Author Archives: Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram


By Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast, Yogaratna

At first, I valued this pose for its efficiency.  Your sacrum, waist and ribcage area of your spine all get a deep release at the same time.  Now I’ve learned to savor the true power of Virasana (Hero Pose) with Seated Side Stretch (SSS).

Virasana SSS opens me inward to exuberance!  On my upper arm side, the whole side of my torso lengthens and expands.  While extending my straight-elbow arm diagonally, I ease my navel inward.  Then my torso extends on both sides.  The sense of lengthening and expansion is delicious.

Moving in gradually gives me a sweet transition from computer work — from “busy mind” to minding my body.  Sitting in the middle of my blanket stack, I soften both legs.  One at a time, I lift them into the crossed-leg alignment.  Relaxing my legs, I can more easily line my knees up.  Pausing with my hands resting on my knees, I settle into easy breathing and inner awareness.  I drop down from a hectic day into the eternal peace of my own Self.

Then I silently coach myself with tips.  “Use elbow muscles” to keep your upraised arm straight.  “Align your upper arm parallel to your spine line.”  I feel both sides of my torso as well as my upraised arm lengthen more.

After moving out of the first side, I pause to sit, resting with my stacked hands again on my knees.  My mind settles down and inward.  I sink into noticing my body inside more deeply.  I feel the ongoing changes.  

The feeling of warm upliftment continues.  A sense of renewal spreads all the way up to the side of my face.  It’s a delicious interval.

For my other side, I repeat the step-by-step process of moving in, staying in and moving out.  The luxurious openings unfold on my second side.  Yumm…

My Shaktipat Retreat

By Madelyn (Maanasaa) Jablon 

There were two reasons why I hesitated to sign up for the New Year’s Shaktipat Retreat.  First, I was feeling “out of practice.”  I had attended the autumn Shaktipat for many years.  When the pandemic upset this routine, I felt unanchored.  

Second, I wondered if it was necessary to receive Shaktipat more than once.  I knew that Shaktipat initiated the awakening of Kundalini.  If she was awakened at my first Shaktipat retreat, did she need to be awakened again?  Had life’s experiences hit the snooze button?  The New Year’s Retreat provided answers. 

Although I have a daily practice, I am curious when other yogis describe their Shaktipat experiences.  They speak of inner lights, spine-tingling energy and love unrivaled.  I hoped to have these experiences and prepared for the retreat with a week of intensive practices — meditation, asana and Ujjayi.  

When Gurudevi, giving Shaktipat by touch, hovers near me, my feverish repetition of mantra crescendos.  I pray, “please let me feel SOMETHING!”  The moment arrives.  Gurudevi places her hand on my forehead.  Nothing. 

In our sharing session, Swami Samvidaananda’s voice echoed off the walls of my bottomless hole of despair.  “We have time for one more yogi to describe their Shaktipat experience.  Maanasaa, please come up.”

I said, “I experienced the undulating rhythmic vibrations of the universe”.  

This time, I lost my old skepticism about Shaktipat.  I gained the ability to hear the percussion band of the universe: da-dum-da-dum; da-dum-da-dum.  

Gurudevi says it is always resounding.

1000-Fold Return on Investment 

By Karen (Kumuda) Schaub 

Interviewed by Agnes (Aikyaa) Hetherington 

Winter of 2022 was a challenging time for me.  My stress level was through the roof.  I was a first-year public school teacher, commuting more than two hours daily.  In icy conditions, I nearly fell three times, which strained my already “crunchy” left hip. 

In March I had a more serious fall.  I went headfirst down the steps outside my condo.  I had very intense and painful bruising on my shins and knees.  It also aggravated my hip pain. 

In acute pain, I went to school as usual the next day.  After a week of homeopathy, herbs and acupuncture, I realized more help was needed.  My old hip problem had already impaired my ability to bend forward.  Now my knees were stiff and swollen. 

I worried about regaining my mobility.  I was scared about the amount of pain and concerned about blood clots with the intense bruising.  So I began weekly Embodyment® therapy sessions with my Svaroopa® yoga teacher, Kris Curran. 

The weekly sessions helped start my healing process.  Most of the swelling and bruising subsided over the next three months.  Attending a retreat at Lokananda in July however, I had to use the stairlift to get to the second floor.  I was not yet back to normal movement. 

I remembered Kris had mentioned Overlap Healing.  This Embodyment® modality “overlaps” sessions to allow for staying open and deep healing.  It was a large commitment of time and money, but I decided to make that commitment. 

For three weeks in August, I immersed in nine Overlap Embodyment® sessions.  The healing was profound and so was the opening in my body.  It was a miracle.  My pain and mobility issues diminished by 95 percent! 

I marvel at being able to walk my dog outside and not be in pain now.  Equally important was the effect on my mind.  Embodyment® allowed me to turn off my mind and settle in.  It stopped all that fear process — nipped it in the bud! 

I will do it again, on summer break from teaching, no questions asked.  It’s a big commitment, but the return on investment is one thousand-fold! 

Yoga Healing Retreats Work Miracles!

By Swami Praj~nananda

Doing more yoga works. I see it every time we offer a Yoga Healing Retreat. As a therapist, I love to support students in these retreats. Everyone’s process is different, but the profound changes in your body, mind and heart are guaranteed.

Each day you receive a yoga therapy session, a vichara session and a group yoga class. You hear a discourse on Consciousness. You chant and mediate, then meditate some more. You are filled up from the inside! And it works every time. 

Yet I noticed the retreat this past January raised the healing bar even higher. This is because Gurudevi updated the format by adding an extra day. You may think, “Oh, what can one extra day do? A lot!”

Now you get another day of immersive practices, each day building on the last. And what’s more, you get a newly established Q&A session with Gurudevi. The Q&A is expertly positioned the second-to-last day. With days of healing behind you, your pump is primed for a breakthrough. You’ve gone as far as you could on your own, and you need an extra push. You need a Guru boost!

In the Q&A session, Gurudevi meets you where you’re at. She provides the teachings, presence and support to move you to the next level. I saw this happen with each and every student. Truly incredible. Yet, not surprising. This stuff really works!

Carolyn (Karuna) Beaver shares:

Swami Prajnananda is right. That extra day was more than a day. It had the effect of integrating and consolidating all the deep practices I’d done. I was more prepared to take these new openings home with me. Gurudevi’s generous responses during our Q&A opened new possibilities and helped me choose my next steps.

Since returning home I’ve maintained the physical openings by doing the customized yoga set given to me. I’ve added vichara sessions to my other regular practices. It keeps my mind moving in the right direction. I’m looking at my life with a new yogic lens. 

Celina (Chinmayi) Sochaczewska reports from Europe:

When I saw it in the SVA Calendar, I knew I needed this retreat. Living in France, knowing I’d finish every morning at 3 am local time was a bit scary. So I created a plan for preparing myself. A few days beforehand, I went to bed later each night. I did plenty of yoga. I even organized my provisions to avoid the need to shop during the retreat. My life over the six days was a total immersion. I was surprised that I did not need my daily fresh air outings.

In the online retreat, I experienced delicious inner joy and could not stop smiling. It was like a dream come true. Of course, the individual yoga and vichara sessions brought things to the surface (and they are still coming). Yet Gurudevi’s presence, chanting and meditation made the healing faster.

As a result, I have joined the online Meditation Club, and I’m loving it. My daily personal practice of prescribed poses enables me to sit through in my meditation nest without bodily discomforts. My meditation experience is much smoother and deeper. My heart is filled with gratitude to Gurudevi, Swami Shrutananda and Swami P. for their incredible support and guidance.

Lynn (Gurupremananda) Cattafi feels the changes continuing:

I was a little skeptical at first, but I signed up anyway. My feet have been in a lot of pain, and I knew I needed the personalized help. I received so much more than just pain relief. The Healing Retreat format is so powerful. I was deeply healed in body, mind and heart. The practices are brilliantly designed to reach you on all levels of your being.

I took the online, full immersion option. Doing the retreat from my own home felt very sacred; I was able to weave the healing into every part of my life, while being in my life. I can report that this retreat made me ready to receive a huge inner breakthrough that came a few days later. I am grateful for Gurudevi, and Swami Shrutananda and Swami Praj~nananda for their loving and expert guidance. My feet are doing much better too! The personalized pose set is reaching in exactly where it needs to, so the healing continues! 

Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast adds her update:

I returned home from the January Healing Retreat relieved of acid reflux and hip crease discomfort. The head of my left thigh bone slipped into its hip socket for the first time ever. My customized home pose set gives me continuing breakthroughs. More improvement than I could ever have imagined motivates my daily practice of challenging poses.

I feel my arms, legs and abs strengthening significantly day by day. In Meditation Club, which starts at 4:30 am my time, I sit in steady ease with an upright spine. Kriyas feel more deeply effective in clearing mental and emotional blockages. As I enter my 77th journey around the sun, I feel younger!

Abundance of Benefits from YTT 3

By Kim (K.rtakarii) Lodge

Interviewed by Margie (Maitreyi) Wilsman

On arriving at Level 3 of my Yoga Teacher Training, I was aware that something was quite different. My mind was telling me that the Teacher Trainers were treating us differently. From the beginning, everyone noticed the more relaxed feeling. As a group, we conversed easily with Swami Shrutananda and Sahajananda.

We expressed how our experience of the training had changed. They helped us to understand that we ourselves had shifted. They explained our shift inside made our training experience different. That really stood out for me. It helped me to see how much I had grown and changed. Gurudevi says it’s from receiving Shaktipat in Level 2.

After completing YTT 3, I could bring so much more to my students. Level 3 includes a great set of poses. Students were very excited about the new poses. But even more important, from a steadier place inside I could bring myself to my students in a whole new way. That has made the deep and abiding difference in the thriving of my yoga business, even during pandemic restrictions.

Before each training, I convince myself I am not ready. I now recognize that small-s self voice in my head as fear. Over the years, I have learned to trust this recognition. I know that, even though I hear this little voice sometimes, I am enough. I am ready. I am completely taken care of.

I am endlessly grateful to Gurudevi for showing me the way forward. Guru’s Grace is that steady hand at my back guiding me on my path.


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! 

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. 

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…