Monthly Archives: February 2023


By Nirooshita Sethuram, Yogaratna 

I was born into a Hindu family in Sri Lanka.  Standing is a most important posture for our family, especially for cultural and religious events.  Often, we stand barefoot on the floor or on a mat.  It depends on what is required and the ceremony that we are attending.  And we must stand for hours at times! 

So, naturally, I thought I was very comfortable standing anywhere at any place.  This was until I found Svaroopa® yoga and learned how to stand.  That’s when Tadasana became my favorite pose.  Tadasana taught me how to stand with ease settling into my own Self deeply while standing. 

Most of us tighten our spine when we stand.  How long can you stand without tightening your spine?  In Svaroopa® yoga, I found the answer to this question.  Yes, in Tadasana I accomplished standing without tightening my spine for however long is needed. 

Tadasana also helped me develop the correct standing posture to stand in my daily life.  I learned to improve the way I use my legs and feet.  I learned how to lean into my bones.  Learning how to lean weight into bone.  Now I stand using my bones.  This strengthens my legs, because as you lean weight into a bone, it gets thicker and stronger.  When you hold yourself up with muscles, especially spinal muscles, you are not leaning into your bones.   

Standing in Tadasana allows my weight to lean through my leg bones, into the bones of my feet, and through my feet into the floor.  This activates my arches. In this way, leaning into my bones not only preserves and increases their strength.  This also gives me a feeling of being grounded.  It makes me able to apply that to everything else I do. 

I’ve also learned to distribute my weight evenly on both of my feet.  This helps my balance (physical, mental and emotional) as well as stamina.  In this way, I’m able to take yoga into the midst of my life. 

Oh! I must also mention getting taller and lighter by standing in Tadasana. When I carefully align myself, I truly experience Tadasana as the “standing version” of Shavasana.  The name says it all: Tadasana = Tat + asana = Pose of “That” (the Supreme Reality).  Standing in Tadasana and settling with ease gives me the experience of the Self!  I stand in the deeper dimensions of my own Beingness, which is who I really am. 

As always, I grateful to my Guru, Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.  We lovingly call her Gurudevi for giving us the practices and poses.  They reliably give us the experiences they describe.  How blessed am I to learn and experience these ancient methodologies by a modern living Guru such as Gurudevi Ji! 

Yoga Laughter

By Swami Nirmalananda 

The yoga of laughter is a pranayama, a breathing technique.  It works because it gets your breath moving, aerating deeply into your lungs as you get your laugh going.  Everyone thinks they feel better because they mimicked being happy, but it really works because you’re breathing deeply.  Better yet, your breath emphasizes the pause after each exhale breath.

This practice works best in a group.  In the beginning, you force a laugh, maybe a “ha-ha” or a little titter.  Then you do it again.  Hearing others also make these somewhat phony laughs, it’s so silly that it actually makes you want to laugh.  Soon your laugh is not forced.

The yogic science of breath is so profound!  Your stairstep exhalation has a delightful effect on your mind, for each time your breath stops, your mind stops.  This is the real secret to pranayama – using the quiet spaces in between breaths to quiet your mind.

Tasmin sati “svaasa-pra”svaasayor gati-viccheda.h praa.naayaama.h. 

– Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 2.49

By sitting in stillness, pranayama naturally follows, which is the cessation of breath movement.

This tells the secret of using breath to master your mind – that your mind becomes still because you’re sitting quietly and your breath settles.  This happens naturally when you’re sitting in your garden or, for me, watching the ocean.  I love to sit and watch the waves.  

The wave forms from underneath, the water pushing upward from the ocean floor.  The wave crests and then tips over and crashes down.  It’s mesmerizing for your mind.

Then you see the wave wash up the sandy shore.  At the top, it stops.  It becomes motionless for a moment. That’s the best!  The moment of stillness, an moment of eternity. Then the wave glides back down the slope to merge into the sea again.  

Your breath does the same thing. You don’t have to force it because it happens with every breath, whether you’re paying attention or not.  Your breath comes in and then, for a brief moment, it stops in an internal pause.  Then your breath goes out and again pauses briefly.  The inner pause is called antara kumbhaka; the outer is bahya kumbhaka.  These pauses are already there.  They are happening right now.

When you sit for a while, your body eases into stillness.  So does your breath.  Your natural pause naturally lengthens.  Your mind now settles into stillness.  In meditation, it happens too —  usually easier and for longer pauses.

When your body needs breath, it moves another breath spontaneously.  And your mind starts up again.  Yogis do pranayama, breathing practices so they can build up pranic reserves to make it easy to linger in the pause longer.  It is an entry point into the blissful Beingness that is hidden in the deeper dimensions of your own being.

Once you dive deeper within, your breath can move without disturbing your mind.  This is how your meditation can lengthen.  This is how a Meditation Master lives, based in the deeper dimensionality within, even while they use their mind to participate in the world.

So when you do yoga laughter, you’re getting little bits of this.  With each “ha,” your breath stops momentarily, giving you a glimpse of the doorway inside.  Then you “ha” again.  Lots of little peeks add up to a sense of what is hidden within.  It’s like watching a train go by, you can see what’s on the other side in the little peeks between the moving cars.  And when the train is gone, you can really see what’s there.

With yoga laughter, you get happy.  You’re happy because you got a glimpse of the deeper dimensions of your own being.  With pranayama and meditation, you get to enter into those deeper dimensions.  It is mystical, not merely happy. 

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

I loved this song when I was growing up, for I wanted to fly. I wanted to fly free, like the bluebirds in the song:

If happy little bluebirds fly

Beyond the rainbow

Why, oh, why can’t I?

My multiple attempts to get beyond the rainbow led me to living with a Guru in India.  It worked out really well, for he gave me yogic freedom.  It is freedom without escapism. It is both “freedom from” and “freedom to.”

“Freedom from” is freedom from pain, freedom from fear and freedom from the self-doubt that paralyzes you.  “Freedom to” is the freedom to love, to create and to give with generosity.  This yogic freedom comes from its inner source, described powerfully in a yogic text: 

Caitanyam-aatmaa — Shiva Sutras 1.1

Your own Self is Consciousness-Itself, 

imbued with freedom of knowledge and action

When you describe yourself by age and gender, by profession or relationship status – you’re describing what you do, not who you are.  These change, but you are still you.  Your size and shape, along with the color of your hair or skin are simply physical characteristics.  Your body changes over time, while your essence remains unchanged.

Peggy came to me in her 80s, wanting yoga therapy to make her able to walk freely again. She didn’t like using her cane.  It took about 5 sessions for her to throw away her cane.  Then she confessed she wanted more.  She didn’t want merely to walk.  She wanted to dance, to sprint and to turn cartwheels like she did as a kid.

She looked straight at me with her startling blue eyes and said, “Inside, I’m still 5 years old.”  It was true.  I could see the timelessness of her innermost being shining from inside.  It was just her body that was old, not her being.

Your being is that same Beingness that she showed me. My being is that same Beingness as well, for there is only One Beingness.  That One is being all, including you and including me.  When you feel your own essence, your own Beingness filling you from within, you know something that you always wanted to know.  You know your own Self.  And once you have your own Self, you are free.

In such freedom, nothing and no one can bind you. You can stay or go, it’s simply a choice.  Most peoples’ choices are made out of fear or clinging, trying to avoid something or trying to get something.  Without fear or clinging, how do you choose?

Your choice comes from freedom that is imbued with knowledge and action.  I call it intelligence, that you can use your mind to assess the probable outcomes of different options, then choose one wisely.  You can even choose to do nothing.  Yet your own deep sense of Self arises within, bring creative options as well as the sheer joy of sharing, moving you into giving generously.

One who knows Self is one who cares and shares. This type of enlightenment is engaged, contributing to the world, but from a place of Knowingness and Beingness. Best of all is the bliss…

Golden Meditations

By Fred Hess 

Interviewed by Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast, Yogaratna 

Over New Year’s weekend at the Ashram, I immersed in my fifth Shaktipat Retreat with Gurudevi.  In the first session, Gurudevi gave Shaktipat by touch to us assembled in Lokananda.  She also gave Shaktipat by will to all attending online as well as in person.  From Gurudevi’s hands-on Shaktipat, I felt warmth in my low back.  I got even more in Gurudevi’s second session as she gave Shaktipat by will again.  I felt successive flows of warmth shooting up my spine. 

In my first Shaktipat Retreat, some years ago, I felt somewhat discombobulated afterward.  But with every Shaktipat Retreat since, my meditations have progressively deepened.  Back home now, I meditate in the morning with Gurudevi’s online Meditation Club.  Afterward, I am at ease with my thoughts.  My steady state endures throughout the day.  I meditate again later in the day as well.  And I have no concern about thoughts disturbing my inner focus. 

Each day, I go into meditation deeper and faster, sitting for the whole hour.  My meditations are golden and beautiful.  In morning Meditation Club, I surface only when Gurudevi sounds the gong to signal our closing.  My deep meditations support me in daily life.  I can do things in a spiritual way. 

Attending Shaktipat with my wife and our longtime friend, new to meditation, was a plus.  My friend works in a helping profession.  I’ve always recognized his spiritual capacity.  It was great to see him fulfilled, smiling and happy after our retreat.  Being with loved ones was beautiful! 

I am ready to keep going with this practice, and look forward to Gurudevi’s next Shaktipat Retreat.  I know that Gurudevi’s gift of Kundalini awakening will open us to inner greatness once again.  Speaking from my heart, I would like to see more of the world receive Gurudevi’s gift of Shaktipat.

It Went Away Miraculously

By TC (Tattvananda) Richards

Interviewed by Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain, Yogaratna

It says online, “You cannot get rid of plantar fasciitis without medical intervention.” For my work, I stand on my feet all day long. The pain in my heel got worse and worse. And everyone had advice: “Roll your foot on a ball” or ”you’ll need an injection.” Yet because of my Svaroopa® yoga practices, the pain went away miraculously ― amazingly, never to return.

When I mentioned my condition to one of the Ashram swamis, she recommended I try Embodyment® Yoga Therapy sessions or at least one hour a day of Ujjayi Pranayama. Because of my schedule, I chose to commit myself to my Ujjayi breathing practice. To stay conscious the whole hour, I set a timer for every 20 minutes. It worked! The pain started to lesson.

The real turnaround happened when I changed my daily yoga routine. I learned I had not been sequencing my spine effectively. Swamiji gave me a more therapeutic pose practice. This released my tailbone tensions and reached into all the tight spots I’d been missing.

I also gave myself more time in the poses. By slowing down, I felt my body relaxing. In the pauses between poses, I could perceive the inner shifts. To feel complete, I always included a beginning and closing Shavasana.

Now I get up in the morning with no pain. And I know I have to keep up with the practices. I think of it as cooperating with the flow of Grace!

I Needed the Shavasana Course

By Andrea (Arya) Perry

Interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney

When the Shavasana Course was offered last year, I knew I needed to take it.  My goal is to live in and from the state of Self all the time.  On an ongoing basis, I note how deeply I am seated in Self.  Yet I vacillate, moving up and down like waves.  Sometimes I’m deep and sometimes I’m barely touching the water.  I live in the future a lot and I’m constantly planning.  I try to figure out what I’m going to do and how to do it.  In Meditation Teacher Training I learned a key question: “Is your mind with your body?”

I needed body and breath practices to get my mind with my body.  Gurudevi confirmed this:  “…you use Anavopaya, starting with body and breath steadily weaving yourself back into a whole again.  That wholeness becomes a profound feeling of holiness, the sanctity of our own Self.” (Freedom – July 2022 Teachings Article)

She further confirmed my need for the Shavasana Course.  She wrote about how you get lost in your mind and senses, and that yoga says to stay in your body (Perception & Action – September 2022 Teachings Article).  I knew the Shavasana Course would help me settle into my body and my own Self. 

The Shavasana Course delivered just what I needed.  It had been a long time since I had been that deep from physical practices.  It got my mind back into my body and infinitely more.  We had six continuous days of two and a half hours, including various Shavasanas along with meditation.  The course embodied and enlivened me.  

It was the Amazing Grace of Kundalini that dissolved my tensions, created openings and enlivened my body.  I felt gratitude for Kundalini’s generous gifts.  I felt more open physically and multi-dimensionally.  I experienced the bliss of being, lying on my back.  I experienced deeply resting in Self.

I returned to my busy life and long list of to-do’s.  This message arose in my mind: “Be Shiva doing the doing!  Focus on your Shiva-ness instead of on the doing.  When grounded in your Shiva-ness, there is no need for constant, overwhelming mental activity.  Things needing to get done will get done with efficiency and ease.”

I feel blessed for the gift of so many practices and tools that help me toward my goal.  And I feel blessed that Gurudevi guides me. 

Hatha Yoga

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda 

Hatha yoga is described in the yogic texts as efforting practice, a way to apply yourself physically.  However, you’re working on enlightenment, not on perfecting your body. The point is that your physical mastery gives you mental fortitude, so you can apply your mind to more subtle and interior practices.

In India, the land of yoga’s origin, the poses are only 10% of yoga’s technology. The other 90% is about your mind and getting beyond your mind, so you can experience svaroopa, your ever-blissful Divine Essence. Body-centered practice goes by the generic hatha yoga. The West offers many brand names, including our own Svaroopa® yoga.

By contrast, 90% of the yogis in India are sitting.  They are sitting to listen to their Guru expound on the teachings, sitting to contemplate the teachings they’ve heard, sitting in meditation.  They sit to watch the sunrise or sunset, sit as they participate in Vedic ceremonies, and they sit and wait for their own Divinity to fill into the stillness they’ve created in their mind. 

Hatha yogis don’t sit and watch the sunrise; they do Sun Salutations. They don’t listen to teachings or contemplate them; they do poses and try to make their body measure up. They don’t regulate their breath in order to quiet their mind; they pump their breath in order to sustain continual movement. They don’t still their mind; they keep moving while looking for a quiet inner center. 

Yoga has been growing in the West since 1893, so much that yogis now compete for championships and even Gold Medals. Google it: yoga is a sport. This is a different direction than the sages intended. 

Hatha has a second translation: the mystical meaning that is found in every Sanskrit word. The syllables ha and tha name the energies that flow along the two sides of your spine: ha — along the right side of your spine; tha — along your left. When you open and balance these two flows, the energy shifts and flows through the center of your spine. This is a profound inner opening that deepens with practice, especially with the guidance and blessings of an authorized Master.

To summarize, hatha yoga has two approaches: one is a path of self-effort and the other is a path of Grace – two radically different paths. Svaroopa® yoga is a path of Grace. Everyone else is on the other path, as wonderfully arduous as it can be.

After my Guru sent me back to America, I could see that my yoga students were not getting the openings that the poses are meant to provide. So I taught them variations, using carefully aligned angles to target their spinal tensions, providing the spinal release that is now named Svaroopa® yoga. It surprised me when people started getting Shaktipat awakening. Now I realize that I was carrying my Guru’s gift of Grace to the next generation. 

Svaroopa® yoga is a hatha yoga, with self-effort involved. This is a path of both self-effort and Grace. Self-effort is very important: you must apply yourself to the practices. Yet, on a path of Grace, you have to remember to make space for something more to happen. 

Svaroopa® yoga is unique, a hatha yoga that’s full of Grace. You put forth effort. You make time to attend a class or have a private session. Or you do your own practices. Yet Grace supports you every step of the way. 

But where are you going? There’s really nowhere to go. You’re not travelling to your Self because you already ARE the Self. You already ARE Consciousness-itself, svaroopa. This is why it is named “Svaroopa® yoga.”

Choosing Your State

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

Whatever happens, you get to choose your response. You’ve got options. Let’s say you have a flat tire. You could be frustrated because it is happening when you’re busy. Or you could be relieved that it didn’t happen when you were driving at 70 miles per hour. Another option is that you feel virtuous, for you have a membership to an auto service that will make the whole process easy for you.

You might feel guilty because you knew there was a problem with that tire, but you didn’t take care of it. Maybe you are grateful to a friend or passing stranger who helps you with it. Or you use your intelligence to search for an online video that will help you with DIY.

You are even capable of having multiple reactions simultaneously. The feeling on which you choose to focus determines what happens next. If frustration makes you curse and kick the tire, you could end up with a broken toe along with a flat tire. If you focus on feeling relieved or grateful, then you feel blessed. You also become generous and helpful to others.

You’re not an automaton, running the same program over and over. When you face a familiar problem, you can respond differently because (hopefully) you learned something from it last time. If you’re a yogi, your response comes from a new level of compassion and clarity compared to last time, simply because you’ve opened up your inner reservoir more deeply.

Yogis learn from the inside as well as from the outside. On the outside, life gives you lessons. Are you getting them? If not, life will serve up the same menu as before, so you have another chance to get it. When you get it, you are changed. Learning from the outside changes you on the inside.

A yogi does it in a different order. A yogi gets it on the inside first. Then the same menu doesn’t need to be served up again. And even if it does, your inner transformation makes your outer response easy. Clarity and compassion support you, even if the answer you give is “No.”

This is tantra, the interweaving of the Divine into the mundane. Yoga makes you able to find the Divine within, your essence effulging forth like a blossoming flower. You bring it with you into everything outside of you, into the seemingly mundane world. Every other being and…

GPS:  God Positioning System 

By Swami Prajñananda

I wished I could stop time.  In the dark of the night, I used to wake up terrified, remembering that one day I would die.  I was only a child, but my looming death weighed heavily on me.  I wished for time to stop, but I could feel it still ticking steadily onward.  During the day, it was easy to forget about death.  But, in those quiet moments in the dark, I couldn’t push the thoughts away.

Part of the reason it was so scary was that I wasn’t experiencing God.  I had some basic training in religion growing up, but I wasn’t actually having the experience.  So, death felt like the end — absolute oblivion.  

This nihilistic belief system continued for me until I met Gurudevi Nirmalananda.  Being in her presence and receiving her teachings, I experienced that there is more to me than I thought.  Sitting for meditation and turning inward, I would feel a sense of eternity.  This eternality would fill me from the inside.  Meditation after meditation gave me this inner fullness without start or end.  

Each day, I would look forward to my daily meditation.  I was finding that “something” that I had been missing and looking for, for so long.  My usual inner feeling of emptiness was replaced by expansive fullness.  Over time, I realized the eternality I was finding inside was in fact God.  God is eternal, Existence-Itself.  God has no beginning or end.  God is all-pervasive.  This means God is being this entire world, including me.  

I hadn’t been successful at reaching for God on the outside. However, thanks to Gurudevi, I was having major success at finding God on the inside.  Gurudevi explains this more:

For a yogi, reaching to God is an inward reach, turning your attention, turning your mind and heart to the sacred space inside, finding the Divine dimension that is yoga’s focus and yoga’s specialty.

— Gurudevi Nirmalananda, “You’re in the Holidays,” December 4, 2022

Yes! Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation excels at this.  While I am sharing my personal experience with you, it is not a rare or unique experience in this tradition.  When you meditate with Gurudevi, you will discover the same, even in your first meditation.  This is because everyone has the same sacred space inside.  It is God’s space.  It is your space.  You simply need someone to guide you there.  

Gurudevi is a Meditation Master who serves as your spiritual GPS.  Your usual worldly GPS rivets your attention outside of yourself.  Focused on your relationships and what you see and do, you lose track of your own Divine Essence.  When you replace your worldly GPS with a spiritual one, your attention is directed inside.  I call it a God Positioning System, for it places you right where God is.  Right here.  Right now.  Right inside. 

How? Through meditation. 

Gurudevi’s own depth, coming from the lineage of Masters who precede her, gives you an inner boost.  In meditation, you are glided inward, past the pitfalls and snags of your mind.  You are guided all the way to the deepest dimension of your being.  You experience God inside.  When you open your eyes, you can see God outside too.  And at the same time, you are the one being both.  Inside and outside, all at the same time.  To discover this for yourself, meditate with a Master.

Gurudevi Is Teaching at SYTAR

On Saturday, June 15, Gurudevi is teaching a workshop Entitled “Ending Back Pain,”at the conference of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). This is their annual event titled SYTAR — Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research. 

Gurudevi’s experiential workshop demonstrates how Svaroopa® Yoga Therapy works, through spinal decompression.  She describes that she is “putting the pathway to healing in the hands of the one who needs it — the patient/client.”

Participants will experience Svaroopa® Yoga therapeutic tools for relieving back pain.  In supervised partner-pairs, they will also learn how to give a Svaroopa® Yoga therapeutic technique.  In addition, Gurudevi will addresses the multiple roots of back pain from a tantric perspective, as a model for how healing must address the person’s multiple dimensions, interweaving them into wholeness.  This is a tantric therapeutic paradigm.  The individual is restored to their essential wholeness, and empowered to navigate whatever arises in their life.

Workshop attendance is limited to 40.  Thus, Gurudevi’s workshop is not for those already trained as Svaroopa® yoga teachers.  However, attending the conference is highly recommended.  If you already teach Svaroopa® yoga and/or offer sessions, SYTAR will expand your perspective.  Through the other workshops and classes, you can explore the latest trends in yoga therapy.  Moreover, attending lets you know where you stand in the growing yoga therapist profession.  Gurudevi says, “The biggest boost is seeing how much you know.  You hear about the struggle of others figuring out how to do therapeutic yoga.”

The location is the Hyatt Reston in Virginia — convenient to Washington DC and Dulles International Airport.  Learn More.