Monthly Archives: February 2021

Yogis Got Gumption

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda

That’s one of the things I’ve always loved about yoga, that yogis have gumption.  In all the different styles I’ve practiced, even trained as a teacher in 5 styles over the years, I’ve found that yogis know how to keep going.  Granted, a pandemic tests you to the limit, but you’re better equipped to handle it than anyone else.  Because of your gumption.

The dictionary says it’s “spirited initiative and resourcefulness.”  Yet I know that sometimes it’s merely a choice between the lesser of two evils – get up do it or roll over and whine some more.  Doing daily practice can come down to this.  But I’ve found that choosing to roll over just makes for future pain.  And Patanjali does promise that future pain can be avoided:

Heyam duhkham anaagatam.  — Yoga Sutras 2.16

Future pain can and should be avoided.

It’s an amazing promise:  not only is it possible to avoid future pain but the sage urges that you should avoid it.  How do you cash in on his promise?  Do what he says – keep the momentum going.  That’s why I’m reminding you that you’ve got gumption. 

Initiative, resourcefulness, imagination, ingenuity, cleverness — these describe the yogis I know.  That’s what it takes to keep a household together at any time and especially during a pandemic. 

Pluck, mettle, get-up-and-go, grit, spunk, oomph — you need all of this to keep your own yoga practice going during a pandemic.  Especially if you’re out of work or working from home, it’s too easy to let your oomph fizzle out.  But who suffers the most for this?  Ummm, that would be you.

Astuteness, common sense, smarts, native ability, practicality, spirit  — all are necessary for yoga teachers at this time.  How do you keep your studio open?  How do you serve your students effectively online?  I must say I’ve learned a lot more about technology in the last few months.  It’s surprised me how much I like zooming into my students’ homes.  I feel like I can shift their perspective where they need it the most, right in the middle of life’s challenges, right where they live.

But I can feel subtle rumblings.  It’s like the roots of the plants, deep in the earth, are starting to wiggle.  While winter isn’t over yet, spring is just around the corner.  A vaccine is hard to get right now, but that’s only for a while longer and then things will change.  

How will they change?  We don’t really know.  But there’s nothing new about that.  You’re getting more used to not knowing, even getting more used to the constant change.  Of course, life always works that way, though it’s more obvious now.  Which is why you need gumption.  And masks.  And hand sanitizer.  And a way to zoom your yoga.  Gear up!  Get your gumption going.

Another Yoga Miracle Story

By Prema Prudy Costa, Interviewed by Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain

Having taught Svaroopa® Yoga in New York City for 20 years, Prema has been amazed at her students’ recent breakthroughs.  They are due to the Ashram’s Teaching Online Therapeutics (TOT) course.

“All of a sudden, everything clicked for my student.  As she started trying to walk after doing both sides, she exclaimed ‘Wow, my legs just swing when I walk.  I feel balanced on my feet for the first time in years!’” recounts Prema Prudy Costa.  She is quoting a college professor who broke bones in her left foot while tap dancing. 

Regarding the tapdancing professor, Prema describes, “This student has extremely hyperflexible joints and extremely tight spinal muscles.  In 2019, four months after she broke her left foot, she’d come to my yoga class, remove her boot and try class.  But she was very tight, and couldn’t bend forward.  So we did Yoga therapy for a while, and she improved. 

“After summer break, she returned to class with no boot.  But now her other foot hurt.  Tap dancing again, she learned she had broken bones in her right foot.  Still, she loved the social aspect of my yoga class.  So until March 12, 2020 she came sporadically even though she couldn’t do Lunge. Then the pandemic hit, so there were no more in-person classes.”

Prema started teaching regular classes on Zoom and took Teaching Svaroopa® Yoga Online. Her student with the boot Zoomed to Prema’s classes and her boot came off in July.  But it wasn’t until the TOT course, which began in July, that a real shift occurred.  

Prema describes, “My student had essentially spent a year with a boot first on one foot, then on the other.  She said the TOT poses hurt and pulled, especially in her lower back.  Still, she came regularly.”  Then about halfway through the four TOT modules, the shift occurred.  “By October I was in the middle of Module C, teaching a variation on Trikonasana (Triangle Pose).  That’s when everything clicked for my student.  All that time of wearing the boot had unbalanced her and hampered her gait.”

Prema realized that not all the new therapeutic poses had seemed to work well for this student.  Yes, she says, “This Trikonasana variation, building on the others, of course, brought a major shift.  Finally, the student herself felt she got something.

“This change encouraged her to try Lunge for the first time since she’d come in with a boot.  And she was thrilled to discover that she could do Lunge without pain.  It was a huge double breakthrough for her.  Of Trikonasana TOT variation, the student declared: “I need to do this pose!”  Music to a yoga teacher’s ears.

These poses also provide real breakthroughs for teachers.  Prema describes her own miracle story: “Trikonasana TOT has strengthened my ankles.  The problems from an old injury have gradually dissolved.  Now I can walk without lurching to one side.  As it was for my student, so for me: my hips also feel level and my legs swing beneath me as I walk.  Trikonasana TOT has helped me develop capacity to lean weight through heels and send half forward.  Standing this way is extraordinarily calming.  And it’s useful for balancing on a lurching or jerking subway.  Best of all, this pose has enabled a more upright posture for sitting.  As a result, I am having deep and profound meditations.”

Yes, do more yoga!

There Is So Much More to Me

By Lauren Soderberg, interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney

“I meditate because I’ve always yearned for ‘The More,’” says Lauren.  “At first, I thought it was outside of me.  For most of my life, I thought life was about getting a good job so you can make a lot of money and get a nice house.  I believed that happiness and fulfillment could somehow be found or acquired by seeking things externally.  I thought I needed to line up all circumstances just right. Good relationships were part of that.  All of it was external.

“My spiritual process has given me the opportunity to set aside everything that I thought I knew.  I’m setting aside what I think I need, who I think I am and what life means.  I’m finding out that there is a whole lot more to me than my thoughts or my personality.  My personality and my thinking mind are always part of me.  I meditate to find ‘The More’ within me.”

Lauren says, “I want to come home to my Self.  The experiences I have during meditation are frequently deeply profound and moving.  With nothing on the outside changing, I can have a peaceful internal shift; I experience internal freedom and fulfilment.  These experiences have shown me that God and the answers I’ve sought are right here inside of me.  They are closer to me than my own breath.” 

Before the pandemic, Lauren consistently attended Swami Sunday with Gurudevi Nirmalananda.  As service to the Ashram, Lauren also baked refreshments for the social time afterwards.  When pandemic restrictions made that impossible, Lauren was sad and disappointed.  During a conversation with a sister sevite, Lauren learned about the online Meditation Club.  When she realized she met the prerequisites, Lauren was in.  She has been a regular attendee ever since.

“I can literally feel the shakti, the energy, coming through the phone,” describes Lauren.  Not an airy-fairy sort of person, Lauren is an organic chemist, steeped in science.  She shares, “I feel quieter and more peaceful, grounded and stable.  I can feel the backing of the lineage of Meditation Masters that we are a part of.  I am so grateful for Gurudevi and those Gurus who showed her the way.  In turn, she can show us the way.” 

Lauren explains, “The Meditation Club has brought Gurudevi into my home.  You can’t go to the Guru because of COVID, so the Guru comes to your home.  Being in connection to her that way has been so transformative and helpful for me.  Knowing I am not alone in this process is very comforting.  Now I think about my house as an Ashram: a spiritual, sacred place.  I treat my home differently.  It’s become my meditation station.  Before, I didn’t even have a regular place that I used to meditate.  Now I have a special seat, my meditation shawl and mantra beads.  I created a puja with a photo of Gurudevi and other sacred things.”

This connection is even more important because of what Lauren has been going through over the past year and a half.  “What I’m experiencing internally has really kicked up,” she says.  “And I’ve been having strong meditation experiences.  While meditation brings blissful, magical experiences, I also go through some hard stuff at times.  The Meditation Club has helped move that stuff along.  It’s been a real support.  I feel extremely blessed and know these experiences are really special.”

Meditating on schedule with a group has other benefits for Lauren.  “It has given me the accountability and discipline to meditate that I couldn’t achieve on my own.  I had been willy-nilly about the time and length of meditation.  Knowing that I have a spiritual community and other people are doing the same thing as I am is huge.

“Gurudevi’s love is so important.  It’s this feeling that touches me deep down inside me in my soul.  It transcends any experience that I have ever had.  It’s a love that feels mystical, yet is more real and pure and familiar than anything else I have known.  Just by a look or a word, that love can bring me to tears.”