By Joe Yezzi, interviewed by Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast
I teach Svaroopa® yoga for two reasons. One is my own healing from it. The other reason is seeing profound changes in my students. Their transformation in class, and over time, is physical and so much more than physical.
When I threw my back out in 1990, I began physical therapy and continued for nine years. I would get some relief. Then the pain would return. The PT just addressed symptoms, not the cause of pain. Early on, I heard about this special yoga that gets at the root of pain. My reaction at the time, admittedly sexist, was “Yoga? That’s for women.”
Then in 2000 after more pain, fortunately, I again heard about Svaroopa® yoga. I was told it’s uniquely healing, and I began weekly classes. My pain decreased, my teacher noticed and suggested taking two classes weekly. I continued for another eight years.
The physical healing was amazing. Perhaps more surprising was a spiritual change. The intensity of my life softened. I started smelling the roses. Then in 2008, my teacher asked, “Why don’t you take Foundations?” It is the first step in Svaroopa® yoga teacher training. My teacher suggested it, however, so that I could learn more about how Svaroopa® yoga works for my personal benefit.
I was greatly fortunate to take the last Foundations that Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda taught herself. When I met her, she put her hand on my heart and said, “You will do well.” I felt powerful energy course through my body from my toes up. And I was propelled to share this yoga with others. In April 2010, I taught my first class, my purpose being to help others.
My back goes out still, but not like before. I’m no longer out of commission for ten days. Now, I do the Ujjayi Pranayama breathing practice to calm my inner state. Then I’ll do a few poses to open my spine. I know I can rely on this to open me to the natural healing energy of my body and being.
I teach to share these transformative practices, part of Svaroopa® yoga. I like the satisfaction of seeing their effects on students. In the beginning of class, in our opening Shavasana with Guided Awareness and Ujjayi breathing, I often see some students fidgeting. They are unable to settle in. Then I take them through poses to release the tension, tail to top, in four areas of their spine. By the end of class, after the final Shavasana with Guided Awareness, I see calmness in their bodies and peacefulness shining in their faces. It is just magical. I know they are in a better place than when they came in.
After Yoga Mudra, to seal in their benefits, I offer the blessing from the Universal Prayer, “May the longtime sun shine upon you, may all love surround you, and the pure light within you guide you on.” Then I say, “Namaste,” bowing to them, and suggest, “Take a moment to honor each other.”
As they are leaving, my students tend to talk about the quotation that I’d offered from Swami Nirmalananda as their contemplation. I love hearing them say “that was perfect for me,” and “I really needed that Slow Motion Dive.” It’s gratifying to know my instructions are helpful, when a student says, “I thought my shoulder was soft, until you mention it. Then I could really feel it and truly soften it.” When they thank me, I say, “Thank yourself. You are allowing yourself to let go.” Walking into the studio where I teach, I feel it’s like walking into a church. I recall Foundations and Swamiji putting her hand on my heart, saying “You’ll do well.” Now I know what she meant, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. So I teach that others may do well in the same way, multidimensionally, inside and outside.