Author Archives: Svaroopa Vidya Ashram

Getting to Know My Self

Janaki

By Janaki Murray

Looking at what is “lurking in the background” can be so revealing.  Whether delving into a fear, desire or aversion, I discover the motivating force and I experience many “aha!” moments.  Thus, I find working with the kleshas a highly rewarding practice, as described in our October contemplation from Swami Nirmalananda and Rukmini Abbruzzi.

five-kleshas-mindfulness-ingrid-sanchezFor example, I bought a new phone last week.  It was a desire (raga) fulfilled.  However, it turned out to be quite painful as it did not work in the way I expected.  It meant I had to deal with the service provider and the store I purchased the phone from.  Fear (abhinivesha) and aversion (dvesha) raised their heads, as I had to somehow get to grips with the technology.  This threatened my identity (asmitaa) as an intelligent, educated person.  Would I be smart enough to understand what was going on?  Would I be able to resolve the problem?  In other words, was I going to be “good enough?”

My mind was churning! Looking at what was “hidden underneath” allowed me to recognize the identity (at least for now).  I could relax and allow my mind to settle.  I was no longer lost in that identity.  I found I was even able to enjoy the challenge before me and learn something in the process.  I didn’t have to wrestle with myself.

When I become aware that I am lost in “need, greed and fear,” in that moment of contemplation I know who I am.  I am the Self.  It is like the light in the darkness — the lifting of the veil of utter despair.

I find it a blissful thought that Consciousness has become me for the pure joy of being me.  How many people in the world have that understanding!

img_20160205_210945-copyI also find it comforting to understand that it is not my fault, because avidyaa (the not-knowing) is the human condition; it is built in existential angst.  I cannot think my way out of it and I need help.  For this I have so many Svaroopa® yoga and meditation practices to choose from.  They support me in growing closer to vidya (the knowing of my own Self).  They address my spiritual amnesia.

Threading through all of this is the Grace that flows through this lineage, through Swamiji and her teachings, through me and to my students.  All this leads me lovingly towards a Divine destiny — and freedom from the kleshas.  Yippee!

Celebrating Diwali!

aanandi-annie-rossBy Aanandi Ross

Diwali reminds me of a time in childhood, when I stood on a very high hilltop at night, overlooking the dazzling spread of city lights below and felt ecstatic bliss.  After learning about Diwali, I understand more: the lights and the bliss, outside and inside.

Diwali is a festival of lights, signifying knowledge over ignorance and light over dark.  It is a very big holiday.  We can liken it to a combination of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and the Fourth of July, all in one.  Diwali is celebrated every year in autumn in the northern hemisphere, which is spring in the southern hemisphere.

1311 Diwali Lakshmi pujaThe celebration dates back to ancient India as a festival after the summer harvest.  It honors the sun as the cosmic giver of light and energy to all life.  Derived from the Sanskrit dipam “light, lamp” and oli “glow of light,” “diwali” comes from dipavali, which means “series of lights.” For some, the festival preparations and rituals extend over a five-day period.

The main festival night coincides with the darkest new moon night of the month between mid-October and mid-November, this year on October 19th.  We’ll look at it in three ways: as a cultural phenomenon; as a religious celebration, as a Hindu holiday; and as a spiritual opportunity, from a yogic perspective.

Culturally, Diwali is an official holiday in several countries.  The celebration has gradually increased in scope, becoming part of the general local culture.  It is one of the most popular and joyous festivals.  It can be an extravagant party-time, complete with shopping, new clothes, decorative lights, gift-giving, celebratory foods, fireworks and sparklers.

LakshmiAs a Hindu celebration, Diwali is a holy day.  Celebrations honor Lakshmi, the goddess of abundance at harvest time, who provides us with our stockpiles of food during the dormancy of nature, and who will bring forth spring’s flowering and fructification of nourishment.  She is thus the Goddess of wealth.  Hindus prepare by cleaning their homes and setting out lights — clay saucers of ghee with a wick, everywhere, outside and inside.  New clothes are worn, pujas are decorated with flowers, prayers are offered.  Sweets and dried fruits are enjoyed.  The senses are employed to attune one to the presence of God.

It is a time when children hear ancient stories from their parents and elders about the Ramayana, a battle between light and darkness.  Lord Rama who waged a war against the demon-king Ravana, who had kidnapped Lord Rama’s wife, Sita.  Against great odds and with Hanuman’s help, Rama rescued Sita, and together they journeyed back home.  The people were overjoyed and welcomed them home by lighting up the city with candle flames everywhere.

PrintFor us yogis, Diwali is a special time to honor the light of your own Self.  We also honor the one who makes you able to know your Self, the Guru.  Along with festivities, rituals can include a self-oil-massage specially prepared with herbs, bathing afterwards, and dressing in new clothes.  Along with lights, sparklers and fireworks, look for the experience of Lakshmi’s power inside, bursting into bloom, dispelling darkness, and invoking an inner experience of being all the throb of life.

Celebrate Diwali!  Honor the light, the Guru and your own Self.

A Healing Week

By Priya Kenney

Kalyani (Evy) Zavolas Wallis“What I like about the Yoga Therapy Retreat is that it includes everything for healing,” says Kalyani (Evy) Zavolas Wallis.  Rest and rejuvenation, healing, big openings, deep inner work and calming physical kriyas describe her experience.  It feels like she hits the reset button and gets re-established in a steady practice routine.  She says, “I feel so blessed to be able take this time for myself to do the inner work and to have time with Swamiji.”

Each day begins with chanting Sri Guru Gita, followed by an asana class.  After that, you have a private vichara session (guided self-inquiry).  Kalyani is especially appreciative of the rest periods that are built into the day because they allow “all the changes to seep in.” She explains, “Doing vichara every day, you get into some really deep stuff.”

There are also teachings with Swamiji, chanting and meditation and a private yoga therapy session every day.  Kalyani emphasizes the importance of time for resting, even naps: “To me, it was like heaven, because I had that time for things to integrate.  You’re getting so much and need the breaks to let it sink in.”

Swamiji in GaneshpuriKalyani has gone to the retreat all three times it has been offered at Lokananda! She keeps taking this intensive because she has had such good experiences.  Kalyani remembers taking a similar course at the Malvern PA studio way back before Swami Nirmalananda was a swami.  It included daily vichara and yoga therapy sessions.  She was incredibly grateful to get two yoga therapy sessions from Swamiji when she was still called Rama.  “She was doing things I had never seen before,” said Kalyani.  She was so happy to see the ATT Yoga Therapy trainings reintroduced in the past couple of years, with even more juice to it.  “I see there is one coming up in November,” says Kalyani.  “If I can swing it, I will be there.  It’s another five days of diving deep inside.  I would like to take every single one.”

In April 2017, Kalyani was drawn to take the intensive because she had fallen into a deep depression.  She knew the course would help her get through it.  The Vows Preparation Course, unveiled some deep personal stuff and uncovered the depression.  In addition, her father-in-law passed away, she got the flu and lost a lot of weight.  Following Swamiji’s recommendations, she got a health care team to support her and began to heal.  “Once the intensive came up, I was feeling a bit better, I knew it would be powerful enough to keep my healing going.  And it would be gentle enough so I could handle it,” says Kalyani.

There was a lot of fear in her depression.  With Swamiji present every day for teachings and leading practices, Kalyani had the chance to talk with her about the fear.  The vichara sessions also helped her look at her fears and understand the thought processes behind them.  Daily Embodyment® sessions gave her the experience of bliss.  And more — she got a personalized set of practices to take home.  Then she regained her appetite and her immune system improved.

Yoga Therapy IntensiveKalyani’s husband joined her at the next Yoga Therapy Retreat.  He especially liked all the yoga therapy sessions.  Even for someone who isn’t into the chanting, he was still able to enjoy it and didn’t find it overwhelming.  Swamiji and Vidyadevi each gave illuminating talks that included information about the body, pain and the power of Ujjayi Pranayama.  Students learned about the importance both their physical and subtle bodies in healing.

“The retreat is a reboot, a delicious time out,” says Kalyani.  “Upon returning home, I felt that I was starting fresh.  It’s a great way to get back into my practices when they have fallen away.  When I was depressed, I just couldn’t do them.  This retreat put me back into the practices.  It was a new lease on life and on my practices.” Kalyani recommends this intensive for anyone who needs rest and rejuvenation.  “It’s very personalized,” says Kalyani.  “It’s a deeply opening retreat.”

Our next Svaroopa® Yoga Therapy Intensive Retreat is November 15-19 (and spans Swamiji’s birthday).

Happy Birthday to the Ashram!

matrikaReported by Matrika Gast

On September 28, 2009, our Ashram came into being.  We celebrated on a conference call last Saturday evening, with a Japathon.  Together, we repeated our mantra more than 500 times, and then Swamiji guided us into meditation.  When Swamiji spoke, she beautifully emphasized that we were celebrating our joint birthday as a community.  She closed saying “Happy Birthday to us!”

Here, many community members share what the Ashram means to them:

Priya Kenney shares:

The Ashram is my spiritual home, the place I go to drink from the well.  It is also the abode of the Guru, my spiritual guide and teacher.  Swamiji’s presence and the buildings are the physical location from which everything flows as the grounded source of Grace and Consciousness.  That is the well I gratefully drink from, regardless of my location.  As the source of my upliftment and my progress on this path, it sustains me.

Swamiji tells us that the Ashram itself is also the body of the Guru.  I experience that whenever I am at Lokananda or the Ashram, by being reliably propelled into the knowing of my own expansive Self.  I love the moment when Swamiji enters the Meditation Hall, answering my longing with her presence.  The edges of my mind dissolve in the powerful flow of Grace, and I know my Self as Consciousness-Itself.  As in all homes, the kitchen is another favorite place.  It is full of deliciousness and the warmth of other yogis.

When I leave, I take with me the portable form of the Guru, the mantra.  It’s important to me to stay connected to the Ashram even while I am thousands of miles away.  I do that by repeating mantra, the sound form of the Guru.  I do seva and tap into the wellsprings of Grace in all the website resources.  Through monthly dakshina I am grateful to be able to support that grounded well of Consciousness that gives me everything.  I am ever grateful for the Ashram and the Guru.

Orange-cake“Happy Birthday, Dear Ashram, Happy Birthday to You!” writes Sri McNeill.  Thank you dearest Swamiji, donors, Board members, and kula for making Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram possible.  There are so many aspects that I love and appreciate about our incredible ashram.  Physically, just being on the grounds or within her walls, particularly in the Meditation Hall in the presence of the Gurus and the murtis — that’s pure joy.  Then again being at Swamiji’s feet for darshan after satsangs — that’s also pure joy.  And finding the perfect article or talk in the online freebies — that’s pure joy too.  So many ways to receive so many benefits and blessings.  Jaya!”

Tirtha Richards declares, “Happy Birthday, Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram!  I am ever grateful for the Ashram first and foremost because it houses our beloved Guru Swami Nirmalananda.  How fortunate we are to have Swamiji right here, offering us all what we are ready to receive.  Just stepping in the door brings me to a more grounded and deep place internally.  Her Grace permeates throughout, allowing us to shift into the Self and carry our opening to Self with us when we return home.  If we find we have forgotten how to access it ourselves, we simply have to listen to her online teachings or return for a visit.  Grace is so close and so easily accessible.  Thank you dear Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram for the most precious gift of all!”

011d-ashram-hampton“Celebrating the birth of the Ashram makes utter sense to me,” explains Aanandi Ross.  The Ashram and all its facets — whether chanting in the temple, having lunch with Swami, or partaking of the virtual yoga community in so many ways — has become the most significant aspect of my life.  All that this Ashram represents is what births me into my Self, more and ever more, deeper and deeper.  I’ve heard Swamiji say so many times, ‘Baba gave me my Self.’  This is the most precious gift.  In turn, Swamiji so freely and abundantly offers this gift to so many.  I don’t even fully comprehend all that I know I’m receiving.  She gives me my Self.  I am getting to know my Self.  With great love, I thank you, Swamiji.  ”

When Guruji planted the shakti at the Ashram,” describes Dhananjaya King, “it was established as a holy site of pilgrimage.  When Lokananda opened, another holy site emerged.  It doesn’t matter whether I go to the Ashram or Lokananda, each offer the spiritual foundation that my feet need to stand on.  I don’t even have to have arrived yet at the Ashram.  Beginning with the intention to go, things start to change; my world vibrates differently.  My six-hour drive becomes a mystical tour.  The car seems to drive itself.  Time flies by.  People I meet on the way look at me differently.  When I arrive, it all comes together.  Whether it’s a retreat, B&B weekend or satsang, I am forever changed with each visit.”

Sumati Morrison vividly recalls the email Swamiji sent out announcing that she was founding an Ashram, virtual to begin with.  Sumati says:

How excited and happy I felt.  I responded immediately, ‘Oh joy!  What can I do to help?’ I realize now that I didn’t really know exactly what an Ashram was.  Yet I was pretty sure Swamiji would begin focusing more on meditation, which I had been craving for a number of years.

swami_india_cropped-e1506374519646.jpgWith the acquisition of a building, I was particularly glad that Swamiji would finally be able to ‘plant the shakti’.  Again, not truly understanding, I was primarily glad for her.  I think I thought of the shakti as sort of this huge load she had been hauling around and trying to somehow contain.  And, I primarily conceived of the Ashram as a sort of ‘retreat center.’  What I came to understand was that although I could physically retreat, really I wanted to retreat from my issues that came with me no matter where I was.

Even with a building now, the virtual Ashram has continued and expanded.  Now with the multitude of free online offerings, phone programs, Swamiji’s visits to Svaroopa® studios as well as Lokananda, Swamiji and her teachings are actually available 24/7.  Still, there’s nothing is like being with her — in her presence!  That is truly what the Ashram means to me — wherever Swamiji is, that is the Ashram.”

“Happy Birthday, Ashram!  The gifts I receive from you far exceed the gifts I offer to you — Om Namah Shivaya,” says Gayatri Hess.  “Through the Ashram, Swamiji makes herself and the teachings available in so many ways.  She brings them to us through an amazing network of programs offered at the Ashram, online and by phone.  I personally love the availability of writings and talks on line.  I read the monthly contemplation and then listen to the corresponding online Satsangs prior to my morning meditation.  I make regular visits to the Ashram.  I love personal time with Swamiji, whether at lunch or one-on-one time through B&B weekends.  The year-long phone course offers me the opportunity to take in the deeper teachings with direct feedback from Swamiji.  This program also gets me closer to fellow yogis.  The vowed order supports my yearning for the more, the Self.  I bow again and again to Swamiji and the Grace of this lineage.  I am blessed by the Ashram that gives so much.”

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah

The “Real Deal” of Inner Unfoldment

yogeshwari

By Yogeshwari Fountain

“Your spine is the main energy channel (nadi) of the 72,000,000 nadis that make up your body.”  — Swamiji & Vidyadevi

As I read this quote to my students, their eyes grew wider in amazement. They were seated in Sukhasana, having just finished Seated Side Stretch. It was the perfect moment to check in with them about what they were experiencing. “I feel bigger, front to back and side to side,” said Nancyjo. Hadley added, “My breathing has opened up. I feel lifted and centered in myself.” My students’ descriptions also come from their pose practice, which had balanced their ida and pingala nadis (left and right energy channels).

nadis map kundaliniyoga-homestead-comThe deep inner explorations of yoga’s ancient sages revealed the cosmic internal mapping of our body’s subtle energetic template. When I turn inward to perceive this inner Reality, I see that it is larger than I yet fathom. I can get caught up in the world, looking for balance and stability on the outside, yet I feel the truth that Shiva has designed it all for the inner unfoldment of Consciousness.

From teaching Svaroopa® yoga and my own experiences, I know that every time you lengthen your tailbone, you are opening up the energetic pathways of the nadis. I also experience this opening in Ujjayi Pranayama and more directly when I meditate. Meditation is the most powerful practice for Kundalini, who arises freely when ida and pingala are balanced or when you use the mantra of our lineage.

I was a seeker from early on. I’d heard about “chakra balancing.” I saw the pretty, artistic t-shirts with (inaccurate) renderings of the inner chakra colors. Yet they didn’t really resonate with me. Then I met Swami Nirmalananda, and knew I’d found the “real deal.” She had something I wanted. I felt grounded and embodied from my first taste of Svaroopa® yoga. As soon as I let my tailbone muscles soften, a corresponding release would climb my spine, and I felt a blissful realignment that was both physical and spiritual.

When I first discovered yoga, my primary drive was improvements in my life and relationships. If I felt more manageable on the inside, then who I was on the outside would be happier. And I could make others happy as well. Fortunately, Svaroopa® yoga and meditation has changed all of that for me. This yoga points me inward. As Swamiji and Vidyadevi explain, “The chakras are about your inner work, a map of the mystical process of spiritual growth that reliably unfolds when Kundalini is awakened.”

Shaktipat SwamiAll along, that’s what I had wanted. Kundalini is the energy of the universe, embodying you! Opening your tailbone moves the energy through your nadis, but it is Shaktipat initiation from Swami Nirmalananda that has taken me from half-baked (in Consciousness) to fully baked. Because of this, I am no longer satisfied by Svaroopa® yoga’s physical benefits alone. They serve as a launching pad for the blast-off into Consciousness. Swamiji’s Grace provides the jet fuel.

When you receive Shaktipat, you don’t become Divine, since you already are Divine. Instead, the Grace she injects clears away the obstacles that prevent you from knowing your Divinity. Your inner Radiance is lit from within.

My Favorite Foundations Pose

Priya KenneyReported by Priya Kenney

Saying Half Frog is her favorite, Dianne Sass explains, “I have always had issues with my SI joints.  When I go into Half Frog, I feel a huge release.  I also love the Sacrum Press and Thigh Twist adjustments that a teacher can give students.  It is a very effective tailbone and sacral opener.”

Half FrogLikewise, Wendy Miller names Half Frog as her favorite.  She describes it as “one that I routinely incorporate into my daily practice.  It’s straightforward, and reliably releases my sacrum.  On a good day, I can also release my tailbone!  Half Frog effortlessly gets the job done.”

Tammy Browning declares, “The Foundations course was amazing.  I left feeling rejuvenated and energetic.  I had so much opening and felt so good.  I have an absolute passion for this yoga and had such a great time that I am enrolled in Level 1.  As far as my favorite pose, I loved them all!”

Maria Sichel repeated Foundations recently for her continuing education as a Certified Svaroopa® Yoga Teacher (CSYT).  She, too, says, “It is impossible to pick one favorite pose.  My favorite part of studying and reviewing the poses is the process of refinement — experiencing and understanding alignments in a more precise way.  For example, when we learned Garbhasana, Child’s Pose, our Teacher Trainer had me shift my elbows so they were under my shoulders.  I immediately experienced a softening and release through my lower spine.  The pose became more settled and soothing.  This powerful effect came from ‘simply’ aligning more precisely in the pose.”

Foundations YogaAsked to choose her favorite pose, Jane Rubenstein reflects that the choice is hard.  Yet she says, “Shavasana is my favorite.  I become aware of stuck areas I didn’t even know were there.  I enjoy feeling my back relax, become fluid and sink to the floor.  It is an interesting body awareness practice in and of itself.  And I always get a lot out of Lunge.  It creates openings up my entire spine as well as my hip creases.  When I first started Svaroopa® yoga, I found that Lunge unlocked spots that hadn’t moved in years.”

Foundations of Svaroopa® Yoga is for everyone — yoga students, yoga teachers and new yogis.  It enlivens and deepens your yoga practice for your home practice, to share yoga with others, or to prepare you for Teacher Training.  Share the experience; invite a friend to join you at Foundations.  Support yourself and your loved ones in soaring to new levels of practice and living.

Fall 2017 — Two Dates/Two Locations:

October 7–11:  Downingtown PA

November 9–13:  Corpus Christi, TX

Click here to enroll.

Miraculous Japa

matrikaBy Matrika Gast

In my early twenties, summiting a 6,000 foot mountain, I first experienced my Self.  The vastness of land below and the embrace of sky above stopped my mind.  Bliss filled me.  I didn’t yet know that this was my own Self.

Thirty years rolled by before I found the Svaroopa® Sciences.  Through Svaroopa® yoga poses and meditation, I again experienced bliss upwelling within.  This bliss was so profound and vivid, I knew it could only be the Divine.  And through Swami Nirmalananda’s teachings, I learned my experience was my own Divine Essence, the One Self Being All.

Svaroopa® yoga poses and meditation continued to take me deep inside to Self again and again.  The promise is that “again and again” will become always, which has motivated my daily practices.  At the same time, I realized that I depended on “things going right” in my daily life in order to really feel inner peace.  So I knew I was a long way from the promised Self-Realization.  Still, I would imagine that if I were in a truly difficult situation – like prison – I would be able to release spinal tension with poses and meditate to reliably access my Self.

West African Students

Courtesy of http://www.un.org/

Unexpectedly, I got the chance to test my theory…  A couple of years ago, I volunteered to help teachers in a West African village school learn to use educational aids for teaching English.  There are 30 to 60 kids in each class with minimal teaching supplies.  The teachers were great and the kids were eager to learn.  But heat, dust, noise from other classrooms and lack of supplies, along with my inexperience, created daunting challenges.

I had counted on “being in my Self” throughout my 5 weeks.  But my daily Svaroopa® yoga practices were scant, with no space in my room for poses and little privacy for meditation.  I also quickly learned how much I depend on American comforts like indoor flush toilets, showers and a sink with bacteria-free running water for brushing teeth.  These luxuries are unheard of in a rural village in West Africa.

One night, frustration and fear of utter failure got the upper hand.  Then I remembered Swamiji’s teachings about japa.  Repeating the mantra given by your teacher opens you inward to your Self in the midst of your daily activities.  Classically, the practice begins with repeating your mantra out loud 108 times, which takes about 5 minutes.

Swamiji japa mala croppedLuckily, other project members were gone for the evening.  My first round took my mind off my overwhelming sense of loneliness and incompetence.  To my great surprise, the next two rounds opened me inward to a sense of joyous inner expansion.  I still marvel at the shift japa gave me that night.  Japa opened me to inner Presence.  Through it, I discovered a strength that my mind’s negative chatter was blocking.

I learned the immense value of japa.  It opened me to an experience of Pure Consciousness, that which created the universe and continues to bring the whole universe into being.  Japa is a technique I completely trust to give me my Self, under any circumstances.