FAQs - School of Community Studies

Yoga Service and Community

Program Details & Frequently Asked Questions

The YSC program involves a commitment to three main components of the program; approximately 24 hours of volunteer service in a variety of areas, 4 hours in YSC weekly meetings, and 2 hours of instruction in yoga philosophy, pranayama, and meditation.


YSC I service hours are generally spread over 6 days, with one full weekday and the greater part of Wednesday (after lunch) unscheduled. Individuals generally serve the basic needs of our community livelihood, and because kitchen, housekeeping, and event set-up comprise a large part of supporting our retreat and conference center, these make up the majority of YSC service areas.

If the community is well staffed, then some time may be volunteered in other areas, although this cannot be guaranteed. These areas may include:

  • Gardening or Landscaping
  • Building Maintenance, Campgrounds, General Grounds Maintenance, and Recycling
  • Flower Arranging and Clerical or Computer Work

Program meetings and classes:

These consist of:

  • A weekly reflection and dialog circle held on Friday mornings.
  • A weekly theme class/discussion in the areas of yoga and meditation philosophy, selfless service as a form of self-development, exploring intentional community, or personal transformation held on Tuesdays.
  • A twice-weekly class on basic pranayama and meditation techniques as taught in our tradition, held on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 6:30 to 7:30 am.
  • Yoga classes (Spiritual Practice): Daily classes are offered in the morning and some afternoons or evenings and include instruction on purifications, pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation and asana (postures). Classes are taught by Center staff.
  • Philosophy classes and discussions
  • Special group gatherings and rituals

Additional optional classes and activities:

YSC participants are able to join in the following activities that do not overlap with scheduled duties or service:

Yoga Philosophy: Offered Tuesdays from 9:00am – 10:30 am; a class in various aspects of Yogic philosophy. The class is lead by Baba Hari Dass’s senior students.

Bhagavad Gita: Offered Thursdays from 9:15-10:30 am; a class studying the ancient text with commentary by Baba Hari Dass. This class is lead by Baba Hari Dass’s senior students.

Yoga Sadhana (spiritual practice): Daily classes are offered in the morning and some afternoons or evenings and include instruction on purifications, pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation and asana (postures). On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, YSC participants are asked to attend a one hour class on the basic practices of our tradition. Classes are taught by Center staff.

Arati: A devotional ritual offered daily at sunrise and sunset at our temple, Sankat Mochan Hanuman Mandir.

Community Activities: YSC participants are encouraged to join our occasional fun nights, theme dinners, open mic nights, special meditation/discussion groups, or the weekly knitting circle. Although not weekly activities, YSC participants are also invited to participate in seasonal 4-day Yoga retreats as well as residents’ Community Retreats and projects. Creativity in organizing community events is welcomed.

YSC Fees and Application

  • The tuition for the YSC 1 is $1,345
  • A non-refundable fee of $25 is due at time application. Upon acceptance into the program, a deposit of $250(US funds) is required to confirm your participation.
  • We must receive your application and deposit no later than 28 days (four weeks) before the starting date of the YSC session to which you are applying.
  • We receive and review applications on a first come basis and may fill the session before this one-month cutoff.You may email us to see if there is still room before sending an application.

After receiving your completed application, you will be contacted for an interview. This may take place on the phone or in an on-site meeting if you live locally.

Cancellation Policy: If you cancel at least four weeks prior to the starting date of your program, there is a cancellation fee of $100; the remainder of your deposit will be refunded. If you cancel less than four weeksprior to the starting date, your entire deposit is forfeited. Because housing and scheduling are complex issues in a community, we ask that you inform us as early as possible about an unavoidable cancellation.

In addition, because an orientation process begins your program, we ask that participants commit to be here on the starting date. Commitment to the full program (start to finish dates) is required from all YSC participants. If you are accepted to the Yoga, Service and Community Program, you will be sent a confirmation letter which will tell you when to arrive and what you will need to bring for your stay here.

Mount Madonna Center

Mount Madonna Center is an educational center involved in three main activities: a conference and retreat center, a children's school, and a residential community. People are drawn to community living in order to explore, discover, and fulfill common goals. Our teacher, Baba Hari Dass, has said, "The main aim of life is to attain peace. At the Land (Mount Madonna Center) we are doing various things, but underneath it, there is our main aim.” Despite the variety of different methods and approaches to yoga and spirituality, community life here at Mt. Madonna provides a supportive environment for those who share this aspiration of peace.

Community Life: Spirituality and Practice

Our community is unified by a spiritual aim and a practice of Ashtanga Yoga, a classical system of yoga with eight parts or "limbs," as taught by our teacher, Baba Hari Dass, affectionately referred to as Babaji. Daily spiritual practice combined with an intention of selfless action, or Karma Yoga, are two of the main ways in which we strive to manifest our aim. For many core members of the community, Babaji is both a beloved guide and a friend, but this is not true of all members, and is certainly not a requirement. He is the inspiration of our community.

In our retreat and conference center, workshops and seminars are offered in many different traditions, adding to the richness of spiritual life here. As we aspire to attain peace through our own spiritual practices, we also attempt to create a calm, healing and peaceful environment for our guests to engage in their own spiritual development.

The Spirit of Karma Yoga and our Livelihood

Babaji has written,

"The path of Karma Yoga or selfless service develops equanimity of the mind. It always purifies the mind by weakening selfish desires, attachment and ego. So a Karma Yogi's effort will never be a waste of time and energy...by its regular practice, one can attain liberation."

The Center is the setting for our practice of Karma Yoga, or the Yoga of Selfless Action. Our work becomes spiritually meaningful when it is chosen with this attitude of service. Karma Yoga is the ideal toward which we strive in carrying out the main endeavors at the Center. One of these offerings is running a retreat and conference center. The Center sponsors programs, and groups also rent our facilities. These workshops are in all areas of personal, creative and spiritual growth.

People who come to live at the Center serve in helping with the basic needs of the retreat and conference center. This offering is our source of livelihood. In addition, it is the main avenue through which our service is expressed: providing program spaces, meals, sleeping quarters, and hospitality to those attending programs.

Mount Madonna Center Facilities

Mount Madonna Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences is located on 355 acres of redwood forest and grassland overlooking all of Monterey Bay. It has beautiful views, many hiking trails, volleyball, tennis and basketball courts, a large gymnasium, a Wellness Center, a small lake for swimming, and a hot tub. We have two shops: Oceanview Book and Gift, and Ayurveda World, and a cafe: Anjaneya's World Cafe. Areas for reflection and meditation include a temple dedicated to Hanuman, ceremonial sites, fountains, and ponds. The Center serves vegetarian meals, which include vegan options. Our large garden grows vegetables, herbs and flowers. There is WiFi access in all the major buildings; guests are more than welcome to bring their own devices to use while visiting, though we do encourage people to unplug!

You are welcome to visit us. You may arrange to come for a Personal Retreat through our Programs Office, or visit on a day-use basis. If you are considering applying to the Yoga, Service and Community Program and live locally, we encourage you to visit. It can be very helpful to experience first-hand what we are about, see the facilities and grounds, and explore what we offer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of community is Mount Madonna Center?

Mount Madonna Center is a residential community inspired by the teachings of Baba Hari Dass on the classical system of Aṣhṭāṅga Yoga eight “limbs”). The Center provides conference and retreat facilities and hosts various programs on self-development and spiritual practices.

The residential community consists of about 70 long-standing residents and around 20-30 people in rotating programs. Long term residents provide continuity and guidance, while YSC and other program participants continually bring fresh insights and enthusiasm.

Is Mount Madonna a restful or healing environment?

The Center is a rich, multifaceted environment for learning about oneself within a community. However, the Center is not a place for rehabilitation or recovery. It is not the right environment for those seeking a therapeutic or rehabilitative program.

The endeavors of our community encourage full-on engagement and participation from all. While living and serving with each other offer opportunities for personal growth and enrichment, the active life of our community can be intense and challenging at times. For this reason, we ask that all YSC participants be able to meet the service requirement while creating a respectful and healthy connection with members of the community.

In what kinds of service areas are YSC participants placed? What skills are learned?

Selfless service or karma yoga is an essential practice of the community. YSC participants are introduced to this practice through service-learning; they engage in a variety of areas to connect with the broad range of the Center’s activities. Kitchen and housekeeping are the core service-learning placements for YSC I. According to staffing needs and the skills of individual participants, one may also serve in maintenance, landscaping, flower arranging, or the garden.

With service-learning, participants also improve interpersonal communication skills, hone problem-solving abilities, and deepen their overall sense of self-awareness and well-being. More specialized training is available over time if and when participants accept leadership positions within our staff.

What type of yoga do residents practice? What if I have no experience with yoga or am out of shape?

In our community, we identify with Yoga in its original, broader sense, and understand it as a complete philosophy, which informs our way of life. At MMC, yoga classes are offered at least once a day, with a variety of different styles and teachers.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, all YSC 1 participants are asked to attend an introductory Aṣhṭāṅga Yoga class, where foundational prāṇāyāma and meditation techniques as taught by Baba Hari Dass are explained and experienced.

Because the YSC program is geared to teach the principles of yoga, there is no need for exceptional physical skill or prior knowledge of yoga. Nonetheless, those with more experience with yoga will have the opportunity to deepen their understanding and practice.

What can I expect the YSC program schedule to look like?

YSC participants commit to a weekly service schedule of 24 hours, plus 4 hours of group meetings, and 2 hours of instruction in yoga philosophy, prāṇāyāma and meditation, for a total of 30 hours per week. Daily schedules vary, but a typical day may look something like this:

  • Morning: Yoga sādhana class (breathing practices, meditation, and postures) offered each day before breakfast. All YSC members attend Tuesday and Thursday class.

  • Daytime: Service shifts average 4-6 hours a day (with a break at lunchtime) in a variety of the following areas: recycling, kitchen, housekeeping, dish room, garden, dining room, and landscaping. YSC members also attend a reflective check-in circle once a week.

  • Evening: Dinner, theme discussions, special events, or free time.

What about staying on after YSC I? How would one become a longer term resident of the community?

After the completion of YSC I, one may choose to extend his or her commitment for another session and apply to the YSC II program. At the conclusion of these two sessions, a person may then apply to participate in the Yoga, Service, and Leadership (YSL) program.

The YSL program covers the remainder of the first year of residency, and offers the opportunity for deeper engagement and greater responsibility within the community. During YSL, residency is discussed on an individual basis, with the consideration of various factors including: a desire to live with an aim of service, an alignment with the values of the community, the ability to interact positively with others and an accountable responsibility for the offerings of the Center.

Apply Now

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. However, space is always limited as a small cohort is selected each session.


If you have further questions or you would simply like to speak with someone personally prior to applying, please do not hesitate to contact us. To speak to the YSC Admissions Coordinator please call (408) 846-4091 or send an email to: ysc@mountmadonna.org.

We look forward to hearing from you!