Ishvara Ashram

$2,250 of $13,000 goal

Raised by 14 people in 1 month
Ishvara Ashram is a Kentucky based spiritual community that is open to all.  Our mission is simple:  To hold sacred space and to provide support, tools and resources for those who seek metaphysical learning, spiritual growth, transformation and alignment with the divine. We do this according to yogic principles and practices.  

In addition to monthly Yoga Church Services held in the Central Kentucky area, we offer classes, workshops, and, at the heart of our mission, we build and facilitate a seasonal yogic spiritual retreat in the Red River Gorge known as “Summer Play Ashram”.  The ashram is open to all and all ashram services, including meals, accommodations, daily practices, workshops and activities are offered on the “gift economy”, meaning we invite participants to contribute as their heart informs and as their finances allow.

Contributions to this campaign will help fund our 2019 “Summer Play Ashram” yogic spiritual retreat.  We are asking for your help in the form of a financial contribution to this endeavor at the level that feels right for you.   All financial gifts, both large and small, are greatly needed and deeply appreciated. 

Your generous gift will help ensure that Summer Play Ashram continues to operate on the gift economy.  Our $13,000 goal will allow us to host even more spiritual seekers at the ashram this year by providing for the procurement of additional canvas structures (a great hall/kitchen and a dormitory), building supplies for this year’s planned eco-friendly composting toilet, food, needed kitchen equipment & supplies, fuel, campground rental, printing, legal and administrative fees, and potentially,  a stipend for our volunteer ashram staff.

We believe every human being needs and deserves opportunities to disconnect from the stresses of modern daily life and find restoration, healing, time for contemplation and opportunities for spiritual growth in a loving, supportive environment close to nature.

Please continue reading below if you'd like to learn  a little more about ashram life, our purpose and contribution to the larger communities and the world around us.


In 2018, more than 40 people from around the state, the country, even around the world visited the ashram over a three-month period.  Some attended a few days, others for weeks, and some stayed for months.  We anticipate the number of resident guests and facilitators will be significantly higher this year due to increased awareness and interest in the ashram through our partnerships with several Kentucky events happening this spring and summer as well as our growing Lexington Yoga Church community.   (Links for those event websites may be found below.)

Ashram, by definition, is a "hermitage, monastic community, or other place of religious or spiritual retreat."  The Sanskrit root, "srama" means “making an effort toward liberation.”

In day to day ashram living, we integrate a consistent routine of spiritual practices including selfless service (karma yoga), meditation, yoga asana (postures), kirtan (singing of sacred mantras) and daily fire puja (ceremony).  Additionally, we offer a variety of workshops and classes facilitated by highly gifted, experienced teachers/guides and provide support for those wishing to perform personal sadhana - which might include a day of silent meditation or prayer.  In our community, we deeply value the principle of play as a means for learning and growth.  As such, we consider things like making music together, dancing, rock climbing and even playing in the lake to be part of our spiritual “work”.

We believe this type of retreat benefits not only those who attend but ripples back out into the world as resident guests return to their daily life with a renewed connection to the natural world, to their own true, divine nature and to their life’s deeper purpose - bringing a higher vibration, more love and heartfelt intention to their home, work and local communities.

Our vision and longer term goal is to find a permanent home for Ishvara Ashram in the Red River Gorge and to operate year-round.  We believe the Gorge is a powerful spiritual and energetic vortex, like the “Sedona of Kentucky”.  By locating our work here, we bring transformative healing energy to the land, the region and the world.  A 2015 article from The Guardian identified Beattyville, the nearest town, as "the poorest white town in the USA".  As the ashram grows in sponsorship, support and participation, this spiritual tourism can bolster the local economy while providing residents with support in treating their homeland with reverence. Until that time the Summer Play Ashram’s organizers, resident guests & facilitators will continue to live in harmony with the natural splendor of the Red River Gorge in our “pop-up” canvas tent village. 

We wish to extend our heartfelt gratitude for any level of support you are able and willing to offer.  And, of course, we invite you to come stay with us this summer! 

Summer Play Ashram  - June 6 - July 28, 2019  

Yoga Church of Kentucky  - ongoing

Look for the Play Ashram at these  2019 Kentucky Festivals:

Kentucky Yoga Fest  - April 26-28, 2019 

Playthink Festival  - June 12-16, 2019 

Whippoorwill Festival and Earth Skills Gathering  - July 19-21, 2019

Meet the Ishvara Ashram Board of Directors:

Sarah Wilson Belzile –In 2009, Sarah was smitten with the powerful magic of the Red River Gorge when she first came here to rockclimb. In 2016, as a dedicated climber, Sarah decided to make the Gorge her home and began living at Miguels Pizza and Campground, the closest thing that exists to a commune or ashram for climbers. In 2017, following Sarah’s first pilgrimage to ashrams in India, she returned to Miguels and realized that what she really wanted was a disciplined spiritual community that supported the depths of her devotion to both climbing and yoga as her sadhana. That fall, she wrote and shared her vision for what this community might look like and began inviting climbers and friends to join her for daily yoga practice, shared meals, fire ceremony and dharma talks.  (you can read that blog entry here )  In 2018, she completed her 200 hour yoga teacher training at Anand Prakesh Ashram in Rishikesh, India and also formed a spiritual partnership with Yogi Amitram, founder of the mountaintop Rishikesh Yogashram. Yogi’s influence was a critical catalyst for bringing the ashram project to life in the Gorge.

Sarah has honed her skills for facilitation and serving the needs of the whole by spending more than 20 years building a successful coffee business in Cleveland, Ohio, founding a spiritual community as a priestess of Oshun and Ifa in the Yoruba tradition, studying and sharing NVC (Non-Violent Communication), as well as shadow work and discovering the inner child. She has been trained as a Women’s Temple Mama and a Cuddle Party Facilitator. She has also served as a personal growth facilitator for business owners through the Entrepreneurs Organization, and currently serves as an administrator for the sacred sexuality non-profit, the New Body Electric School as well as an organizer for the Whippoorwill Earth Skills Festival and Gathering.   

Trish Raye -  Trish relocated to Kentucky after retiring from a career as a California firefighter, where she specialized in large incident logistics.  Since then she has deepened her personal yoga practice and has finished her initial 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training in March 2019.  Yoga has been instrumental for Trish as she transitions from the adrenaline driven, high paced lifestyle of an emergency responder to a life that moves at a slower, and more mindful pace.   Here in Kentucky, her connections within the yoga community led her to the 2018 summer session of ashram, and ultimately into her current leadership role with the organization.  

Trish has been in service most of her life not only as a firefighter, but through volunteering, grant writing and mentoring.  Trish serves the community with her strong logistical skills and fundraising experience.  She enjoys preparing food and feeding large groups of people and as such has been named the ashram's Chief Cook and Bottle Washer! (Not really! - in ashram, everyone washes their own dishes!)  In addition to yoga, Trish is an avid world traveler and enjoys  gardening, hiking, reading and riding her HD Roadking in the splendor of Kentucky's country backroads.

Christina L. Garrett – Christina (aka Leila) is a yoga teacher (E-RYT 200), Human Play Facilitator, Singer/Songwriter, Artist, Story Teller and our resident “Fun Factory” (looking for a lake float, a board game or a hula hoop? – go see Leila!).  Five years ago, Leila took a leap of faith and left a management career in the corporate world of investment and banking services in search of a way of living and working more in line with her personal values and with her vision for the world she wants to live in.  After completing her yoga teacher training in 2016, Leila became involved in and joined the organizing team of the Appalachian based earth skills gathering, The Whippoorwill Festival.  Through this new-found community of conservationists, naturalists, herbalists, spiritual seekers and activists, she met Sarah Belzile in 2017 and found her way to the Ashram in June of the following year, where she stayed until the end of July.

Leila's ashram experience was a revelation - as if the previous 4 years had been leading her to that very place and time.   Since then she has worked tirelessly alongside Sarah and Trish to help support, build and grow the Ishvara Ashram and Yoga Church communities so that others may find the opportunity to experience the deep sense of restoration, transformation, and clarity of mind that she found in spiritual retreat. 

Leila serves Ishvara Ashram with strong organizational, operational and communication skills, creativity and a penchant for photography, design and aesthetics.  She also teaches yoga, play and writing workshops and guides various other yoga church and ashram activities.  


Ishvara Ashram is incorporated as a church in the state of Kentucky and qualifies as a 501(c)3 charitable organization.
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$2,250 of $13,000 goal

Raised by 14 people in 1 month
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