Monthly Archives: July 2018

Naming the Inner Experience

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

Svaroopa® yoga specializes in the deep inner absorption, yoga’s promise.  This inner experience, whether it happens in Shavasana or in meditation, is deeper than sleep and at the same time more open and spacious.  It is deep, yet it has a quality of lightness and it is easier to surface from.  Coming out of this state, you feel profoundly rested – more rested than after a full night of sleep.

Since English has no word for this experience, you may think you fell asleep. Yet you know it was somehow different.  Many people describe this inner absorption as being “better than sleep.”  This is why yoga uses Sanskrit words, technical terminology that makes us able to talk about things that English does not name.

Without words in English, you cannot name it, and you cannot even conceive that it is other than something you can name – sleep.  The words you already know leave no room for you to acknowledge that something entirely different is happening.  This is one of the reasons that I write these articles – to help you recognize that the things you are experiencing are beyond your concepts of what can happen.  You need new vocabulary for this.  You need words that describe the subtle and the profound.   There are Sanskrit words for all the different types of inner experiences you have.

In Shavasana, your deeper inner experience is either yoga nidra or tandra.  It is a profound inner immersion into consciousness, which is your own essence.  I like to call it, “going unconscious in consciousness.”  It is like a scuba diver who has gone so deep that there is no light filtering down to that level, but the diver is there nonetheless.  Next time, that diver might plan to bring an underwater light along.  As you become more accustomed to this inner depth, you become more able to see and know where you are, which is a profound inner level of your own being.

Yoga nidra feels more like floating.  It is an inner immersion, but not as deep.  You can hear the things going on around you, but they seem very far away and you are not much interested.   You may have experienced this briefly while falling asleep at night.  In fact, nidra means sleep, so this is a state of “yogic sleep,” which is restful without being heavy.  The ancient tradition of yoga describes that the masters give their body 3 hours of rest each night by resting in yoga nidra.  This way, they do not go unconscious nor do they tighten up.  In sleep, your body tightens – you especially recognize this when you do poses in the morning.  In yoga nidra, your body doesn’t tighten up.  Most importantly, the rest that your body needs is easily available and very time efficient.

While these are deep and profound experiences, there is more…

Originally published March 2006

Physics, Anatomy & Yoga

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

Your body is made of atoms, just like every other physical object.  Those atoms consist of subatomic particles, which are tiny bits of contracted energy swirling around in vast amounts of empty space.  The subatomic particles that make up your body are the same subatomic particles that make up everything else, including what you are sitting or standing on, the air you are breathing, the meal you ate recently, etc.  These particles include protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks and mesons, which move in different patterns to become everything that exists, including your body.

The ancient yogis mapped these energy flows that produce the human body, naming them nadis.  Acupuncture calls them meridians.  Medical science confirmed their existence once machines were invented, a few decades ago, which are sensitive enough to measure and map these subtle flows.

The 720,000,000 nadis branch out from the primary flow, which is through your spine.  Your nervous system is the physical manifestation of the primary flows, with all the nerves branching off from your spinal cord.  Your spine controls your whole body.  At the same time, your spine is much more — your spine is the conduit of consciousness.

While physical tensions in your spine do block the flow of this energy, the most powerful blocks are the ones you create with your mind and emotions.  You can think yourself into exhaustion.  Similarly, you tighten your whole body with a single thought or by ruminating over your reactions to life’s prior events.  This also works the other way — your Svaroopa® yoga practice untangles the deep internal tensions in your body, unraveling your mental and emotional patterns simultaneously.

You know how this works by your own experience.  You feel better after just a few poses, a physical change and more.  The inner opening is not merely the decompression of your spine; you can tell because your state of mind and the inner quality of your being open up at the same time.  Ultimately yoga describes that the fullest potential of a human being becomes available through this inner opening, specifically through opening of your spine.

Your spine is the “conduit of consciousness.”  This phrase is very important, and contains many levels of meaning.  First, it means that the energy which has become the universe is a conscious energy.  The One that existed before this universe existed, decided to bring this universe into existence, and got it started with a big bang (spanda in Sanskrit) is called Shiva. Kashmiri Shaivism recognized that Shiva’s decision to manifest the universe means that Shiva has free will.  This means that Shiva is conscious — more than merely conscious, Shiva is Consciousness-Itself.

Secondly, Shiva contracted to become the energy and atoms that make up this world, including your own mind and body.  You can visualize this process like a bolt of lightning that strikes the earth, except that the earth doesn’t exist yet in our cosmological map — the lightening strike brings the earth into existence.  On a personal level, that lightning strike is your spine. The earth that is brought into existence is your body, which forms around your spine.  This is both figuratively and literally true, as the formation of the embryo begins with the spine.  Even the brain comes later, growing like a mushroom cap on top of the spinal cord.

The entire process is one of contraction.  Einstein named it in his famous formula, E=mc2.  Shiva contracts to become the universe, forming matter out of energy.  You are an individualized form of Shiva.  Your body is the most contracted level of your being, while your mind is a more subtle level that pervades your whole body, though many of its functions are concentrated in your head and heart. Your spine is the key to the whole thing.

Third, the momentum is toward contraction.  From the time your body was formed, you began contracting in accordance with your experiences, even when you were in your mother’s womb.  Your early life shaped your brain and body. As you mature, your life choices continue the process of contraction, until you begin to shrink with age.  Your spine shortens while your world gets smaller and smaller.  This is the classical description of aging, a shared human experience and a prediction of your future.  The momentum is toward contraction.

Fourth and most important, the decompression of your spine turns the whole thing around.  Through core opening, the momentum toward contraction is reversed; technically, it is boomeranged.  The release of tensions in your tailbone muscles turns the contraction back on itself, like a boomerang returning back to its master.  Once you get a certain amount of inner opening, the energy in your spine is amped up, with a higher frequency moving through.  In other words, once you get enough release at your tailbone, a profound current of energy begins to flow through your spine.

In the beginning, it is a periodic surge that works on dissolving the blocks you had so carefully installed.  As you open more and more, this profound current of energy becomes a continuous flow, expanding your knowing of your own being and of the world.  The stages along the way are profound transformations, which help you uncover your deeper identity.

This is an inner blossoming of your own essence; you feel you are becoming more and more yourself.  This gives you an inner ease in your own being, and an ability to move though life fluidly, adapting to its quirks and changes as they occur — even laughing at them or learning from them more easily.

The signs that this current has begun to flow along your spine include:

  • A flare of inner heat or a wave of heat that climbs your spine
  • Beautiful inner lights/colors, inner visions or inner sounds during meditation (or even in a short seated pose in class)
  • Spontaneous realignment of your spine during a seated pose or during meditation
  • Spontaneous physical movements or breath movements
  • Deep and profound realizations during yoga poses or meditation
  • A deep inner absorption in Shavasana or meditation, from which you arise fully refreshed and knowing that you were “in there somewhere,” in a place that is both timeless and vast
  • A growing sense of inner knowingness, with a deep inner trust that needs no external support
  • A realization that you cannot go back to the way you used to be.

Svaroopa® yoga specializes in this inner awakening.  This is the promise of Svaroopa® yoga — that the conduit of consciousness gives you access to the knowing of your own essence.  This is the goal of all yogas, though it is rarely stated openly.  This is the fire of yoga, which opens up the radiance of your own being, so that you can know your own essence and recognize it in everyone and everything that exists.

Your interest in yoga may be motivated by simpler things — healing an injury, improving your health, reducing stress, ending your back or neck pain (or other pains), finding an inner tranquility that carries into your life, etc.  How wonderful that you get whatever you came for — and you get to decide how much you want.  You make your decision by how much yoga you do.

OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo nama.h

Originally published February 2006

Varaha Avatar

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

“Vaikuntha” is the abode of Lord Vishnu.  Jaya and Vijaya are the two doorkeepers guarding the seven doors of this Divine Realm.  They love Lord Vishnu and feel honored to be serving him.  They take their job very seriously, making sure Lord Vishnu’s time is spent on matters that need the most attention and assistance.

Many come to pay respect & worship Lord Vishnu, so Jaya and Vijaya make sure no one wastes Lord Vishnu’s precious time, so that he can help the ones in real need.  No one is allowed through the seventh door of Vaikuntha without Jaya’s and Vijaya’s approval.

One day, as Jaya and Vijaya were standing on guard at the seventh door of Vaikuntha, they saw four children coming.  Jaya and Vijaya were mystified, as they have seldom seen children visiting the Vaikuntha in all their years guarding the doors.  It was very rare.  Jaya and Vijaya talked among themselves and decided that it will be a waste of Lord Vishnu’s time to see these children.  They didn’t want the children to bother Lord Vishnu.

The four children came to the doors of Vaikuntha, passing through the first six to arrive at the seventh, only to find two gatekeepers with four arms and red eyes stopping them.  The youngest said, “Open up!  We want to see the Lord.”  Jaya shook his head and said, “Children, please do not disturb the Lord.  He is not available at the moment.  You go and play somewhere else.”

Another child burst out, “You think we are children!  We are not children.”  Though Vijaya was a bit confused, now in some doubt, he resolutely shook his head as he’d decided earlier with Jaya.  He said as kindly as possible, “The Lord is very tired.  He is resting.  Please come some time later.”

The expression in the children’s faces went from bad to worse, so Jaya and Vijaya were a bit scared that the children might be some high sages in disguise.  The oldest of the children, said “Do you know who we are?”  Continuing without waiting for an answer, he said, “I am Sanaka; he is my younger brother Sanatana…” pointing to the one who was quietest of them.  “And these are Sanandana and Sanatkumara, my youngest brothers.” pointing to the ones who had spoken earlier.

Hearing this and realizing who these four children were, Jaya and Vijaya were very upset about refusing passage to them through the seventh door.  “You are the four Kumaras, the sons of Lord Brahma,” they said faintly, kneeling before the four children.  “We apologize for our behavior.  We mistook you for some mischievous children.”

The four were far from relenting.  Sanatana spoke, breaking his silence, “You close the door of the Lord to devotees like us.  We pray to him all the time.  Lord Vishnu is always available for us.  You said he is not available!”  Sanatkumara interrupted his brother, saying, “We curse you for this.”  Trembling, Jaya and Vijaya said, “Please do not curse us, we did this unintentionally, not knowing who you were!”

Hearing the raised voices outside the door, Lord Vishnu came to the door accompanied by His Consort, Goddess Lakshmi.  He saw His doorkeepers kneeling at the feet of the four children of Lord Brahma, with Sanatkumara completing his curse, “You will no longer be the doorkeepers for Vaikuntha.  You will be sent away from Lord Vishnu, for not letting His devotees see the Lord!”

The Lord looked at Jaya and Vijaya with empathy, while they were kneeling silently, not knowing what to do.  The four children of Lord Brahma bowed, worshipped Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi.  They said that they would lift the curse which they had cast it in haste.  But Lord Vishnu said that this curse is going to bring a greater good, not only to Jaya and Vijaya, but also to the three worlds.

Lord Vishnu turned to Jaya and Vijaya, finding them sobbing without control.  Vijaya looking at the Lord says, “We don’t mind any curse, but we cannot bear being separated from you.  Please, Lord do something!”  Lord Vishnu was touched by their great devotion and decided to give them two choices.  He said, “Either you can take seven births on earth as my devotees…”  Vijaya jumped in looking horrified, “Seven births? You mean, we can’t see you for seven births.  No, no, please Lord… No!”

Lord Vishnu continued “…Or take three births as my enemies.”  Jaya said in a whisper, “As your enemy?  Oh, My Lord!  How can we even think of not liking you, let alone being your enemies?” Lord Vishnu looked at them with a grace-filled smile.

Jaya and Vijaya looked at each other, then said, “We can’t part with you for seven births.  Se will take the option of being born three times, so that we can come back to you sooner.”  Lord Vishnu laughed and said, “Don’t you know that everyone thinks of their enemies more than their friends and dear ones?  So, you will be thinking more about me when you are born on the earth.  I will incarnate on the earth to give you moksha, my dear friends.”

Jaya and Vijaya were first born as the brothers Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha, to sage Kaasyapa and his wife Diti.  Through his wisdom & knowledge Kaasyapa discovered that these brothers, who were conceived at an inauspicious time by Diti, were going to be evil.  Coming to know this terrible truth, Diti held them in her womb for a very long time until she came to know that Lord Vishnu would come to save the three worlds from her evil sons.

Meanwhile, the earth was not in a good state; the people on the earth were in turmoil all the time, fighting with each other, using devastating weapons that harmed Bhumata (Mother Earth) very much.  Bhumata prayed to Lord Vishnu to come and protect her and the good people on earth.  The great sages on the earth also realizing the damage that was being done, so they performed great yaj~nas (Vedic fire ceremonies), specifically to please Lord Vishnu.

Hiranyaksha, elder of the brothers, wanted to become the most powerful on earth, and performed severe austerities while praying to Lord Brahma.  Happy with Hiranyaksha’s devotion, Lord Brahma appeared before him and granted that he not be defeated or killed by any humans or devas (gods).  Powered by this boon, Hiranyaksha tormented everyone on earth, as well as the devas.

Finding that some devas were still powerful, he decided to weaken them by hiding the Bhumata, the source of their power, by using “the āhuti,” offerings and sacrifices by the earthlings.  He used unimaginable weapons of great power, making Bhumata slip from the axis.  With Bhumata off the axis, he hid her where no one could find her.

The devas, now disconnected from the earth, were greatly weakened.  Knowing this, Hiranyaksha challenged them all, defeating them one by one.  At one point, he came to Varuna (Lord of water), calling upon him for a fight.  Seething with anger, Varuna knew he could not defeat Hiranyaksha, so he said, “Son, I am very old and therefore will not be a good match for you.  You need to go and fight Lord Vishnu!”  When he heard Lord Vishnu’s name, Hiranyaksha felt strange.  However, as he did not remember who he was, he just nodded and decided that Lord Vishnu was the best person to defeat.

Hearing Bhumata’s distressed cry to be rescued, Lord Brahma decided to seek Lord Vishnu’s help to rescue her from Hiranyaksha.  He thought, “Lord Vishnu brought me into existence, so He would be the one to rescue Bhumata.”  As he started praying and meditating for the assistance of Lord Vishnu, a tiny Varaha (boar) emerged from the nostril of Lord Brahma, soon to grow to a size of a huge mountain.  Brahma at once was grateful to Lord Vishnu for taking this incarnation for the greater good.  The Varaha started its journey towards the depths of the worlds to find where Hiranyaksha was holding Bhumata hostage.

As he approached Hiranyaksha, Lord Vishnu smiled, realizing that Jaya’s first birth caused by the curse was coming to an end.  To Hiranyaksha’s astonishment, the huge Varaha dived and took Bhumata from where Hiranyaksha had hid her.  Hiranyaksha chased the Varaha, challenging it for a fight.  The Varaha ignored Hiranyaksha, running faster and faster with Bhumata to place Her back on Her axis.  Bhumata thanked Lord Vishnu, knowing that it was He in the form of the Varaha.

The Varaha turned towards Hiranyaksha and looked at him so furiously, that Hiranyaksha was momentarily was terrified.  The Varaha and Hiranyaksha fought each other, but this time Hiranyaksha had met his match.  The Varaha fought brutally, managing to go past all the defenses of Hiranyaksha.  Hiranyaksha was getting weak and was nowhere close to defeating the Varaha.

Hiranyaksha looked at the Varaha.  The Varaha seemed to be looking at him lovingly.  “Why would the boar look at me lovingly?” Hiranyaksha thought, but he charged at the Varaha again.  The Varaha easily deflected his attack and pushed him away.  With all his strength lost, Hiranyaksha, got the final blow from the Varaha.

As Hiranyaksha was taking his last few breaths, by the grace of Lord Vishnu, he remembered who he was and realized that Lord Vishnu has come in the form of a Varaha as he promised at the doors of Vaikuntha.  With his last breath, Hiranyaksha (Jaya) thanked Lord Vishnu for finishing his first birth on earth.