Monthly Archives: July 2014

YTT Level 4 – Moving into New Directions on All Levels by Matrika (Marlene) Gast as told by Kris Curran

Kris Curran

Kris Curran

Kris Curran uses one word to describe Level 4: “Amazing!” She graduated from YTT Level 4 last spring, and says, “It was perfectly timed for me. It plugged me right into positive energy and into Grace.” As a cardiac nurse in a metropolitan Boston hospital, Kris has a potentially stressful job, but says, “I have more awareness of my reactions to stress and it’s becoming easier to change those reactions. I’m also ready to explore new opportunities that I might not even have been ready for.” One new opportunity is the invitation from her department to develop a Svaroopa® yoga class for cardiac patients in rehab after treatment, so Kris is planning a Magic Four class for them.”

Even after practicing Svaroopa® yoga for seven years, Kris says that Level 4 made her able to feel Level 4 made her able to feel sensation and get movement in her body that she’d never had before. “I was having a hard time with the backbends, and then I just got the alignment, especially in my lower spine. But the first awareness was that I could identify that these poses were getting me into a lot of my fear — not just of the poses but fear connected to deeper issues. Perhaps that’s why I had never wanted to do the YTT Level 2 backbends.”

In fact, Kris says she taught Vidalasana 2 only one time, and only to satisfy the DTS requirement for teaching the lesson plan that featured it. But now Kris joyfully announces, “I LOVE Prana Pump” (a vinyasa/sequence of movements coordinated with breath). She explains, “I’d never done it before Level 4, and when I saw it demonstrated I thought, ‘There’s no way I can do that. I hate Vidalasana 2. and I’m not going to like this either!’ But it turns out to be exactly the practice I need to physically clear out stuff going on in my personal life. Level 4 is worth it just for the Prana Pump!” Kris adds, “Now I actually like doing Vidalasana 2, I feel strong doing it, and I feel that I can teach it because I understand it in my body.”

Kris’s experience of Ardha Padma Paschimottanasana (Half-Lotus Stretch of the West Side of the Body) continues to amaze her. Her training partner was giving Kris the spinal walk-up adjustment, and Kris noticed that it felt as though a 10-pound bowling ball was weighing her head and neck down. Overhearing the partner pair’s conversation, Teacher Trainer Devi McKenty told Kris, “You’re feeling the tension there that you’ve been walking around with. You couldn’t feel it until now, because you’d become numb in the areas that are very tight.” “Suddenly,” Kris recalls, “I could feel it all in the back of my neck. Then all the vertebrae between my shoulders and up my neck released and moved independently.”

Connection with other teachers also opened her eyes to the flow of Grace, says Kris. For previous trainings, Kris had stayed in private homes, so at first she was not eager to be sharing a room at The Desmond. But she found herself paired with a roommate so compatible that they have become close friends. Kris says that every morning before training, she and her roommate would practice Prana Pump together, which led to her arms getting stronger, doing it better and better, and her confidence increasing.

And Kris’s transformation through backbends has continued. “After Level 4, I went into Pigeon Backbend and could feel the lengthening in my spine, and that led me to making connections in my life as well as my body. During the training, I looked in the mirror one morning saw that my swayback is gone! I really got it that in backbends for the lower spine it’s the lengthening of the front of the thigh, the sacrum and the waist — those are the physical changes that open you to the subtle changes in yourself, in your life. I have more confidence in my own teaching now, both in how to teach overall and how to go about teaching these new, challenging poses to my students.”

“The graduation ceremony,” says Kris, “was very special. I felt a great sense of accomplishment. I didn’t even feel like that when I graduated from college. Completing Svaroopa® Yoga Teacher Training has been a different kind of accomplishment. Physically, emotionally and spiritually, I was brought to new and exciting places by Level 4, reminding me of more layers to peel back, in mind, body, emotions. Level 4 was wondrous: So deep and so much more enjoyable, with a more relaxed atmosphere than any previous training. Most of all, Level 4 taught me just to surrender to God, just trust God. It’s the Grace that is so amazing, and how much Grace is in this yoga. I’m so grateful for the experience!”

Click here to learn more about YTT Levels 3 & 4 or contact our Enrollment Advisors at 610-806-2119 or


Taking Your Yoga Practice with You on Vacation by Yogeshwari (Lissa) Fountain

Yogeshwari (Lissa) Fountain

Yogeshwari (Lissa) Fountain

One of the very first things I discovered after completing Teacher Training and committing myself to Svaroopa® yoga full time, was that every day felt like a vacation because my practices gave me an “internal getaway.”  My practices became an oasis in the middle of life’s daily challenges. I didn’t need to get away anywhere to feel better, or more peaceful, because yoga was doing that for me, and it was all happening on the inside. Still, vacations are a treat: a change of scene, a break from our routines, and a chance to have extra downtime with our loved ones.  For me this doesn’t mean I take a break from my yogic practices, because they help to support my inner state, and provide a continuity of Self within the changing landscape of a vacation.

Whenever I go away, I know my practices may be shorter than usual, so I try plan for that, as I know that my time with family and friends IS the yoga practice I am blessed to be enjoying. And still, I want to take care of myself, so I come prepared with my supplies: my travel pouch with timer, iPod, ear-buds, battery operated candle, puja photos of the Gurus, and a travel size Guru Gita. Then there is my shawl, and two blocks. If I am driving, I bring some blankets, of course. I know every hotel has an easy chair and pillows for meditation, and with blocks and a wall and chair, I can make any asana practice happen! Setting up my “yoga space” goes right along with unpacking.

My vacation yoga might be as simple as the “20/20/20” formula: morning Ujjyai Pranayama, meditation, and asana (sometime during the day). But usually I can fit in a full meditation period (20 minutes Ujjayi and 40 minutes meditation).  I’ve learned that if I ignore my body at the expense of keeping up with everyone else’s plans, I’ll feel it.  So I’ll often do three deeper poses (with variations),  such as Kurmasana, Pigeon with Dhanurasana leg, and JP.  Even if it’s a quick Magic Four, even if it’s just a Lunge, don’t neglect your body

And we must take care of our minds. Quiet mind is a portable yogic state that comes along with you on vacation. I repeat mantra silently, practicing japa. The Self never leaves you, because it is You, and everyone else. The good news is that if you have an established daily yoga practice, you have plenty of Shakti (energy) reserves to carry you through on the days when you can’t fit in much practice. In this way, vacations become a time to bring the whole of you into your life, in new and exciting ways.

Taking My Yoga & Meditation Practice on Vacation By Matrika (Marlene) Gast

Marlene Gast

Marlene Gast

In June, I took time off from running my Svaroopa® yoga studio and teaching to complete a manuscript that I’ve been working on for a decade. It got started the same summer that I landed on the Svaroopa® yoga and meditation path at Core Opening with Swamiji. Now, more interested in writing about experiences in Svaroopa® yoga and meditation, I feel the weight of that unfinished writing project; it’s like a bag full of yarn and the half-knitted sweater. If it were just a bag of yarn, I could donate it to a thrift store for a real knitter to complete. But the yarn is in my own body and mind, so I need to finish the writing to move forward more freely.

So for my five-day vacation on a Wyoming ranch with my writing group, I packed my meditation asana and shawl, two foam yoga blocks and one Triple Alert Timer. They turned out to be essential items in so many ways. My bunkhouse room was tiny with two cot-size beds and a sink. I chose one bed for sleeping and the other as a “meditation platform,” where I stacked bed pillows for a Sukhasana seat against one wall. In the space between the twin beds, the bedside table held the meditation card with photos of Swamiji and Swami Muktananda, and the floor in front provided just enough room for my blocks and the practice of Lunge.

Every morning this set-up gave me a sweetly soothing foundation for bed yoga followed by meditation.  That start to each day served as a grounding, opening, integrating retreat within my vacation. Besides the task of trying to finish a writing project, joining my writing group for these five days was like being in a family reunion — lots of shared history, affection and, well, “other stuff.”  At meals, japa was a special blessing as I listened to streams of conversation about ways to eat, ways to sleep, reasons to write, multitudes of approaches for dissolving writer’s block etc. etc. At times I was reminded of the biblical Tower of Babel, as though everyone at the table held forth in a different language. Om Namah Shivaya repeated silently, with sweet pauses in between the repetitions of mantra, kept me in sight of the One Reality within, a beautiful place to rest in silence, even while a chorus of competing recommendations for solving a multitude of personal problems filled my ears. When I allowed myself to settle into Self, it was even possible to respond cheerfully to “stuff” that did get close to pushing my various buttons. Yes, I was grateful to have packed my props, and continued my practices throughout vacation. The only buttons that got pushed were the buttons on my trusty timer.

During quiet hours in my little room with my notebooks, I made headway on my project, and took breaks on my “practice bed” for Ujjayi Pranayama, pillows under my knees.  I didn’t finish the manuscript, but I made respectable headway. Soon it will be done, I believe.  In the meantime, vacationing with this writing in the cradle of my Svaroopa® yoga and meditation practices has given me a new perspective on this project. I’m looking at the work to complete it as tapas — clearing up a “moldy oldie” — so there’s less baggage on the road ahead.

Visiting Gurudev Siddha Peeth by SheynaPurna Peace

India_ Sheynapurna 2

February 2013, we first glimpsed this famed and fabled Ashram following our 15-hour flight from Newark to Mumbai, then a grueling nearly 3-hour bus ride through Mumbai rush hour, and finally onto the bumpy dusty road into Ganeshpuri, where we could see the Ashram’s high barbed-wire topped walls, stretching on seemingly forever. The grounds are very large and very private.

The mainstay of Ganeshpuri is Bhagavan Nityananda’s glorious MahaSamadhi Shrine, open and welcoming.  Gurudev Siddha Peeth sits at the other end of the village; the entrance doors are closed and guards patrol the front area. I found this daunting and at odds with my expectations.  The images I’ve seen of this Ashram are from Baba Muktananda’s early days – doors open wide and welcoming and dozens of people wandering in and out.  The high walls and locked gates were not included in my vision.

Swami Nirmalananda explained to us that, while the majority of visitors to Nityananada’s temple are Indians, Gurudev Siddha Peeth has long been a destination point for many visitors from multiple countries.  With the very real threat of terrorism towards Westerners, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda developed safety measures to protect the Ashram residents and visitors.

Helpful hints:  The glorious bookstore across the road is open throughout the week.  Visitors to the Ashram itself, allowed only on weekends, must sign in and check all bags with security across the way near the bookstore complex.  If you visit in the wee morning weekend hours, don’t carry much besides your asana, shawl and chant book, or be prepared to check all other items with the guards.  They will take excellent care of your personal belongings, but for the morning Guru Gita chant, you will find it easier to leave your belongs ‘at home.’

Once you’ve signed in, you’ll be directed to the hall for the chant.  There you will see that men are on one side and women on the other.  You choose whether to sit close to the leading chanters on the floor, or in a folding chair a bit further back.  Either way, the sounds of the chanting voices, the opening mantras and Guru Gita sung by hundreds of devotees will open your heart.

When the chanting ends, all visitors are escorted out of the Ashram – yet not rushed.  You’ll be able to return in the afternoon to visit Muktananda’s MahaSamadhi Shrine, where you may walk the perimeter of the room or sit on the marble floor where so many devotees steep in meditation.

Gurudev Siddha Peeth challenged me to look at my resistances and expectations.  As the Guru is the mirror showing not only where I am but who I am, the Ashram is as well.  It wasn’t until several months after returning home that I was able to see I had been caught up in my mind – not what is, but what I wanted. I realized that the guards were doing their job to protect everyone in the Ashram, myself included. The residents are doing their sadhana and their lives aren’t meant to be on display to hundreds of visitors. I recognize that Gurudev Siddha Peeth opened me up to see myself more clearly, helping me grow into recognition of my Self.  When I return, it will be with love, wonder and excitement – to spend time with my Guru’s Guru – what could be sweeter?


Taglines (Installment #5)

Svaroopa® Yoga: Sutra Based Yoga

flowerSvaroopa® yoga is based in the principles of Consciousness expounded in the sutras. Athletic yoga styles, the sages explain, are preparation for an eventual inner awakening, but Svaroopa® yoga gives you the inner awakening, because it is saturated by the river of ever-flowing Grace.

Svaroopa® Yoga: The Best Comes First

flower4Yoga’s promise is that you will experience the Bliss of your own Beingness. Svaroopa® yoga delivers on that promise from your very first class, creating an inner opening that gives you your own Self: from the first, in the middle, to the last, and all at the same time.

Svaroopa® Yoga: Yoga for Seekers

flower3Svaroopa® yoga is for those who are seeking something that they cannot name. They don’t know exactly what it is they’re looking for. Here is where you begin the path to finding it, the path to your own Divine Self, the path of Grace.

Svaroopa® Yoga: Opening the Doorway Within

flower2Svaroopa® yoga jump-starts your inner evolution, leading to the discovery of who you really are. Grace begins the process, supports you along the way and completes your life’s purpose – the inner revelation of your own Svaroopa, your own Divine Beingness, your Self.

Svaroopa® Yoga: The Yoga of Grace

flower5Others talk about Kundalini; Svaroopa® yoga delivers. Our poses are based in Grace, reliably providing the inner awakening that puts you on course for the highest purpose of human life. No more guessing, no more hoping, no more despair. You can live in the knowing of your own Divinity.

Svaroopa® Yoga: Alignment with Grace

Tail to top, we create the inner opening, inviting Grace to reveal your Divine Self. Svaroopa® yoga gives you the inner alignment you’ve craved all your life, the synchronizing of your individuality with your inherent Divinity.

Svaroopa® Yoga: Melting the Layers

Svaroopa® yoga is going to make you shine. As soon as you decompress your spine, the Grace melts your carefully constructed shell and opens up profound inner experiences. Melt in the glow of consciousness, which is the flow of Grace,                      through Svaroopa® yoga.

Guru Purnima – the Guru’s full moon by Swami Nirmalananda

full moon en-wikipedia-orgVedic sages dedicated the full moon each month to a different Divinity, reserving the fullest of every year’s full moons for the Guru.  Every July the moon is closest to the earth, so the full moon is the brightest, the biggest and the most beautiful of all!  Not only does this speak to the Guru’s state as the culmination of human potential, but the moon’s sweet light shows the way that Grace shines through the dark.

There’s something special about moonlight.  Its silvery light is so soft, making everything it touches glow as though it’s shining with its own light.  Yogic texts talk about the “nectarean light of the moon.”  The moon’s light is reflected light, meaning it works the same way your mind works.  You only think that your mind functions under its own power; yoga describes that your mind shines with the light of consciousness, which is reflected from its source within yourself.  The Self loans its light and power to your mind.  This is why you love the full moon — it’s the way your mind will work when it’s been yogified.

Yet July’s full moon is even more special, for this is the night that the Grace flows most fully.  Grace is the Divine power of Revelation, revealing your own svaroopa to yourself.  When you are bathed in the flow of Grace, you know your own Self even without having done all the deep practices that yoga prescribes.  This is the value of the Guru, who serves humanity by shining the light of consciousness within.  This means the Guru doesn’t shine the light into your eyes from an outer source, but brings up your own inner light for you to experience within.

This weekend Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram is celebrating Guru Purnima on the night of the full moon, Saturday July 12 at 7:30 pm at the Desmond Hotel, Malvern PA.  Our free satsang is in the middle of a weekend retreat, part of our year-long “I Am Shiva” course, so you’ll come in to a room and a group who have already warmed it up for you!

If you’re celebrating at home, you’ve got choices.  The fullest point of the full moon happens at 6:45 am (Eastern Time), so you could chant “Srii Guru Gita at that time (just as we will be doing in the retreat).  Or you could wait until evening and go take a moonbath — sit in the moon’s glow while doing japa.  Or put some flowers and a candle on a table with your Guru’s photo and give some time to contemplation, reading His or Her teachings, listening to an audio or chant and meditating.  You decide!  Anything you do on Guru Purnima will give you the fruits 1,000 times over!

Blessings on Guru Purnima,
Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

YTT 1 by Brindi Blessing



As a Foundations Grad, I decided to go on to YTT Level 1 because I’ve become enamored of Svaroopa® yoga. Through this yoga, I have found healing for physical concerns plus effortless freedom in emotional issues. So taking Foundations made sense, because I’m incapable of holding back from sharing things that I love. Teaching after Foundations was a rewarding beginning. The yoga works.

Yet I kept feeling that I needed more to offer my students, so desiring more Svaroopa® yoga teacher training made perfect sense. That desire coincided with the profound feeling of wanting more of the More. Curiosity kept driving me to check the teaching schedules until one day something clicked inside me. I was committed to making the training happen. That step put me on an emotional and mental rollercoaster — registering, arranging my work and family life to leave, packing obsessively, booking flights, boarding the airport shuttle and finally walking into the Desmond conference center to check in. Suddenly, there was a switch to a kind of yoga-theme-park ride.

In YTT 1, the depth of asana training pulled, like gravity, at my mind and body. Philosophy and meditation moved me in what seemed to be several directions at once inside myself, pushing me to find a new equilibrium of being in Self. I think, as it was for Dr. Seuss’s Grinch, my heart grew three sizes one day. With internal healing, my Svaroopa® yoga experience continued as I sank into myself, progressing to a wider, fuller Me. Emotional freedoms blossomed, and I discovered they don’t have to grow out of old roots. Wisdom was shared freely.

Choosing to move further into the flow of Grace by stepping on the training path expanded Me more than I could have ever predicted. I know I have come away from this immersion training with the ability to teach more, along with a better understanding of how to press into my own practice effectively.

And, guess what? While still digesting and assimilating YTT 1, I am anticipating YTT 2 with excitement as well as trepidation. Gaining knowledge is amazing, but experiencing depths of Self is SO MUCH MORE!

YTT Level 4 Reflections by Matrika (Marlene) Gast

Level 4 grads 2

May 2014 Level 4 Grads

Level 4 is unique — a culmination of 50 days (700 hours) of immersion training in the protocols of teaching this yoga. Just four years ago, my Level 4 propelled me to a whole series of “firsts” — taking Meditation Teacher Training, travelling to India with Swami Nirmalananda and then opening my own studio after returning. Yes, YTT 4 is both a finale and a commencement of even greater things to come! There is always more and MORE…

Ruth Brown CSYT, teaching in Columbus GA, likened YTT 4 to Yoga Mudra, saying that it is “the big seal at the end of this 50 days of training. Without forcing or straining, YTT 4 was sealing our practice into every cell of our body. Beginning with Foundations, we made our way through the gauntlet of classes and DTS. We have experienced every emotion possible as we followed the map to and through YTT 4. With joy, fear, doubt and pride and even with gracefulness to clumsiness we have navigated the course set out to us…. Now that we are properly sealed to prevent leakage, we go out into the world!”

Completing YTT 4 last May, Kathy Gardner in NC says, “YTT Level 4 brought everything I learned in earlier levels together, and made sense of all my previous trainings. Connections are clear through the continuum of trainings from Foundations on. It felt as though all other poses and trainings made us ready to experience the Classical Poses, Vinyasa sequences, and Twists & Seated poses of Level 4. It was clear to me that Swami Nirmalananda has the enlightenment to create the Svaroopa® yoga pose protocols and the teacher training to create the unfolding abilities in our bodies to experience the Level 4 poses. I recognized the necessity of significant lower spinal release, the ultimate wonderful preparation, as well as the abdominals work to move into those beautiful Level 4 poses.

“The day we had our graduation I felt surprise; I never thought I’d get that far. Yet the training to become a full-fledged Certified Svaroopa® Yoga Teacher just kept moving forward. Right now I’m in good place, with classes going well and students I love. It’s a soft place, and I’m even enjoying DTS! Sending in my plans for the Classical Theme, I felt a sense of confidence, as though I got it! Of course, they may need fix-ups. But unlike in DTS Level 2 creating these plans did not tighten my tailbone! My favorite pose now is Trikonasana, which is fun to include in my daily practice a couple of times per week. A stiff knee has always given me trouble. But in this pose the changes going on in my knee are soft and pleasant. I wonder, where is this change going to take me? In fact, even though I’m in a beautiful, soft place right now, what will be my unfolding possibilities for spreading Svaroopa® yoga into the world?”

Now all properly sealed, as Ruth says, our YTT Level 4 grads go forth to spread Svaroopa® yoga with our deep, heartfelt congratulations for all that they have achieved and contributed already — and for all that they will continue to experience and to offer. May the bliss that illuminated their faces on graduation day continue to open their students, loved ones and everyone they will touch to bliss and the experience of their own Divinity.

India’s Call by Priya Kenney


Priya Kenney in India

India had a pull on me way before I ever went there. Once I went, the fascination just increased. India is so vibrant, with so much life pulsing everywhere and an intoxicating spirituality deeply integrated into the culture. I noticed something decidedly different in the eyes of her people that I don’t see in the eyes of Westerners. I didn’t know what it was, but I wanted to keep seeing it.

After two amazing trips there, a long period passed. I had a persistent longing to go back. It seemed crazy to say so, but I missed India with an ache. It felt like home to me in ways I couldn’t describe. This was all before discovering Svaroopa® yoga. When I learned that Svaroopa® yoga was deeply rooted in India, it came as no surprise.

Several years ago, I had a mysterious and debilitating illness. After doctoring with nearly every form of traditional and alternative health care, I consulted a Vedic astrologer. He confirmed that I was going through a very difficult passage and recommended that I donate a cow. Swamiji suggested instead that I ask Prasad, a priest at the Nityananda temple in Ganeshpuri, to do a fire ceremony on my behalf. It took several phone conversations over a period of weeks to make arrangements for what was recommended — a three-day fire ceremony to be held at a place called Fire Mountain Ashram. When the day arrived, I called Prasad at a pre-arranged time and listened to the chanting of the priests across the continents and oceans. It was electrifying. And I spoke to the man and woman that ran the Ashram and who were standing in for me and my husband during the ceremony. Little did I know then that I would be staying at Fire Mountain Ashram and enjoying meals with Jeanetta and Dahvee a few years later on the India 2013 trip. During the phone conversations with Prasad, he told me several times that I should come to Ganeshpuri. It felt like a personal invitation, and my longing to go increased in intensity.

When the India 2013 trip was announced, I knew that I had to go. There were layers of longing. It wasn’t only the persistent pull of India and that connection I established a few years earlier with Prasad. The real heart of it was the incredibly amazing opportunity to go with Swami Nirmalananda to the sacred place where she, her Guru and her Guru’s Guru lived, served and carried the lineage forward. There were all those stories Swamiji tells us about sitting with her Baba in his Ashram, serving him for years and hearing the teachings at his feet. On top of that, I had read Muktananda’s Play of Consciousness, and his many stories about Nityananda and Ganeshpuri and serving his Guru. To be able to go to those places with Swamiji, to chant the Guru Gita with her in Ganeshpuri and to sit at her feet and hear the teachings — it was indescribably compelling.

The trip exceeded all hopes and expectations. Of course there were things to sort out beforehand with my husband and two teenage boys, but I mostly remember the trip coming together with great ease. Though I was a lot stronger, one of my concerns was the long flight. The remedy was simple. I put every single one of Swamiji’s chanting CD’s on our iPad and listened to the Guru Gita and various chants the whole way over and back, sometimes falling asleep to a chant. Swamiji’s voice and the chanting was a river of Grace carrying me through.

Click here to register or learn more about India 2015: Ganeshpuri’s Grace.

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