Words Matter

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda 

What you say to others affects them, as you already know.  But your words affect you as well.  When you are harsh to someone, you have the experience of being harsh or mean. It does not contribute to your happiness. Worse, you end up treating yourself the same way you treated them.  What is the tone of voice you use on yourself inside your head? 

It also works the other way around.  What you say to yourself affects you, no surprise.  But it affects others as well.  Even if you never tell anyone what you’re saying to yourself, it affects your facial expression, your breathing, your skin tone and your response to them.  It shows.  Worse, your brain chemicals are affected, along with your digestion and immune system.

Words matter.  The sutras tell us that words underlie the structure of the universe.  In other words, the universe is made out of God’s thoughts.  God thought you into being, along with everyone and everything else.  That Divine impulse underlying everything that exists is described in this sutra:

J~naanaa-dhishthaana.m maat.rkaa. – Shiva Sutras 1.4

The experience of limited individuality comes from the cosmic vibrations that produce sounds and the words they become.

The cosmic vibration is OM, aka the primordial sound.  This is the vibration of the One Divine Reality, vibrating within himself. In yoga, we call the One by the name Shiva, meaning Beingness.  When Shiva is vibrating, we call the vibration by the name Shakti, meaning Divine Energy.

So we have Divine Beingness vibrating within his own Beingness.  You can perceive this vibration as a subtle sound which pervades all that exists, for everything that exists comes from it.  This vibration is the Divine Energy that condenses down into matter.

We approximate this sound when we chant OM.  We come close, however we have to stop and breathe periodically.  OM continues without interruption. Shiva delights in being the vibration that is being the OM.  And Shiva decides to play some variations on the theme, much like a jazz musician does.  

Thus the one sound becomes multiple sounds, each one with a different vibratory energy.  These different sounds are called “bij mantras,” the root sounds that are the syllables which combine to become words.  Then you use the words to tie yourself up into knots.

The words you use on yourself matter.  They matter the most, for you wouldn’t use words on other people unless you first ran them through your mind.  Ah, your mind! It needs some help.  Fortunately, all of yoga’s practices are for your mind.

Here are two practices to help with your words.  They are a great beginning point for working with your mind:

 1. Speak only truth.  This is satya, the second of yoga’s lifestyle practices (yamas).  In this practice, all your words must be truthful, while they are also non-harming (ahimsa, the first yama).   

I’ll rephrase it.  Maybe your mother told you this, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  Even if your negative reaction is true, don’t say it if it is hurtful.  Or find a way to say it that can be helpful, even contributing to an improvement in the situation or the relationship. 

Yes, this is a big deal.  It means you’re thinking before you speak, and you’re assessing the value of the words you’re about to use.  You’re starting to live more consciously.  It’s a process and you’ve decided to work on it. 

Not only will it improve your life and relationships, it will improve your internal environment.  That’s the most important result. 

2. A more powerful option is to pour your mental energy into mantra. First you have to get a mantra from an authorized teacher. Getting a mantra from a book or website is like eating a picture of lasagna. You won’t get filled up that way.

But when you get an enlivened mantra, something happens on a whole different level. I know because it happened to me and because I see it happening for people every time I teach. The enlivened mantra dials up your level of Consciousness inside.

It’s like you’ve got your hand on a rheostat, a light switch that lets you dim and brighten the lights. Except it is happening inside.

When you repeat your mantra, the light of your own Beingness gets brighter inside. Now your mind functions in a whole new way. Compassion and generosity arise from within, as well as the desire to help others. You’re on your way to living an illuminated life.

My Shaktipat Retreat

By Madelyn (Maanasaa) Jablon 

There were two reasons why I hesitated to sign up for the New Year’s Shaktipat Retreat.  First, I was feeling “out of practice.”  I had attended the autumn Shaktipat for many years.  When the pandemic upset this routine, I felt unanchored.  

Second, I wondered if it was necessary to receive Shaktipat more than once.  I knew that Shaktipat initiated the awakening of Kundalini.  If she was awakened at my first Shaktipat retreat, did she need to be awakened again?  Had life’s experiences hit the snooze button?  The New Year’s Retreat provided answers. 

Although I have a daily practice, I am curious when other yogis describe their Shaktipat experiences.  They speak of inner lights, spine-tingling energy and love unrivaled.  I hoped to have these experiences and prepared for the retreat with a week of intensive practices — meditation, asana and Ujjayi.  

When Gurudevi, giving Shaktipat by touch, hovers near me, my feverish repetition of mantra crescendos.  I pray, “please let me feel SOMETHING!”  The moment arrives.  Gurudevi places her hand on my forehead.  Nothing. 

In our sharing session, Swami Samvidaananda’s voice echoed off the walls of my bottomless hole of despair.  “We have time for one more yogi to describe their Shaktipat experience.  Maanasaa, please come up.”

I said, “I experienced the undulating rhythmic vibrations of the universe”.  

This time, I lost my old skepticism about Shaktipat.  I gained the ability to hear the percussion band of the universe: da-dum-da-dum; da-dum-da-dum.  

Gurudevi says it is always resounding.

1000-Fold Return on Investment 

By Karen (Kumuda) Schaub 

Interviewed by Agnes (Aikyaa) Hetherington 

Winter of 2022 was a challenging time for me.  My stress level was through the roof.  I was a first-year public school teacher, commuting more than two hours daily.  In icy conditions, I nearly fell three times, which strained my already “crunchy” left hip. 

In March I had a more serious fall.  I went headfirst down the steps outside my condo.  I had very intense and painful bruising on my shins and knees.  It also aggravated my hip pain. 

In acute pain, I went to school as usual the next day.  After a week of homeopathy, herbs and acupuncture, I realized more help was needed.  My old hip problem had already impaired my ability to bend forward.  Now my knees were stiff and swollen. 

I worried about regaining my mobility.  I was scared about the amount of pain and concerned about blood clots with the intense bruising.  So I began weekly Embodyment® therapy sessions with my Svaroopa® yoga teacher, Kris Curran. 

The weekly sessions helped start my healing process.  Most of the swelling and bruising subsided over the next three months.  Attending a retreat at Lokananda in July however, I had to use the stairlift to get to the second floor.  I was not yet back to normal movement. 

I remembered Kris had mentioned Overlap Healing.  This Embodyment® modality “overlaps” sessions to allow for staying open and deep healing.  It was a large commitment of time and money, but I decided to make that commitment. 

For three weeks in August, I immersed in nine Overlap Embodyment® sessions.  The healing was profound and so was the opening in my body.  It was a miracle.  My pain and mobility issues diminished by 95 percent! 

I marvel at being able to walk my dog outside and not be in pain now.  Equally important was the effect on my mind.  Embodyment® allowed me to turn off my mind and settle in.  It stopped all that fear process — nipped it in the bud! 

I will do it again, on summer break from teaching, no questions asked.  It’s a big commitment, but the return on investment is one thousand-fold! 

Yoga Healing Retreats Work Miracles!

By Swami Praj~nananda

Doing more yoga works. I see it every time we offer a Yoga Healing Retreat. As a therapist, I love to support students in these retreats. Everyone’s process is different, but the profound changes in your body, mind and heart are guaranteed.

Each day you receive a yoga therapy session, a vichara session and a group yoga class. You hear a discourse on Consciousness. You chant and mediate, then meditate some more. You are filled up from the inside! And it works every time. 

Yet I noticed the retreat this past January raised the healing bar even higher. This is because Gurudevi updated the format by adding an extra day. You may think, “Oh, what can one extra day do? A lot!”

Now you get another day of immersive practices, each day building on the last. And what’s more, you get a newly established Q&A session with Gurudevi. The Q&A is expertly positioned the second-to-last day. With days of healing behind you, your pump is primed for a breakthrough. You’ve gone as far as you could on your own, and you need an extra push. You need a Guru boost!

In the Q&A session, Gurudevi meets you where you’re at. She provides the teachings, presence and support to move you to the next level. I saw this happen with each and every student. Truly incredible. Yet, not surprising. This stuff really works!

Carolyn (Karuna) Beaver shares:

Swami Prajnananda is right. That extra day was more than a day. It had the effect of integrating and consolidating all the deep practices I’d done. I was more prepared to take these new openings home with me. Gurudevi’s generous responses during our Q&A opened new possibilities and helped me choose my next steps.

Since returning home I’ve maintained the physical openings by doing the customized yoga set given to me. I’ve added vichara sessions to my other regular practices. It keeps my mind moving in the right direction. I’m looking at my life with a new yogic lens. 

Celina (Chinmayi) Sochaczewska reports from Europe:

When I saw it in the SVA Calendar, I knew I needed this retreat. Living in France, knowing I’d finish every morning at 3 am local time was a bit scary. So I created a plan for preparing myself. A few days beforehand, I went to bed later each night. I did plenty of yoga. I even organized my provisions to avoid the need to shop during the retreat. My life over the six days was a total immersion. I was surprised that I did not need my daily fresh air outings.

In the online retreat, I experienced delicious inner joy and could not stop smiling. It was like a dream come true. Of course, the individual yoga and vichara sessions brought things to the surface (and they are still coming). Yet Gurudevi’s presence, chanting and meditation made the healing faster.

As a result, I have joined the online Meditation Club, and I’m loving it. My daily personal practice of prescribed poses enables me to sit through in my meditation nest without bodily discomforts. My meditation experience is much smoother and deeper. My heart is filled with gratitude to Gurudevi, Swami Shrutananda and Swami P. for their incredible support and guidance.

Lynn (Gurupremananda) Cattafi feels the changes continuing:

I was a little skeptical at first, but I signed up anyway. My feet have been in a lot of pain, and I knew I needed the personalized help. I received so much more than just pain relief. The Healing Retreat format is so powerful. I was deeply healed in body, mind and heart. The practices are brilliantly designed to reach you on all levels of your being.

I took the online, full immersion option. Doing the retreat from my own home felt very sacred; I was able to weave the healing into every part of my life, while being in my life. I can report that this retreat made me ready to receive a huge inner breakthrough that came a few days later. I am grateful for Gurudevi, and Swami Shrutananda and Swami Praj~nananda for their loving and expert guidance. My feet are doing much better too! The personalized pose set is reaching in exactly where it needs to, so the healing continues! 

Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast adds her update:

I returned home from the January Healing Retreat relieved of acid reflux and hip crease discomfort. The head of my left thigh bone slipped into its hip socket for the first time ever. My customized home pose set gives me continuing breakthroughs. More improvement than I could ever have imagined motivates my daily practice of challenging poses.

I feel my arms, legs and abs strengthening significantly day by day. In Meditation Club, which starts at 4:30 am my time, I sit in steady ease with an upright spine. Kriyas feel more deeply effective in clearing mental and emotional blockages. As I enter my 77th journey around the sun, I feel younger!

Making a Difference

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda 

When I became a swami, I was surprised to feel a startlingly powerful impulse arising within — I wanted to feed people. Having been kitchen-averse for decades, it was a shock to me that I actually enjoyed cooking for others. I soon realized it’s because of the sutra:

J~naanam annam — Shiva Sutras 2.9 / True knowledge is food.

It means that a seeker hungers to know the Truth of their own Beingness. One who knows and shares that knowing is truly feeding you. Pure knowledge is the only real nourishment, that which gives satisfaction.

I remember giving a discourse on sutras where one yogini cried all the way through. She never sobbed, but tears ran down her face the whole time, more than an hour. I paused a couple of times to check in with her, but she waved me off.  When finished, I asked her, “What are the tears?” She answered, “I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life to hear these words. I feel fed for the first time in my life.”

This is truly what I want to give, that which nourishes you at a level that mere foodstuffs cannot reach. But when you allow me to give you a meal or snack, I pump it full of Divine energy so it feeds you on both the physical and subtle levels. 

I live a dedicated life. A consecrated life. This is a sacred way of living, where every breath is holy. Every thought comes from God and is put into words or actions that serve God. That’s what a swami strives for, to be a light unto the world. That’s what everyone wants, even if they don’t yet admit it to themselves.  That’s why we love the children’s song, “This Little Light of Mine.”

The first step is to find your own light. Then you can shine into the world. Ah, but there’s a catch here…

Abundance of Benefits from YTT 3

By Kim (K.rtakarii) Lodge

Interviewed by Margie (Maitreyi) Wilsman

On arriving at Level 3 of my Yoga Teacher Training, I was aware that something was quite different. My mind was telling me that the Teacher Trainers were treating us differently. From the beginning, everyone noticed the more relaxed feeling. As a group, we conversed easily with Swami Shrutananda and Sahajananda.

We expressed how our experience of the training had changed. They helped us to understand that we ourselves had shifted. They explained our shift inside made our training experience different. That really stood out for me. It helped me to see how much I had grown and changed. Gurudevi says it’s from receiving Shaktipat in Level 2.

After completing YTT 3, I could bring so much more to my students. Level 3 includes a great set of poses. Students were very excited about the new poses. But even more important, from a steadier place inside I could bring myself to my students in a whole new way. That has made the deep and abiding difference in the thriving of my yoga business, even during pandemic restrictions.

Before each training, I convince myself I am not ready. I now recognize that small-s self voice in my head as fear. Over the years, I have learned to trust this recognition. I know that, even though I hear this little voice sometimes, I am enough. I am ready. I am completely taken care of.

I am endlessly grateful to Gurudevi for showing me the way forward. Guru’s Grace is that steady hand at my back guiding me on my path.

Yogic Nutrition with Gurudevi 

Online beginning March 29

What does a yogi eat?  To achieve health as well as pleasure and (most importantly) spiritual development, yogis feed themselves consciously.  

Drawing on yoga, Ayurveda and scientific nutritional guidelines, Gurudevi gives you easy ways to improve your nutritional profile.  

As these principles begin working for you, you’ll notice a change in your digestion, assimilation and elimination. 

Taste is also important, especially as it contributes to your nutrition as well as your quality of life.  Each class includes a tasting session with discussion.  Enrollment is limited, so everyone can participate in the discussions as well as get personalized support and recommendations from Gurudevi.


By Nirooshita Sethuram, Yogaratna 

I was born into a Hindu family in Sri Lanka.  Standing is a most important posture for our family, especially for cultural and religious events.  Often, we stand barefoot on the floor or on a mat.  It depends on what is required and the ceremony that we are attending.  And we must stand for hours at times! 

So, naturally, I thought I was very comfortable standing anywhere at any place.  This was until I found Svaroopa® yoga and learned how to stand.  That’s when Tadasana became my favorite pose.  Tadasana taught me how to stand with ease settling into my own Self deeply while standing. 

Most of us tighten our spine when we stand.  How long can you stand without tightening your spine?  In Svaroopa® yoga, I found the answer to this question.  Yes, in Tadasana I accomplished standing without tightening my spine for however long is needed. 

Tadasana also helped me develop the correct standing posture to stand in my daily life.  I learned to improve the way I use my legs and feet.  I learned how to lean into my bones.  Learning how to lean weight into bone.  Now I stand using my bones.  This strengthens my legs, because as you lean weight into a bone, it gets thicker and stronger.  When you hold yourself up with muscles, especially spinal muscles, you are not leaning into your bones.   

Standing in Tadasana allows my weight to lean through my leg bones, into the bones of my feet, and through my feet into the floor.  This activates my arches. In this way, leaning into my bones not only preserves and increases their strength.  This also gives me a feeling of being grounded.  It makes me able to apply that to everything else I do. 

I’ve also learned to distribute my weight evenly on both of my feet.  This helps my balance (physical, mental and emotional) as well as stamina.  In this way, I’m able to take yoga into the midst of my life. 

Oh! I must also mention getting taller and lighter by standing in Tadasana. When I carefully align myself, I truly experience Tadasana as the “standing version” of Shavasana.  The name says it all: Tadasana = Tat + asana = Pose of “That” (the Supreme Reality).  Standing in Tadasana and settling with ease gives me the experience of the Self!  I stand in the deeper dimensions of my own Beingness, which is who I really am. 

As always, I grateful to my Guru, Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.  We lovingly call her Gurudevi for giving us the practices and poses.  They reliably give us the experiences they describe.  How blessed am I to learn and experience these ancient methodologies by a modern living Guru such as Gurudevi Ji! 

Yoga Laughter

By Swami Nirmalananda 

The yoga of laughter is a pranayama, a breathing technique.  It works because it gets your breath moving, aerating deeply into your lungs as you get your laugh going.  Everyone thinks they feel better because they mimicked being happy, but it really works because you’re breathing deeply.  Better yet, your breath emphasizes the pause after each exhale breath.

This practice works best in a group.  In the beginning, you force a laugh, maybe a “ha-ha” or a little titter.  Then you do it again.  Hearing others also make these somewhat phony laughs, it’s so silly that it actually makes you want to laugh.  Soon your laugh is not forced.

The yogic science of breath is so profound!  Your stairstep exhalation has a delightful effect on your mind, for each time your breath stops, your mind stops.  This is the real secret to pranayama – using the quiet spaces in between breaths to quiet your mind.

Tasmin sati “svaasa-pra”svaasayor gati-viccheda.h praa.naayaama.h. 

– Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 2.49

By sitting in stillness, pranayama naturally follows, which is the cessation of breath movement.

This tells the secret of using breath to master your mind – that your mind becomes still because you’re sitting quietly and your breath settles.  This happens naturally when you’re sitting in your garden or, for me, watching the ocean.  I love to sit and watch the waves.  

The wave forms from underneath, the water pushing upward from the ocean floor.  The wave crests and then tips over and crashes down.  It’s mesmerizing for your mind.

Then you see the wave wash up the sandy shore.  At the top, it stops.  It becomes motionless for a moment. That’s the best!  The moment of stillness, an moment of eternity. Then the wave glides back down the slope to merge into the sea again.  

Your breath does the same thing. You don’t have to force it because it happens with every breath, whether you’re paying attention or not.  Your breath comes in and then, for a brief moment, it stops in an internal pause.  Then your breath goes out and again pauses briefly.  The inner pause is called antara kumbhaka; the outer is bahya kumbhaka.  These pauses are already there.  They are happening right now.

When you sit for a while, your body eases into stillness.  So does your breath.  Your natural pause naturally lengthens.  Your mind now settles into stillness.  In meditation, it happens too —  usually easier and for longer pauses.

When your body needs breath, it moves another breath spontaneously.  And your mind starts up again.  Yogis do pranayama, breathing practices so they can build up pranic reserves to make it easy to linger in the pause longer.  It is an entry point into the blissful Beingness that is hidden in the deeper dimensions of your own being.

Once you dive deeper within, your breath can move without disturbing your mind.  This is how your meditation can lengthen.  This is how a Meditation Master lives, based in the deeper dimensionality within, even while they use their mind to participate in the world.

So when you do yoga laughter, you’re getting little bits of this.  With each “ha,” your breath stops momentarily, giving you a glimpse of the doorway inside.  Then you “ha” again.  Lots of little peeks add up to a sense of what is hidden within.  It’s like watching a train go by, you can see what’s on the other side in the little peeks between the moving cars.  And when the train is gone, you can really see what’s there.

With yoga laughter, you get happy.  You’re happy because you got a glimpse of the deeper dimensions of your own being.  With pranayama and meditation, you get to enter into those deeper dimensions.  It is mystical, not merely happy. 

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

I loved this song when I was growing up, for I wanted to fly. I wanted to fly free, like the bluebirds in the song:

If happy little bluebirds fly

Beyond the rainbow

Why, oh, why can’t I?

My multiple attempts to get beyond the rainbow led me to living with a Guru in India.  It worked out really well, for he gave me yogic freedom.  It is freedom without escapism. It is both “freedom from” and “freedom to.”

“Freedom from” is freedom from pain, freedom from fear and freedom from the self-doubt that paralyzes you.  “Freedom to” is the freedom to love, to create and to give with generosity.  This yogic freedom comes from its inner source, described powerfully in a yogic text: 

Caitanyam-aatmaa — Shiva Sutras 1.1

Your own Self is Consciousness-Itself, 

imbued with freedom of knowledge and action

When you describe yourself by age and gender, by profession or relationship status – you’re describing what you do, not who you are.  These change, but you are still you.  Your size and shape, along with the color of your hair or skin are simply physical characteristics.  Your body changes over time, while your essence remains unchanged.

Peggy came to me in her 80s, wanting yoga therapy to make her able to walk freely again. She didn’t like using her cane.  It took about 5 sessions for her to throw away her cane.  Then she confessed she wanted more.  She didn’t want merely to walk.  She wanted to dance, to sprint and to turn cartwheels like she did as a kid.

She looked straight at me with her startling blue eyes and said, “Inside, I’m still 5 years old.”  It was true.  I could see the timelessness of her innermost being shining from inside.  It was just her body that was old, not her being.

Your being is that same Beingness that she showed me. My being is that same Beingness as well, for there is only One Beingness.  That One is being all, including you and including me.  When you feel your own essence, your own Beingness filling you from within, you know something that you always wanted to know.  You know your own Self.  And once you have your own Self, you are free.

In such freedom, nothing and no one can bind you. You can stay or go, it’s simply a choice.  Most peoples’ choices are made out of fear or clinging, trying to avoid something or trying to get something.  Without fear or clinging, how do you choose?

Your choice comes from freedom that is imbued with knowledge and action.  I call it intelligence, that you can use your mind to assess the probable outcomes of different options, then choose one wisely.  You can even choose to do nothing.  Yet your own deep sense of Self arises within, bring creative options as well as the sheer joy of sharing, moving you into giving generously.

One who knows Self is one who cares and shares. This type of enlightenment is engaged, contributing to the world, but from a place of Knowingness and Beingness. Best of all is the bliss…