon arriving at The Ashram, situated in the middle of the pristine Santa Monica Mountains in Calabasas, California, we were greeted by co-founder Catharina ‘Cat’ Hedberg, a beautiful blonde who’s seen and heard it all over the past 40 years since starting The Ashram. And fear not, what happens at The Ashram stays at The Ashram.

Ms. Hedberg, who’s probably in her late 60s, is still in fabulous shape. She just hiked the El Camino pilgrimage route in Europe last year – 500 miles in 32 days. This pulchritudinous woman wants you to take the weight off your shoulders immediately, telling you that the staff is there to take care of you and you only. You are to do nothing but follow the schedule. All meals are prepared by the staff, your sweaty hiking clothes are laundered daily and a much-needed and appreciated massage is scheduled for each guest every afternoon.

As a team of 10 guests (nine females and one male) we bonded, shared our fears/life stories and left bad relationships, memories and experiences in the dust on the trail, where they should be.

Why do guests return for the week of boot camp? After experiencing the natural high, abundance of energy, clarity in the mind and even finding a deep area in the soul, guests can’t help but want to repeat the experience. It also doesn’t hurt that you shed pounds and inches along the way. During the week of ‘forced discipline’ I dropped down one dress size. I’m guessing that this week of redemption is less painful than liposuction, and a smarter choice.

Something to ponder, a Cherokee parable – Two Wolves – was shared during yoga class at The Ashram:

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life…
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed and self-pity. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity and kindness. This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
“Which wolf will win?”
The old chief simply replied,  “The one you feed.”

From hearing this parable, what I take away from my experience at The Ashram is to not respond to negative energy and let it feed on your soul. Stay positive and you’ll have a positive outlook on life.

Author’s note: The Ashram opened a sister property in Mallorca, Spain – next on my to-do list. The Ashram is located at 2025 McKain Street, Calabasas, California. 818.222.6900, www.theashram.com

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About Cindy Burns

Currently writing for TCW's 'Woman About Town' column, Cindy Burns covers Chicago's social scene, events, fashion, and interviews women and men who are making a difference in the world. With an M.A. in American History from DePaul University, Ms. Burns is an author, freelance writer, avid reader and researcher. Ms. Burns has spent over 20 years serving on charitable boards and organizations, and currently serves as a member of the Women's Board of the Joffrey Ballet and the Women's Auxiliary Board of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicago. She is also an Honorary Member of the Children's Service Board of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital. When Ms. Burns isn't running around Chicago covering current events, you can find her biking, on the tennis courts, or hiking in a mountainous region of her choice.