Monthly Archives: February 2022

From Shavasana in China to Shaktipat Online

By Joan Bragar, EdD

A 21-Year Journey 

I first took Svaroopa® yoga classes in 2000 — the same year I was invited to lead a workshop in China.  I traveled to Tianjin, a northern industrial port.  To face December subzero temperatures, I brought my long underwear and a big down parka.  I also brought a small Sony tape recorder. I wanted to be able to listen to Gurudevi’s 1992 Shavasana audiotape, Relaxing: Cultivating Awareness.  (I still listen to this tape today!)

The participants were scientists who advised national family planning policy. In our workshop, they were practicing leading teams and influencing stakeholders. I gave content and instructions through a translator. After the teams engaged in practice and held discussions, their responses were translated back to me.  We engaged in these dialogues for many days.  During each short break between sessions, I returned to my small hotel room.  Exhausted and cold, I’d lie on my narrow bed.  There I listened to Gurudevi’s voice on the tape as she led me into Shavasana.  


After twenty minutes, Shavasana would restore my energy.  I was then able to bring this energy back to the participants.  They deeply appreciated the thinking that emerged from their work.  I was invited to return to be their ongoing consultant. I was honored, but unable to commit to regular travel to China. 

Returning to Boston, I continued to take weekly Svaroopa® classes.  In 2007 I was privileged to attend Gurudevi’s Business of Yoga course.  It — and the business emerging from it — helped me establish my leadership development business.  

Shortly afterwards, I was badly injured in a small plane crash.  I broke fourteen bones and suffered three brain hemorrhages.  I looked for every available modality that could heal me — from orthopedic surgery to energy work.  My yoga teacher, Deborah Shapiro, kindly provided yoga therapy at my home.  Svaroopa® yoga was key to my recovery.

During this time, I also worked with Gurudevi in phone courses.  To accelerate my healing she encouraged me to start a daily Ujjayi practice.  By 2008, I had recovered from my injuries and returned to in-person yoga classes.  I also attended workshops with Gurudevi whenever she was in the New England area.  I still saw myself as a weekly yoga student.

Fast forward to 2020, when my husband and I moved to Southwest Florida. There were no Svaroopa® yoga teachers within a hundred miles.  Fortunately, I learned that I could take an online class at Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram.  I began online yoga and meditation classes with Swami Prajñananda. 

In January 2021, I underwent a complicated abdominal surgery.  While recovering, I wrote a detailed letter to Gurudevi to let her know what was happening to me.  She asked Brahmacharini Yogyananda to support me in restoring a daily Ujjayi practice.  I was also supported in online yoga therapy with Swami Prajñananda.  For the first time, I began my own daily yoga practice.  In the spring, I was finally strong enough to participate again in a regular yoga class. 

For many years, I had been contented with taking weekly Svaroopa® yoga classes.  But my 2021 experiences have shown me that Svaroopa® yoga provides so much more.  It is a reliable portal to deeper spiritual experiences.  To learn more about yogic philosophy, I took Gurudevi’s Year-Long Programme (YLP).  She took us through a deep inquiry about Being, Light and Bliss.

Gurudevi’s straightforward words conveyed a spiritual reality that I could hear and touch.  She spoke to each student with great care and attention.  At the same time, she was not hesitant in delivering challenging messages from an ancient body of wisdom.

During my YLP study, Gurudevi told me to read Baba Muktananda’s book, Play of Consciousness.  Now I read from this spiritual autobiography daily.  Like Gurudevi, Baba is eloquent in describing what it’s like to see God from within — as your own Self. 

In November 2021, I decided to receive Shaktipat from Gurudevi.  This was a big decision for me, but I felt ready to make it.  After I received Shaktipat, my meditations immediately got deeper.  Now in meditation I actually experience God within me.  I am also beginning to understand the importance of being in the Guru’s presence.  I appreciate her teachings in the weekly online Swami Sunday.  They help me stay in touch with who I really am.

Looking back, I am so grateful to Gurudevi for “being” with me in China twenty-one years ago.  Shavasana breaks led by her filled me with Grace.  She supported me to support scientists who were advising a country of a billion people.  I now see that those scientists and I were all interacting from Self.  

I am grateful for Gurudevi’s contributions to my health, as well as to my endeavors to make my contribution in this world.  But the key thing I am grateful for is her resolute commitment to sharing our lineage based in Kashmir Shaivism.  Her commitment brings me access to Grace in my life on all levels.  For this I do not have sufficient words of gratitude. 

I told my husband I was going to God.  He asked me if I was planning on dying. I said, ”No, through the Guru’s Grace I can go to Him while I am still living!”

Satsang Armor

By Madelyn (Maanasaa) Jablon

I always leave Swami Sunday wearing “Satsang Armor”: transformed, protected and blessed.  This armor is described in a book I purchased from the Ashram shop: the Devi MahatmyamGlory of the Divine Mother.(1)  This ancient text tells a dramatic tale of the Divine Mother battling asuras (demons).  I knew I could interpret this text as an allegory.  But I was surprised by how it reverberated on more subtle levels.

Like a flashlight, it showed me where to turn my attention to see the Guru-Disciple relationship in action.  I discovered what was there all along but had escaped my notice.  It first happened when I read about the eighty-six goddesses who armor and protect the disciple:

Aindri may protect me on the east and fire-god in the southeast.  Varahi may protect me on the south, the Goddess holding sword may protect me on the southwest; Varuni (the power of god Varuna) may save me on the west and the Goddess seated on the lion may protect the northwest.  Kauberi may safeguard on the north and the Goddess with the pike in hand on the northeast.   — Devi Kavacham 19–20

Goddess Aindri –

The chant describes the armor as taking the form of many Goddesses.  However, the many are also the One, embodied in the Guru.  Gurudevi is a manifestation of the Divine Mother, and satsang is the transmission of Her Grace.  After satsang, I am armored on all sides, encased in divine protection.  On my drive home, I may encounter bad weather, inconsiderate drivers and closed roads.  But nothing penetrates the armor of my serenity.

Swami Sunday also armors me for the week ahead.  Paradoxically the armor is a divine disarmoring.  Gurudevi’s chant, discourse and meditation have disarmed my “self” of its ego-driven behaviors.  The peacock feathers she waves at darshan knight me with the armor of my own Self.  From within, this armor protects me from the enemies who would steal my equanimity.  As the week progresses, my armor weakens.  I use the practices to slow its deterioration.  But only satsang with Gurudevi can restore its full strength and luster.

My Satsang Armor shields me in all directions on the outside and transforms me inside.  The mystical process penetrates the many layers of my being.  The Devi Mahatmyam describes this as the Goddesses “protecting” and “safe-guarding” every part of the devotee: 

Dyotini (that force which illumines and uplifts) may protect the tip of my head while Uma may manage the upper head.  Maladhari may safe-guard the forehead and Yashavini may protect the brows, Citranetra both eyes; Yamaghanta both sides and the three-eyed Candika protects between the eyebrows.  — Devi Kavacham 23–24

The protection of the Goddesses is the protection of Gurudevi.  Part of that protection is the disciple’s transformation.  Dyotini doesn’t just protect the head from impact: she illumes and uplifts.  Similarly, the Guru’s protection extends outside and inside, also illumining and uplifting.  It can be invoked through a photograph on the puja, through meditation or prayer, or thinking of the Guru, a Divine Being.  Doing so transforms my state.  This is one of the extraordinary “quick fixes” described by Gurudevi in her 2019 Teachings series.  Giving my troubles to God, Guru and Self is also powerfully transformative.  The Guru instructs us in these practices to propel our inner transformation.

The short-term results of attending Satsang or wearing Satsang Armor are prosperity, health and well-being.  The long-term results are described this way:

At his [the devotee’s] demise, he will attain the highest state permanently by the grace of the supreme Goddess… Then the person goes to the Sivaloka.  He is not born again. He will acquire the supreme place and will rejoice with Lord Shiva.  — Devi Kavacham 60–61

Satsang armor is potent.  It fights against bad karma and marches toward infinity.  Attend Swami Sunday.  Get armored!

(1) All references and quotations taken from Svami Jagadisvarananda (tr.). Devi Mahatmyam, (Mylapore Chennai-4, Sri Ramakrishna Math Publishers, 2001)

MTT Is a Multilevel Gift

By Lynn (Gurupremananda) Cattafi-Heinlein

As my Svaroopa® Yoga and Meditation practices deepened, I felt pulled toward Meditation Teacher Training (MTT).  MTT expanded and honed my communication skills.  I learned how to speak the ancient language of Consciousness.  As an unrivaled master-of-communication, Gurudevi showed me how to put these profound and ancient teachings into my own words.  I was also surprised to find that my ability to communicate in all areas of my life improved as well. 

Of all the life-changing courses offered by Gurudevi, this one has the greatest effect!  In addition thoroughly training us to teach Intro to Meditation, she injected her rocket fuel to propel us past our minds and deeply into Self. — Ruth B.

MTT prepares you to teach meditation to a wide audience.  I feel well prepared to do so. — Margie W.

Each day in the course, Gurudevi gave a beautiful, in-depth discourse on the sutras.  Each evening, we had a writing assignment to prepare a short talk on one of the sutras.  We each pushed through our inner obstacles to complete our talks.  The next day we presented our words to our small group.  

The process was loving and supportive.  The coaching we gave and received helped the teachings to land inside each of us.  The camaraderie with my fellow MTT students was amazing.  Through my certification as a Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation Teacher, Gurudevi authorized me as a modern-day representative of this ancient tradition.

Click here for information on our next Meditation Teacher Training.

Why I Created Our Foundations Course

by Gurudevi Nirmalananda

People wanted variety but I wanted to give them depth.  Even teachers who trained with me wanted to do fancy stuff, including pretty poses and impressive moves.  But that’s not what Svaroopa® yoga is about.  So, I created a short course that would make the depth and incredible physical makeover obvious.  If you want a new body in five days, this is the course for you.

We don’t do anything fancy.  None of the poses are pretty, but they do make you more beautiful (for men – more handsome).  Your inner beauty shines through for two reasons:  1) you’re accessing it, and 2) there’s less blocking the way.

Foundations of Svaroopa® Yoga puts all the most important poses in one course, the foundational poses.  These are the basics, just like learning your a-b-c’s makes you able to read.  These poses give you a type of physical intelligence, an enlivenment and ability to live in your body in a whole new way.  More importantly, they target your spinal tensions, providing profound spinal decompression.  It is healing and rejuvenating, but more — it opens up your mystical essence of being, called svaroopa.

Best of all, it’s likely to make you want to teach.  How great!  Once you find out how easy it is to make a profound change in someone’s life, you’ll want to share it.  And sharing it is even better than doing it.  It’s like sharing a carrot cupcake or a dark chocolate bar.  It just tastes better when you share.

Two in One

by Gurudevi Nirmalananda

You have always existed. You did not come into existence when your body was born into this world. Your own essence is the ever-existent Reality. That which you are existed before the universe existed. Deep inside, you already know this. My Guru said it this way, “The universe exists because you exist.”

When I heard it the first time, I wondered, “Really? If I didn’t exist, the universe wouldn’t exist?” It is true, for you are that existence that has become all that exists. There was never a time that you did not exist.

There is actually no non-existence, for existence cannot come out of non-existence – not unless existence was hidden in the seeming non-existence. This is called the void, the illusion of emptiness that hides the One Existence that you are. Thus there are two, or there seems to be two: existence and emptiness. Which is you?

The void is very familiar for you spend hours there every night, deep asleep. Since you get there unconsciously, you get lost in it. Unfortunately, this is not the only thing you get lost in. You get lost in your mind, in your emotions, in life events and in what you want or fear, as well as what you think that other people think of you. It’s getting complicated, yes? Yes! The One has become many for the sheer pleasure of complicating things.

It’s like a scavenger hunt, a group game that I often played when I was a kid. We would be split up into teams, be given identical lists of things to search for and sent off to see who could find them fastest. The clues were intentionally confusing: it has strings that cannot be tied; it has a face but no mouth or nose, it’s a bed without sheets and it’s always dirty. We had to bring the object back with us… [read more]

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