Category Archives: Ashram News

Heart Opening Affects My Life

PrakashBy Prakash Falbaum, SVA Board Member

Heart opening affects my day-to-day life.  It makes me look at everything and everyone in a whole new way.  I can find gratitude in anything.  I am even grateful for the drug addict who lives across the street.  I used to judge him.  But now I know, he is the same as me.  How can I be upset with him and not be upset with me? This even carries forward to how I feel about politics and about drivers who cut me off.

swamiThe Svaroopa® yoga practices, given to us by Swami Nirmalananda, are the Grace-filled fuel powering this transformation.  As I continue my daily Ujjayi, meditation, asana and seva, my heart sheds layers of bindings.  As it continues to expand, I see all people differently.  I don’t have to like the way they act.  Yet I see that everyone at their core is Shiva — Pure Consciousness, Divine Essence.  It continues to amaze me.  It all interweaves.  Whenever I am immersed in a program with Swamiji and hear her teachings, something transformative happens within.  With this internal shift, I comprehend more and more that all external behavior as well as family, community and world events are just the play of Consciousness.

I know this is because Swami Nirmalananda has given me my Self.  She continues to teach me about my small-s self as well as my capital-S Self — the One Self Being Me.  As I do the Svaroopa® Sciences practices, I find more and more of who I really am.  My heart opens.  Gratitude and generosity swell more and more and more.  The generosity that arises from gratitude compels me to give back to our Ashram through seva.

When I first stepped onto the Svaroopa® Sciences path, I got big changes from doing very little Svaroopa® yoga.  I was so grateful.  So even before taking Svaroopa® Yoga Teacher Training, gratitude compelled me to offer my time in selfless service — seva.  My first seva was most mundane.  Now my seva responsibilities have grown.  I accept whatever Swami asks me to do.  She asks me to do things I’ve never done before.  This causes me to grow.  Then I see more of my Self.  As I am trying to help Swami, it’s taking away the bindings that have been closed around my heart and my mind for eons.  Seva opens my heart more and more.  The more I give, the more I get.  This is MahaLakshmi at work.

Gratitude and Grace logo full sizeI also give financially.  What I give each month is less than what I used to spend on coffee at Starbucks.  A lot of the time I don’t think about it.  But, at the first of the month when it’s deducted from my account, I get an email.  I think, “There goes a donation to Swami!” It makes me smile.  I know I’ve done something worthwhile, and it is an expression of the gratitude and generosity I feel towards all things flowing from Swamiji and the Ashram.  Please join me in giving back to this Source.  Click here to donate on online, or call the Ashram at 610.644.7555.  Every gift, of any size and frequency, makes a difference.  Thank you.

My Yoga Therapy Retreat

Priya KenneyBy Priya Kenney

It shouldn’t surprise me anymore.  Yet I was shocked when Swamiji spoke to a deeply hidden part of me, something I work hard to keep subterranean.  I arrived a day early for the Yoga Therapy Intensive Retreat, just in time for Swamiji’s birthday satsang.  Near the end of her talk, she said it: “You have inherent value.”

Her words startled me.  Unbelievable.  Just by being human we have value.  You mean, I’m not inherently bad?  I work hard to mask shame-filled identities that de-value and dis-respect me.  Those identities fill me with anxiety and take me out of my body.

I didn’t understand how much I wasn’t present in my body until the retreat.  I became aware of all the armoring I’d put on to protect myself from traumatic events in my past.  The layers hardened into life patterns and identities.  They keep me from being fully alive and present in my body.

yoga-shavasana-blanket.jpgIn my daily yoga therapy sessions, all I had to do was lie down and allow my body to sink into the blankets.  I gratefully complied.  It was like my body fell open, tensions simply dissolving.  I felt incredibly cared for, supported and safe.  I experienced the yoga therapists acting as Love Incarnate.  They had neither attachment nor need for us to respond a certain way.

I surrendered to their confident placements of my body and questions in the vichara sessions.  I sank in deeper.  It was pure bliss.  My body felt like warm, rising holiday bread.  I was fully alive, floating in a timeless state of upliftment of body, mind and more.

Every day, Swamiji spent a lot of time with us.  She chanted and meditated with us.  After chanting Sri Guru Gita with her on the second morning, I experienced a big rounded opening in my chest during meditation.  It was like a giant garage door opening out to Swamiji.

Swamiji also gave talks about healing, explaining the five sheaths and how they interweave.  Because of this interweaving, it’s necessary to approach healing from several angles to effectively heal the multi-dimensionality of our being.  Vichara and yoga therapy sessions heal mind and body.  Meditating with the Guru and dipping into Self is the greatest healer of all.

supported fishOne of my favorite poses has always been Supported Fish.  I was very happy when my therapist put me in that pose.  On the third day, she probably only adjusted my arms by a small amount, but it seemed like she moved them a good three feet.  Exposure!

My first thought, after wanting to tuck back in and down, was that she must have made a mistake and didn’t position me right.  It was fully intentional, and she didn’t move me back to “safety.”  I don’t remember ever feeling my chest that open before.  Never.  It felt scary and daring.  My mind flared up, looking for a way out of this predicament.  Then I recognized that it was a safe environment.  I knew the therapist wouldn’t hurt me.  Her confident and nurturing presence gave me reassurance.

I allowed my chest to open.  It felt as wide as a football field.  Soon my head opened.  My face released its protective front.  Knots inside my head vanished.  I still had a face, but it was no longer the fearful gatekeeper.  While my identities were there still, they were background, not leading or defining me.  They were like space debris floating around.  They did not weigh me down or hold me back.  The Self was primary, everything.  I was wide open inside my body and beyond, infinite and blissfully expansive.

Back at home, I feel more open, less guarded.  The personalized asana routine I received and my other practices bring me back to a new level of openness more quickly.  I have deep gratitude for the Guru, the master door opener to self and Self.  I am also grateful for the steady yoga therapists who helped me unravel layers that had limited my awareness of Guru and Self.


Grace & Gratitude in Real Life

GayatriBy Gayatri Hess

I used to tuck deeper into my covers, longing to stay in bed, when my alarm clock awakened me.  Now I still tuck down for a few extra minutes. Then I reflect on what my first Svaroopa® yoga practice will be. Often, it’s listening to one of Guruji’s talks online. Then I dive into meditation. How alive I feel as I explore the depths within!

I recall one meditation in particular.  I have had some life experiences around which I created a web of thoughts and emotions.   In meditation, I had an experience that felt like a video review of one of the especially stubborn patterns.  I saw the image, feelings and thoughts as if they were being untwisted and lifted out of the top of my head.  I felt an instant sense of gratitude and deep love for my Guru and lineage.  That is Grace and Gratitude.

Experience Shavasana & Ujjayi PranayamaOne of my co-workers recently experienced a loss.  On her third day returning to work, she looked at me and said, “You have no idea how crazy I am inside.  I have been downloading meditation apps.  I need to do something to help me the way your meditation helps you.”  I offered her a CD with Swamiji’s Guided Awareness in Shavasana and with Ujjayi breathing.  My co-worker took it home and began practicing it nightly.  On the third night, she said she slept the entire night.  She has a fresh smile and perk in her step.  That is Grace and Gratitude.

Every time I visit our Ashram in PA, whether it is online, through a phone call, seva, community gathering or reading, I experience my Self.  The Shakti flows through it all.  I have found the answer to my yearning.  That is Grace and Gratitude.

Gratitude and Grace logo full sizeWhen I offer my time, talent or treasure, I experience my Self.  I graciously give financial support monthly to Swamiji and Lokananda.  I look forward to the annual fundraisers and save in anticipation of giving more.  That is Gratitude and Grace.

I thank each of you for being part of this community and graciously giving.  Support creates release! Gracious living and giving is Gratitude and Grace. Please join me in supporting our Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram. Please click here to donate, or call 610.644.7555. Every gift, of any size and frequency, makes a difference.

My Favorite Pose

As seen on a Sussex Directories Inc siteBy Amanda Bailey

During Foundations, my favorite pose was Ujjayi Pranayama while lying in Shavasana.  The way it was taught completely changed my experience of Ujjayi.  It resonated deeper in my body and consciousness in a way I had never noticed before.

One evening, we paired up and listened to the sound of our partner practicing Ujjayi breathing WITHOUT JOINING THEM — a challenge for me!  As I listened to my partner breathing, I felt a unique connection to him.  It was a knowing without knowing.  I didn’t know anything about the details of his life.  Yet listening to his Ujjayi breath, I had an embodied awareness of him.  Sharing my own Ujjayi breath, I felt as if I was giving him a gift beyond anything material that I could ever give.

Just as my own experience was profound, so were others.  To share their experiences, fellow students used beautiful words: connection, love, peace, a sense of no longer being alone or having to be afraid.

shavasanaI am so grateful for Foundations and how all of the Svaroopa® yoga poses lead me deeper into myself.  They give me the awareness of the ever-present connection, love and peace.  Yet Ujjayi Pranayama has been the foundation of my practices since I learned it in my first Svaroopa® yoga class.  On days when I don’t do a full yoga practice, I still do Ujjayi Pranayama, because I have an embodied knowledge of its effect.  It keeps my head above water in the whirl and swirl of life.  Deepest gratitude to Swamiji, my Foundations Trainers (Bhakta and Kamala), and to all of my fellow yogis in Foundations.

Gratitude to the One

karunaBy Karuna Beaver, SVA Board Member

I am more than merely thankful for Svaroopa® yoga and meditation.  I have become downright grateful for the practices and their originator, my teacher and Guru, Swami Nirmalananda.  Her years of deep study, devotion and hard work have helped her to help me as well as so many others.  All the practices come directly from Swami Nirmalananda.  Thank you Swamiji!  Yet she will tell you that everything comes straight from her own spiritual teacher and Guru, Swami Muktananda.  Again, and again she says, “I owe everything to my Baba.”

I began with being thankful to find practices that transformed my achy body and my crazy mind.  I was thankful enough to begin doing seva and making donations to the Ashram.  But it took me a while to figure out that mere thankfulness is not real gratitude.  Gratitude is more.  Gratitude is about feeling thankful down to your bones, down into your heart.  Gratitude is about getting out of your own way — your ego — and letting down your guard.  Gratitude is humbling and awe-inspiring.

At first, I didn’t understand the depth of my feeling.  I do not easily let down my guard.  But, gradually, the walls have been coming down.  Now I am able, more and more often, to feel into the depth of my devotion.  It’s because the power of my yogic practices is eroding years, maybe lifetimes, of “guck” around my heart.  And I owe it all to my Guru.

One of my favorite songs captures the way I feel.  It asks, “Have I told you lately that I love you, that there is no one else above you?”  It describes the effect of this love:  it can “fill my heart with gladness, take away my sadness, ease my troubles.”  The song goes on to say that this love is “less defined; it’s yours and it’s mine.”  And, at the end of the day, we “should give thanks to the One.”  Yes, this is how I feel.

Swamiji in GaneshpuriGratitude to the Master is an important part of yoga, and thus part of our svaroopavidya practices.  “This is how I feel about my Baba,” explained Swami in a satsang audio a few years ago.  “I had only seven years with him.  He stripped me down and left me bare, and I am so grateful to him.  I had the great fortune to bow in front of my Baba for those years.  I always felt ennobled, not humbled.  He always said, ‘You are Me — you are the One.’”

Baba gave Swami that One.  He gave her the experience of her own Self.  This is what she gives to us.  She says, “In the mystical merging of Self, there is only One.  When there’s only One, there is no gratitude.  But when I indulge myself in gratitude, it also recognizes that there are two.  It’s a magical, mystical play.”

I indulge in this gratitude and mystical play every day when I meditate.  Before I begin, I express my gratitude to the One who reminds me who I am.  In meditation, I feel the separation between my individuality and my Guru’s individuality begin to blur.  It truly does feel as if there is only One, even if I can’t always maintain that feeling throughout the day.

Gratitude and Grace logo full sizeIn this glorious season of thankfulness and giving, I encourage you to let down your guard.  Open up to the gifts your yogic practices give you.  Open your heart to the “more” that you are.  I hope you will also give thanks to the One.  And if this takes the form of a heartfelt donation to the yogic organization that makes this possible for you, I would be eternally grateful.

Please click here to donate, or call 610.644.7555.  Every gift, of any size and frequency, makes a difference.

Insights on Time and Timelessness

aanandi-annie-rossBy Aanandi Ross

“Time and Timeless” illustrates my experience of timelessness.  One sentence from our November teachings article says it all: “Though you can’t add more hours to the clock, yoga offers tools to free you from the tyranny of time.”  Doing only 20 minutes of Ujjayi Pranayama daily will help you make friends with time; that with this practice, things begin to dovetail and flow… time then is no longer your enemy.  Swami Nirmalananda and Vidyadevi promise that Ujjayi Pranayama makes you the master of time.  Wow!  How amazing and how transformative.

Breathe Meditation UjjaiHow ironic that “stopping” to practice Ujjayi Pranayama will give you more “time.”  You might think if you stop to breathe for 20 minutes that you’ll lose the time to get 4 or 5 things done on your list.  Or maybe you believe you’ll be in more of a frenzy to make up for lost time.  However, when spending time with timelessness, you feel a shift in perception.  You might even conclude that some of the things you thought were so important on your list are not.  Priorities change.  Life flows in surprising and delightful ways.

Have you had the experience of stopping, breathing and then feeling like a different person afterwards? If so, even more breathing (and especially meditation) will help you to remain in that state, more and more.

I took an “Introduction to Meditation” weekend with Vidyadevi.  When she asked about our meditation experiences, I shared that time had slowed way down.  I felt like I had all the time in the world.  She said, “Yes, there is timelessness in meditation.”  I had felt I was just being, in beingness; alive in beingness.  Experiencing this infinite reality within myself, I became conscious of the “more” within me.  Instead of feeling empty and lacking, I felt full and sufficient.  The timelessness in meditation feels like going to the cosmic time tank.

Divine TimelessnessOver twenty years ago was the first time I heard that if you’re always thinking about the future, you’re not in the present moment.  Still, I often hear people say, “Wow, I can’t believe that September (or summer, or vacation or some other experience) is almost over!”  Yoga gives you a shift of perspective, “Wow, this season (of late summer) is so rich and full.  The breeze is warm (or cool); the colors of harvest are so magnificent (or transforming); this day is glorious, just as it is.”

Make friends with time.  Our Svaroopa® yoga practices excel at giving you the experience of beingness.  This experience offers you so much.  It’s yours for the taking.  Do more Ujjayi Pranayama.

Grateful for Illumined Teachings

matrikaBy Matrika Gast, SVA Board Member

When I happened onto this path, I already thought I was a yogi. But it was all in my head, though I practiced yoga poses and was a teacher in another yoga style. I felt my body only when it was in pain. My mind rarely stopped or even slowed. I am grateful, of course, for the transformative Svaroopa® yoga and meditation practices that are now dissolving tensions in my body and reining in my mind. Yet my gratitude for the guidance I’ve received from Swamiji and our Teacher Trainers is uppermost in my awareness.

In Foundations, Swamiji (then Rama) served as our primary teacher. She introduced me to Consciousness, then a new concept. For the 12 years since, her teachings in programs, trainings and a wealth of online Freebies have daily guided me to the tangible, mystical experience of Self, Pure Consciousness.

A decade ago, I learned to meditate in Vidyadevi’s “Meditation Made Easy” weekend. Later in YTT Level 3 with Kusuma and Vidyadevi, I heard that mantra was “scrubby bubbles” for the mind. How grateful I was to clarify a mind often cluttered with reactivity.

Yet I’ve received something more, for which it is hard to find words. Whenever I’ve brought up a professional or personal issue, Swamiji and our Trainers have listened, comprehended the problem and responded effectively. Their guidance has always been based in the ancient, authentic teachings of the Svaroopa® Sciences. Thus their guidance conveys more than information, it’s an illumined perspective. I recognize that it’s infused with Grace and I am propelled by Grace to follow their guidance.

Matrika at darshan 1502

This has empowered me to live effectively and harmoniously with life’s challenges as well as life’s joys. Consciousness is the foundation that supports my capacity to do the work I love. Of course ongoing Svaroopa® yoga and meditation teacher trainings give me the skills and knowledge to do so.

Yet the Grace-Full guidance of Swamiji and our Teacher Trainers gives me more — the palpable sense that Divine Essence is at heart of everything and everyone, myself included. Then I know experientially that I am, as everyone is, the One Self Being All. Such guidance has given me a life worth living. That’s why I delight in donating monthly as well as giving a special gift twice yearly. Giving is such a sweet celebration!

Gratitude and Grace logo full sizeGratitude & Grace are present in my daily life, thanks to Swami Nirmalananda, our Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram, our Teacher Trainers, our Svaroopa® Sciences practices — and you, my fellow Svaroopis. There is so much to be grateful for.

What has this path given you? What are you grateful for? Please celebrate these extraordinary Grace-Full gifts by giving back to the source: click here to donate online or call the Ashram at 610.644.7555. Every gift, of any size and frequency, makes a difference. Thank you.