Monthly Archives: January 2018

A Yogic Lifestyle?

yogeshwariBy Yogeshwari Fountain

As 2018 unfolds, each teachings article will explore one of yoga’s eight limbs as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.  In “Self-Effort & Grace,” Swamiji and Vidyadevi Stillman describe the “self-effort”  practices as the limbs of a great tree.  Each branch supports you on your journey, beginning with external practices and evolving into ever more inward expansion.  The eight limbs include:

  • yamas and niyamas (restraints and observances)
  • asana (poses)
  • pranayama (breathing practices as in Ujjayi Pranayama)
  • pratyahara (turning your attention inward)
  • dharana (focusing inward)
  • dhyana (meditation)
  • samadhi (deep inner absorption).

8LimbsYogaI recently re-read my 1998 notes on Sutra 2.29.  It was clear that I had my work cut out for me even then.  Scribbled on the page’s margin was encouragement like “Just say no!”  or “You must restrain yourself from these things.”  I struggled with the question “How do you live a yogic life 24 hours a day?”  It all seemed beyond my grasp.  My mind was so busy, I had no idea where to begin.  You see, I didn’t understand Grace, the wind that has always been beneath my wings, even before I knew it.

I was surprised to find all the ways yoga started to change my life from the inside out.  Old habits no longer had the same hold.  An “untruth” fell less easily off my tongue, and I stayed in awareness instead of obsession.  Now I would rather meditate than watch TV!  Self-Effort & Grace tells us that these are signs of spiritual progress, “cleaning up your act.”

Swamiji and Vidyadevi assure us that no matter where you start your climb, you’re going to experience all eight limbs: “It’s like climbing a tree: you can skip some limbs and still get to the top.”  When I started on this path, I loved doing Svaroopa® yoga poses.  Little did I know that starting with the asana branch would develop into a love of chanting, meditating and writing blogs on the ancient sutras.  Swami reassures us, “You don’t have to do the limbs in order.”

Some of my students don’t want the lifestyle change yoga’s limbs provide.  Thus, they do actually do less yoga in order to stay in their “comfort zone.”  I understand their choice and honor the limb they want to hang out on.  Yet yoga is not about happiness or comfort.  It is about Self-Realization, the knowing of your inherent Divinity.  If you’re yearning for this, you have to still your mind.  The eight limbs of yoga specialize in this.

Swami - blue chairGuru’s Grace is the shortcut to the knowing of your Divinity, your own Self.  Swami Nirmalananda awakens the arising of your own inner spiritual energy.  She describes it this way, “Patanjali teaches you how to dissolve the clouds.  By contrast, my Guru simply gave me the sky.”  She is comparing the practices you learn from Patanjali with Guru’s Grace.

Still, you need Self-Effort.  You have to do the hard stuff.  Whatever limb you choose to begin with, know that the whole tree is rooted in the Grace of our Svaroopa® Vidya lineage.  Baba Muktananda said, “The Self is already attained.”  You get to choose how to apply yourself to the process.  I started with asana, but I now focus on mantra.  What will your focus be in 2018?

Why I Teach

Rajni (Chelsea) King 1By Raj~ni King

Teaching Svaroopa® yoga has kept me on this Divine path.  To start, I didn’t think I was going to teach Svaroopa® yoga.  I took Foundations to learn some tools for myself since I didn’t live near a teacher.  Before I knew it, I was taking YTT Level 1.  Grace was guiding me before I even knew what Grace was.  The total immersion of the teacher trainings was so powerful.  Then, having to teach others what I learned deepened my experience of the Svaroopa® Sciences.  Being a student in a weekly class just wouldn’t have done it.  I needed to be knocked in the head with the frying pan of Consciousness!

MeditationWhen I took Meditation Teacher Training, I had to write and teach about Consciousness.  This helped me to understand and more tangibly experience what I had been getting all along.  The yoga process and the purpose of asana was so clear.  It is spiritual upliftment, rather than just the reliable physical, mental and emotional improvement that begins the process.  Knowing and more fully experiencing the purpose of practicing asana shifted my teaching profoundly.  Even though I was saying the same words and teaching the same asanas, my understanding of the goal shifted.

My teaching experience made my understanding and experience of Consciousness real.  If I hadn’t taught, I doubt I would be able to hold onto the full, rich, deep experiences of trainings and retreats.  Every class I teach, whether asana or meditation, is an experience of being conscious in Consciousness.  It’s great practice for the rest of my life.  There, functioning in the knowing of my own Self doesn’t come as easy.

Holding Candle AratiWhen I go into the studio to teach, I light a candle and do arati to the Gurus from our lineage.  Then, because the space is shared, I always do a round of incense with the mantra to clear the energy.  These practices help me to settle into my Self before I teach.  The clearing also opens the way to the inflow of Grace from our lineage.  It becomes tangible, not only for me, but my students as well.  They know that they’re different when they leave.  At the end of class this week, a new student exclaimed that she felt like a whole new person.  She was glowing; they were all glowing.

Being able to offer the practices and begin able to facilitate that shift for people is a precious gift.  I feel such gratitude for what Swami Nirmalananda has given to me.  I cannot imagine my life without practicing Svaroopa® yoga and meditation nor without teaching those practices.  It’s a deep part of my inner process and spiritual growth.  And if I can make a difference along the way in how other people feel in their lives and their spiritual process, then that’s an even greater gift.  It’s a Divine seva.

2018 – A Yoga Year!

mangalaBy Mangala Allen

“The purpose of life is two-fold, like the two sides of a coin: 1) to have experiences and 2) to discover who you are,”  Swami Nirmalananda began her New Year’s Retreat in Atlanta with this teaching.  Being in her presence extended the sweet space between the old year and the new.  Grace flowed as she led me into reviewing where I have been and where I am going.

I listened intently as Swamiji spoke about being, “present in your own presence.” She explained how it makes a difference in your experience of life.  Yoga specializes in cultivating the ability to “live from the place that is un-disturb-able,” she said.

Mantra is the most important practice in getting there:  “Every repetition of the mantra takes you deeper, so you can experience your experiences from the timeless eternal reality that is your own Self.”  How do you want to live?  The guided vichara (guided self inquiry) helped me understand where I have been and where I am choosing to go.  I choose to follow Swamiji’s suggestion and resolve to make decisions that will take me toward the Self. new year new you

Then we all made New Year’s resolutions — a single word, a quality we would like to cultivate.  Our New Year’s Day began with Sri Guru Gita and a talk by Swamiji, while we were joined by Shishya Members via conference call.

During the retreat’s three days, Swamiji and we were supported by Ashram sevites, with Rukmini Abbruzzi serving as chef and Karuna Beaver teaching asana and managing the program.  We learned a set of poses for our home practice that will propel us into applying ourselves to our resolve.  What a wonderful way to begin a new year, a year that promises to be a wonderful new year – full of yoga!