Author Archives: Svaroopa Vidya Ashram

Giving Blessings

By Ellen (Lajja) Mitchell, President
Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram Board

When the global pandemic started, Swami Nirmalananda (Gurudevi) started our free online Japa Club and our Meditation Club.  In these daily online programs, she taught us how to give blessings to the world.  Gurudevi also quickly put into place many other online programs to serve us.  Those programs included online asana and meditation classes, Yoga Teacher Training, Meditation Teacher Training and retreats.  I feel that each is an offering from the Ashram.  Each is a way of Giving Blessings — the theme of our spring fundraiser.

In my first Svaroopa® yoga class about 15 years ago, I knew this yoga is different from others.  My teacher asked, “Do you feel different?  What was your experience?”  I responded that I felt taller.  And there was something else as well.  I felt more grounded, more embodied.  Those experiences and more have kept me coming back.

What first drew you to Svaroopa® yoga?  What has kept you coming back?  Have your Ashram’s online offerings benefitted you?  If you answered “yes,” I invite you to join me in Giving Blessings back to the Ashram.

I attended my first Shaktipat Retreat with Gurudevi in 2012.  In May 2020, I attended Gurudevi’s first online Shaktipat.  I was skeptical at first.  How can I have an intensive from the comfort of my own home?  The online orientation for an at-home, online program took me through the process.  I was given vegetarian recipes to support body and mind.  I was taught how to set up my space.  During the retreat, an Ashram swami checked in on me daily.  The result?  One of the most powerful Shaktipat experiences that I have had!  Grace flowed unimpeded from the Ashram through Zoom.  Grace permeated me and my sacred space, my home.  I am so grateful.

My gratitude for Gurudevi and the Ashram has motivated me to give, and it continues to motivate me to give.  Giving back in gratitude is itself a yoga practice: dakshina. Please join me in this practice, which benefits the giver as well as the Ashram.  There are three ways you can direct your financial gift:

Light the Way, supporting outreach and technology
Maintain the Miracle Factory, supporting teacher training
Give Blessings to the World, supporting our free programs

Our Giving Blessings campaign starts today!  A gift from the heart is precious. Please join me in Giving Blessings back to Gurudevi and the Ashram.  When I give from my heart, I’m the one who reaps the benefits.  I feel the abundant Grace that flows to me.  May you, too, delight in this blessing.

You can donate on our website and on Facebook.  You can call us at (610) 644-7555.

 Or you can send your check to Svaroopa Vidya Ashram, 116 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown, PA 19335.

Ashram Nachos

By Swami Samvidaananda

These easy vegetarian nachos are an Ashram favorite. 

They’re crispy, cheesy, nutritious, delicious and fun!

Servings: 8–10

Protein: 20–22 grams per serving

Servings: 8–10

Protein: 20–22 grams per serving

6 Tastes

Sweet: tortilla chips, cheese, avocado, zucchini

Salty: tortilla chips, cheese, salsa

Sour: sour cream, salsa

Astringent: tortilla chips, refried beans, cheese

Pungent: salsa, jalapeños

Bitter: lettuce, cilantro

Ingredients:

  • 1 family size bag yellow corn tortilla chips
  • 1 can vegetarian refried beans
  • 1 jar salsa (of your choice)
  • 1 16-oz bag shredded Mexican cheese (we use a mix of cheddar, jack and asadero)
  • 4-oz shredded cheddar cheese (~1 cup)

Optional Toppings

  • shredded iceberg lettuce
  • diced avocado
  • sour cream
  • pickled jalapeños
  • chopped cilantro
  • more salsa

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler to 550 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Spread tortilla chips on a large baking sheet lined with foil or a Silpat baking mat.  Keep them in a single layer, though they may overlap.
  3. Place level tablespoons of vegetarian refried beans, about 4 inches apart, on top of the tortilla chips.  You won’t use the whole can of refried beans.  Warm the remainder in a small pot to serve as a side.
  4. Add a teaspoon of salsa next to each spoonful of refried beans.
  5. Sprinkle the Mexican cheese in a thick layer over the chips.
  6. Sprinkle the Cheddar cheese evenly over the Mexican cheese.
  7. Broil until cheese is melted, bubbling, and browning.  The corners of the chips along the edge of the pan will be dark brown but not burnt.  It’s best to stay there while they’re broiling.  Don’t walk away!

Serve with your choice of toppings.  We also serve steamed zucchini and the rest of the refried beans on the side.

Coming Home to the Self

By Nancy Wittenberg
Interviewed by Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain

Last March, I decided to sit down and do a mantra meditation.  I’d been away from it for several years, during which I was doing an active, verbally guided meditation.  I sat down, closed my eyes, and began repeating the mantra I received from Gurudevi.  In that moment, I knew I had returned home.  It was amazing how incredibly peaceful I felt.  I immediately realized that mantra meditation served me much better than what I’d been doing.  I began to feel more grounded and centered in the Self.

Then my many vichara sessions inspired me to return to asana practice.  I needed to address my osteoporosis.  With my body healing, a daily meditation practice was the next step.  Joining the Meditation Club has helped me delve deep, keeping me on track every day.  This combination of Ashram practices is powerful.  It has triggered my interest in the Year-Long Programme.

Everything has happened gradually, one practice leading to another.  After I signed up for Gurudevi’s Year-Long Programme, I began attending her Swami Sundays.  I also started to listen to Gurudevi’s free discourses any time of day, especially when out for a walk.  Everything she says resonates deeply inside.  I get wonderful moments of inner recognition, which is so incredibly blissful.  The depth of these teachings has been helpful in getting me back to Svaroopa® yoga.

This past year, I took a Shaktipat Retreat, the New Year’s Retreat and, most recently, the Yogify Your Life course.  During it, I’ve learned to get to bed at the same time every night.  A regular bedtime has helped me to get up earlier.  Then I can get several practices in during the early hours of the day.  This consistency continues to give me a better understanding of my capital-S Self.

I notice that how I am in relationships is shifting.  I have a greater awareness of how I’m interacting with people.  I am in a more peaceful and centered state.  I am trying to see everyone as Shiva.  I can witness my mind, especially when it goes into a judging and comparing mode.  Instead of getting caught up in thoughts, I try to bring myself back to mantra.  I come back home to my Self.

Overall, I have a greater awareness of so many things in my life.  My progress through the poses is changing how I stand.  Now I can bring my head in line with my spine.  I am no longer in the future.  Rather, I am in my own Presence.  When I am in the “doing” mode during activities, I now can choose my state.  The openings I’ve gotten from vichara sessions and mantra repetition have been incredibly powerful.  These practices are deeply infused with Guru’s Grace.  They continually open me up to my inner Self.  I am so grateful.

So Close, Yet So Far

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda

You know the feeling so well — it’s not time yet.  I felt that way near the end of my senior year in high school, nearly done and yet going to school every morning.  And that ninth month of pregnancy lasts much more than four weeks, right? 

Here we are again.  They tell us that the COVID-19 vaccines will be available for everyone in the USA within 5 weeks.  It might take a little longer to get them all distributed, but life is certainly going to change soon.  When?  We don’t know.  How?  We don’t know.  What do you want it to be?  You probably don’t know that either.

Ideally, your yoga taught you how to be good at “I don’t know.”  You’ve experienced it when doing a yoga class or set of poses.  You simply don’t know how your body is going to be until you get into the flow of it.  Ditto for meditation.  When you sit, you don’t know what’s going to happen inside.  All you know is that, by the end, you’ll be better.  Guaranteed.  What an amazing guarantee this is!

I’m treasuring these last few weeks of cocooning.  It’s a precious time with dear ones.  For me, I’ve been cocooned with five more swamis.  It’s been an amazing way to deepen their process, especially in the first year since they took sannyasa initiation.  We just have a few days more.  It’s so sweet.

I can feel the undercurrents, subtle stirrings that will blossom forth with the spring.  Our first crocus popped out today.  More are on the way.  Similarly, our first group of yogis came in for a retreat last week.  Masked and distanced, we had an incredible time — deep and profound, fun and bliss-filled.  Another group comes in a couple of weeks.  Yep, the momentum is starting to build.

But it’s not time yet.  It’s close, so close… but not today.  Maybe not tomorrow or the next day.  So what do you do?  Live in the present.  The future will come whether you want it to or not.  Be here now.

Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation

How do you understand something that is so powerful, yet easy?  It’s like Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation defies the laws of the universe — if something is powerful, it’s supposed to be hard and take a long time to master.  And if something is easy, it’s not going to work well nor will it last.  But Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation works well, will last your whole life long, is powerful and easy.  

The only way you can understand is to try it.  So we want you to give it a whirl!  But first we have to entice you in, so we’ve written these short descriptions to get you interested.  They describe what you will get when you meditate with us.

These are taglines, which can be used by Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation teachers to make themselves easy to find, for there are millions of people looking for a better pathway to meditation.  We can help you find your Self.

Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation:  Open to Inner Bliss

Experience the Bliss of your own Beingness in meditation.  The sophisticated tools of Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation give you easy access to the deeper dimensions within.  

Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation:  Deep & Easy

Plunge into the vast inner realms of your own Divine Essence.  No inner struggle, no patience needed.   Do it the way the sages of India have done for thousands of years.  It works as well today as it did then.

Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation:  Reveals Your Divine Essence

Discover what’s hidden within, the eternal dimension of your own being.  Follow in the footsteps of a Meditation Master, one who lives in the knowing of her own Divine Light.  Do what she did to get what she got – the experience of your own Divine Essence.

Learn more

Why is This Happening?

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda

Since the pandemic is happening to everyone, you really can’t whine effectively though you might want to.  Still, your mind may have come up with this familiar question, “Why?”  It’s really a complaint, but still a question worth asking. 

The short answer is that it’s karma.  It’s the easy answer as well, since everything that happens to you is karma.  Technically it’s all karmic repercussions, called “karmaphal,” meaning the fruits of your karma.  What you put out comes back, simple and straightforward.  Technically, when you put it out, it’s called “karma,” a Sanskrit that means action. 

Whatever you do brings results.  Everyone appreciates this when they work hard at something and achieve their goal.  It’s the law of karma that makes this possible.

You also create karma when you’re feeling cranky or being selfish.  You put out negativity and you get an equal dose of it back.  When you hurt someone, even if you think hurtful thoughts, you’re planting the seeds of your own pain in the future.  Those seeds are stored in your spine, which is why Svaroopa® yoga poses are all about decompressing your spine.  It helps you clear your karma.

With the pandemic, we’re talking about world karma.  Obviously, it’s time for the world to slow down, even to burrow in and reevaluate priorities.  At this point, if everything could go back to normal sometime, would you go back to doing what you were doing before?  At the pace you were doing it?  Or has the pandemic changed you?

That’s why I continue to say, “Do more yoga.”  A freeform translation of Patanjali’s sutra 1.22, this reminder will help you burrow inward, exploring deeper into your own Divine Essence.  It’s not about hiding from the world, but about discovering who you really are.  The purpose of yoga is to make you more authentic and real, whether you’re staying at home or are out in the world.  Could this be the whole point of the pandemic?

Gurudevi’s Clarity & Compassion

By Lisha Reynolds, interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney

Gurudevi’s compassion radiates out to everyone.  And I feel individually blessed by her.  I’m lucky.  I’m more than lucky.  I’m fueled and uplifted by Guru’s Grace.  Where do you start when talking about Gurudevi’s qualities? There is so much. 

Gurudevi is adept at taking a sutra and distilling it so you know what it’s saying to you, personally.  She uses examples that are clear and concrete.  It’s powerful for me to read what she has written.  Her clarity takes me to my Self every single time.  My mind might be distracted, but on the other track I hear her speak.  Or I read the teachings and they get in there.  Of course, sometimes I need to hear or read it three times (or more).  But that’s not because she hasn’t made it clear.  It is crystal clear.  It just takes a while to get through the internal density.  Her clarity makes it easier for me to be clearer in my own thoughts.

Gurudevi knows what it’s like to be dense and to have the suffering we have.  She knows what it’s like to have the wandering and the longing.  She writes each discourse so that you know that she knows what it’s like to not be Self-Realized.  She has experienced what it’s like on the dense side of things.

Her teachings are direct and clear, reaching me on a deep level.  But there is always that thread of compassion underlying the exquisite clarity.  When someone is direct but lacking in compassion, it feels like you’re being told what to do, that you’re being ordered or dictated to.  They don’t care if you take their advice or not.  Gurudevi cares whether I know my Self.  And she is here to help me — and each of us — on that journey. Merriam-Webster defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”  Gurudevi’s sole mission is for me — and for each of us —to know the Self!  That is true compassion.  It’s genuine.  It’s there every single time.  Whenever or wherever it is, it’s the same experience.

Yogis Got Gumption

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda

That’s one of the things I’ve always loved about yoga, that yogis have gumption.  In all the different styles I’ve practiced, even trained as a teacher in 5 styles over the years, I’ve found that yogis know how to keep going.  Granted, a pandemic tests you to the limit, but you’re better equipped to handle it than anyone else.  Because of your gumption.

The dictionary says it’s “spirited initiative and resourcefulness.”  Yet I know that sometimes it’s merely a choice between the lesser of two evils – get up do it or roll over and whine some more.  Doing daily practice can come down to this.  But I’ve found that choosing to roll over just makes for future pain.  And Patanjali does promise that future pain can be avoided:

Heyam duhkham anaagatam.  — Yoga Sutras 2.16

Future pain can and should be avoided.

It’s an amazing promise:  not only is it possible to avoid future pain but the sage urges that you should avoid it.  How do you cash in on his promise?  Do what he says – keep the momentum going.  That’s why I’m reminding you that you’ve got gumption. 

Initiative, resourcefulness, imagination, ingenuity, cleverness — these describe the yogis I know.  That’s what it takes to keep a household together at any time and especially during a pandemic. 

Pluck, mettle, get-up-and-go, grit, spunk, oomph — you need all of this to keep your own yoga practice going during a pandemic.  Especially if you’re out of work or working from home, it’s too easy to let your oomph fizzle out.  But who suffers the most for this?  Ummm, that would be you.

Astuteness, common sense, smarts, native ability, practicality, spirit  — all are necessary for yoga teachers at this time.  How do you keep your studio open?  How do you serve your students effectively online?  I must say I’ve learned a lot more about technology in the last few months.  It’s surprised me how much I like zooming into my students’ homes.  I feel like I can shift their perspective where they need it the most, right in the middle of life’s challenges, right where they live.

But I can feel subtle rumblings.  It’s like the roots of the plants, deep in the earth, are starting to wiggle.  While winter isn’t over yet, spring is just around the corner.  A vaccine is hard to get right now, but that’s only for a while longer and then things will change.  

How will they change?  We don’t really know.  But there’s nothing new about that.  You’re getting more used to not knowing, even getting more used to the constant change.  Of course, life always works that way, though it’s more obvious now.  Which is why you need gumption.  And masks.  And hand sanitizer.  And a way to zoom your yoga.  Gear up!  Get your gumption going.

Another Yoga Miracle Story

By Prema Prudy Costa, Interviewed by Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain

Having taught Svaroopa® Yoga in New York City for 20 years, Prema has been amazed at her students’ recent breakthroughs.  They are due to the Ashram’s Teaching Online Therapeutics (TOT) course.

“All of a sudden, everything clicked for my student.  As she started trying to walk after doing both sides, she exclaimed ‘Wow, my legs just swing when I walk.  I feel balanced on my feet for the first time in years!’” recounts Prema Prudy Costa.  She is quoting a college professor who broke bones in her left foot while tap dancing. 

Regarding the tapdancing professor, Prema describes, “This student has extremely hyperflexible joints and extremely tight spinal muscles.  In 2019, four months after she broke her left foot, she’d come to my yoga class, remove her boot and try class.  But she was very tight, and couldn’t bend forward.  So we did Yoga therapy for a while, and she improved. 

“After summer break, she returned to class with no boot.  But now her other foot hurt.  Tap dancing again, she learned she had broken bones in her right foot.  Still, she loved the social aspect of my yoga class.  So until March 12, 2020 she came sporadically even though she couldn’t do Lunge. Then the pandemic hit, so there were no more in-person classes.”

Prema started teaching regular classes on Zoom and took Teaching Svaroopa® Yoga Online. Her student with the boot Zoomed to Prema’s classes and her boot came off in July.  But it wasn’t until the TOT course, which began in July, that a real shift occurred.  

Prema describes, “My student had essentially spent a year with a boot first on one foot, then on the other.  She said the TOT poses hurt and pulled, especially in her lower back.  Still, she came regularly.”  Then about halfway through the four TOT modules, the shift occurred.  “By October I was in the middle of Module C, teaching a variation on Trikonasana (Triangle Pose).  That’s when everything clicked for my student.  All that time of wearing the boot had unbalanced her and hampered her gait.”

Prema realized that not all the new therapeutic poses had seemed to work well for this student.  Yes, she says, “This Trikonasana variation, building on the others, of course, brought a major shift.  Finally, the student herself felt she got something.

“This change encouraged her to try Lunge for the first time since she’d come in with a boot.  And she was thrilled to discover that she could do Lunge without pain.  It was a huge double breakthrough for her.  Of Trikonasana TOT variation, the student declared: “I need to do this pose!”  Music to a yoga teacher’s ears.

These poses also provide real breakthroughs for teachers.  Prema describes her own miracle story: “Trikonasana TOT has strengthened my ankles.  The problems from an old injury have gradually dissolved.  Now I can walk without lurching to one side.  As it was for my student, so for me: my hips also feel level and my legs swing beneath me as I walk.  Trikonasana TOT has helped me develop capacity to lean weight through heels and send half forward.  Standing this way is extraordinarily calming.  And it’s useful for balancing on a lurching or jerking subway.  Best of all, this pose has enabled a more upright posture for sitting.  As a result, I am having deep and profound meditations.”

Yes, do more yoga!

There Is So Much More to Me

By Lauren Soderberg, interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney

“I meditate because I’ve always yearned for ‘The More,’” says Lauren.  “At first, I thought it was outside of me.  For most of my life, I thought life was about getting a good job so you can make a lot of money and get a nice house.  I believed that happiness and fulfillment could somehow be found or acquired by seeking things externally.  I thought I needed to line up all circumstances just right. Good relationships were part of that.  All of it was external.

“My spiritual process has given me the opportunity to set aside everything that I thought I knew.  I’m setting aside what I think I need, who I think I am and what life means.  I’m finding out that there is a whole lot more to me than my thoughts or my personality.  My personality and my thinking mind are always part of me.  I meditate to find ‘The More’ within me.”

Lauren says, “I want to come home to my Self.  The experiences I have during meditation are frequently deeply profound and moving.  With nothing on the outside changing, I can have a peaceful internal shift; I experience internal freedom and fulfilment.  These experiences have shown me that God and the answers I’ve sought are right here inside of me.  They are closer to me than my own breath.” 

Before the pandemic, Lauren consistently attended Swami Sunday with Gurudevi Nirmalananda.  As service to the Ashram, Lauren also baked refreshments for the social time afterwards.  When pandemic restrictions made that impossible, Lauren was sad and disappointed.  During a conversation with a sister sevite, Lauren learned about the online Meditation Club.  When she realized she met the prerequisites, Lauren was in.  She has been a regular attendee ever since.

“I can literally feel the shakti, the energy, coming through the phone,” describes Lauren.  Not an airy-fairy sort of person, Lauren is an organic chemist, steeped in science.  She shares, “I feel quieter and more peaceful, grounded and stable.  I can feel the backing of the lineage of Meditation Masters that we are a part of.  I am so grateful for Gurudevi and those Gurus who showed her the way.  In turn, she can show us the way.” 

Lauren explains, “The Meditation Club has brought Gurudevi into my home.  You can’t go to the Guru because of COVID, so the Guru comes to your home.  Being in connection to her that way has been so transformative and helpful for me.  Knowing I am not alone in this process is very comforting.  Now I think about my house as an Ashram: a spiritual, sacred place.  I treat my home differently.  It’s become my meditation station.  Before, I didn’t even have a regular place that I used to meditate.  Now I have a special seat, my meditation shawl and mantra beads.  I created a puja with a photo of Gurudevi and other sacred things.”

This connection is even more important because of what Lauren has been going through over the past year and a half.  “What I’m experiencing internally has really kicked up,” she says.  “And I’ve been having strong meditation experiences.  While meditation brings blissful, magical experiences, I also go through some hard stuff at times.  The Meditation Club has helped move that stuff along.  It’s been a real support.  I feel extremely blessed and know these experiences are really special.”

Meditating on schedule with a group has other benefits for Lauren.  “It has given me the accountability and discipline to meditate that I couldn’t achieve on my own.  I had been willy-nilly about the time and length of meditation.  Knowing that I have a spiritual community and other people are doing the same thing as I am is huge.

“Gurudevi’s love is so important.  It’s this feeling that touches me deep down inside me in my soul.  It transcends any experience that I have ever had.  It’s a love that feels mystical, yet is more real and pure and familiar than anything else I have known.  Just by a look or a word, that love can bring me to tears.”