In the Presence of an Advanced Yogi

By Rita Nandy, interviewed by Margie (Maitreyi) Wilsman

“Each time Swami Nirmalananda came into the meditation room, I could feel her presence physically from the tingling along my back,” says Rita Nandy. Thus, she describes her experience of her first Shaktipat Retreat.  Rita was born in India, into a family who had a Kulguru — a Sadguru.  Rita understands the value of a true Guru.  She could tell that she was in the presence of an advanced yogi, a living siddha (master).

Rita heard about the retreat in her Svaroopa® yoga class, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where she now lives.  She concluded that these opportunities don’t arise often.  So she decided to “invest in the Self.”

Rita is most grateful for receiving the Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation mantra from Swamiji.  Rita explains, “Enlivened mantra had been transmitted through my family for generations.  Unfortunately, in my generation, there was no living practitioner left to transmit that mantra to us youngsters.  In the Shaktipat Retreat, we received the mantra that has the potential to make one grow spiritually, almost at an evolutionary scale.  This mantra has been enlivened by Swamiji’s lineage for many, many generations.”  While now this mantra is widely known, Rita recognizes that it is rare indeed to have it transmitted to you through a living siddha.  This enlivened mantra is filled with Guru’s Grace.

Rita has been engaged in deep yogic practices, including japa and chanting, since 1996.  So she is already familiar with basic kriyas (spontaneous, involuntary movements), that develop over time.  As the retreat progressed so did Rita’s kriyas.  They moved up her back, stopped at her heart, and then moved over to the side.  They are still with her.  She feels there are some blockages at her heart that need to be removed.  The kriyas return when Rita is chanting the Shri Rudram, an ancient Vedic hymn, meditating and practicing japa with Om Namah Shivaaya. Rita could tell Swamiji was someone special despite the difference in their backgrounds, Swami being American, not Indian.  Rita has met many Swamis, has attended two Kumba Melas and has undertaken many pilgrimages including to Kailasa in Tibet.  Rita feels privileged to finally have Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda as her Guru.  Rita believes that she had to move to North America to find the genuine article in Swamiji.

Nourish Good Bacteria the Ayurvedic Way

By Maureen (Bindu) Shortt

“Microbiome” refers to all the organisms that live on us and in us.  There are primarily bacteria in your gut.  Your gut — your digestion — starts in your mouth extending down through your esophagus and stomach, on into your small intestine and through your large intestine.  Hole to hole, I fondly call it.

Within this system you have about six cups of bacteria.  They are meant to reside in a ratio of about four cups good bacteria to two cups bad bacteria.  The good bacteria finish digestion, particularly of carbohydrates and dairy.  They produce immune factors and Vitamin K, which keeps your blood as thick or thin as it needs to be.  They produce energy.  They kill off bad bacteria and viruses.  They neutralize carcinogenic substances.  They produce neurotransmitters that influence our mood and stress handling abilities.

The bad bacteria let their other bad bacteria set up in your GI tract.  They let viruses and harmful substances through.  They deplete energy, making us crave carbs, the food easiest for them to digest.  They don’t help with the digestion of other foods.  They weaken immunity.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to reverse the ideal ratio of good to bad bacteria.  All it took was that first course of antibiotics when you were a child.  It reversed your microbiome, leaving up to four cups of bad bacteria and only two of the good.  This inverse ratio impacts health throughout your body.  It impairs your ability to think clearly and to emote well.  Steroid medications, chlorinated water, smoking, birth control pills and even the biochemicals of chronic stress — all compromise your microbiome.

This compromise is now known to contribute to many health imbalances.  And not just in your digestive system.  The state of your microbiome influences obesity, allergies, auto-immune diseases, skin conditions, and many psychological conditions.  Ayurveda teaches that ama, toxins from an imbalanced microbiome, can settle in any body tissue.  This activates an immune response.

Fortunately, Ayurveda offers us many foods that replenish the good bacteria for stronger digestion and immunity.  Turmeric is anti-inflammatory.  Psyllium binds and removes toxins and bad bacteria.  Leafy greens, bran, barley and oats, onions, garlic and leeks, beans and lentils are all prebiotics.  Prebiotics feed the good bacteria, helping grow their population.

Ayurveda does not recommend taking probiotic supplements.  Instead, re-implant friendly bacteria by drinking homemade lassi a few times a week.  Lassi is made with live bacteria yogurt.  It feeds a fresh supply of good bacteria, which can then colonize further.

You can make the following recipe with just the yogurt, water, salt and cumin.  The mango, cilantro, and rose water help to soothe and calm excess summer pitta.  Have some of your lassi with your lunch, and then sip and enjoy the rest throughout the afternoon.  For one servicing of lassi, mix the ingredients below in a blender for 2 minutes (no less):

¼ cup live culture whole milk plain yogurt

1 cup water

Mango-fresh or frozen-to taste

Capful of rose water

Fresh cilantro to taste

Pinch of salt 2 pinches of ground cumin

Svaroopa® Foundations

By Deb (Sarmani) Beutel

Take me again to Downingtown to see,

If I can learn to love me just for me.

To breathe and to pose, both inward and out,

It’s not what you say or you think or you shout.

It’s deeper within, a place you will find,

If you breathe and you pose, and you quiet your mind.

Bring it all up and out it shall go;

Tears may start flowing but then you will know;

The pain and the stuff all frozen within,

will soften and melt, and let you back in.

Yoga with new friends, slowing the time,

Do this a lot and you will be fine!

Leave all the stress and traffic and more.

Enter the Ashram and life’s not such a chore.

I love Svaroopa® yoga, it gives me such peace,

I want to come back and gain a new lease,

On the true meaning of life and the changes I seek,

A fresh new perspective on how to release,

And the path to samadhi, just give me a peek.

Kamala & Chiti, the best teachers and guides,

Embrace the teachings to soften your ride.

Life can be crazy full of busyness and haste,

But, if you choose wisely, yours won’t be a waste!

Swami is so peaceful and the epitome of grace

Listening and watching her, to slow down your pace.

Meditation and chanting slows the breathing and mind,

Calmer you will be, and peace you will finally find.

I slept through the night for the first time in years,

I finally let it all go through the poses and tears!

Listen and learn and do your asanas,

And life will be good and you won’t notice the piranhas.

Practice you must, home or away,

and ensure you complete the Magic Four every day.

Practice your breathing, your Uijayi Pranayama;

Then let go you can of past pain and the trauma.

Bring back the joy and peace you will find,

Do Svaroopa® yoga and the world will be kind!

Originally from Southern California, Deb Beutel is retired from the Marine Corps after more than 20 years of service.  Trained in several other yoga styles, Deb is a recent graduate of the Foundations of Svaroopa® Yoga course.  Her experience of Foundations inspired this poem.  For more on her personal yoga journey, see her Yoga Alliance biography.

Thanking You With All My Heart

Dearest Svaroopis,

In closing our spring fundraiser — With All Your Heart — I want to thank you for your donation, with all my heart.

This fundraising initiative has been the most exciting so far.  Many of you responded with a gift for the first time.  in addition, many of you reached out to your own sphere of influence through Facebook.  In just a few weeks, you have greatly increased the visibility and name recognition of the Svaroopa® Sciences as well as contributed to the Ashram’s financial support.  Thank you, with all my heart.

Another amazing result is that you have shared an important part of yourself with those you love and value.  By setting up your own fundraiser on your personal Facebook page, you shared something important to you.  As well, it could be beneficial to family, friends and acquaintances.  How beautiful to be sharing the love widely!  I thank you, with all my heart.

Of course, some of you may not have felt comfortable using social media in this way.  Yet so many of you generously opened your heart by donating on the Svaroopa Vidya Ashram Facebook page, on another Svaroopi’s Facebook page or directly to the Ashram.  Together, your generous donations have and exceeded our goal of $20,000.  I thank you, with all my heart.

Giving is the ultimate heart opener.  Just like the riddle of the chicken and the egg, which comes first?  Your heart opens and then you give, or you give and your heart opens?  The good news is, no answer is needed.  Either order works miraculously!

In the coming year, your Board of Directors will be focusing on expanding the reach of the Svaroopa® Sciences.  The purpose is to bring Swamiji and the ancient teachings to spiritual seekers the world over.  Your loving generosity is supporting the flow of Grace far and wide.  Your financial contribution, given with all your heart, makes it possible for Swamiji to fulfill this vision.  Your loving donation, no matter the amount, fuels this transformation.

From my heart, to your heart, I thank you.

With Love and Gratitude, Lynn (Gurupremananda) Cattafi, SVA Board President

Opening My Heart

By TC (Tattvananda) Richards

Svaroopa® yoga opens my heart, which is one of the many things I love about it.  All the practices of the Svaroopa® Sciences, no matter which I choose, open my heart.  Then who I really am is revealed.  The more I practice, the more I reside in my own Divine Essence.  What a gift!

The practices quiet my mind and turn me inward to an expansive experience. I call it my “heart,” but really I am settling into my Self.  I am carried into a place of immeasurable vastness.  It is infinitely greater than my mind can ever imagine.  When I live from this inner vastness, everything changes.  I love more purely.  I live more Divinely.  I move through the world with an ease I never thought possible.  The more I maintain a steady practice, the more steady my state remains.  Weaving this profound yoga into my life keeps me immersed in the Self.

Recently, a Svaroopa® yoga teacher said to me, “I have to tell you, Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram is a world class teaching organization.”  She had just returned from a Teacher Training program.  She marvels that this yoga is developed specifically to take us to our own Divine Essence.  by Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda created every detail of the practices just for this inner experience and revelation.

Every part of Svaroopa® yoga opens your heart, thus opening you to your own Divine Essence.  The practice of dakshina is one of those practices, unconditional giving.  It supports the organization for practical purposes.  It is important to keep the organization running smoothly.  In other not-for-profit organizations, financial support is called fundraising.  In this world class organization, however, fundraising is “dakshina.”  

Like your other Svaroopa® yoga practices, its purpose is support on the journey to Self-Realization.  Dakshina frees you from fear and opens your heart.  Swamiji has based all these practices in yoga’s ancient authentic teachings.  She has designed them to open our hearts so we move through the world differently.  The love that she gives us in doing this is just so beautiful.

I practice dakshina with gratitude, to give back for the many things I am immensely grateful for receiving.  Just like all the other practices, it opens me to a place more expansive than my mind can imagine.  It opens my heart and settles me into the Self.  The more steadily I give, the steadier is my state.  Yet it is a paradox.  This practice, which is meant to be motivated by pure inner impulse, gives more back to me than I can give to it.

Please help the Ashram continue to serve you in the many magnificent ways it does.  Click to donate on our Facebook page or on our website page.  Your generosity is heart-fully appreciated.

This fundraising season we have found an easy way for you to open your own heart in this way, as well as to make this practice available to those near and dear to you.  Through a Facebook Fundraising Event, you can share your heart and raise awareness of Swamiji’s profound teachings that mean so much to you.

On our Facebook page, you’ll find the information to make a direct donation to the Ashram and create your own fundraiser for the Ashram.  It is easy to do. Here is how.

• For a single personal donation, go to the Ashram Facebook page.  Click on the Donate button on the cover photo.  When asked, designate an amount and a payment method.  Then click Donate again.  One, two three — that’s it.

• Create your own event, to magnify your capacity to share your heart — with the Ashram — AND with your Facebook friends.  Here’s how to create your own Ashram fundraiser on Facebook:

1. Click Fundraisers in the left-side menu of your News Feed. Then, click Raise Money and select Nonprofit/Charity.

2. Type in Svaroopa Vidya Ashram, and click on the link given.

3. Choose a cover photo, fill in the fundraiser details (we’re happy to provide them) and click Create.

4. When you’re given the opportunity to decide with whom you want to share this fundraiser, we suggest people who know how much you love your yoga, and who love you!  We suggest you NOT send it to your Svaroopa® yoga friends on Facebook.  Let’s avoid sending the same fundraiser repeatedly to our community.

I invite you to do more yoga, open your heart, contribute today and offer this great practice to others.

Small Sigh, Big Shift

By Carolyn (Karuna) Beaver

“Busy mind — busy life.” Sigh.

“It’s your mind that propels your frenetic pace.” Sigh.  

Swami Nirmalananda writes that our minds mess with us.  Our minds compel us to perpetual motion.

When I lead yoga philosophy discussions, I ask participants to find a phrase or sentence in a teachings article that resonates with them.  Maybe it’s something they relate to.  Maybe it’s something that provokes a reaction.  One such line jumped out at me Swamiji’s May article: The Inner Threshold. “You do things, lots and lots of things, simply because you want them to make you happy,” Swamiji writes.

Yes, I do lots and lots of things.  But I thought I did them out of love and responsibility.  I’m sandwiched between my elderly parents and my disabled daughter.  Also, between my paid jobs and seva duties, I’m still working full time.  Initially I didn’t agree that my mind compelled me to do all these things to make myself happy.  I was wrong.

I discovered this when I looked a little deeper, tracking back.  All the things I do come with an identity.  It is linked to an expectation — a “pay off” of sorts.  I am a devoted daughter, a loving mother and wife, an effective employee, a good yoga teacher, a dedicated sevite.  My expectations of my actions — devotion, love, effectiveness, dedication — are all about using these identities to give me something.  In other words, what I do makes me happy with who I am.  My mind is messing with me, no doubt about it.  Sigh.

When I get wrapped up in the do, do, do, my mind needs help.  I need to remember who and what I REALLY am — Shiva!  Swami says that it’s as easy as taking a breath and allowing a deep yogic sigh.  It’s her quick fix for May.  And it works, of course!

Every afternoon I stop the madness by doing at least 20-30 minutes of Ujjjayi Pranayama.  Yet when I need a quick fix, as I do often, I can do a yogic sigh.  It’s a technique from the Vij~nana Bhairava, an ancient yogic text in our Kashmiri Shaivism tradition.  Having learned it in Meditation Teacher Training, I often teach it in my introduction to meditation classes.  Swami calls the space after a long sigh, before the breath moves again, a “divine pause.” She’s right.  It’s heavenly.

In that pause, time stops.  My mind stops.  Swamiji calls it a “magical, mystical moment of complete stillness.”  Bahya kumbhaka is the pause after an exhalation, before your breath moves again.  It’s the pause that refreshes.  Swamiji says when you linger and relax into the pause, you hover “in the threshold between inside and outside.”  She calls it a surrender, a melting, into your capital-S Self.   I don’t see my activity level changing any time soon.  I have responsibilities.  I have dharma — duties to perform.  As I carry them out, what can change is my state.  With a sigh, I gain access to who I am at my core.  The “pay off” is the calm and clarity arising from within.  I recognize who I am inside.  I don’t rely on recognition from others or even from my own small-s self.  And all I have to do in the midst of my busy life is take a breath.  What a sweet way to live! Sigh.

Supported by Quiet Joy

By Kristine (Dhairyavati) Freeman, SVA Board Member

I was stunned by an inner visual of my heart frozen in a block of ice.  Swami Nirmalananda (then Rama Berch) had asked us to travel inward, down from our heads and into our hearts.  This was many years ago in Swamiji’s ”Heart Openers” workshop at a yoga retreat center.  Later, I realized that I had traveled through some tough times at a young age.  At that time, I had been unable to experience my experience while I was experiencing it.  The block of ice was actually a gift.  It preserved my heart for the future.  Swamiji’s workshop was the beginning of opening my heart and living from my heart.

Though I couldn’t feel my heart, I could feel layers and layers of muscular pain in my body. Practicing Svaroopa® yoga began the process of unraveling my body’s muscular tension.  As my body began to open, I noticed the yoga defrosting my heart as well.  When I was able to add Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation to my daily practice, the process accelerated.  I had more and more experiences of my Divine Self within.  I felt grounded and supported by the inner vastness, the undercurrent of quiet joy.  I began to take that feeling into my life.

No matter which of yoga’s many practices you choose, yoga’s goal is the experiential knowing of your own Self.  It’s an inside undertaking, an insight job, propelled by your practices.  The Shiva Sutras, a primary text in the Svaroopa® Sciences philosophy, describes the process this way: 

aasanastha.h sukha.m h.rde nimajjati — “Siva Sutras, 3.16 

Firmly seated in the heart, the yogi will be easily steeped in pure bliss.
(translated by Swami Nirmalananda)

“Firmly seated in the heart” doesn’t refer to your physical heart or your emotional heart, but the heart of who you really are.  Swami Nirmalananda describes it, “It’s what yoga does for you – immerses you in the heart of your own beingness.  This is the essential part of every human being, that core essence that yoga names ‘svaroopa.’”

When you open your heart, you naturally want to give from the bottomless depth of your being.  You want to contribute.  It works the other way too.  Swamiji says that when you open your wallet, even a little bit, you open your heart. Giving and sharing are a mark of personal, and yogic, growth.  You grow by caring.  You grow by contributing.  

Please join me in participating in our Spring Fundraiser: With All Your Heart.  Giving back to the source of the gift is the ancient yoga practice of dakshina.  Yet we are offering you a completely modern way to engage in it.  Make your donation online in our Enrollment System or on our Facebook page.

Do more yoga. Open your heart. Grow by caring. Contribute today!