Are you ready for one of the most life changing experiences you’ve ever had? You, my friend are in for an absolutely incredible treat. I know, I know, clicking that checkout button on your flight ticket might have yielded the idea “What the @#%$ did I just get myself into” but I promise you, it’s going to be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. It was for me, because as a result of this journey and the adventures it brought me, I am now leaving a full time job on the East Coast to pursue my true passion in life. Let’s get into it, shall we?
Getting Into The City:
Yes, yes, it is a long @#% flight. Most likely you’ll be flying from a hub airport in America and landing somewhere in Western Europe to make your connection to Sofia. Upon landing in Sofia, you’ll notice the airport isn’t nearly as large as what you’re accustomed to in the U.S. Shortly after you gather your luggage and exchange your currency to Bulgarian lev, you’ll proceed to a crowd of people holding up name cards. Go ahead and find the nice man or woman holding the Udaya sign, as they’ll escort you to one of the studio’s vans that take you to the gorgeous Hotel Jasmin. It’s about a 30 minute drive through the city as you make your way to the hotel, where Udaya guests will be checking in or out depending on which filming time span they’ve chosen. Once you arrive, you’ll most likely meet one of Udaya’s incredible producers or staff, who will show you how to check in, get your key and find your room. If possible, make sure you have a device with a wifi connection as well as a Facebook account. Each evening, an Udaya staff member will publish the following day’s schedule of classes and when you should expect to board the shuttle to Nu Boyana Studios. Now it’s time to rest and relax as you prepare for a roller coaster of a week!
A Day Of Filming:
Once you’ve found your shuttle departure time for your day of filming, plan to wake at least 30 minutes before you are scheduled to leave to the studio. This gives you a chance to enjoy a light breakfast in the hotels restaurant area. Each morning, the Hotel Jasmin offers an array of fresh fruit, local delicacies (Bulgarian yogurt, coffee, etc.) as well as your typical eggs or breakfast sausage for you to enjoy before your day of filming. An Udaya staff member will call out to the group of yogis in the restaurant area when the shuttles arrive. Each van departs the hotel in increments of time depending on the number of yogis shooting that day. Before you leave the hotel, it’s best to pack a backpack or bag with a water bottle, towel, and perhaps a book or device you can use to pass time between filming. The trip to the studio takes about 15 minutes from the hotel, where you’ll travel along Sofia’s mountainside toward the Nu Boyana film studio. Upon arrival to the studio, you’ll be escorted to the area where Udaya films. There will be 2-3 different studios that are set up for various types of classes depending on what teacher is using which studio. In addition, there is a hair and makeup room for anyone wishing some finishing touches before filming, and a coffee truck (more about this later). After arriving to the studio, you’ll have about 30-45 minutes before the first class of the day has started filming. Typically, you will be signed up to participate in at least 3 classes each day, more if you so desire. The first 4 classes are filmed prior to lunch, with an additional 4-5 classes scheduled to be filmed afterward. Most of the filming is done for the day around 6 or 7pm, after which you will have the remainder of the day to explore the city or hang with your new Udaya family! Now, I know you might be thinking, how in the world will you have the energy and stamina to make it through 3 to 5 full hour yoga classes? I’ll tell you this: The energy of the people around you, the adrenaline of filming in the highest quality studios, and the amenities provided for you are enough to fuel you for days upon days of filming! If you ever feel depleted of energy, you can always ask to have another student fill your spot in a class, no harm no foul. Everyone is here to support each other!
Lunch and The Coffee Truck:
Alright, this is the real deal. Between each filming session for classes, you’ll have about a 15 minute break as the studio staff prepare each set. This is the time to wander toward the coffee truck. Outside of the filming studio parked in the courtyard is a little slice of heaven. You will find a full service coffee/food truck that is here to serve you whatever it may be to get you through your day of filming. Coffee, water, snacks, fruit, sandwiches, candy, anything you could possibly want is available for you at all hours of the day while at the studio! There are also waiting areas in each studio with cozy couches available for you to rest, read, meditate, or just lounge on before the next class is filmed. Lunch is provided at the studio cafeteria each day, and is catered from a restaurant in Sofia. Here, you’ll find a rotating menu of delicious food, and the restaurant does an excellent job of providing menu items for students with any eating preferences. Vegetarian, vegan, meat eaters, they’ve got you covered!
Once you’ve filmed your last class of the day, hop on a shuttle back to the Hotel Jasmin. Now it’s time to rest a little, shower, change, and do a little exploring! The city of Sofia is full of surprises. From the gorgeous shops, cafes, restaurants and bakeries on Boulevard Vitosha to the incredible Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, and of course the incredible nightlife in the city. There is never a dull moment when venturing around this stunning place. If you feel the urge to explore, it’s best to find a group of yogis and grab a taxi from the hotel lobby. Take note, the taxis in Sofia are usually cheap and reliable, but you do have to watch over some types of taxi scams. Your hotel will send you an official taxi to take you into the city, however, when returning to the hotel it’s important to check if a taxi has its prices listed on the outside window. In addition, you can spot “Gypsy” taxis as they do not have any sort of official stickers or marking similar to what the official taxis have. When in doubt, you can always ask how much a journey will cost you before departing. Typically, it’s between 8 and 15 lev to travel to or from the hotel (I’m saying this from experience, as I was once charged 40 lev and had to pay up as a result of my stupidity).
Dinner is served each evening at Hotel Jasmin, and is similar to what you might have found during the catered lunch. The hotel offers wine or beer for an additional fee. You can also eat on your own if you so desire at any of the incredible restaurants in Sofia. There’s a great little place within walking distance to the hotel as well, but the wait for food is a bit long. Best to combat this with a round of drinks and new friends!
The staff at Nu Boyana in addition to the people you meet from Udaya are going to make your trip extremely memorable. Be sure to thank all of the wonderful people you meet that are there to make your trip as relaxed and accommodating as possible. You’ll meet an incredible group of yogis, and will create friendships that are sure to last a lifetime!
By Christian Robinson: Yogi, Musician, Teacher