My Favorite Pose: Ardha Chandrasana

By Carolyn (Karuna) Beaver

Ardha Chandrasana at the Wall became my favorite pose at the 2018 New Year’s Retreat in Atlanta.  It was part of a short, sweet and deeply effective asana sequence.  Swami Nirmalananda had created it, and I was privileged to teach it. 

I loved seeing yogis evolve in their approach and ability to work through all poses.  One pose was blissful, another was energetic, another was more difficult and yet so transformative.  All were beautiful pieces of the whole.  Yet Ardha Chandrasana at the Wall clearly moved the group through the challenges, changes and contemplation that accompany New Year’s resolutions.  Its benefits, besides opening the rib cage,include improvement to shoulders, neck and breathing.  It also lengthens abdominal muscles and helps to prepare for meditation.

Our group went into Ardha Chandrasana at the Wall after deep spinal release through tailbone, sacrum and waist area.  At first, several yogis had difficult extending their arm close to their ear, then over their head and all the way to the wall.  Even more difficult was pressing both hands into the wall to arc their torso and create movement in their spine.  Then after several repetitions,and some assistance, most difficulty was gone. 

Repeating the whole lesson plan several times daily, they integrated the Ardha Chandrasana alignment details.  With more flexible torsos, the yogis could reach the wall with both hands.  They had more arc and movement in their spines.  They could actually soften into the pose and use the strength of their arms to move them in deeper. 

We love poses that are immediately blissful.  The purpose of Svaroopa® yoga, however, is to  expand your inner bliss, both to dive inside as well as to take your bliss into the world. This means using your abs, legs and arms to support your spine, even to release your spinal tensions.  This gives you the experience of your Self.  From this inner depth, you live your life fully, joyfully. 

Our New Year’s sequence ended in a seated pose, to integrate and absorb the changes.  Sitting allowed contemplation of where we were and where we were going.  What a way to start a New Year!

Make a Promise

By Peter Gallagher, Ashram Board Member

Twice yearly, I reach out to you to ask for a contribution. Your donation supports the many needs of your nonprofit yoga organization.  It supports the profound work of our founder and spiritual head, Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda. 

Our modern-day sage, our Guru, does not take any payment for her teachings.  While you pay fees to take courses with Swami Nirmalananda, these monies go directly to support the organization.  She is not compensated for her teaching time or the background support she provides.  Our fees apply only toward the costs of offering the courses and other services we provide. 

Our course and program fees unfortunately do not cover the costs of supporting the Ashram’s whole infrastructure.  This essential substructure enables dissemination of our Guru’s free teachings to you and seekers everywhere.  Physical buildings need improvements and maintenance.  We pay property taxes, insurance, utilities, faculty and the support staff that are needed to run programs.

Many of you make a monthly donation.  In making his pledge, you make a solemn promise.  It is a commitment, a sweet promise that you uphold month-by-month.  Your monthly gifts allow the Ashram to budget confidently, providing security for our organization.  We are grateful to you beyond measure.

Providing important support for Swamiji’s work in the world, your monthly gift gives even more.  You ensure the continued stream of teachings from Swamiji.  You provide her with the faculty, staff, supplies and facility that make her service to the community possible.  Through these conduits, her Grace is unwaveringly available to you, to your whole Svaroopa® community and to seekers beyond.  Guru’s Grace empowers you to do more and to be more than you think you are.

Consider seeing your monthly pledge as a necessity, not as an extra.  Reflect on the ways that your yoga deepens your inner experience.  Remember the Ashram programs, retreats and courses that have opened you to ease and peace within, freeing your mind from need, greed and fear. What is more important than your progress on your yogic/spiritual path?  Is it worth $25, $50, $100 or more a month?  You decide.

Whether your response is a new pledge, to increase you current pledge or to offer a one-time donation, give from your heart.  Give because it fills you up from the inside out. Give and be filled with the Grace of our yogic tradition.  In this season of gratitude and Grace, you can have it all, because you ARE all of THAT. 

Click here to donate.

Upliftment through Immersion

By Deepa Maria Mazzi, Kelly Sullivan & Soraya Pereira
Interviewed by Matrikaa Gast

“Three of us local Svaroopis were invited to teach early morning classes at the San Diego Svaroopa® Yoga Conference in 2015.  Before it, we had a planning call with Swami Nirmalananda. Swamiji asked, ‘Well, what do you want to teach?’  I said, ‘People will just be leaving their beds, so I’m thinking sweet floor poses.’ To which Swamiji replied, ‘I’m thinking poses to wake them up for meditation.  I’m thinking Yoga Sit-ups!’”

Looking back, Soraya says, “At the Conference, I felt that each and everyone one of us participating was 100% present — ‘there’.  I was drinking in every moment, and I could tell that was true for everyone.  Our time with Swamiji, in her Keynote Address and Satsangs, was beautiful.  Her presence with us wove an extended, joyful intimacy among us San Diegans and all who came from across the US and Australia.  Personally, I remember the power of a profound deep vichara (self-guided inquiry) led by Vidyadevi Stillman.

“The hotel venue was not an Ashram environment.  In fact, motorcyclists had also convened there.  Yet they were not a distraction.  Crossing paths with them affirmed the strength of our inner state as well as reciprocal adaptation.  At the end, sharing elevator rides with us,they would cordially ask ‘How was your meditation?’”

Kelly Sullivan’s word for her experience is “heartwarming.”  She says that connecting and talking with the Aussies was “a kick.”  She enjoyed being able to assist Vidyadevi in one of her asana sessions and to help fine-tune alignments.  She describes, “The Conference overall gave me a sense of coming home, immersing in the same kind of familiarity that you experience in Shavasana. It loops back to being in the moment, being in your Self.  In a way it reminded me of the ‘good old days’ in La Jolla when we San Diego Svaroopis had classes together in one location.  Yet this feeling was not a nostalgia tinged with sadness.  The energy was bubbly.  Everyone was happy to see each other.  This reunion was truly a bliss trigger.  It reminded me of the bliss that Vij~nana Bhairava:

Anytime a great delight arises, like the delight of reunion with someone after a long time,meditate on the delight and become absorbed in it, so your mind will become identified with that delight.  — verse 71

Months before the Conference, Deepa Mazzi had had surgery to repair a broken kneecap.  At the Conference, she was aware of the flow of Grace from our lineage as she taught in one of the sessions.  Teaching teachers — her peers— was daunting at first.  Yet she says,“It became fun after a while.  As always,I felt the Grace of our lineage supporting my teaching.”

Given the condition of her knee, Deepa was surprised at being able to do so much asana, and to teach. She adapted some alignments to protect her knee, and remembers Teacher Trainer Kusuma Sachs commenting “interesting modification.”  Overall, she experienced the Conference as a reunion of extended family.  She says,“It was like meeting third-cousins for the first time, and you discover a deep basis for relationship.  In this case, it was our mutual love of Svaroopa®yoga.  There was great camaraderie.”A Conference immersion is relatively short.  Yet Deepa found that the experience still“stays with you.”  She explains, “I took a deep dive and felt that I floated home on a cloud.”

Therapeutic Yoga — and More

By Barbara (Bharati) Badia, interviewed by Marlene (Matrika) Gast

“This pain that’s been bothering me all week, it was a gift,” asserted Barbara Badia.  She had just finished a Neck & Shoulders workshop at Downingtown Yoga.  “My experience made me realize how much this yoga can do.  While it focused on improving my neck and shoulders, we started by releasing tailbone tension.  Subsequent poses systematically carried the release through the sacrum, waist and rib cage areas of my spine.  My lower spine opened, and the sciatica I’ve had for weeks evaporated.  Svaroopa® yoga’s principle that ‘it all begins at the tailbone’ held true.  Even pain can be a gift.  It took me to a deeper understanding of Svaroopa® yoga’s therapeutic power.

She describes the spiritual experience that the poses opened up for her.  “When I walked outside afterward, I felt re birthed onto the earth.  A new inner awakening uplifted me, and I felt again the wonder of life.  On my drive home, I stopped for an errand.  My exuberance was heightened by sunlight splashing on the deep red-orange of autumn maple leaves.  Even though I may not feel like this every day, I can remember this day!”

For 30 years Barbara has been on the Siddha Yoga path, a student of Gurumayi Chidvilasananda.  Gurumayi was installed by her Guru, Swami Muktananda, as one of his successors.  In February 2018, Barbara discovered Downingtown Yoga, which is a branch of Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram, founded by Swami Nirmalananda.  Muktananda was her Guru as well.

Last May, Barbara took Downingtown Yoga’s “Deepen It Yourself” (DIY) immersion.  On her first day, she saw photos of Muktananda and his Guru, Nityananda.  Thus, Barbara knew she was in the right place. In her own words, she “fell in love” with Swami Nirmalananda.  Barbara continues, “I so appreciate the clarity with which she speaks of these high teachings.  She carries them forward from her Guru, Muktananda.  Her teaching gives me a deeper understanding of the path I’ve been on for three decades.”

Recalling DIY’s therapeutic benefits, Barbara says, “Vichara [self-guided inquiry] focused and cleared my mind.  It enabled me to commit to consistent early morning meditation.  I now look forward to getting up between 4:30 and 5:00 am.  An hour of asana practice prepares me for an hour of meditation.  The vichara shifted me to positive excitement around these practices.  I am also doing more japa (mantra repetition) during the day.  Going from one activity to another, I’ll get in my car and pause.  Then my mind just goes to a sweet place, and I drop into my Self.  My connection with my deeper Self is palpable, I can taste it.  And it tastes so good.

“I drive an hour from Philadelphia to chant Shree Guru Gita with Swamiji.  I also offer seva at her Ashram.  I am inspired by other Svaroopa® yogis in this community and their deep personal sadhana — three hours of practice daily.  With such dedication, these people are serious.  “I’ve found that everything in life is preparing you for the next thing.  Not one iota of effort goes unrewarded.  Certainly, the longing, intention and practice on my path has produced fruit beyond my imagination.  I am grateful to have received the opportunity to have such a close connection with Swami Nirmalananda.  She is a Sadguru, yet you can talk with her directly and so easily.  I feel that Swami Nirmalananda is Gurumayi’s gift to me.  How grateful I am for this lineage.  Through it, Grace flows, opening us deeply inward to the One Self Being All.”

Leading Discussions, Finding My Self

carolyn_beaverBy Karuna Beaver

I love leading Yoga Philosophy Discussion Groups.  When I trained as a Discussion Group Leader several years ago, I learned valuable listening skills and more.  I learned how these discussions bring my students together.  They deepen their relationships as well as their understanding of yoga’s teachings.

Leading the group is like conducting an orchestra.  While the conductor stands in front of the group, his or her job is to set the pace and bring out the highlights of the music.  Conducting requires a good ear, a great sense of timing and an ability to let the various players shine.

When you lead a Discussion Group, a keen ear is essential.  Listening is at the heart of this group process.  Listening, deeply listening, is a skill that can’t be overestimated.  It’s important to put your own agenda aside and hear what people are saying.  By doing so, you allow the group to hear other’s comments and respond. The discussion begins to roll.

Discussion Group 1Discussion groups are just that — discussions.  They’re about inspiring participants to participate!  The training taught me how to serve as moderator, how to handle any controversy or even long silences.  Swamiji says, “You put your ears on your heart.”  Now you listen differently, making space for people to reflect on what they’ve said and share meaningfully with others.  You give them an opportunity to give voice to the light of Consciousness arising within.

With that participation comes insight.  Discussions center around Swami Nirmalananda’s contemplation articles, with 25 years of monthly articles available online.  Participants in discussion groups dive into the teachings, to learn and grow.  I’ve seen people be amazed at the level of their understanding.  I’ve been amazed, too.  I have learned so much from them, as they have listened deeply to their own inner knowing.  As the discussions have taken my students to a whole new level, the process has taken me deeper into my Self at the same time.

Make a Promise

Devananda KingBy Devananda (David) King
Ashram Vice President

Those words from childhood ring in my ears.  In those days I was asked to make a promise when, it was presumed, I would not do something of my own accord.  I was told, “If you promise to clean your room, I will take you for ice cream.”  Or it was said, “If you promise to do your homework, you can watch TV.”  Thus, I understood that a promise is a binding contract.  I felt a promise was coercion.  It meant doing something I didn’t want to do, just to get a payoff (usually of lesser pain).  I resisted such pressure and did not make promises.

2018 Make a Promise Fundraising LogoThis has all changed since I’ve been participating in the Svaroopa® yoga community.  For me, here and now, the meaning of “promise” has transformed into the acknowledgement of the “pure potential” that exists when you set an intention.  My own intention to do my practice, meditate, repeat mantra and follow yogic precepts results in gaining the benefit of the promise of the Svaroopa® Sciences.  This promise is not coercion or manipulation.  This promise is a guarantee of what can be achieved:  finding and experiencing the Divine within myself and every individual human being.

When you make a promise to support the Ashram and the teachings of our Sadguru, you set the intention to improve the world.  You step forward on your path as you engage in the ancient yogic practice of dakshina, beautifully defined on our donation webpage:

Unconditional giving, motivated by a pure inner impulse and dedicated to a higher purpose.  You give from gratitude and love for your yoga, whatever the size or type of your donation.  Nothing is gained, except your own Self.  Through dakshina, you weave your yoga into your wallet!

Your dakshina has an impact on us all.  Monthly pledges are the backbone of the Ashram’s ability to offer all the Svaroopa® Sciences.  This includes our freebies, retreats, teacher trainings — and more.  Monthly pledges are essential in supporting Swami Nirmalananda’s work as she shares the ancient teachings with all in our community and with seekers beyond.

Swami Birthday 1Our beloved Guru’s birthday, November 15th, is a most auspicious start to the upcoming holiday season of gratitude and gift-giving.  I would like to make this birthday special.  I invite you to join me in supporting the Ashram in any way that fits your budget.  Can you increase your monthly donation by $10?  If each current monthly donor does so, our Ashram support increases by $18,000.  Or perhaps it is time to commit to a monthly pledge.  Or you may want to make a one-time donation.

Whatever your choice, give from your heart.  Give because your act of generosity fills you up, from the inside out.  Give and be filled with the Grace of our yogic tradition.  This promise carries the divine guarantee.  Click here to donate.

From Google to Guru

Phil MilgromBy Krishna (Phil) Milgrom

Tharsan 170731Tharsan Sathyaseelan laughs as he recounts his first experience arriving at Downingtown Yoga and Meditation Center to attend the free Swami Sunday.  “I was surprised to see mostly white yogis sitting in the room.  I saw Swami.  She is white, too!”  Of this he says, “I was still stuck in my small-s self, perceiving everyone as separate and different.  When I saw the photos of Nityananda and Muktananda, I thought to myself: “OK.  Here are Indian sages…” I felt more at ease.  I chanted with everyone — I’ve never done that before.  I recited the Guru Gita — I didn’t know what the Guru Gita was until then.”

When I first met Tharsan, aka Darshan, I was immediately struck by his unassuming nature, his humility, and a ready smile that shone from deep within.  Such a gentle soul.

“I needed help,” he answered, when I asked how he got to that first Swami Sunday.  He told me he left Sri Lanka, his birthplace, ten years ago to come to the States, settling in Downingtown.  “I came because of the greater freedoms available here,” he said.  “I would smoke, drink and party with my American friends.  They seemed to be happy.”

But a deeper happiness was being unveiled to Tharsan.  Somehow, he was beginning to experience a profound sense of bliss and joy.  He had never been so happy before.  “I felt then like I was going to be a millionaire,” he elaborated.  “I now had everything I wanted in my life.  I was in a state of bliss and joy 24/7.  So I quit my job.”

This was early in 2017.  He was still smoking and drinking with his friends periodically, but he was glowing from something else.  His friends started to notice.  They thought he was crazy or on drugs.  He could not explain where his extraordinary experiences were coming from.  “It all seemed to come from nowhere,” he says.  “I was learning then about computer networks.  I began thinking that all humans are connected some way, too.  But I didn’t understand what was going on with me.  I started reading books and searching online for answers.”

Tharsan came across online videos of people explaining what they called “Kundalini experiences.”  He recognized some of their experiences as similar to his.  They mentioned yoga and meditation, but Tharsan had only done a little yoga when he was younger and never meditated.  So he ventured into the woods behind where he lived.  He explains, “I wanted to experience nature, to know about God.  I did a few yoga poses and then Shavasana.  I dived deep inside and awoke an hour later.”

“That evening I went home to bed, closed my eyes and saw the most amazingly beautiful sky within.  It was a spacious purple and dark blue sky speckled with many colors.  I awoke the next morning feeling fully refreshed.  I didn’t realize it then, but I had been meditating all night long.  That’s why I felt so refreshed.”

“I needed help understanding what was going on.  From my Hindu background, I knew about ashrams and what they offer.  I thought maybe I could get help from one.”  He googled for the ashram closest to where he lived.  And that, of course, was Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram.  He called and was advised to attend a Swami Sunday.

Tharsan observes, “In retrospect, I knew then that I was being guided by Grace.  The Ashram was only ten minutes from where I lived.”  Laughing again, he said, “The yoga and meditation center was located directly across the street from the pub where I had been drinking with my buddies!

Darshan and Swamiji“After the Guru Gita at my first Swami Sunday there was darshan [an opportunity to see a holy person, in this case Swami Nirmalananda].  I went up to Swami and told her that I needed help understanding my experiences.  She said she would see me after the program.  So later she approached and asked, ‘How are you?’ I answered, ‘I am having beautiful experiences.  I never meditated before.  I don’t know what I am doing.  I am lost.’”

“Swami explained what had been happening to me.  She then gave me mantra.  She encouraged me to come to all her free programs: Tuesday evening satsangs, Thursday morning Guru Gita satsangs, and Swami Sundays.

“I attended these for two or three weeks; then Swami gave me the mantra again, gave me mala beads and an asana.  I didn’t know what an asana was.  It was a beautiful red silk cloth that I was to sit on for meditation practice.  She told me she infused the asana with her energy.  She asked me to repeat mantra three hours a day while sitting on the asana.”

Tharsan immediately set up a place in his room to meditate, and repeated the mantra three hours daily.  In a few days, his body shook during meditation.  “I didn’t know where these physical movements were coming from,” he says.  “But I had faith in Swamiji, so I continued meditating.  It was very intense.”  The next Sunday he told Swamiji about the shaking.  “She told me my Kundalini was awakening.  She said she is a Kundalini Master.”

Tharsan aka Darshan (Newt) Sathyaseelan 1Tharsan was thrilled.  Then, in September 2017, he attended a Shaktipat weekend with Swamiji.  It was the icing on the cake.  He recalls, “Before that, when I meditated, I wasn’t going deeper.  Shaktipat got me going deeper.  I realized the awareness within me was Me, my Self.  I didn’t know before that there was a small self and a higher Self.  I now understood the play of the mind and play of ego, and who was having all these experiences and identities.  It was Me, my higher Self.  All my experiences now made sense.”

Tharsan was no longer lost.  He had googled “ashram,” found his Guru, and through her, found his Self.  Tharsan continues to this day working for the Ashram.  He is also a Lyft driver part time.  Next time you need a ride to or from Downingtown, call Tharsan.  You will definitely get a lift.  His glow is contagious.