Monthly Archives: October 2017

Ayurvedic Lifestyle for Fall & Winter

binduBy Bindu Shortt

Right now, in the northern regions of the northern hemisphere, leaves are falling, fields going dormant, temperatures dropping, and animals storing up food or flying south. Nature is preparing for the coming winter. Fall, a time of transition, has a certain quiet. cold, windy dayAyurvedically we are moving into vata season. Vata means “wind.” It is the element of nature that brings the qualities of cold, light, dry, rough and irregular. Vata comprises the energies of air and of the ether (space). Thus, vata can bring a sense of void.

Whatever seasonal qualities are outside you, those same qualities will accumulate inside you during that season. This may lead to health imbalances. In vata season they can show up as colds, influenza, constipation, dry skin, or sleep disturbances.  For each season, Ayurveda recommends routines to help you not accumulate too much of its seasonal energies. Working on the principle that the opposite is balancing, Ayurveda offers lifestyle suggestions to keep you well through fall and winter. Much of this may be fairly obvious or automatic for you. This is because your Ayurvedic inner wisdom is always informing you of how to stay well!

autumnFirst, notice the changes in nature where you live. When it is cold, dry and windy, give yourself warmth, oiliness and stability. It is natural to eat more winter squashes, and root veggies such as beets and carrots and parsnips. All of these build warmth in your body. Include them in your daily diet, rather than the melons and salads of summer, which cooled you.

Eat cooked foods. Hot grain cereals for breakfast are warming and grounding. Soups, stews or casseroles for lunch and dinner will help keep your immunity strong. Nuts and seeds have wonderful protein and fats, both of which will stabilize your blood sugar.

Pies are great desserts at this time of year. Pies with cooked fruits or even veggies warm you up (like pumpkin or squash pie). Favor the sweet, sour and salty tastes. Add more ghee and other fats and oils to your diet. Drink more warm liquids, such as teas.

You can make a wonderful vata supportive tea. Put a half teaspoon each of whole cumin, coriander and fennel seeds in a cup. You can put them right in or use a teaball. Pour boiled water over, and let it steep for a few minutes. If the seeds are floating, strain them. This tea is good for digestion, detoxing, immunity, calmness and clear thinking.

massage-oil-handsConsider adding oils on the outside of your body, by doing a daily oil massage before you shower or bathe. This practice, called abhyanga, will go a long way toward keeping you warm, soothing your nervous system, and moistening your skin. An oil massage also moves your lymph, for a detox. In vata season, sesame is the oil of choice for most people, as it has the most warming qualities. Searching online using “Ayurvedic self-massage video” yields more than a hundred hits! Click here for an example.

By making lifestyle changes into habits, you align yourself with the rhythms of the season. This will help you to enjoy the abundance and harmony of fall and winter. In addition to a vata-calming diet and oil massage, you can wear a light scarf to help hold your body warmth as well as a hat that covers your ears. And give yourself regular sleep. Go to bed by 10 pm and be up by 6 am.

Pain Relief — and So Much More

matrikaReported by Matrika Gast

Kamala Gross 1409 (2)“A new student came to class with so much pain in her hip that she could hardly manage stairs,” reports Kamala (Michelle) Gross, Certified Svaroopa® Yoga Teacher (CSYT) and Yoga Therapist.  “She was even was in pain while she slept.  Lying in Jathara Parivrttanasana (Rotated Stomach Pose) with her knees touching, one foot hung in the air due to the severe twist in her hips.  I supported it on a large blanket roll.  After a few classes, she began yoga therapy private sessions weekly.  Just two months later, her feet rested together in Rotated Stomach Pose due to the realignment in her spine and hips.  After a year of committed yoga practice and weekly sessions, she was climbing stairs nearly pain free, aware only of an occasional, minor hip ache.  Her whole body was more upright and comfortable.”

deb shapiro

“In just three sessions,” shares Deb Shapiro, CSYT and Therapist, “a new client with Parkinson’s disease is feeling relief from pain, and her Parkinson’s symptoms have calmed.  At her first session, she exhibited a lot of shaking as well as stiffness.  She was eager to learn, so I began by teaching her poses she can do at home.  I concluded her first session by leading her in Shavasana and Ujjayi Pranayama.  After she got up from Shavasana, she was not shaking nor was she as stiff.  When I asked her what she was aware of, she smiled.  She said, ‘I feel looser and calmer.  I am so glad I have found Svaroopa® yoga.’

“After two more sessions, she is doing her Svaroopa® yoga poses every other day, and Shavasana with Ujjayi breathing every day.  After her third session, she was steady, and walked out of the studio with more ease.  I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen next!”

Rebecca YacobiA student of Jyoti (Rebecca) Yacobi, CSYT took Svaroopa® yoga classes for two years, had several Embodyment® sessions and committed to a daily Magic 4 and Ujjayi home practice.  Jyoti reports that these approaches “significantly improved mobility in her lower spine.  The tightness and pain in her sacrum is gone.”

Last March, Jyoti completed the next level of yoga therapy training, ATT 262: Treating Pain, and was able to offer more.

Yoga Therapy Intensive

After this student’s second private session with the new treatment protocols, she stopped needing her orthotics.  “She was very excited about this, describing it as her feet ‘opening and touching the earth differently.’  During her private sessions, longtime episodes of nausea and vertigo eased.  After her sixth session, the nausea was virtually gone.

“Then, after several more months, a deeper miracle unfolded.”  In a session, she experienced an inner state that was “deeper” than she had ever experienced before.  Jyoti describes, “That state lasted for several days.  My student said she felt very peaceful, quiet and very deep.  Its profound impact was obvious.”

Click here for our directory of Svaroopa® yoga teachers and therapists.

Getting to Know My Self


By Janaki Murray

Looking at what is “lurking in the background” can be so revealing.  Whether delving into a fear, desire or aversion, I discover the motivating force and I experience many “aha!” moments.  Thus, I find working with the kleshas a highly rewarding practice, as described in our October contemplation from Swami Nirmalananda and Rukmini Abbruzzi.

five-kleshas-mindfulness-ingrid-sanchezFor example, I bought a new phone last week.  It was a desire (raga) fulfilled.  However, it turned out to be quite painful as it did not work in the way I expected.  It meant I had to deal with the service provider and the store I purchased the phone from.  Fear (abhinivesha) and aversion (dvesha) raised their heads, as I had to somehow get to grips with the technology.  This threatened my identity (asmitaa) as an intelligent, educated person.  Would I be smart enough to understand what was going on?  Would I be able to resolve the problem?  In other words, was I going to be “good enough?”

My mind was churning! Looking at what was “hidden underneath” allowed me to recognize the identity (at least for now).  I could relax and allow my mind to settle.  I was no longer lost in that identity.  I found I was even able to enjoy the challenge before me and learn something in the process.  I didn’t have to wrestle with myself.

When I become aware that I am lost in “need, greed and fear,” in that moment of contemplation I know who I am.  I am the Self.  It is like the light in the darkness — the lifting of the veil of utter despair.

I find it a blissful thought that Consciousness has become me for the pure joy of being me.  How many people in the world have that understanding!

img_20160205_210945-copyI also find it comforting to understand that it is not my fault, because avidyaa (the not-knowing) is the human condition; it is built in existential angst.  I cannot think my way out of it and I need help.  For this I have so many Svaroopa® yoga and meditation practices to choose from.  They support me in growing closer to vidya (the knowing of my own Self).  They address my spiritual amnesia.

Threading through all of this is the Grace that flows through this lineage, through Swamiji and her teachings, through me and to my students.  All this leads me lovingly towards a Divine destiny — and freedom from the kleshas.  Yippee!

Celebrating Diwali!

aanandi-annie-rossBy Aanandi Ross

Diwali reminds me of a time in childhood, when I stood on a very high hilltop at night, overlooking the dazzling spread of city lights below and felt ecstatic bliss.  After learning about Diwali, I understand more: the lights and the bliss, outside and inside.

Diwali is a festival of lights, signifying knowledge over ignorance and light over dark.  It is a very big holiday.  We can liken it to a combination of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and the Fourth of July, all in one.  Diwali is celebrated every year in autumn in the northern hemisphere, which is spring in the southern hemisphere.

1311 Diwali Lakshmi pujaThe celebration dates back to ancient India as a festival after the summer harvest.  It honors the sun as the cosmic giver of light and energy to all life.  Derived from the Sanskrit dipam “light, lamp” and oli “glow of light,” “diwali” comes from dipavali, which means “series of lights.” For some, the festival preparations and rituals extend over a five-day period.

The main festival night coincides with the darkest new moon night of the month between mid-October and mid-November, this year on October 19th.  We’ll look at it in three ways: as a cultural phenomenon; as a religious celebration, as a Hindu holiday; and as a spiritual opportunity, from a yogic perspective.

Culturally, Diwali is an official holiday in several countries.  The celebration has gradually increased in scope, becoming part of the general local culture.  It is one of the most popular and joyous festivals.  It can be an extravagant party-time, complete with shopping, new clothes, decorative lights, gift-giving, celebratory foods, fireworks and sparklers.

LakshmiAs a Hindu celebration, Diwali is a holy day.  Celebrations honor Lakshmi, the goddess of abundance at harvest time, who provides us with our stockpiles of food during the dormancy of nature, and who will bring forth spring’s flowering and fructification of nourishment.  She is thus the Goddess of wealth.  Hindus prepare by cleaning their homes and setting out lights — clay saucers of ghee with a wick, everywhere, outside and inside.  New clothes are worn, pujas are decorated with flowers, prayers are offered.  Sweets and dried fruits are enjoyed.  The senses are employed to attune one to the presence of God.

It is a time when children hear ancient stories from their parents and elders about the Ramayana, a battle between light and darkness.  Lord Rama who waged a war against the demon-king Ravana, who had kidnapped Lord Rama’s wife, Sita.  Against great odds and with Hanuman’s help, Rama rescued Sita, and together they journeyed back home.  The people were overjoyed and welcomed them home by lighting up the city with candle flames everywhere.

PrintFor us yogis, Diwali is a special time to honor the light of your own Self.  We also honor the one who makes you able to know your Self, the Guru.  Along with festivities, rituals can include a self-oil-massage specially prepared with herbs, bathing afterwards, and dressing in new clothes.  Along with lights, sparklers and fireworks, look for the experience of Lakshmi’s power inside, bursting into bloom, dispelling darkness, and invoking an inner experience of being all the throb of life.

Celebrate Diwali!  Honor the light, the Guru and your own Self.

A Healing Week

By Priya Kenney

Kalyani (Evy) Zavolas Wallis“What I like about the Yoga Therapy Retreat is that it includes everything for healing,” says Kalyani (Evy) Zavolas Wallis.  Rest and rejuvenation, healing, big openings, deep inner work and calming physical kriyas describe her experience.  It feels like she hits the reset button and gets re-established in a steady practice routine.  She says, “I feel so blessed to be able take this time for myself to do the inner work and to have time with Swamiji.”

Each day begins with chanting Sri Guru Gita, followed by an asana class.  After that, you have a private vichara session (guided self-inquiry).  Kalyani is especially appreciative of the rest periods that are built into the day because they allow “all the changes to seep in.” She explains, “Doing vichara every day, you get into some really deep stuff.”

There are also teachings with Swamiji, chanting and meditation and a private yoga therapy session every day.  Kalyani emphasizes the importance of time for resting, even naps: “To me, it was like heaven, because I had that time for things to integrate.  You’re getting so much and need the breaks to let it sink in.”

Swamiji in GaneshpuriKalyani has gone to the retreat all three times it has been offered at Lokananda! She keeps taking this intensive because she has had such good experiences.  Kalyani remembers taking a similar course at the Malvern PA studio way back before Swami Nirmalananda was a swami.  It included daily vichara and yoga therapy sessions.  She was incredibly grateful to get two yoga therapy sessions from Swamiji when she was still called Rama.  “She was doing things I had never seen before,” said Kalyani.  She was so happy to see the ATT Yoga Therapy trainings reintroduced in the past couple of years, with even more juice to it.  “I see there is one coming up in November,” says Kalyani.  “If I can swing it, I will be there.  It’s another five days of diving deep inside.  I would like to take every single one.”

In April 2017, Kalyani was drawn to take the intensive because she had fallen into a deep depression.  She knew the course would help her get through it.  The Vows Preparation Course, unveiled some deep personal stuff and uncovered the depression.  In addition, her father-in-law passed away, she got the flu and lost a lot of weight.  Following Swamiji’s recommendations, she got a health care team to support her and began to heal.  “Once the intensive came up, I was feeling a bit better, I knew it would be powerful enough to keep my healing going.  And it would be gentle enough so I could handle it,” says Kalyani.

There was a lot of fear in her depression.  With Swamiji present every day for teachings and leading practices, Kalyani had the chance to talk with her about the fear.  The vichara sessions also helped her look at her fears and understand the thought processes behind them.  Daily Embodyment® sessions gave her the experience of bliss.  And more — she got a personalized set of practices to take home.  Then she regained her appetite and her immune system improved.

Yoga Therapy IntensiveKalyani’s husband joined her at the next Yoga Therapy Retreat.  He especially liked all the yoga therapy sessions.  Even for someone who isn’t into the chanting, he was still able to enjoy it and didn’t find it overwhelming.  Swamiji and Vidyadevi each gave illuminating talks that included information about the body, pain and the power of Ujjayi Pranayama.  Students learned about the importance both their physical and subtle bodies in healing.

“The retreat is a reboot, a delicious time out,” says Kalyani.  “Upon returning home, I felt that I was starting fresh.  It’s a great way to get back into my practices when they have fallen away.  When I was depressed, I just couldn’t do them.  This retreat put me back into the practices.  It was a new lease on life and on my practices.” Kalyani recommends this intensive for anyone who needs rest and rejuvenation.  “It’s very personalized,” says Kalyani.  “It’s a deeply opening retreat.”

Our next Svaroopa® Yoga Therapy Intensive Retreat is November 15-19 (and spans Swamiji’s birthday).