Yoga Healing

By Carolyn (Karuna) Beaver

“One day can bend your life” is a refrigerator magnet motto that Swami Nirmalananda has referenced in talks recently.  It’s true.  It can take just a day for something to bend you in a different direction.

Imagine having more than one day dedicated to healing your body and mind.  My experience in a Yoga Healing Retreat this spring didn’t merely bend my life. It turned it around.  I found both ease and new energy in my body. I discovered my mind was not my enemy, but a pathway to more clarity.  After several days, I was not the same person I was when I arrived.

Except that I was.  I was more “me.”  More in my body.  More calm and confident. More steady and able to handle the daily ups and downs of life, yet without letting them drag me up and down.  The retreat featured daily yoga classes, private yoga therapy sessions, yoga philosophy talks and vichara sessions (yoga for your mind!).

I signed up for the retreat to deal with some worsening aches and pains.  I signed up to totally immerse myself in Svaroopa® yoga’s healing practices. I knew that the poses would get into my tight stuff physically and the vichara would get into the tight spots in my mind.  But I didn’t anticipate the experience I had on the last day of the retreat.

I’d already done two vichara sessions.  In the third, I was circling around the same material I’d covered previously.  All of a sudden, I stopped talking.  It was as if a curtain that had been shielding my inner most Beingness suddenly disappeared.  Everything was luminous.  There was no distinction between what I was experiencing inside my body and mind and what surrounded me outside my body and mind.  My eyes were new eyes.  My senses were so acute.  Everything glowed and vibrated, inside and out.

I was able to finish my vichara session by describing my experience.  I was reluctant to use my voice.  Yet I know that becoming enlightened is about taking this blissful state into the “real” world.  I was able to make my way to the classroom for the next piece of the retreat, an asana class.  I was able to stay in this expanded state for quite some time, several hours.

As I went about the rest of the day, my experience dimmed a bit.  While the intensity of the luminosity faded, my senses were still heightened.  My awareness stayed expanded.  And several months later, I still feel the effects.  The deep practices over several days etched some new pathways in my body and mind.  They took me around ruts I’d been stuck in for a long time. Still, I know that this yogic path is just that.  It’s a path, a journey.  I’m still traveling, not content to stop with what I received.  I know there’s more just down the road.  That’s why I intend to sign up for a Yoga Healing Retreat at least once a year, if not more often.  One day can bend your life.  Several days can turn it around.

The Most Auspicious Day!

By Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

August 15 — what an auspicious day!  Today I honor the greatest gift of all, freedom.  Muktananda received MahaShaktipat Diksha from Nityananda on the day that India became free from foreign rulership.  One who was named “Bliss of Liberation” was given the gift of liberation on the day that India attained liberation.  Was Nityananda playing with us?  Of course!

This is all Shiva’s play, a cosmic and intensely personal dance of delight, Shiva being the universe while being you in the universe.  Shiva becomes the individual by binding himself, then takes birth again and again in the quest for Self-Knowingness, yearning to be free.  Now and again Shiva gets peeks of himself, tantalizing tastes of his own immortality.  What an enchanting play:  action, adventure, comedy, drama, suspense and documentary, all at the same time.

My life pivots around that moment when the blue light of Consciousness streamed from Nityananda’s eyes into Muktananda’s eyes.  I was not there, yet my life began in that moment.  I was physically born less than one year earlier, but the purpose of my life was set in motion.  I didn’t know for decades, but Muktananda knew.  Nityananda knew his gift would benefit millions.

Nirmalananda’s Collection

When Muktananda brought Shaktipat to America, he called it a Meditation Revolution.  He planted the seed of enlightenment in so many people, yet it all came from Nityananda.  He kept telling us this, “I do nothing.  It’s all my Baba.”  I couldn’t hear or understand him because I didn’t yet know how to receive.  Muktananda had already given me Shaktipat many times, but I still didn’t know how to truly receive.

But on that day, India’s day of freedom, Muktananda received the gift of freedom from one who was already free.  The fulfillment of Muktananda’s dream, even the prophetic name he’d been given when he took sannyas, was accomplished.  Well, he had to meditate for nine more years before he really knew what he’d gotten.  It’s like if someone gives you the gift of the sky; how will you see all of it?  You have to learn how to surrender.  Then you not only see it, you become it.  And even more.

Today I honor the greatest gift of all, freedom.  Not the freedom of a nation, though this is India’s Independence Day.  This is the 73rd anniversary of a bound soul being set free.  Such a great soul, Muktananda, he then set others free.  I am only one amongst many who owe our life to Muktananda.  And he got it all from Nityananda.  Jai Nityananda!

Nirmalananda’s collection

Going Steady with Swamiji

By Shelley Zeichner, interviewed by Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast

I just celebrated my first anniversary as a satsangi[1].  Since discovering Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda in early 2018, I consistently attend her Swami Sunday Satsangs.  Practicing and teaching another meditation style for a decade, I am now even a deeper meditator.  This has all come about through a chance meeting.

My previous ten years has been a journey of many meditation classes, courses and retreats.  A month before meeting Swamiji, I traveled from PA to CA for meditation teacher certification.  There I met another meditator from southeastern PA.  She had been doing Embodyment® Yoga Therapy at the Ashram’s Downingtown Yoga & Meditation Center (DYMC).  She enthusiastically talked about how it had healed the effects of a car accident.

As an event planner, I’d heard of DYMC.  For health and wellness retreats, I bring in yoga teachers of different styles.  Checking out DYMC’s Svaroopa® yoga was already simmering on my backburner.  So, when my new friend from the CA retreat and I returned home, we tried out a free DYMC program on a Wednesday.  We were floored.  We could hardly wait to get back to DYMC on Sunday, for Swamiji’s Satsang.

Years ago, Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi enthralled me.  I was especially captivated by his search for and then devotion to his Guru.  I thought how wonderful to want to bow at the feet of your Guru with gratitude and love.  At that first Swami Sunday, when my friend and I walked in, people were bowing to Swamiji.  I felt a deep connection to her.   There are no words for it.  Through her, I connected with the photo of her Guru, Baba Muktananda.  I felt his gaze piercing through my heart and out my back.  Seeing the photo of Nityananda, Baba’s Guru, I connected with him as a grandfather.

After several months of her yoga and meditation, I was bowing at Swamiji’s feet with love and gratitude.  It’s so natural to have complete love for and trust in a Guru’s teachings.  Since then, I feel that I have been going steady with Swamiji!  Her discourses are vivid, engaging and inspiring.  Her teachings are miraculous.  At DYMC I also take Svaroopa® yoga classes and engage in vichara (guided self-inquiry) sessions.  These experiences give me a sense of how Swamiji must have felt when she met Baba.  After 10 years of seeking, I feel that there’s no need to seek any further. 

All of Swamiji’s discourses give me an Aha! Moment.  For more, I binge-listen to her free online audios.  Every one delivers an epiphany.  In her frequent discussions after satsang, I find deep reciprocal connections with other satsangis.  Swamiji asks us, “What did you hear?”  Each of use chooses a word, phrase or line from her teachings that day and says why we chose it.  Often, each of us 20 or 30 people have chosen the same line and have similar feelings about it.  We are all following the same path in our individual ways.  This is fitting.  Swamiji teaches that ultimately who and what we really are is “Shiva.”

I have told the people coming to the meditation class I teach, if you really want to learn, come to Downingtown with me.  You will receive teachings from the most amazing teacher ever.  Now I have decided to simply stick with being an event planner.

I am growing steadier in the experiential knowing of my Self, the One Self Being All.  And I am aware that my long seeking was necessary.  I found the teacher I was seeking in Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda.  She embodies the teachings that she gives and is tireless in serving her Guru.

My own Self has always been present within me.  I just didn’t know it.  I now know that everything over the past 10 years had to be as it was or I would never have come to know Self that is always there.  Also, I know the “chance meeting” that led me to Swamiji was inevitable.

A friend gave me my first red jasper stone for healing.  I’ve used it for grounding, to prepare for meditation by clearing the mind.  It’s been a favorite color forever, and was always a color in any house where I lived.  Why was it that color captivated me?  Then it hit me: it’s Swamiji’s color, the robes of a yoga monk.  One Sunday I noticed her shirt was the very same shade of red-orange as jasper.  And in Baba’s photograph, the red-powder dot on his forehead is the same color and shape as a red jasper stone.  When I mentioned this to Swamiji, she said, as I have felt, I must have been a monk in a past life.  The Self Is Already Within – but I didn’t know it – until finding my Guru.

[1] A person who regularly attends satsang, which is a gathering of seekers of truth.

WWSD — What Would Swami Do?

By Aanandi Ross

How can you discern whether a guru is a True Guru?  Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda suggests you ask yourself whether or not you have changed.  My answer is yes: Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda is a True Guru.  Swamiji has helped me to change myself.  She has helped me to experience my own Self, which continues to change my life.

Life is a kaleidoscope of choices.  We have infinite opportunities to explore, objects to distract us, books to read, paths to follow, pleasures to pursue, and people to become involved with.  What will the choice be?  No one can do it all, even while the mind might like to.

These days, an even greater pleasure for me is to simplify.  I head toward that one tiny speck of brilliant, radiant light within.  It’s waiting to be chosen amongst all the tantalizing external options.  I focus on this aspect of myself using various yoga practices learned from Swamiji.  They magnify that tiny speck of inner light.  It reveals itSelf to me more and more as my own Self, the One Self Being All.

I notice the effects this process has had on my life.  Sometimes I’ve had a hard time making order in life.  I’ve questioned, “What is the purpose here?  What is it that I want to make order around?”  For so many years, I had no answer.  I was looking for something, while not knowing what.  Wanting to know, but completely lost.

For eleven years now, I’ve been receiving the great blessing of yoga’s ancient teachings from Swami Nirmalananda.  I now have the answer to my lifelong question.  There was no order in my life before being on the Self‑Realization path.  I now know that is what I want to create order around.

For those times that I feel uncertain or anxious, I do Quick Fix #7.  Swamiji’s July 2019 Teachings Article: Think of a Great Being describes it:

Vita-raaga-vi.saya.m vaa cittam — Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.37

Or [when your mind is distracted from Consciousness], fix your mind on a Great Being, one free from desire.

As she is my Guru, I think of Swamiji.  I breathe into the thought of her.  My breath gradually becomes slower, steadier.  I linger in the pauses.  I feel more space in my life.  I remember the light of my own being is who I am.  And the memory of her words of wisdom arise within me:

Do what needs to be done.

Experience your experience while you’re experiencing it.

Pick yourself up and dust yourself off.

Find the effortlessness in your efforting.

Lean back in your body and soften into your life.

Do more yoga.

My mind becomes peaceful.

Regarding her own Guru, Swami Muktananda, Swamiji says, “It was obvious that Muktananda knew more and offered more than anyone else.  I devoted my life to studying with him.”  She has made her whole life about his teachings on Self‑Realization.  She is a living example, loud and clear, subtle and sublime, of her Baba’s teachings.  Having attained the promise, she devotes all her actions towards sharing these truths, with compassion and precision, with humor or with fire.  She meets you where you’re at.  She has looked all the way into herself.  She thus is able to help me do the same.

Where else have I found this?  I haven’t found such a teacher, a True Guru, anywhere else.  As needed, I follow her guidance.  I “think of one who has attained the heights of spiritual development.”  Having experienced her teachings, I know, for me, that “one” is Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda herself.  I think of that Great Being.  This Quick Fix #7 is sweet and deep. My heart is filled.

Why I Teach

By Joe Yezzi, interviewed by Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast

I teach Svaroopa® yoga for two reasons.  One is my own healing from it.  The other reason is seeing profound changes in my students.  Their transformation in class, and over time, is physical and so much more than physical.

When I threw my back out in 1990, I began physical therapy and continued for nine years. I would get some relief.  Then the pain would return.  The PT just addressed symptoms, not the cause of pain.  Early on, I heard about this special yoga that gets at the root of pain.  My reaction at the time, admittedly sexist, was “Yoga?  That’s for women.”  

Then in 2000 after more pain, fortunately, I again heard about Svaroopa® yoga.  I was told it’s uniquely healing, and I began weekly classes.  My pain decreased, my teacher noticed and suggested taking two classes weekly.  I continued for another eight years.

The physical healing was amazing. Perhaps more surprising was a spiritual change.  The intensity of my life softened.  I started smelling the roses.  Then in 2008, my teacher asked, “Why don’t you take Foundations?”  It is the first step in Svaroopa® yoga teacher training.  My teacher suggested it, however, so that I could learn more about how Svaroopa® yoga works for my personal benefit.

I was greatly fortunate to take the last Foundations that Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda taught herself.   When I met her, she put her hand on my heart and said, “You will do well.”  I felt powerful energy course through my body from my toes up.  And I was propelled to share this yoga with others.  In April 2010, I taught my first class, my purpose being to help others.

My back goes out still, but not like before.  I’m no longer out of commission for ten days.  Now, I do the Ujjayi Pranayama breathing practice to calm my inner state. Then I’ll do a few poses to open my spine. I know I can rely on this to open me to the natural healing energy of my body and being.

I teach to share these transformative practices, part of Svaroopa® yoga.  I like the satisfaction of seeing their effects on students.  In the beginning of class, in our opening Shavasana with Guided Awareness and Ujjayi breathing, I often see some students fidgeting.  They are unable to settle in.  Then I take them through poses to release the tension, tail to top, in four areas of their spine.  By the end of class, after the final Shavasana with Guided Awareness, I see calmness in their bodies and peacefulness shining in their faces.  It is just magical.  I know they are in a better place than when they came in.

After Yoga Mudra, to seal in their benefits, I offer the blessing from the Universal Prayer, “May the longtime sun shine upon you, may all love surround you, and the pure light within you guide you on.”  Then I say, “Namaste,” bowing to them, and suggest, “Take a moment to honor each other.”

As they are leaving, my students tend to talk about the quotation that I’d offered from Swami Nirmalananda as their contemplation.  I love hearing them say “that was perfect for me,” and “I really needed that Slow Motion Dive.”  It’s gratifying to know my instructions are helpful, when a student says, “I thought my shoulder was soft, until you mention it.  Then I could really feel it and truly soften it.”  When they thank me, I say, “Thank yourself.  You are allowing yourself to let go.” Walking into the studio where I teach, I feel it’s like walking into a church.  I recall Foundations and Swamiji putting her hand on my heart, saying “You’ll do well.”  Now I know what she meant, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  So I teach that others may do well in the same way, multidimensionally, inside and outside.

Who Would I Be?

By Swami Nirmalananda

My life bent in a most beneficial direction on one amazing day when I received initiation from my Guru.  He turned me toward the light, a big improvement over the hazy fog I’d been living in.  Beyond merely filling my life with light, he revealed the source of light within me, my own Self.  I cannot imagine who I would be now if it wasn’t for Baba.   He gave me me.

I had learned how to be what other people wanted me to be.  I could mouth the words and go through the motions, but it felt like I was miming eating.  No food on my imaginary fork, I pretended to swallow but was not getting fed.  Withering away on the inside, I tried harder on the outside, trying to make it all meaningful. 

Then Muktananda came to the USA.  Wow!  I didn’t even know enough to go looking for him, so he came to me.   I followed him home like a stray puppy, needing food, shelter, love and training.  He gave me all of that and much more.  He gave me me.

For seven short years, I marinated in his presence and grace.  His words pierced my armor, permeating deeper than my mind and heart, feeding me on the inside.   Then he explained what was happening, quoting a sutra (as he always did):

j~naanam annam — Shiva Sutras 2.9

Pure knowledge is the only real nourishment, that which gives real satisfaction.

Again and again he gave me the inner experience, then explained what was happening to me.   It was like I was tasting my first mango, then finding out the name for it, both of which he actually did give me as well.  More important than mangoes, however, he gave me me.

Tonight is the full moon of the Guru, Guru Purnima.  It is the night when grace flows most fully.  I know it’s true because I missed it one year.  Living in his Ashram, I offered my seva (volunteer work) in food service.  When the crowds were big, we had more people to feed, so we were busier.  Guru Purnima is the biggest night of the year!  Big crowds honoring the Guru, many offering gifts or donations to support the Guru and Ashram for the year, all meant that we had lots of mouths to feed. 

Every prior year, I’d slipped out of the eating area to go bow at Baba’s feet and get tapped by his peacock feathers.  But that one time, the lines of people eating seemed unending.  I thought, “I’ll bow tomorrow night,” and offered a mental pranam (bow).

The next evening, I went forward and bowed, but it wasn’t the same.  I could tell the difference.  His blessings were still there, of course, for one who is an agent of light cannot withhold it.  But it didn’t penetrate me in the way it had on earlier Guru Purnima holy-days. 

Looking back, I can see that I was the one blocking the flow.  Yes, the grace flows most powerfully on Guru Purnima.  But I was able, on any day, to put up my guard.  I needed no training in how to do so.  Worse, by not going to see him, personally and physically, on that important occasion, it was like I had said, “Yeah, having a Guru is good, but the real person doesn’t matter so much.”   Except he did.  I had only seven short years with him on this physical plane.  Every day mattered.  A lot.

Tonight is the night of all nights for bowing to the Guru.  If you cannot be present with One who is the Living Embodiment of Consciousness, bow to the Guru’s picture.  Linger with your head on the floor, in that sweet space of emptying and filling at the same time.   You can learn how to live there. 

Without my Baba, who would I be?  I certainly didn’t know how to be me, not until he gave me me.  Now I live with my head always at his feet, living in that inner space he gave me.  And I am grateful, forever and beyond.  

In My Body, Alive and Present

By Belle (Bhavani) Mann, reported by Lori (Priya) Kenney

“When I arrived at New York’s Penn Station, I was amazed — everybody seemed half dead.  I’d taken the train back after the Yoga Healing Retreat.  I thought, ‘Oh, I must have been like this before, too.  This must be what Swamiji has been referring to as zombies.’  In contrast, I felt so alive, so present, so in my body.  So solid.  I’ve never quite felt that way before.  It was a big internal shift for me, and continued even after traveling home to California,” shares Bhavani Mann.

She enrolled in this five-day retreat to heal physical issues.  She describes, “I got what I went for and more than I could ever have imagined.  The daily practices — yoga therapy, vichara, asana class, chanting, meditation and lectures — worked on all the different levels at once.  There was plenty of time for rest and integration.  I took home an excellent home practice, created specifically for my needs.  I got a glimpse of what enlightenment must be like — I could feel and see everything, but it did not affect my state.  It was amazing that I could move through the world from such a different place.”

Having experienced other healing modalities, including Ayurveda retreats (panchakarma), Bhavani says, “I see overlap between the two modalities and also differences.  Both work on all levels of being — physical, mental, energetic, and spiritual.  While the panchakarma works specifically on the body, it does slow down and quiet the mind, and can open one up spiritually.  In contrast, the effects of my recent experience at the Yoga Healing Retreat were most apparent in my state, with physical effects too, of course.  I was catapulted into a deeper state of being, in only four full days.

“I think that is because of Grace.  Everything I got from yoga therapy was fueled by Guru’s Grace.  Also, Swami Nirmalananda teaches that the mind causes physical disease and dis-ease.  To heal our bodies we must quiet our minds.  I’m different now.  This is how I want to live my life.  I can see more clearly the possibilities of what is ahead in my path as I keep going.  I’m even more dedicated to this path to Enlightenment.  I’m trying to figure out which Yoga Healing Retreat I can attend in the fall.”