Monthly Archives: May 2019

Small Sigh, Big Shift

By Carolyn (Karuna) Beaver

“Busy mind — busy life.” Sigh.

“It’s your mind that propels your frenetic pace.” Sigh.  

Swami Nirmalananda writes that our minds mess with us.  Our minds compel us to perpetual motion.

When I lead yoga philosophy discussions, I ask participants to find a phrase or sentence in a teachings article that resonates with them.  Maybe it’s something they relate to.  Maybe it’s something that provokes a reaction.  One such line jumped out at me Swamiji’s May article: The Inner Threshold. “You do things, lots and lots of things, simply because you want them to make you happy,” Swamiji writes.

Yes, I do lots and lots of things.  But I thought I did them out of love and responsibility.  I’m sandwiched between my elderly parents and my disabled daughter.  Also, between my paid jobs and seva duties, I’m still working full time.  Initially I didn’t agree that my mind compelled me to do all these things to make myself happy.  I was wrong.

I discovered this when I looked a little deeper, tracking back.  All the things I do come with an identity.  It is linked to an expectation — a “pay off” of sorts.  I am a devoted daughter, a loving mother and wife, an effective employee, a good yoga teacher, a dedicated sevite.  My expectations of my actions — devotion, love, effectiveness, dedication — are all about using these identities to give me something.  In other words, what I do makes me happy with who I am.  My mind is messing with me, no doubt about it.  Sigh.

When I get wrapped up in the do, do, do, my mind needs help.  I need to remember who and what I REALLY am — Shiva!  Swami says that it’s as easy as taking a breath and allowing a deep yogic sigh.  It’s her quick fix for May.  And it works, of course!

Every afternoon I stop the madness by doing at least 20-30 minutes of Ujjjayi Pranayama.  Yet when I need a quick fix, as I do often, I can do a yogic sigh.  It’s a technique from the Vij~nana Bhairava, an ancient yogic text in our Kashmiri Shaivism tradition.  Having learned it in Meditation Teacher Training, I often teach it in my introduction to meditation classes.  Swami calls the space after a long sigh, before the breath moves again, a “divine pause.” She’s right.  It’s heavenly.

In that pause, time stops.  My mind stops.  Swamiji calls it a “magical, mystical moment of complete stillness.”  Bahya kumbhaka is the pause after an exhalation, before your breath moves again.  It’s the pause that refreshes.  Swamiji says when you linger and relax into the pause, you hover “in the threshold between inside and outside.”  She calls it a surrender, a melting, into your capital-S Self.   I don’t see my activity level changing any time soon.  I have responsibilities.  I have dharma — duties to perform.  As I carry them out, what can change is my state.  With a sigh, I gain access to who I am at my core.  The “pay off” is the calm and clarity arising from within.  I recognize who I am inside.  I don’t rely on recognition from others or even from my own small-s self.  And all I have to do in the midst of my busy life is take a breath.  What a sweet way to live! Sigh.

Supported by Quiet Joy

By Kristine (Dhairyavati) Freeman, SVA Board Member

I was stunned by an inner visual of my heart frozen in a block of ice.  Swami Nirmalananda (then Rama Berch) had asked us to travel inward, down from our heads and into our hearts.  This was many years ago in Swamiji’s ”Heart Openers” workshop at a yoga retreat center.  Later, I realized that I had traveled through some tough times at a young age.  At that time, I had been unable to experience my experience while I was experiencing it.  The block of ice was actually a gift.  It preserved my heart for the future.  Swamiji’s workshop was the beginning of opening my heart and living from my heart.

Though I couldn’t feel my heart, I could feel layers and layers of muscular pain in my body. Practicing Svaroopa® yoga began the process of unraveling my body’s muscular tension.  As my body began to open, I noticed the yoga defrosting my heart as well.  When I was able to add Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation to my daily practice, the process accelerated.  I had more and more experiences of my Divine Self within.  I felt grounded and supported by the inner vastness, the undercurrent of quiet joy.  I began to take that feeling into my life.

No matter which of yoga’s many practices you choose, yoga’s goal is the experiential knowing of your own Self.  It’s an inside undertaking, an insight job, propelled by your practices.  The Shiva Sutras, a primary text in the Svaroopa® Sciences philosophy, describes the process this way: 

aasanastha.h sukha.m h.rde nimajjati — “Siva Sutras, 3.16 

Firmly seated in the heart, the yogi will be easily steeped in pure bliss.
(translated by Swami Nirmalananda)

“Firmly seated in the heart” doesn’t refer to your physical heart or your emotional heart, but the heart of who you really are.  Swami Nirmalananda describes it, “It’s what yoga does for you – immerses you in the heart of your own beingness.  This is the essential part of every human being, that core essence that yoga names ‘svaroopa.’”

When you open your heart, you naturally want to give from the bottomless depth of your being.  You want to contribute.  It works the other way too.  Swamiji says that when you open your wallet, even a little bit, you open your heart. Giving and sharing are a mark of personal, and yogic, growth.  You grow by caring.  You grow by contributing.  

Please join me in participating in our Spring Fundraiser: With All Your Heart.  Giving back to the source of the gift is the ancient yoga practice of dakshina.  Yet we are offering you a completely modern way to engage in it.  Make your donation online in our Enrollment System or on our Facebook page.

Do more yoga. Open your heart. Grow by caring. Contribute today!

A Monumental Shift

By Ben Waters, interviewed by Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast

I have begun to wake up free and happy, as I did as a child.  My first waking thought is a happy one, “My God! What’s this day going to bring?”  I feel more connected to other people, at the Ashram and everywhere else.  I am experiencing a space of true freedom.  Day by day, it continues to unfold.

For most of my adulthood, I experienced life from a place of loneliness and isolation.  Sometime in 2014, I discovered Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda and got on the Kundalini path of Svaroopa® Vidya.  From the first, I trusted Swamiji and her Teachings.  Deep knowings began to arise within me.  I knew I was headed in the right direction.  I could tell that longstanding pain was clearing as well as other “deep stuff.”

In early 2019 I experienced a monumental shift.  I felt energy move in my heart area: waves of bliss and a sense of expanding love.  As energy moved into my heart space, I felt that clearing was beginning. In that instant, a great amount of pain was released. 

In childhood, as I awoke each morning, I would wonder with delight what the day would bring.  At puberty, I lost my childhood self.  I turned into what other people thought I was. Over the years I forgot who I was.  I identified with the thought stream in my head.  I believed there was an inherent brokenness in part of me that needed to be healed before I was OK.  I always thought that I wouldn’t be whole, happy or complete until I became a better a person.  Life goals needed to be fulfilled; then I’d be happy.

When I first experienced Kundalini awakening , I did get scared.  Who am I without this familiar small-s self?  I feared I wouldn’t know who I am.  Now, however, I am coming to who I am — who I have always been.  Who I am is not someone new. It’s a deep remembering of who I truly am.  Then from this deeper space I am realizing nothing within me was ever broken.  I have a sense of acceptance of everything as it is.  I feel a welcoming toward who I am right now.  There’s no sense of little corners hiding things I don’t like about myself.  I see myself through a different lens, and realize there never was a problem.  There is no better version of me, even spiritually.  The only problem was that I didn’t know who I was.

These days, I read and listen to spiritual teachings, and do the Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation practices almost 24/7.  Then, just outside of my thinking mind, my inner voice says, “Oh yeah, everything is perfect. I just couldn’t see it from my old vantage point.” Then I forget!  And that keeps me on the path, steering me back to clear seeing.  Thank goodness, that has been established.

Swamiji’s Teachings are invaluable in supporting me on this path.  Her Teachings are seemingly so simple, yet incredibly deep and transformative.  In a recent Satsang, Swamiji talked about how the practices of the Svaroopa® Sciences will take you to the heart.  Yogis sitting closer to her began to ask, “What is the heart?  The physical heart?  The heart chakra?  Is God love?”  Swamiji responded, “Would you just stop thinking about the heart?!”  She’s so good at taking us back to the actual, reliable practices.  The practices will get you there.  You can count on them to open your spine and your heart.  Tripping on the mind, wondering about concepts, is ineffective.  Instead, just do the practices.  They will give you your own authentic experiences.  The knowing that arises when you open up is beyond the mind.  

All I know is, Swami Nirmalananda gave us the practices.  If we do them, they lead us to this space of Self within.  The only thing to do is engage in the practices: yoga, japa (repeating mantra), meditation. When I apply effort to them with my whole heart, they take me to my own Self.

The blessing is that Swamiji has traveled the path as laid out by the lineage of her Guru and his Guru and so on back through the ages.  The practices have been passed down from time beyond memory, saturated with the blessings of all the Masters on whose shoulders we stand.  On this path, you don’t have to imagine transformation into existence.  It’s a given.

With All My Heart

By David (Devananda) King, SVA Board Vice President

What does it mean to follow my heart?  How do I live from my heart? Before yoga, I really thought Hallmark made the whole heart/love thing up to sell greeting cards.

In school I was told to “pursue my passion.”  I was encouraged to choose a vocation that I could put my heart into.  After school it was suggested I follow my heart’s desire, find a job I loved.  I just could not reconcile the role of my “heart” in my life.  I did all the things I was supposed to do: career, house, wife, kids, neighborhood cookouts.  But there was a big gap between what I had and what I wanted.  When I started yoga, things came into focus.  Yoga reveals your heart, the heart of your own beingness, your own Divine Essence. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I didn’t have a miraculous epiphany.  Often fueled by desperation, moving from neighborhood cookouts to where I stand now has been a lengthy process.  Yet yoga gave me the tools to cooperate with the process.  Svaroopa® yoga, specifically, leads one to understanding the heart’s role in a human being.  Yoga doesn’t refer to your physical heart or your emotional heart.  Yoga’s teachings on the heart refer to who you really are.

Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda teaches, “It’s what yoga does for you – immerses you in the heart of your own beingness… This is the essential part of every human being, that core essence that yoga names ‘svaroopa.’”  The Heart of who you really are! 

My story is not unique.  The lineage that Swamiji teaches from has supported countless people travelling this path.  What is unique is how accessible she is and how she brings the ancient teachings to life.  She does so in offering free programs weekly, recording her discourses and making them available as online Freebies.  Having access to these ancient teachings triggers in me an immense gratitude for Swami Nirmalananda.  She is the One who can lead us to our own Self.  Knowing that She can lead us all to the Heart of own Self further opens my heart.

When your heart opens, naturally you want to give from the bottomless depth of your being.  You want to contribute.  It works the other way too.  Swamiji says that when you open your wallet, even a little bit, you open your heart.  Giving and sharing are a mark of personal, and yogic, growth.  You grow by caring.  You grow by contributing.

This spring, we ask you to share your heart, your joy, your hope with those nearest and dearest to you.  We ask you to share the love by donating to the organization and the practices that give us so much.  We are also asking you to share the love by using social media to raise funds and to raise awareness of Swamiji’s profound teachings. We’ve only got 3 weeks to go for our Spring Fundraiser.  Help us by supporting the Ashram and its many services and programs.

We’re on our way to our goal, with only 3 weeks to go.  Thank you to the many donors who have contributed $16,000 toward our $20,000 goal – help us make it all the way by donating now.

And see our new Donor Gifts, a heart-full momento of your loving gift. 

On our Facebook page, you’ll find information to help you either make a direct donation to the Ashram, or to create your own fundraiser for the Ashram.  When you create your own event, you magnify your ability to share your heart, not only with the Ashram, but with your Facebook friends.

It’s easy to do – here’s how. 

  • For a single personal donation, go to the Ashram Facebook page.  Click on the “Donate” button on the cover photo.  Designate an amount and a payment method, then click donate again.  One, two three — that’s it!
  • To create your own Ashram fundraiser, click Fundraisers in the left-side menu of your News Feed.  Then, click Raise Money. Select Nonprofit/Charity. Type in Svaroopa Vidya Ashram, and click on the link given.  You will choose a cover photo and fill in the fundraiser details, which we are happy to provide.  Click create and choose with whom you want to share this fundraiser.  Send it to people who know how much you love your yoga, and who love you! Don’t send it to your Svaroopa® yoga friends on Facebook or they get the same fundraiser over and over again.  

After you make a donation, you’ll receive an email confirmation to the primary email listed on your Facebook account.  The email receipt shows that you’ve made this donation as a charitable contribution, and that you’re not receiving any goods or services in return.  Facebook sends your donation directly to the Ashram a few days after you make it! There are no fees to you, and no fees to the Ashram.  It’s simple and effective.

Want some help creating your fundraiser? Let us know and we’ll have someone phone you and walk you through the steps.  Call 610.644.7555 or email  

Swamiji says, “Life is rich and full and varied, and there’s enough time and money for you to nourish all the aspects of your life, including your spirit of generosity.” But, she says, “you must give if you want to be happy. It is part of human nature; it’s the way it works for a human being. And it is yoga.” Do more yoga. Open your heart. Grow by caring. Contribute today!

With All Your Heart

Ellen (Lajja) Mitchell, SVA Board Member

You take a Svaroopa® yoga class, then feel more peaceful and settled, yes?  Then, someone comments on your eyes and face being so bright and how content you seem.  This is due to the Grace of our lineage.  The practice opens you to Grace, which saturates your mind and your life with light and love. 

In 2013, I experienced this on the India trip with Swami Nirmalananda.  As our wonderful time in India drew to a close, I knew my life had changed.  I told Swamiji she had removed walls from around my heart, but I was not sure I could let the walls stay down at home.  Swamiji asked that I keep an opening for her.

Now I sometimes want to rebuild those walls.  Yet I have learned what this path teaches:  you put your heart into whatever you do, especially into your yogic practices.  As yoga quiets your mind, you tune into your heart, your own inner essence. 

“Heart-full experiences are essential to life,” says Swamiji. “Without them, life has no meaning.  You want to have the feeling of your heart being full… overflowing with what you have to give.”  When you do the Svaroopa® Sciences practices with all your heart, your heart fills with love and gratitude.  Then you have so much to give. 

Reflect on what your Svaroopa® yoga practices have given you.  Share the love by donating to our Spring Fundraiser, supporting the organization and the practices that give you so much.  

We’re also asking you to share the love by using social media to raise funds and to raise awareness of Swamiji’s profound teachings.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart, whether you donate directly and/or help us raise awareness and funds through Facebook.

Here’s how you do it.  Make a quick and easy donation on our Facebook page.  Simply click on the Donate button at the top of the page.  One, two, three — give your name, the amount of your gift and payment method.  You’ve just participated in dakshina, giving back to the source of the teachings.

Or create your own Fundraiser for the Ashram.  
* In the News Feed section of your own Facebook page, click on Fundraisers.  
* Another window opens.  Click Raise Money; then select Nonprofit/Charity.
* On the Select page that opens, type Svaroopa Vidya Ashram at the top and click on the Ashram link displayed.
* Choose a cover photo; below it, fill in what the Ashram is and why you are raising funds for it.
* Set an amount you’d like to raise.  Almost done!
* After clicking Create, decide with whom you want to share this fundraiser.  Invite those who know how much you love your yoga, those who love you.  Don’t send it to your Svaroopa® Yoga Facebook friends to avoid sending the same fundraiser over and over again to our community.

Want some help creating your fundraiser? Let us know and we’ll have someone phone you and walk you through the steps.

To firmly seat yourself in your heart, contribute today. Steep yourself in svaroopa: the bliss of your own being.  Call 610.644.7555 or email

The Joy of Seva

By Lynn (Gurupremananda) Cattafi Heinlein
SVA Board President

When Swami Nirmalananda first asked me to do seva, I had a fulltime job.  Actually, it was the equivalent of two fulltime jobs.  I was living with a lot of stress.  She had just taken initiation as a swami and the Ashram was still in the early stages.  You might think that being asked to do more work would send me right over the edge.  On the contrary!  I chose to plunge in with both feet.  Surprisingly, seva saved me from my small-s self.  Seva continues to give me my Self.

I am not the only one who is having this experience.  Currently, approximately 100 sevites are actively working to support Swamiji and the Ashram mission. Their generous offering of time and talent is a priceless gift.  It takes pressure off our Ashram staff and helps operations run more smoothly.  Our 11 working Board members, all volunteers, have stepped into deeper levels of responsibility.  Their commitment has enabled Swamiji to spend more time teaching, writing, and traveling to support you and your local communities.

Why do sevites do all this? What is the payoff?  Seva keeps the sevite in the loving and transformational flow of Grace.  While Grace is always present in your Svaroopa® practices, stepping into serving the flow of Grace is another level of experience entirely.  Profound moments of transformation — spiritual breakthroughs — arise from supporting Grace through seva.  No matter what your seva is, you are making a difference for your fellow yogis, and even more for yourself. The more seva you do, the more you push through your limitations.  This increases your capacity for personal growth.  The more you surrender into “not having enough time,” and dive into serving, the steadier your inner state becomes.  It is quite amazing.  Pushing yourself beyond your limitations through seva actually gives you your Self!  Ask any sevite.  You will likely hear the same thing.  When you donate your time, your expertise, your hands and your heart, you will be reimbursed 100-fold.  You get paid in joy!

Miraculous Yoga Therapy

By Kris Curran, RN, CSYT
Interviewed by Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast

“How good do you want to feel?” is my question to clients.  Depending on their needs and readiness, I offer them Embodyment® sessions, Svaroopa® Yoga Treating Pain protocols or Svaroopa® Yoga Neck & Shoulders Therapy.  I have seen clients experience tremendous healing.  Those who commit to weekly sessions have received the most benefit – even miraculous results. They first come to Svaroopa® Yoga Therapy for a specific issue, but keep coming back because they love how they feel!

About 18 months ago, a client came to me with achiness in her neck and shoulders.  I began her sessions with Treating Pain therapeutic protocols.  After completing Neck & Shoulders Therapy training recently, I moved to Neck & Shoulders protocols.  She is just in awe of how much she is flourishing.  

Every session, she says, “I feel great!”  If she runs into relapse or some discomfort in new poses in yoga class, she says, “Yeah, it’s just my stuff.  I’m amazed at how much lower my shoulders are, and that I’m feeling so good all the time.” She even notices her body has changed so much that her pants are too short, though they haven’t been altered.

As her yoga therapist, I marvel at seeing her go deeper in sessions, exploring deeper layers within.  As a deep yogi, she notices — and is staring to dissolve — inner resistance (not just in her body).  Her heart is opening, and she is becoming more in tune with emotions and her family’s needs.

A true Miracle Story comes from a client who had an inner ear virus.  It caused dizziness and significant damage to head nerves.  She would experience dizziness that would last for days and days, often requiring bed rest.  Loss of equilibrium affected her work and caused other life losses as well.  Diagnosed with a vestibular problem, she was prescribed vestibular physical therapy (eye movements, gaze stabilization exercises, head movements, etc.). This PT helped her condition to some degree.  She was told, however, there was not much else that could be done for her.

When she decided to try yoga therapy in 2017, I began with the Ujjayi Ramayana protocol for Treating Pain.  The next step was Embodyment® Yoga Therapy sessions for a year.  By summer 2018, she had vastly shifted and was ready for Yoga Therapy protocols.  Now, she says, “This is the only thing that has helped me.  Even so, I am more than my condition.”

Her flare ups of dizziness do still occur.  Yet they last for only for a couple of hours, not days.  And she has no trouble dealing with this experience.  She knows she is in a deep healing process and is more accepting of her condition. Tending to be quiet and shy, she says she has more confidence now.  She even describes being able to speak up in meetings at work. In her yoga therapy sessions, she settles deeply into Consciousness within, which is when healing occurs on all levels. Sometimes my clients say that I have healed them so much.  Then I have to remind them it’s not me.  Instead, the healing power of Consciousness, which comes from the inside, is healing them.  It’s beautiful to witness.  I don’t have the words to describe all that I’m seeing in my Svaroopa® Yoga Therapy clients.  It’s just Grace!  To have a role in their healing and transformation is an honor.