Author Archives: Svaroopa Vidya Ashram

The Subtle Force Within

karunaBy Karuna Beaver

I used to practice an athletic yoga style, with a forceful Ujjayi Pranayama. It kept you breathing through the exertion. Taking my first Svaroopa® yoga class, I was surprised at the soft and subtle Ujjayi practice. I was used to forcing my breath, sounding like Darth Vader. I didn’t know then that the Force was within.

While I loved my earlier yoga practice, it didn’t love me back. Or I should say it didn’t love my back. Pain sent me to yoga classes labeled “gentle” or “restorative.” My first Svaroopa® yoga Shavasana didn’t lay me on a sweaty mat with an arched and achy back. Instead, with legs propped high, my back flattened and softened. I settled into the sound of my breath, and felt a wave of calm wash through me. My body felt the “love.” It still does. I love Ujjayi Pranayama, and it loves me back — and my back!

darth vaderBut now I know Ujjayi isn’t about the love or the calm. It’s about tapping into “the Force,” my own life force. It opens me into the “more” that I am. Swami Nirmalananda and Rukmini Abbruzzi’s recent contemplation article, “All You Need is…” says you don’t need love. Instead, you need Ujjayi Pranayama to tap into your life force and into your greater Essence. I can attest to this, and I imagine you can too.

Ujjayi Pranayama is a simple practice. Anyone can do it. You slightly exaggerate the sound of your breath, while listening to it, you sense the life force that moves through you. Yoga names this force prana. It is the pulsation of Shiva moving within Shiva. It’s a force to be reckoned with. Swami and Rukmini write, “Prana is the cosmic energy of aliveness that underlies everything that exists, including you.” When you are filled with prana, you are aware and tuned in. When your prana is low, so are you: disconnected, in mental or physical pain. Which would you rather be? It’s a no-brainer.

I have been practicing Ujjayi Pranayama for 20 minutes daily pretty much since I started Svaroopa®  yoga more than a decade ago. In times of illness or injury, I have doubled my practice to 20 minutes or more twice daily. It works. It works on levels that I notice and on levels that I don’t yet have the discernment to understand.

_mg_4438Swami and Rukmini write that 20 minutes of Ujjayi Pranayama will balance your whole pranic system. Then you have the capacity to take things in and get rid of what you don’t need. You can evaluate and integrate what serves you. You bubble up with the energy of being vibrantly alive. Sounds like a pretty good trade for 20 minutes of your time each day!

While the benefits of Ujjayi Pranayama are profound, they are just the tip of the iceberg. You feel more alive, tap into your life force and experience the “love” that IS you, your own Self. All in 20 minutes a day. What a simple and profound prescription for a life filled to the brim, a life of knowing who and what you truly are — Shiva. As Swami says, do more Ujjyai.

Inspiring Our Next Generation

amala-photoAmala Lynn Cattafi Heinlein, Board President

“What if everyone was constantly inspiring one another to the highest level of personal expression, the highest level of living, the greatest levels of accomplishment and generosity?  What a beautiful world this would be.”
— Swami Nirmalananda

I look at this quote and am deeply warmed, while it stirs me to ask, “Yeah, what if the world were like this?” But rereading it makes me say, “What can I do TODAY to be this kind of person? What can I do to be inspiring?”

SV1714_Lineage Fundraiser logo_v1Your Ashram Board has been contemplating this question as we look to the future of Svaroopa® Sciences in our world. It comes down to the next generation of teachers. It depends on Swami Nirmalananda, as She is the one who lights the spark, but it is up to us to support their development. How we can support them, while supporting Swamiji in this Divine mission?

Swamiji gives what she was given: the spark that lights the inward path of yoga. She has been doing so since 1983, when she returned home after many years in her Guru’s ashrams.  That flame, the Light of Consciousness, has been transmitted to every student Swamiji has taught and to every teacher she has trained. You know this experientially; there’s no one else who teaches Being and Essence like a Svaroopa® yoga or meditation teacher. All the other yoga systems are worthy of being honored and do great work. But Svaroopa® yoga puts it together in an extraordinary way.

Think about this: If the next generation isn’t trained to carry on, the teachings die.

lighthouse beaconBecause Bhagawan Nityananda knew this, he sent Swamiji’s Guru, Baba Muktananda, into the world to teach. Had Nityananda not done so, our Swamiji would not have met Baba and would not have been propelled to carry on his teachings.  We would not have Her as our beacon of light and knowledge. There would be no Svaroopa® yoga!

This year’s spring fundraising campaign is about our teachers, the people who support you, including Swami Nirmalananda. We are offering two primary categories for donations:

Scholarships — we hope to double or triple our scholarships for 2017

Swami Support — supporting her needs as well as her work in the world.

Of course, you are also welcome to make a General Funds donation. Supporting the Ashram in these ways, regardless of the amount of your donation, is supporting our teachings and teachers.

Please support our Divine mission.  Give so a worthy yogi has access to Svaroopa® Teacher Training. Your donation will support them in becoming the teacher they were born to be. Your donation makes YOU a person who inspires and supports others, just what our world needs.  Click here to donate.

With Love and Gratitude,
Amala

OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo namah

Shaktipat Retreat in Australia

Julia Djiac 1409 croppedBy Jayaa (Julia) Djaic

With Swamiji coming to Australia for a Shaktipat Retreat, I knew I would have time to sit in her presence. Looking into her eyes, I would immerse in her teachings — and in her state. Before her arrival, we received information from the Ashram to support us. While I already do the recommended practices, the information still made me feel wrapped in the Shakti, nurtured and cocooned. Something was building inside me. With Swamiji in my life for more than 11 years, I have received the gift of deep Shaktipat many times. Her presence and Grace have transformed my life. Yet this time was different.

Of course, it was different from Teacher Trainings. While they are deep and wonderful, you still you apply yourself differently. Listening to her satsang audios online, I experience great benefit reaching into many layers. It changes my state, keeping me connected and in the flow of Grace. But this Shaktipat Retreat was a deeper way to surrender. And I was ready, more ready than I have ever been. My heart and mind had been working on surrendering into a new level of inner transformation. My inner yearning was much stronger.
blue Kundalini cobraFrom the moment we gathered, I felt cradled. Chanting, mantra repetition, puja and teachings propelled me deeper and deeper. I was being filled from the inside. Each day’s practices took me deeper into meditation. My body was in pain, truly uncomfortable at times. Yet it did not stop me diving inward. With mantra repetition, mantra took on a life of its own. I was drawn downward and inward at the same time. My experiences grew stronger. Previously, such experiences may have prompted my fear. But as Kundalini did her work, my total surrender left no room for fear. And it was wonderful. The anguish and pain that my body and mind were holding onto was purged.

Since I was last at the Ashram in 2016, Kundalini had been working in my body in the form of stomach bandhas (locks). In this marathon of Grace and surrender, Kundalini blasted through my heart and opened my spine in other problem areas. When Kundalini put me into a version of Fish Pose, my head locked backwards. Tongue movements opened my throat wide and breath flooded my body along my spine and into every cell. It was an ocean of breath. It consumed my whole body like a tidal wave. I felt peace, love, gratitude flood in, cleansing and changing my internal landscape. And there was something more that I can’t find words for.

Shaktipat hand on headMy body became suddenly, deeply still. I felt empty and full at the same time, with an energy all around and within me. Intense presence and pressure between my eyebrows worked in my brain. I could feel Swamiji’s presence acutely, yet I felt that she was holding my hand, guiding me gently. The pressure in my head was almost painful, yet there was peace too. I could track the electric blue current sparking in deep brain crevices. I am eternally grateful to be changed forever.  I have been given what I would liken to a new Porsche, filled with jet fuel. Equipped with the tools Swamiji has given us, I am seriously testing the accelerator.

Others report similar transformations. Amanda Cahill says, “There are no words in the human language that can come close to the greatness that I felt during and following the Shaktipat Retreat experience. Two days after the retreat, all I can say is that if I were a battery, I have gone from 25% full to overflowing. Thank you, Swami Nirmalananda, with all my heart!”

Daya Ma Amanda Ahern concurs, “Shaktipat with Swamiji was a life-defining experience. It has undoubtedly opened the door to kindness. And to my SELF — finally! I now have absolute certainty that I love God and God loves me no matter what I think or feel, or whatever else is happening in my life. Thank you is way too inadequate.”

swamijiLeanne Michelle Cox, as well, found the Shaktipat Retreat to be “an amazing experience.” She describes her meditations as “deep, much deeper than before.” She explains, “The Shaktipat lasered in and opened up new areas in my body. Swamiji’s discourses explained things in an easy-to-understand way, making me yearn for more. I left the retreat more grounded, more centered and yet propelled forward like never before.”

“The physical time was only two days,” notes Mimi Saunders. “Yet when I left, I felt a lifetime had passed. I am not the same person. So much gratitude I feel towards Swamiji.”

Amazing Anatomy

Brindi BlessingBy Bhagavati (Brindi) Blessing

Even before I started Svaroopa® yoga teacher training (YTT), I could have taken Radical Anatomy for Yogis, as it is open to anyone interested in yoga. It was an inadvertent omission to delay it until after my third week of Teacher Training. But even then it was fun and fascinating. And it has stood me in good stead for the months following my YTT 3 last year.

The demographics of our group ranged from longtime Svaroopis to those who had no experience of Svaroopa® yoga. Taking the course alongside newcomers was a revelation. I marveled at how they developed the understanding that “it all begins at the tailbone.”  We teachers hear that in training. We say it in our classes. But Radical Anatomy for Yogis is a concentrated experience of functional anatomy. So I could see how our experiential learning is a unique, dynamic process. It takes place in the body. It bypasses the mind to change the mind.

vajrasanaEven a person trained in another yoga style made rapid changes in her mind set.  As her body opened up, from tail to top, she began to enter poses differently. For example, at first in Vajrasana (Digestive Pose) she separated her knees widely. But soon she focused on getting her knees together to sit back on her heels. Even in Swamiji‘s chant and meditation sessions, this student could recognize her own tailbone opening.

I found that I’d experienced some Radical Anatomy components in earlier trainings, but it was still an enlightening experience. It brought all the pieces of my previous training together. It really highlighted how tailbone tightening affects all of us. Because of that, all of us have an S-curve in the spine. It even shows up in our faces. In the course, we physically experienced how conditions that typically plague us humans originate in a tight tailbone, which is the root cause of the tightening in the rest of the spine.

Personally, I marvel at how this knowing has supported my recovery from major abdominal surgery last December. The surgery was to remediate a condition that was affecting my deep spinal muscles, and the surgery itself “messed with” my deep spinal muscles. But the understanding I gained from Radical Anatomy, as well as several years of dedicated Svaroopa® yoga practice, has made all the difference. It has kept me devoted to Ujjayi Pranayama and Embodyment® Yoga Therapy. I believe that no other path for full recovery exists.

Healing YogaI used to think it was astounding that Svaroopa® yoga could heal my sciatica. Then it was the only manifestation I had of things being off at my tailbone and sacrum. I am now even more impressed with what the Svaroopa® practices offer — all starting with that little tiny piece of anatomy at the base of my spine.

Selfless Service

Sriby Sri McNeill

When I first heard Swamiji teach about seva, I equated it with volunteering. I enjoy helping people, so I asked for a seva. Apparently she didn’t have the same ideas that I had about service. I thought I was supposed to use my skills and enjoy helping. Swamiji gave me computer jobs and various other tasks in my least favorite category. As a result, I frequently brushed up against — sometimes running headfirst into — my ego. It was uncomfortable, even painful. Eventually she sprinkled in some enjoyable sevas. And she repeatedly took them away. After a while and several sevas, I understood that selflessness is a part of serving. It took even longer to subscribe to it.

Currently, I offer weekly seva by cleaning the Ashram Meditation Hall and doing other household tasks. I am grateful to be able to help in this way. Yet I must admit my ego resistance was intact when she first offered these sevas. Yes, I was resistant to Guru seva. My reaction was a reflection of my identity. I had served in other positions that I felt were full of purpose. They included Seva Coordinator and Master Yoga Board member. I remember thinking that any seva I did was “MY seva.” I had an internal conflict to say the least. Caring for the Meditation Hall murtis (sacred statues) felt like the biggest privilege. And the household chores felt like a painful demotion all at the same time. My ego said, “I’ve run a company, managed people, led group movements, and you want me to do what?” Still, a voice said, “It’s important to me to serve and I’ll do my best.”

Baba wall with SriEventually my inner conflict erupted into a steady, burning, internal yajña (sacred fire). As I worked, I found myself chanting more. I recognized a sweet space while folding laundry and cleaning pujas. I realized that some of the seva tasks were the same chores that I didn’t enjoy doing at home. So I began to chant while cleaning at home. I learned to do laundry at home from the same sweet space as at the Ashram, that space of less “small-s” self and more “capital-S” Self.

Seva has become the best way for me to sit in the fire. It gives me a way to practice non-attachment and to develop skill in action. I’ve learned to do things well without demanding perfection from myself. I’ve learned to exercise compassion and patience towards myself and others. Working around Swamiji, I’ve learned to be quiet as a mouse without feeling as small as one. I’ve become aware of being in darshan in every moment in her Presence and in the Presence of the Babas and of the murtis. The fire of seva is burning away my feelings of imperfection and my need to push for perfection. It’s burning away self-judgment and feelings of separation from Consciousness. Seva has been a maha-yajña for letting go of many small selves. I’ve developed more freedom from need and greed than I ever thought possible.

Recently I attended a seva meeting where Swamiji considered discontinuing my household sevas. I felt a familiar tiny tug of resistance in my heart. Then it vanished. My mind resolutely said, “OK.” There was neither ego crying nor internal shouts of “no.” There was only bliss and surrender without attachment or expectation. The fire of selfless service — there’s nothing like it!

 

Amazing Beyond Words

matrikaBy Matrika Gast

Our Florida venue overlooked white sand and the Atlantic Ocean. Daily on the terrace, they chanted Sri Guru Gita to the sound of the waves. All appreciated the comfortable accommodations and delicious meals. Yet the deep practices are remembered as the heart of their experience.

“Three days of Shaktipat and then Shivaratri,” says Ursula Myslinski, “were vastly rewarding. The power of the sunrise Guru Gita and other chants, along with the teachings, deepened my sense of capital-S Self. The strong support of like-minded yogis was very comforting as were the splendid surroundings. It was truly uplifting and unforgettable.”

FL retreat sunrise guru gitaFollowing the Shaktipat days, the Shivaratri celebration took place on Sunday night, February 26, during new moon. Tradition promises that those who stay up until dawn can become enlightened. Retreatants listened to ancient teaching stories from the Shiva Puranam, chanted and meditated with Swami Nirmalananda, enjoyed some asana and snacked on healthy treats. Then they repeated these rounds, all night.

Rama (Ruth) Brooke describes her experience as “supremely transformative.” She notes, “The opportunity to steep after the three-day Shaktipat experience by doing another two days including Shivaratri was immeasurable. The effects will continue to emerge and evolve for a long time, I’m sure.”

With experience of several previous Shaktipat retreats with Swamiji, Saguna Goss states, “This was one of the deepest programs that I have ever taken.”  Sumati (Pat) Morrison concurs: “Incredible program! Both housing and meals were excellent. I was changed by this program and continue to feel more steady in my state. I am living from a deeper place. My husband remarked that I seem newly and firmly settled.”

IMG_20160209_092614Our next retreats with Swami Nirmalananda will be at Lokananda, our home in Downingtown PA:

Shaktipat Retreat April 14-16
Yoga Therapy Intensive Retreat April 19-23
Shaktipat Retreat June 2-4
DIY: Healing June 15-18.  DIY stands for “Deepen It Yourself,” because you go home with practices and even pose handouts that will deepen your practice tremendously.

My Inner Warrior Is Arising

By Rudrani Nogue

Rudrani_GaneshpuriMy new favorite pose is not one I would have chosen. Swamiji assigned it (and other poses) to me a month ago at our Calgary Shaktipat Retreat.  She told me that my legs weren’t strong and that I needed to do TEN standing poses a day. I never thought of my legs as strong or weak. They were just how they were. Admittedly, my standing work until this point has been sporadic. I have leaned more towards floor poses. In my personal practice, I have added standing poses only when teaching themes with standing poses.

Swamiji’s intervention took me by surprise and challenged me. But I also knew I would get more than strong legs when I followed through. I just wasn’t sure what the more would be.

So I added TEN standing poses a day to my practices. I moved out of my comfort zone. It was tapas (doing the hard stuff). I work hard to claim the extra time for this new practice. Then magically I had the time. Over the month, I have come to look forward to the challenge.

The standing pose that has emerged as my favorite is Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2). While I look forward to deeper understandings going forward, so far here is what I have discovered:

  • Not only are my Virabhadrasana 2legs getting stronger but so are my arms, shoulders, abs and feet
  • I am standing in my bones and letting them support me
  • I can stay in Warrior much longer than I originally expected. I settle and soften into it. This is the stamina that my pink sheets tell me is possible.
  • I have been discovering tight spots in my body (yet again). I had no idea they were tight. They were so tight that they were numb.
  • I am experiencing the power and comfort of repetition.
  • My physical balance is steadier.
  • I am steadier emotionally.
  • I am feeling into my body in a new way – my tailbone lengthening down sometimes, my sacrum opening, the floor of my pelvis becoming alive.

Still most exciting is finding the joy, ease, steadiness, clarity and strength in my mind. Or maybe it’s coming from just beyond my mind?

As my inner warrior arises, I am kinder, more loving both to my Self and others and more able to ask for what I need. For example, between classes some students like to stay and chat. That leaves me little time to go home and have lunch before I am due back to teach. Yesterday when that happened, I expressed to one how I would be glad to talk more at a different time (true), but that I needed to leave then, to eat and rest before returning to teach. I felt clear and kind.

RudraniGladly, I offered another Svaroopi the use of my blankets and the idea of teaching out of the community hall where I teach. Until now this has been hard for me to do. Of course, some of these changes are due to my other practices, but I am sure my Warrior 2 is a factor in these shifts.

Thank you, Swamiji, for giving me what I needed when I had no idea this was what I needed. I am, as always, filled with gratitude.