Author Archives: Swami Nirmalananda

About Swami Nirmalananda

Serving as the Master Teacher, Swamiji is a teacher of the highest integrity for over 35 years. Formerly known as Rama Berch, she is the originator of Svaroopa® yoga as well as the Founder of Master Yoga and of Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram. In 2009 she was honored with initiation into the ancient order of Saraswati monks. Now wearing the traditional orange, she has openly dedicated her life to serving others. Usually called Swamiji, she makes the highest teachings easily accessible, guiding seekers to the knowledge and experience of their own Divine Essence.

You Will Be Assimilated

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda 

Those were scary words when the Borg invaded a world in “Star Trek: Next Generation.” I wondered what made them so scary. The yogic sage Patanjali answered my question. He says that you already know what it is like to be assimilated, because your mind does this to you frequently. How frequently? Anytime you’re not in a state of enlightenment, you’re assimilated into your mind. 

v.rtti-saaruupyam-itaratra. — Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.4 

At other times, you are assimilated into your mind’s activities. 

You don’t merely have a mind with thoughts in it, your experience is “I am my mind!” If your thoughts are about happy things, you say, “I am happy.” If your thoughts are about sad things, you say, “I am sad.” You don’t say, “I’m thinking sad thoughts.” Instead, you become sadness itself. 

Fortunately this only happens when you’re not in a state of enlightenment. Unfortunately, your experiences of enlightenment are too few and far between. You have already experienced enlightenment, or at least a taste of it. Everyone has these peak experiences, first researched by the psychologist Abraham Maslow. This is all explained in the sutras preceding the one we’re focusing on. 

These great moments in your life happen when you allow everything to fall away from you and you stand in your glory, with your Inherent Divinity shining through. You might have experienced such a moment when standing on a mountain peak, or when you did something amazing and wonderful. For me, it was my wedding day. As I walked down the aisle, I was filled by God. I knew I was being filled by God. And I realized that it was the only way I wanted to live. 

Yoga says you are filled by God from the inside-out, for God is inside. When you clear your mind of the unnecessary chatter (and how much of it is necessary?), your Divine Essence shines through.  

But the rest of the time, as Patanjali says, your mind takes over. You get lost in your mind’s obsessions. It probably has many of them. But Patanjali doesn’t leave us stuck here. He continues on to explain what the mind does and how to get out of the trap it lays for you.  

The rest of his text is yogic techniques and teachings for how to transform your mind so it no longer harasses you. Yoga poses are included, but the bulk of his teachings are about managing your mind differently than you have been.  

The ultimate practice for managing your mind — better yet, for transforming your mind, is meditation. In yoga-based meditation, you don’t let your mind wander all over the cosmos. You harness the power of your mind and steer it inward so you discover your own Self, your own is-ness. Once you’ve found your way inside, you can live from that Essence and Beingness, always filled from the inside-out.

Online Therapeutic Yoga

By Swami Nirmalananda 

You’ve got choices. Do you want private yoga therapy sessions online? Each one-hour session is dedicated to your needs and gives you immediate improvement in your condition.

Would a semi-private class work better for you? You join in with one or two others who are also in need of healing. You share the teacher’s attention, which means there is less focus on your needs, while you have the support of others who are in the process. Also, it is less expensive because there are more of you sharing the cost.

You may find that our regular online classes work well for you, as Svaroopa® yoga is a therapeutically oriented yoga. Everything we do is about healing and upliftment. 

How do you choose? The best approach is to talk with one of our yoga therapists. She will do an informal assessment of your needs and steer you toward your best option.

If you want to make the choice on your own, use this easy guideline:

If you have a medical diagnosis, start with a private yoga therapy session.

If you don’t have a diagnosis, try out a class.

I used to think that yoga therapy couldn’t be done online, but then doctors started using TeleHealth. It was very empowering. Now we have done hundreds of yoga therapy sessions online, throughout the pandemic and continuing onward.

Many of the therapeutic tools we use are easy to implement over Zoom. You must have your video and audio on as we need to see you in order to help you.

If you are able to come in-person, we are able to do more. Being able to physically align you in your pose, even adding customized props and adjustments makes a big difference.  In addition to our yoga studio in Downingtown PA, we have many trained therapists around the country, even multiple countries. Check out our Teacher Directory.

The only way you’ll find out if Svaroopa® yoga therapy will help you is to give it a try. 

Being a Yogi in the World 

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda  

Yogis of yore left the world, the iconic yogis living in Himalayan caves since thousands of years ago. Their approach was to get rid of all possessions, leave their relationships and cease performing actions. They sought freedom. However, they discovered they could carry all that stuff in their mind, especially reactions to what happened in the past. Thus, in their solitude, they realized they had to work on clearing their mind. 

Clearing your mind gives you a moment of peace. More than mere peace, they strove to open inner access to the deeper levels of their own being. It’s like the sage Patanjali promised: 

Tadaa dra.s.tu.h svaruupe ‘vasthaanam. — Yoga Sutras 1.3 

In the moment your mind is still, you are established in your own Divine Essence.  

The rest of his text is about how to quiet your mind, including using yoga poses, yogic breathing, lifestyle changes and meditation techniques. Yet these are not exclusive to yoga. Everyone has their own little tricks for quieting their mind. One of my early favorites was to look at the sky. Something happens when your mind takes on the shape of the sky – blue, expansive and extending into infinity. 

When I began studying sutras, I wondered: If the goal is stillness of mind, then how do you manage your life? You have to use your mind to manage relationships, to pay bills and even to drive from one location to another. Patanjali’s students didn’t have that problem… 

Reincarnation Defined

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

Welcome back!  You’ve been here before.  How fortunate that you’ve made it into a human body this time.  Congratulations!  The ancient sages of India say we are the only species with the ability to choose our trajectory, both for this life as well as any future incarnations.

What is so special about being human?  While you have animalistic instincts and urges, there is more to you.  You have the ability to rise above them, to make choices to uplift yourself and to benefit others. Your intelligence, compassion and insight are unique amongst all creatures.

It is insight that makes the biggest difference.  In-sight is looking inward, not merely to your mind but to a deeper level, where you find who you are – who are you that has this mind?  By finding the deeper dimension within, you can become free from the cycle of birth-and-death.  Technically, reincarnation is called “The Doctrine of the Transmigration of Souls.”

Two seekers were walking together, having met along the road to an important pilgrimage site.  Their animated conversation was on the verge of becoming an argument, so they were happy to see a yogi under a tree alongside the road. 

They went over, bowed respectfully and said, “Oh Babaji.  We are disagreeing about how to become free from reincarnation’s vicious cycle.  Tell us, please:  how many more lifetimes will we each have to live?”

Turning to one of the seekers, the Guru said, “You have three more lifetimes to live.”  The seeker was shocked and disheartened.  He shouted, “Oh no!  Not really?  Three more.  That’s terrible!  I thought I was almost there.  Three more lifetimes.” He wandered off in despair.

Turning to the other seeker, the Guru said, “Your future lifetimes number as many as the leaves on this tree.”  With delight, the seeker replied, “Really?  It’s a finite number?  That means I really can make it, right?”  The Guru nodded approvingly.  The seeker bowed and thanked the Guru, then walked away, heading toward his companion.

Within moments, a truck veered off the road and killed him.  OK!  First lifetime complete!  Next he reincarnated as a virus, living only a few hours.  After many virus lifetimes, he graduated to a bacterium, living a bit longer.  He moved through other lifeforms, many with short lifespans, one right after the other. 

Finally, he was reborn as a human again.  His deep spiritual yearning led him to a Guru while still young.  He soaked up the teachings like a sponge, not only learning the theory but experiencing the Inner Truth toward which they point.  By the time he was in his 20’s, his name and reputation began to spread.  People came from far and wide to sit in his luminous presence and hear him teach.

The other seeker, with three lifetimes to go, was saddened to see his friend die so suddenly.  He continued on his pilgrimage, then went on others through his long life, living over 100 years.  His next lifetime was 110 years, wherein he studied with many different teachers. His next lifetime was another long one.

Reborn as a human again, he applied himself diligently to the meditative disciplines and sutra studies.  He was in his 90’s when he heard of a young Guru, one who radiated both love and wisdom.  With the help of friends, he traveled to meet this new teacher.  They all arrived, stored their bags in a nearby guest house and rushed to the satsang hall, slipping their shoes off outside.

The aged seeker walked in the door, picking his way slowly along the central aisle toward the Guru.  As he got closer, the Guru looked closely at him and began to laugh.  “Oh my friend!  Don’t you remember me?  We were sitting under the tree together, not so long ago…”

You have lived so many lives.  You have taken birth again this time so you can do something differently than before.  What is it that you have come here to do?  What do you want to find?  What is the highest that you can become?

The answers are all inside.  Unfortunately, without proper guidance, you’re peering into an inner darkness.  You need a teacher who can shine the light all the way inward.  That’s what my Baba did for me.  I’d love to help you find you, if you will allow.

Why Do I Give Shaktipat?

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda 

I give this Divine Initiation out of love, pure love.  It is love for my Guru that makes it even possible.  It is love for you that makes me reach out to you.  When I see you, I see your Divine Essence, but I also see that you don’t see it.  So I offer you a new way of seeing, a new way of being, a new way of living.  Shaktipat gives you this in an instant, yet the spiritual boost keeps growing within you. 

I remember when I lived in need and fear.  I was miserable but I tried to hide it from myself.  I kept busy.  I had my favorite escape hatches though none of them were uplifting.  Only when I started doing yoga did I find something that improved my state of mind along with my body. 

Then I received Shaktipat.  It gave me a whole new dimension of myself.  Suddenly, I was alive in a new way.  And my mind couldn’t trap me as effectively as before.  I didn’t need to escape anymore because I was present, fully present, and suddenly I had the capacity to BE. 

I offer you a chance to find yourself in this whole new way.  If you want it, then I want it for you.  But I’m not going to push you into the bliss of pure Beingness.  If you don’t want it, you can say no.  You see, God always says yes.  It’s only human beings that say no. 

I had to begin giving Shaktipat because my students were getting it spontaneously.  I couldn’t explain it because I hadn’t been authorized yet, so they were confused.  They were profoundly changed but didn’t understand what was happening. 

Plus my energies were quite unbalanced.  I started blowing out watches and other battery powered devices.  I was radiating Divine Shakti, God’s energy, but hadn’t grown into it fully yet.  It’s like putting a ten-year-old behind the wheel of a truck.  They can steer as it rolls downhill, but can they reach the brake? 

I deepened my practices and went to others within my lineage and tradition.  With their support and blessing, I was authorized to give Shaktipat.  It’s like a channel opened up for the Shakti that was building in me.  It made me deeply humble, for I know that this energy is God’s power of awakening.  Do you want it? 

Yoga Therapy

By Swami Nirmalananda  

In my first yoga class, the teacher said, “Just do what you can.”  It was compassionate but not very helpful. I enjoyed the classes but made little progress.  When I tried another yoga style, the teacher often shouted encouragingly, “Reach for it!”  Not at all compassionate, but she was giving me a goal to aim for.  Unfortunately, I failed.  Repeatedly. 

Yoga therapy meets you where you are at, which means it is compassionate.  And it gives you a goal, which is so important.  Yet it does one thing more.  It gives you a way to reach that goal, a step-by-step process that is custom tailored to your needs.  You can see your own progress toward the new possibilities you’re expanding into. 

Your private yoga therapy session begins with an assessment, “How are you, really?  What do you need help with?”  Then your yoga therapist creates a personalized plan for you, a step-by-step process that moves you through your needed healing. 

If you have a medical diagnosis, yoga therapy is a powerful adjunct to your medical treatment.   

If you are coming for pain relief, stress relief or deeper levels of healing, yoga therapy makes powerful changes from the beginning.

Yoga therapy is so powerful because it works in a realm that medicine rarely addresses — the source from which your own healing comes.  This is your own beingness, “svaroopa” in Sanskrit.  This is where Svaroopa® yoga gets its name.  

We usually begin with coaching your breathing, pivotal to all levels of healing.  Yoga’s gentle, focused breathing process makes you feel better quickly.  You learn how to take the practice home with you, empowering you to contribute to your own improvement.  Your pain and stress levels drop, your circulatory and immune systems begin to recalibrate themselves. All your physiological systems are gradually revitalized. 

When we incorporate yoga poses into your private sessions, they target your spinal tensions and dissolve them.  This creates interior space in your body, good for all your organs as well as muscles and bones.  Even your brain loves it!  The most important part of each session is when you settle into a deep healing state, a yogic immersion that integrates mind-heart-body in a delicious and tangible way. 

You move through the phases of yoga therapy, traversing a well-mapped pathway to health and wholeness.  A gentle self-inquiry process helps you melt mental and emotional patterns that are linked in with your physical condition.  The result is a profound paradigm shift, one that helps you make sense out of your life experiences and the choices ahead.  All systems are go! 

Wednesdays with Gurudevi!

Gurudevi especially designed Yoga Wednesday to support you in your yogic process.  Pivotally positioned in the middle of the week, Yoga Wednesday can get you over the hump.  The best part is the extra time with Gurudevi, who leads the morning meditation and evening program.

The evening satsang is free if you can join us live in Downingtown.  To join online, enroll in Yoga Wednesday.

I feel as though I’m sitting in Gurudevi’s living room.  A swami reads a teaching from Baba Muktananda.  Then Gurudevi’s teaching is based on this reading.  It is like the unfolding of a beautiful lotus flower.  

In her satsang talk, Gurudevi unfurls the lotus one petal at a time.  She reveals the deeper richness and understanding of Baba Muktananda’s words.  These talks are a Grace-filled gift from Gurudevi.  As they are not recorded, I know I will only hear these deep discourses this one time.  I am extremely grateful to be able to attend these rich Wednesday offerings. – Nancy W.

The Meaning of Karma

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda 

Karma is a cosmic IOU.  You owe the universe something — or the universe owes you.  If you did things to benefit others in the past, motivated by altruism or compassion, the universe will reward you.  If you did things to harm others in the past, the universe will pay you back. 

Nobody ever asks about karma unless they’re going through a hard time.  Can I be frank?  Unfortunately, you earned it.  It’s easy to see when you cut somebody off in another lane while driving, and a few miles later the same thing happens to you.   

But when the events are separated in time, it’s harder to sort out.  Karma is cosmic justice, even though sometimes it takes a while to catch up with you, even lifetimes.  In meditation, I’ve had past life memories that explained why I’ve dealt with certain difficulties in my life.  Other such memories have explained many of the blessings in my life. 

In the Yoga Sutras, the sage Patanjali explains: 

Karma-a“sukla-ak.r.sna.m yoginis-trividham-itare.sam — sutra 4.7 

Karmas of yogis are neither white nor black, but are of three kinds in others. 

White means light, pure and pleasurable; black means heavy, dark and painful.  Yoga’s great masters experience neither as they live in an expansive inner state of pure beingness.  For such a being, events are like weather, which comes and goes.   

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For those who are not yet living in such a deep and easy constancy, karmas are of three types:  pleasurable, painful and mixed.  You are already familiar with each. 

No one ever asks about karma when they’re enjoying health, wealth and meaningful relationships.  However, they earned these fortunate life circumstances.  When life is not going so well, it’s good to understand two things: 

* You set yourself up

* It’s temporary. 

This too will pass.  The good news is that you have some say in when and how it will pass.  Do good unto others and your karma will improve.  It might be immediate, or it might take a month or more, but it always works. 

Except there’s a hitch.  If you’re doing good unto others so that you get some good in return, it won’t work.  What is required is altruism or compassion.  Or sheer generosity.  It’s a glorious way to live!

Wholeness

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

It is the inner fragmentation that is so painful.  Yoga calls this “the human condition,” and promises wholeness instead.  This is a profound state of deep peace, with inner dimensionality that extends to infinity.  You get there by doing yogic practices to invoke your inherent wholeness of being.  Like with anything you practice, you get good at it.  Thus you’re able to live in an easy inner constancy.  Yoga calls this “Self,” spelled with an upper-case “S.”

Fragmentation is also called “self,” but is spelled with a lower-case “s.”  It’s like a crystal hanging in a window, which fragments a beam of sunlight into many dots of dancing light, each one analogous to a small-s self.  Who you are as a daughter or son is different than who you are as a sibling or friend.  You have many small-s selves, some based on your occupation and your avocations, with others based on your geography.  Your many selves can make it hard for you to make choices or follow through on them.  Worse, the arguments you have with yourself can be demoralizing.

Every small-s self requires effort to sustain it.  If you are a skier, you have to buy and maintain equipment, plan winter trips and join ski groups.  If you skip a couple of seasons, or even discover that yoga makes you feel better than skiing, there’s a point where you…

Free Meditation Class Online

by Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

You want to learn to meditate.  Congratulations!   

Perhaps you’ve already tried one or more approaches to meditation and are looking for other options.   

I’m delighted to share my own practice with you, one I’ve been deepening into for almost 50 years.   

As an authorized teacher within an ancient lineage, I’ve had the great fortune to teach thousands of people to meditate.  I can help you. 

Free Online Class 

Check our calendar for our twice-monthly introductory meditation programs.  Each one lasts 90 minutes, enough time for you to learn what to do, as well as to try it out in a group meditation.  Then there’s a discussion that helps you understand your experience as well as troubleshoot any problems you’re having. 

You may find one of our trained meditation teachers in your area – check our Teacher Directory.  Their offerings may be Online or On-Site. 

Free On-Site Meditations

I teach two free meditation programs weekly, Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings.  On-Site in Downingtown PA, these are free.  Online has an enrollment fee, due to our costs in providing the online services.   

Check our calendar for “Swami Sunday” and for “Yoga Wednesday”.  If you can come to Downingtown, I get to meet you personally!  I’d love that. 

Take a Meditation Course

For a deeper meditation, the word is to meditate longer.  “Longer” means that you meditate for a longer time period, like a full hour instead of only ten minutes.  It also means that your ability improves with practice.  Thus your meditation will be deeper after a year of consistent meditation and even deeper after ten years. 

For quicker inner progress, take a meditation course, like you would if you were learning a musical instrument or how to skydive.  We offer “Learn to Meditate” every month or two.  In our Teacher Directory, you’ll find authorized teachers near you who teach the same course. 

Breakthroughs & Profound Understandings

An Ashram specializes in the deeper teachings and practices, so you’ve got many more options. 

We have five swamis offering sutra courses, yoga & meditation classes and more.  Each program includes the ancient teachings, which create inner openings for your bliss-filled exploration.   

The most powerful of these is my Shaktipat Retreat.  Here, you receive the mystical initiation that awakens your meditative energy to arise within.  Life is truly changed in that moment, with a whole new trajectory opened up to you.  That’s what propelled me into the inner light.  I love to share. 

What Do You Want? 

You have lots of choices!  If you don’t know where to start, try a 1-minute video from a recent satsang on our YouTube channel or a recent podcast.   

Or just call us at 610.806.2119 or email programs@svaroopayoga.org – we’ll be happy to talk with you about your next step.