Monthly Archives: August 2014

New Building for Downingtown Yoga & Meditation Center

downingtown yoga bannerWe’re almost there!  Our Board of Directors has been working for almost a year to select a building, negotiate a contract, complete the property inspections and arrange financing.  We are in the final steps to get to the settlement table. Of course, nothing in real estate is final until it’s final, but we wanted you to know that we’re almost there.

Why do we need a new building, you ask? Well, for you, of course!

In our 2012 Board Retreat, we developed a 10 year plan for expanding the Ashram, as well as a succession plan for after Swamiji is gone. We announced our plans in an article, including:

[Swamiji] along with the Board, is focusing on the sustainability of her teachings… We have the house in Downingtown, plus we will likely purchase an additional building to house our public programs and provide resident housing… and guest accommodations for visiting yogis.

Our plan is to create teachers rather than to accumulate assets; it is about the sustainability of the teachings, not of the buildings. Yet we need a building in which to base the next level of meditation teachings. We had planned to accomplish this by 2014 and we are realizing that dream on time.  Especially with the tasks of the Reawakening and the Consolidation, this is a major accomplishment.

We have looked at many buildings that didn’t have the right mix of space for DYMC (Downingtown Yoga & Meditation) along with apartments for residents and guests, and this one does. The ground floor is very large, for satsangs, events and yoga classes, which we need because our current DYMC location, right next door, is bursting at the seams. The upstairs apartments in the new building are currently rented, which helps to support the building while we grow into it.  We will be renovating and moving into the building in stages, and will keep you informed every step of the way.

Teacher Trainings will not be held in this location, as the Desmond offers a better experience for groups needing full service for YTT, retreats, etc. This building is intended for setting the Shakti, in a location that Swamiji feels very strongly about, and will be dedicated to creating community in the form of residents and guests, drawing from local community and Shishyas worldwide. Our local community is growing, as is our online following both nationally and internationally. There is a hunger for the deeper teachings, which is the way Swamiji serves both you and the greater yoga community, who thirst for that “something more” that we Svaroopis experience and understand.

In order for us to carry out Swamiji’s vision, and the vision of the organization going forward, we need this additional space. A space of our own that can hold the Shakti she pours into it. We are so thrilled to be able to provide our community with this space to grow. It is YOU who is making this possible, and it is for YOU that Swamiji, your Board of Directors, and all of the Trainers, staff and sevites serve.

OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo nama.h

Retreat Report by Amala (Lynn) Cattafi Heinlein


Amala (Lynn) Cattafi Heinlein

Talk about full immersion! I went from our annual Board Retreat at the Ashram, to the Shaktipat Retreat and now I am in the middle of a lovely Svaroopa-fest called “Multiple Levels.”  WHEW!

I call it a Svaroopa-fest because it is Svaroopa® on all levels:  asana, vichara, meditation, chanting and deep, very deep, teachings from Swamiji.  After all of my immersion experiences preceding it, this “Multiple Levels” retreat is a perfect way to integrate it all, and go deeper still.

I must say that I was hitting my “stuff” in a big way — but why else do we do Svaroopa® yoga! It’s amazing to have such support, including Devi, who is so adept at gently nudging me through the tough moments, while I use all the pathways inside. This retreat reinforces how much Svaroopa® yoga and Svaroopa® Vidya truly offer, and how many ways there are to access the Self.

Also this was my first time staying at the Desmond. It is very supportive and comfortable (and the jacuzzi before bed is pretty great too!). I realized today how beneficial this location is. While we have the retreat environment, the conference center also serves other groups at the same time, so I am finding it easier to integrate “normal” life into my yoga.  We are not isolated for the retreat and then having to make our way back into the world; we have the benefits of full immersion and our “cocoon,” while still having to be in relationship with non-yogis.

When we had just two more days to go, I was sure that Swamiji had some surprises and plans for us.  From doing prior immersions with her, I knew she’d get me ready to go home, while taking the “whole new me” with me.  It turned out to be true.  Do more yoga!

Yoga on the Road by Bhanu (Beth) Cunningham

airplane“I have slept in my own bed 20 times in the last year.” This was Swamiji’s patient and conclusive statement that finally melted the strong resistance pocketing the room. She was answering questions about her decision to stop travelling so much and build an Ashram and home for herself and all of us. Being excited about the Ashram, I was drifting in and out, not particularly invested in the details, when her statement jumped out at me. I had known for years that Swamiji travelled extensively. I just never gave it much thought. Now my mind boiled with the question, “How did she do it? How did she do it?…”  How did she realize the Self so fully, bouncing from airport to airport, hotel room to hotel room?

The contemplation of this question has transformed my practice, particularly when I travel. Where I used to dread the upset to my schedule and overwhelming distractions, I now look forward to the challenge of employing some of the deeper practices more earnestly.

I have learned that I can repeat mantra throughout an entire conversation and be simultaneously immersed in both. I have found that humming chants to myself during a big family dinner keeps me truly joyful in what might otherwise be an exercise in anger management. I have fallen in love with meditating in the passenger seat of a car, on an airplane or in a noisy terminal, where the typical annoyances become catalysts for inner expansion.

While the circumstances of travel may not be ideal for deep experiences of the Self, these practices help maintain a consistency to my state, which, in many ways, I have found more profoundly transformative than the exalted inner absorption I get glimpses of in my regular practice.

And there are still many moments, even whole days of travel, when my practice is fleeting at best and is constantly being interrupted. Samadhi seems impossible on days like this. It is then that Patanjali’s Sutra 1.21- “Samadhi (absorption in the Self) is nearest to those whose desire for it is intensely strong”* reminds me of yoga’s fail-safe practice — the cultivation of mumukshutva (the desire for the Self).

When I come to the end of a day of travel (or any given day) and I reflect back on my practice of the day to find it lacking, mumukshutva arises immediately in me. It initially feels like regret or self-condemnation, or even blame. And it hurts, deeply. Yet, as I continue to look at it in the light of a Great Master who spent 345 nights of the year away from home, the edges of that ache soften. A few Ujjayi breaths and I am filled with a blissful yearning for the same Grace that carried Swamiji across many miles to Her Fully-Realized State.  And that desire burns inside, with tremendous warmth and radiance, because I know that Swamiji offers me that very same Grace and the promise that comes with it. As I whisper the mantra to myself, I melt into gratitude for this great longing that draws me ever closer to my Self, and drift off to sleep, doubly inspired for my practice the next day.

When all else fails, it is your mumukshutva that keeps you close to the Self.

So when you travel, take your mumukshutva with you. For the immensity of the promise it holds, it weighs nothing and takes up no room in your luggage.

*Translation by Abbott George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri)

Ganeshpuri’s Heart by Priya Kenney

Priya Kenney

Priya Kenney

Ganeshpuri exists because of Nityananda. Before he came, it was a jungle.  After he settled there, others began to follow suit, and, before long, the jungle was cleared and a village formed.  Everyone who lives in Ganeshpuri or goes there is drawn because of that great being.

Ganeshpuri is like a geographical bindu of devotion.  A bindu is a point of concentrated energies and Ganeshpuri is all about a very powerful and concentrated devotion, all because of Nityananda. The devotion that he inspires is rooted deeply in Ganeshpuri and continues to pour forth, growing over the years.  Everyone and everything in Ganeshpuri — the stones, the trees, the bushes and buildings — all of it is saturated with devotion, and Grace too.

Nityananda didn’t say a whole lot, but he did say this: “The heart is the hub of all sacred places. Go there and roam.”  Being in Ganeshpuri is like being inside the heart.  Walking around Ganeshpuri, roaming the places where the Gurus lived, taught and meditated, and sitting with Swami Nirmalananda in a variety of wonderful daily practices is an amazing opportunity to do just what Nityananda said, both on the outside and the inside.

If you are fortunate enough to go there, I hope you will find, as I did, that something very special happens with your heart.  Early in the India 2013 trip, I had a vividly sleepless night.  I lay in my bed awake for what seemed like hours. My awareness was immense.  I knew I should be sleeping, but I was more than wide awake.  I was awakeness itself.

At some point, I became acutely aware that something was happening in the area behind my heart.  A dramatic unraveling began, like a tight knot being gently but deliberately unfurled.  Then more unraveling, more than I knew could be.  I felt so free.  My heart had never felt so open before.  No walls, no barriers.  Open.

In the days that followed in Ganeshpuri, I settled into a new openness.  I wanted to give everything to That which had opened me, to the fullness within, to the Guru, to the One.  The rhythm of the days, the outside, supported the inner openings.  Our chanting and devotional practices, all done in the presence of the embodied One, our Guru, Swami Nirmalananda, had a powerful effect on the heart.  My wish for you is that you can spend time with your Guru in this City of Devotion.  Your heart will never be the same again.

For information on the India 2015 trip, click here for FAQs.

On the Road by Rama (Ruth) Brooke

Rama Brooke

Rama Brooke

I use the 20/20/20 (20 minutes each) protocol for Ujjayi Pranayama, asana (poses) and meditation while traveling, although lately I’ve been placing more emphasis on the breathing practice. Travel depletes prana (energy). The extra Ujjayi helps to support the other two practices as well as my adjustment to the slightly “off kilter” routine of a busy travel schedule. I fit an additional 20 minutes of Ujjayi in the afternoon or before dinner, whenever possible. I also do it before falling asleep at night.  I don’t rely on this as part of my daily practice because I don’t know how long I’m actually doing it, but I find it helps me to drift “inward” and tune out any exterior noise or stimulus.

On a recent family travel vacation, we were packed into small hotel rooms with little opportunity or floor space for my usual asana and meditation practice. For my daily practice I relied on Ujjayi Pranayama and a series of “bed” poses beginning with Alternate Leg, Alternate Leg – Diagonal or Supta Janushirshasana, and then to JP with a variation, which I learned in ATT 411:  Deeper Yoga, which I love because it gets the lumbar spine too.

I woke up early and didn’t want to disturb anyone else in the room.  I did Ujjayi sometimes for an hour or more until others began to wake up and then I would finish with the poses before getting up to shower. In the afternoons, we would return to the hotel before dinner so I did another 20 minutes or more of breathing practice. I also did the bed poses again before falling asleep at night. I was amazed at how well this practice served me during the two weeks away from home. I had more energy than ever before on such a trip, and my body stayed open and healthy. I attribute this mostly to the consistent practices I do at home, especially meditation, which sustain me wherever I am. I also attribute it to the long Ujjayi sessions during the trip that allowed me to tap into and maintain my pranic (energy) reservoir.

This travel vacation was a “once in a lifetime” type of experience — one to cherish.  My more common travel experience is often by plane, which makes packing blankets and blocks an inconvenience, but I do usually stay in a hotel or somewhere that has floor space and furniture to substitute for props. My favorite travel asana prop is the firm seat cushion from a couch or a large overstuffed chair. One or two of these make a great base for poses such as Kurmasana, Baddha Konasana, Seated Side Stretch or even Virasana Seated Side Stretch (turn the cushion, if it’s rectangular, to sit on the short end, and use throw cushions or bed pillows to prop knees).

Without blocks, I do Dhanurasana Leg for a Lunge substitute, lying on a platform of the same firm couch or chair seat cushion(s). When time allows, I add some standing poses or the Standing Vinyasa. Jathara Parivrttanasana with deeper variations is a great way to end the session and add in a little more ribcage or lower spinal opening.

For meditation, I like to sit on the floor, when possible, in Sukhasana. I will use the same cushion props to create my Sukhasana seat. If sitting on the floor isn’t an option, I will sit in a straight (desk) chair, using a pillow to support the upright position of my spine, and place my feet on the firm seat cushion (I have short legs) on the floor.  This is how I “do more yoga!”

Taglines (Installment #6)

Svaroopa® Yoga: The Goal is Bliss

Yoga’s goal is the bliss of consciousness, which arises from within. Yoga Sutras #1.3 promises, “You will experience svaroopa when yoga stills your mind.” Svaroopa® yoga delivers on this promise through the power and subtlety of spinal release.

Svaroopa® Yoga: Beyond Mere Pleasure

Bliss, peace, vast beingness – yoga promises something far beyond what you get from pleasures. It comes from a different source, so it fills you in a different way. Yogic bliss arises from within guaranteed through Svaroopa® yoga’s spinal decompression practices.

Svaroopa® Yoga: Bliss Arises from Within

Your essence is Consciousness-Itself. Svaroopa® yoga dissolves the inner blocks that hide your own Self. Even a hint or a glimpse of Self opens the inner flow of bliss, which expands to fill your heart and mind and overflows into your life and the world.

Svaroopa® Yoga: You are Made of Bliss

The ancient sages explain that you desire bliss because you are made of bliss. An inner split keeps you chasing who you think you are, rather than discovering the bliss of who you really are. Svaroopa® yoga dissolves the inner split and gives you your own Self.

Svaroopa® Yoga: Better than Happy!

Happiness is only temporary bliss because it is triggered by externals. They change. Thus you try to control things, which sometimes even works. Svaroopa® yoga opens your inner source of bliss, so you live in lasting bliss and share it with the world.

Svaroopa® Yoga: More Laughter, More Joy

Tension tells you that areas in your body and mind are less active. Where you are less alive, you have less joy, because life itself is joy-full. Svaroopa® yoga opens you up to more aliveness, more laughter, even more joy.  Svaroopa® yoga gives you the bliss of your own being, which is why it is called svaroopa.

Svaroopa® Yoga: Stress-less Yoga

You already have enough going on in your life, so yoga shouldn’t pressure you to perform. Svaroopa® yoga customizes the poses to your body, to easily dissolve your core tensions. The bliss you find is an inoculation against future stress. Discover a new way to live!

Svaroopa® Yoga: The Chemistry of Bliss

Svaroopa® yoga guarantees a change of midn and even a change of heart. As your spine decompresses, your mind decompresses. Your body’s stress chemicals are replaced by bliss chemicals. You put less pressure on the people around you, evne less pressure on yourself, yet you accomplish more than ever before.

Personal Puja by Jyoti (Rebecca) Yacobi

Jyoti (Rebecca) Yacobi

Jyoti (Rebecca) Yacobi

The small building is situated in an alleyway. We climb a few steps and enter a world of deities and ritual.  What a contrast between the noises on the streets of Ganeshpuri and the cool interior of the small temple where we held the pujas (rituals), officiated by Prasad, the charismatic Brahmin priest who arrives on his motorcycle and greets us with a warm, friendly smile.  We feel immediately at ease. The small room of the temple comes alive with the bustling of a young man who is helping Prasad set up the three separate pujas — to Ganesha, to Shiva and to the Guru.

We watch as Prasad bathes each deity, and we offer fruit, grains of rice, ground up spice and, of course, the flame of a candle, waved in circles —the light of consciousness in us bowing to the eternal light that makes up this universe and beyond.

Each puja takes about 30 minutes — the power of one builds upon the next one, and by the time we get to the Guru puja, to a small murti (statue) of Bhagavan Nityananda, the energy in the room has built to a crescendo.

I am waving a candle flame to Nityananda and we are singing, “Jaya, jaya ariti, Nityananda.”  I can no longer restrain the upwelling emotions of love and devotion that are overflowing in my heart, tears flowing down my face.  There is nothing but Bhagavan Nityananda.  In this village, in this room, Nityananda’s Presence is so palpable, so powerful, so overwhelming that the room is abuzz with a transcendent current of energy. I feel so “full”, so vibrant, so expanded.

The Brahmin serves as the ears and the mouth of Nityananda — through Prasad’s words, the Guru speaks to me and encourages me to stay on the path, to be devoted to Him and the path I am on.

Deep knowing and deep love arise from within. I am blessed and in bliss to share this moment with my daughter. We are both in awe of what we just experienced and witnessed, as we open to the inner realms of our being, allowing the beautiful ceremonial offering to open us from the inside, blossoming and overflowing with universal love.

This is the wonder and the beauty of a puja.  The power of the ritual ceremony performed on the outside propels us into the innermost depths of our being, leaving no place untouched.  It is about clearing and purifying this vessel, the container that is my individual body, mind and soul so that I know that I am That and so that nothing can shake the innate knowing of my own Divinity.

A complete surrender to the Self, to the Guru — that is what I experience during the puja to Nityananda.  There is no separation between me and the Self; duality dissolves into the eternality that is Nityananda.  The ecstatic, blissful state of that experience is transformative at multiple levels of my being.

The memory of this state is a cherished dharana (contemplation) that instantly propels me into the infinite vastness of the Self.  The vastness merges into me and I merge into it.

All I do is abide in That.

I am That.