Deepening Your Yoga

By Carolyn (Karuna) Beaver

Ujjayi breaths, a Lunge or a few repetitions of mantra always help me hit my reset button.  These DIY (do it yourself) practices never fail.  In her January Teachings, Sadguru Nirmalananda offers us another.  It’s the first DIY “quick fix” in a year-long series.

The practice she offers is called “level up,” like reaching a higher level in a video game.  I was excited to see this one.  It’s something I already do in meditation.  Shortly after I settle into my seat, I often notice that I am leaning more weight into my right side than my left.  When I even out my weight, it automatically sends me deeper into my seat.  When that happens, I don’t feel as if I’m holding myself up.  My spine is weightless, strong and lengthened.  It provides the “up vibe” that our Sadguru describes.  It propels me deeper into meditation. 

In a New Year’s half-day Svaroopa® yoga workshop, I tried this out while standing.  We did the Tadasana variation of leaning weight first into one foot and leg, then the other. Then we allowed our weight to be even through the bones of both legs and feet.  As I stood evenly in my bones, I felt their solid support.  I then noticed the support offered to my spine.  Like the seated quick fix, my spine felt energized and elongated.  I’d reached a higher level, in the pose and in my Self. 

This is DIY yoga.  More importantly, it’s “deepen it yourself” yoga.  For years, Sadguru Nirmalananda has encouraged us to practice yoga’s many ways of deepening into who and what we really are, the One Self, Consciousness-Itself.  The familiar phrase “do more yoga” rings in my ears.  To ring in the new year, she’s also encouraging us to do “less” yoga, simply more often.

A quick fix can change everything.  It can hit your reset button, bringing you back to who you really are: Shiva.  Sadguru Nirmalananda says, “It’s easier to get back to your Self if you haven’t gone too far away.”  That’s what makes doing less yoga more often so effective.

Quick fixes do make you feel better.  And, of course you want to feel better, but it’s only because you don’t already feel better!  When you go chasing after worldly things, you’ll get worldly satisfaction, sometimes not even consistently.  The only place to find true fulfilment is inside, not outside.

What if your steady state was a higher state, based in your own inherent bliss and joy?  It can be.  Swamiji lives from this state consistently.  She learned to find it inside from her Guru, Baba Muktananda.  And we are learning it from Her.  You’ll find the bliss of your own Being, svaroopa, by looking inward, over and over and over again.  Do less yoga, more often, until over and over again becomes forever.

Staying Connected and Open

By Rose Koerner, Interviewed by
Phil (Krishna) Milgrom

“It was such a special experience being in Lokananda,” shares Rose Koerner.  “But when you move away from that, it’s hard to keep up the intensity of the opening.”  So, after Foundations in June 2018, Rose practiced Ujjayi and meditation daily as her Teacher Trainers had recommended.  She also attended yoga classes yet still felt herself slowly slipping downhill. “Being away from Swami and all,” she recounts, “the intensity of the opening eventually began to dim a little. I knew I had to do more.”

To stay inwardly open, Rose turned to the audio recordings available on the Ashram website.  That was and continues to be her saving grace. “Now when I listen to the recordings, they remind me of how I felt in the Foundations training,” she explains.  “That helps me stay strong and consistent in my living practice. The more opportunities I have to remember the wisdom in which the practices are rooted, the greater the connection I have with the practices as I go about my daily life.”

Rose appreciates the chronological organization of audio recordings on the website.  She could easily find Swamiji’s talk from the Swami Sunday during Rose’s June Foundations.  “Listening to the same talk that I heard at Lokananda especially helped revive the connection,” Rose says.  “Since I’d heard it live, there was more sensory information locked into it. Now I can remember more of my profound experience more easily.  It seems even more powerful now.  Listening to the audio at home is a good way to remind myself of what I learned in Foundations.”

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Even before Foundations, Rose listened to Swamiji’s recordings while commuting.  She drives 30 minutes to and from the school where she teaches 6th graders.  Listening to the recordings was an excellent way to continue learning more from Swami.  She also found it a good way to deal with the stress of the commute.  “It helped me feel more stable while driving,” Rose describes.  “I can listen to something much more enriching than the daily news, which could stress me out, and more enriching than whatever music pops up on the radio.  Then, when I listen at home, I have a notepad in front of me and jot down things that stand out.  Sometimes I draw a picture to interact with the talk a little more.” Whether in her car or at home, listening to the audio recordings keeps Rose’s Lokananda Foundations experience fresh and alive. It keeps her closer to Swami.  Listening to those recordings also keeps her rooted in the teachings that she cherishes as nourishment for her spiritual life.

The State of Seva

Devapriyaa Hills, Interviewed by Matrika Gast

“Seva is expanding at the Ashram.  While we are welcoming new sevites, many longtime sevites are taking on new sevas as well as giving more time to their original seva.  For more of us Svaroopis, seva has become established as an important part of life,” states Denise (Devapriyaa) Hills, Seva Coordinator. Our website describes seva:

…“selfless service,” work performed without any thought of reward or repayment. In India, seva is one of the ways to propel your spiritual growth while simultaneously contributing to the community.  

Devapriyaa continues, “Swami Nirmalananda personally picks the seva for each yogi.  There’s thus a lot of power and Grace when you receive your seva.

“Everyone has different reasons for offering seva.  Nearly a decade ago, when Swamiji founded the Ashram, Many yogis took on seva because they wanted to volunteer — to give back, engaging in the practice of karma yoga.  Now many more yogis choose to offer seva as an expression of devotion to Swamiji.  This devotional piece is bhakti yoga, another whole layer of practice that adds depth and sweetness to your life.  Seva is a sure-fire way to deepen your state, and stay in it, no matter your motivation.

“A couple of times a year, Assistant Seva Coordinator Bhadraa (Betsy) Archer and I phone sevites to hear how their seva is going.  Consistently, we hear ‘seva changed my life. Being able to give to Swami opens me to the abundant flow of Grace.’  Recently, a sevite told me ‘I get so much from this. I feel Guru’s Grace flowing through me all day now.’  Of course, as with any work, taking on a new seva can present difficulties or challenges.  But even this experience tends to be full of Grace. One longtime sevite quoted from Swamiji’s 2018 December Teachings to describe her experience: ‘Every challenging situation is designed to shine light in your blind spots.’”

Devapriyaa feels that the expansion of seva in our Ashram community is due to “more people making a commitment to the path of the Svaroopa® Sciences founded by Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.  Devotion to Swamiji is a strong factor.  It arises from the depth of her profound teachings, which are growing and expanding.  On this path you feel ‘The More.’  Feeling that draws many to seva, while seva opens you to the flow of Guru’s Grace more and more deeply.”

Sevites include yogis residing in and near Downingtown as well as yogis living at a distance throughout North America and Australia.  Recently, local sevites as well as those traveling to Downingtown have supported Swamiji in community outreach programs.  These special free events serve the community surrounding us, weaving us into it as well.  This past fall, Swamiji taught a free Introduction to Meditation for Caregivers, and spearheaded Lokananda’s participation in Halloween Trick or Treat as well as a Christmas Cookie Crawl (for which sevites baked).  This was especially festive because our holiday-decorated store front windows took first place in the Downingtown Holiday Decorations contest.” Interested in seva?  Devapriyaa shares that there are now 40 different categories of seva.  Swamiji is known to be creative if finding the perfect seva for you!  If you want Svaroopa® yoga to become even a deeper way of life on your chosen spiritual path, take on seva for our Guru and Ashram.  Starting at the beginning of a new year is auspicious.  For answers to questions, email Devapriyaa at seva@svaroopayoga.org. Or if you’re ready to apply, click here for the seva survey.  There’s something for everybody.

Mastery

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

Your mastery of the poses depends more on your mind than your body.  When you’re upset, your yoga poses imperfect, even harder to do.  When you can’t focus, you’re more likely to injure yourself while practicing.  If you think mastery is about your body, you’re missing the point.  Yoga’s practices are all for your mind, not merely to change the content of your mind but to get you beyond your mind.

You know what it’s like to get beyond your mind.  When you walk out of class and your mind is clear, light and open, you’re experiencing an inner spaciousness without boundaries.  You can get the same feeling by standing at a lookout point and gazing at a beautiful view.  It’s because you get free from your mind, even if only for a few moments.

Baba Muktananda

What would it be like to live in that clear inner space all the time?  That’s the goal, as described by yoga’s great masters throughout the ages.  That’s why I went to live and study with my Baba, because he clearly lived in that depth, openness and ease.  It was easy to see in him, plus he explained it all.  Most valuable, it was completely contagious.  His inner bliss radiated off him, which is why I loved to sit with him.  I found my own Self when I sat with him; I knew who I was and why I’m here.

Your own Self is who you really are, beyond who you think you are.  Your busy thoughts construct a superficial sense of self, but there is more to you than that.  You have proven this by changing friends, jobs or even partners, moving on from who you used to be — to find out who you are now.  That inner resiliency and sense of continuity arise from a deeper inner level.  The source is your own Self.

Meditation masters propel you into the experience of your own Self.  They don’t just tell you about it, they give you the experience.  They don’t merely share techniques, their deep presence opens you up to a new level within.  They don’t try to fix you or improve you.  They recognize and revel in your inherent Divinity, which makes you able to do so too.  I know because I sat with one who gave me all of that and more.  I serve him by serving you.

Why I Teach

By Annette (Annapurna) Zucco, Interviewed by Lissa (Yogeshwari) Fountain

“Teaching Svaroopa® yoga is my path to the Self.  How I teach now may be different from a year ago.  I’m always evolving, changing and going deeper,” shares Annapurna Zucco.  She has been teaching Svaroopa® yoga in MA for 10 years.

Like so many teachers, Annapurna began as a yoga student in another hatha yoga style. However, she felt that her experience was incomplete: “I was not able to do any spinal twists, because the pain between my shoulder blades was so intense.”  A mother of two young boys, her full-time job required she change her schedule.  So she tried Marjorie Crockett’s Svaroopa® yoga class at a local Parks & Recreation.  Annapurna recalls, “The marker pose was JP (Rotated Stomach Pose)!  Right at the start I was in that painful spot again.  Yet, by the end of class, I relaxed into this reclining twist, completely pain-free.  It was a magic moment.  I was hooked!”

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Taking regular classes with Varadananda King since 2004, Annapurna says, “For me it was an organic process.  From the moment I lay on the floor, I was able to track what was happening in my body.  I could follow what was unraveling, maybe because of my background in physiology and anatomy.”  Although Annapurna felt she was “too shy” to actually teach, her curiosity got the best of her, and she took Foundations in 2007.  “This training propelled me into the depths of my Self, and I gained confidence as the other participants were encouraging me to teach.  It set the groundwork for where I wanted to go.”  Even while she was still raising her family and working, she was able to complete YTT by 2011, and has been teaching ever since.

“Asana spoke to me.  I worked at a greenhouse, which is physically demanding; you’re moving all the time. And I process my experiences through my body.  So I continued to take one to two classes per week.”  She feels this has given her a unique perspective.  “Attending class has focused me on my path.  Learning and getting support from other teachers kept me centered and more aware of what was happening within: the flow of Grace and unfolding of Kundalini.  Because I was still a student myself, I could then understand what was happening for my students as well.  I am more sensitive to them and respectful of their needs.”

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“When I teach, and I’m well prepared and present to my students, it all flows from a place of Grace.  It comes from my heart.  There’s an ease to it.  I teach because it is who I am.”  Part of Annapurna’s preparation is to re-read the pink sheets, write clear lesson plans, practice the poses and do her own daily practice.  She says, “It’s all coming from Swamiji — every word in the pink sheets is imbued with her Grace.  Annapurna also meditates and studies with Swamiji’s Year-Long Programme: “I need all these different pieces to reach inside myself; this is my way to The Self. The Grace is always there, but you do have to put yourself into it.”

After Marjorie Crockett’s death and Varadananda King’s relocation to Downingtown, Annapurna’s classes are an interesting blend of her own students with theirs.  “Today, it feels like coming full circle when I can serve my own teachers’ students,” reflects Annapurna. Because she wants to be able to give her classes more, Annapurna has signed up for her first ATT course in March 2019: “Heart Openers.”  She wants to keep personally evolving and growing and enhancing her classes.  “Students teach me so much.  I love supporting them.  I am so blessed that this is how I can be in the world.”

The Year Ahead

By Gurupremananda Cattafi, SVA Board President

As a Svaroopa® yoga and meditation community, we enter the New Year ready for divine experiences.  What Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda has planned will propel us to “Breakthrough!” and move forward in “Leaps and Bounds.” 

Certainly, 2018 prepared Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram for expansion, with the installation of Nataraja and a crystal Lingam (Mallikarjuna) in our gardens. These ceremonies, conducted by Santosh Mudgal, reverberated throughout the worldwide Svaroopa® community.  They prompted the new name for one of our buildings, ShivaLoka, meaning the abode of Shiva.   Extensive renovations in both buildings have upgraded our interior space as well.  Most importantly, Swamiji stepped into the role of Sadguru, honored with this title by the Brahmins of Ganeshpuri.  Shaktipat masters are honored with this title, with only a handful of such Gurus worldwide.

Wow! We are prepared for a great New Year!   Many Svaroopis are immersed in the Ashram retreat with Sadguru Nirmalananda on this New Year’s Day.  What you do on New Year’s Day sets the tone of your whole year.  

Swamiji is setting the tone for the year with the titles she’s given us:

  • Breakthrough! is our January Conference in Boston with both a meditation and an asana (poses) track.  Post-conference workshops are available as well.  We hope to see you there.
  • Leaps and Bounds is Swamiji’s promise for 2019,especially if you join in her Year Long Programme this year.  Choose your level or participation in her articles, audio discourses, group phone calls and an autumn retreat.  Whatever your choice, it is always deep and always essential, providing lots of growth. Check it out with the Free Intro Call on February 24.

Breakthrough, with leaps and bounds — I have no doubt! With love and gratitude, I wish you an Enlightened New Year.

Revelling in Life’s Rock Tumbler

By Janet (Janaki) Murray

“I much prefer to consciously work on myself by choosing to do the practices that help transform my mind.  Getting tossed about by outer situations and people is a much harder and more painful process,” writes Vidyadevi in Instant Enlightenment, our December Contemplation Article.  I agree!  I am so grateful to Swamiji and the Svaroopa® Sciences for the practices that yield this kind of transformation.

I have not forgotten what it used to be like, being constantly dragged around by my emotions, wading through the quagmire that was my mind.  It is not that I am no longer affected or have no feelings about the things that happen in my life.  I even feel my emotions more fully now.  It is just that they no longer define me.  My thoughts and emotions are not who I am.

I am not enlightened – yet.  Still, there is an ever-growing freedom and peace from the inner turmoil that comes from life’s curve balls.  Phew, thank goodness!

This “parinama” — the gradual transformation of my mind — has also changed the way I think about things.  One way is found in how I deal with life’s challenging situations.  I accept, even embrace them.  I see challenges as experiences for my growth even if they are painful at times.  My “edges are getting knocked off and smoothed out.”

I would even go so far as to say bliss is to be found in life’s curve balls.  When I really just sit with the issue in hand and see it all as Consciousness at play, even when it is painful, bliss arises.  The Self arises within me; peace and clarity ensue.  What better way to tackle a challenging situation?

There might have been a time when I wanted to “escape the rock tumbler of life.”  Not any longer.  Bring it on I say, I’m ready!

As it says in Instant Enlightenment, “The goal is to be in the tumbler, knowing who you really are while you engage in life fully, based in the ever arising flow of joy, happiness and love.”  So, I’ll just “do more yoga.”