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by John Kastner, Director

It’s perhaps the strangest holiday you will ever take – a yoga vacation at the Sivananda Yoga Retreat on Paradise Island, a few hundred yards across the water from Nassau in the Caribbean, home to countless resorts for pleasure-seekers. You could not ask for two more wildly contrasting vacations. During the winter the Caribbean is one gigantic party, a playground for revelers awash in wine, women and song. Except for the Yoga ashram. There, all such pleasures are forbidden. By some cruel trick of fate the yoga retreat is surrounded by temptation, an island of purity in a zone of pleasure. Holidaying there is akin to being the only guest at a wild party where the booze and sex flow freely -- but you, poor fool, are the only guest desperately trying to remain sober and celibate.

I know. I go to the ashram. I go mainly for the Yoga asanas, those wonderful exercises that work miracles on tired bodies. But everytime I go I find myself cruelly torn in two directions, struggling between holiness and hedonism. It’s the social conflict of our age: a world divided between those who live to live it up to the max, versus those who live lives of denial, stripping down their existence to the bare essentials, forgoing meat, tobacco and other pleasures, to pursue spiritual (and physical) uplift through vegetarianism, meditation, yoga, etc.

Most devotees try soooo hard to be good. But surrounded by temptation at every turn, some contemptible weaklings do succumb. . Yes, unbelievably, every year some traitors, some turncoats, some sniveling spineless losers slide down the slippery slope and escape to the resorts to sample the pleasures of the flesh. I should know. I am one of them. I hate myself.

Yes, I am one of those miserable sinners. Forgive me, Lord Krishna. At the Yoga retreat sinners like me lead a double life. By day we are oh so pure. By night we are something else. We attend stern lectures at the ashram on the evils of resort life -- then slip away to a resort to enjoy them all. The spirit is willing, but oh the flesh, the flesh…Every year I struggle. Oh how I struggle every year to defeat the forces of temptation. I fight the devil’s influence, the cravings of the flesh. Every year I lose.