Monthly Archives: December 2018

Following a Path

By Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

In 1969 Swami Satchidananda opened the Woodstock Music Festival, ending with teaching everyone to chant Hari OM.  A modern-day Guru and cultural icon, he was famously quoted as saying, “All paths lead to the same goal.”  This is not the whole quote.  Unfortunately, this partial quote is often used to justify spiritual dabbling.  What he said was, “All paths lead to the same goal, but you have to pick one and follow it to the end.”

Just like a mountain with many paths, you must pick one in order to get to the mountain peak.  If you keep switching trails, you will wander around the mountain forever.  You will certainly have wonderful experiences but you’ll never make it to the top.

In yoga, the goal is the experience of your own Self, the Ultimate Reality within.  Even more, it is about living in that Reality all the time, “Self-Realization.”

You may be motivated by a simpler goal: you do yoga so you will feel better.  This is a great reason to do yoga.  In Svaroopa® yoga you get what you want because this practice excels at healing what ails you.  Pain and stress melt away as you lengthen your tail.  Illness and injury heal more quickly.  Yoga even improves conditions that modern medicine doesn’t know how to treat.

Many different styles of yoga poses are available in the West.  They all provide dramatic physical benefits as well as stress reduction.  However research shows that exercise also provides the same benefits, sometimes even more effectively.  If exercise gives you the same results as yoga, then what’s so special about yoga?

Swami Nirmalananda describes, “When I returned from my Guru’s Ashram, I discovered that yoga was changing in America.  A teacher of another style told me proudly, ‘We’re taking the mysticism out of yoga.’   I was shocked!  I’d given years of my life to learn the mysticism of yoga.  They were doing everything they could to make it merely physical.  It’s no wonder I had to create a new yoga style.”

This means is that it matters what “brand” of yoga you do.  While one will give you beauty and gracefulness, does it free you from anxiety?  Other styles make you sweat or jump in and out of poses, but you may still have back pain.  You can do yoga poses on a trapeze but still get upset when life brings you back down to earth.

Svaroopa® yoga is a mystical science, not merely an athletic endeavor.  This means it gives you mystical experiences, fulfilling the promise made by the ancient sages of India.  Svaroopa® yoga is spiritual yoga.

Upliftment

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

When you are touched by the raw power of a lightning storm, the quietude of a forest glen or the softness of a deer’s eyes, you are using something in nature to effect an internal change.  It’s like a switch is flicked inside.  You are suddenly stilled.  You are deeply still and profoundly aware.

Yoga says you don’t need an external trigger to experience this deep inner beingness-awareness-bliss — it is your own Self.  Every time you have an experience of the Divine Within, you are irrevocably changed.  It’s not just a change; it’s upliftment.  One Sanskrit text describes it this way,

Tajjah samskaaro’nya-samskaara-prati-bandhee. — Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.50

After an experience of The Self, your mind bears an impression of consciousness within it, which prevents other impressions from taking hold.

You must imprint your mind with more experiences of consciousness!  It already has too many imprints that lead you in other directions.  Your mind has the accumulated imprints of all the things you’ve experienced in this life as well as powerful impressions from your previous lifetimes, all impelling you toward repeating the same things again.  To get off the karmic merry-go-round, you must actively intervene in the process or it becomes a “Willy Wonka” tunnel with no escape:

There’s no earthly way of knowing

Which direction we are going

There’s no knowing where we’re rowing

Or which way the river’s flowing…[1]

Upliftment is the key.  Yoga is the science of upliftment.  But you are not being lifted up into another realm; you become more present in this realm, on this earth, in your own body, in your own life.  You become radiant with your own Divine Essence.  The way upward is inward.

This is a different direction than most systems, even most religions, teach you.  There are even meditation systems that say you must transcend this earthly plane, you must be lifted up into the light and that you will only arrive once you leave your body.  Years ago I flew into my then-home in San Diego, arriving to the news that 31 people had killed themselves so they could ascend to a higher level.  This is not yoga.

The yoga poses come from the Tantric Sages who practiced in the Himalayan caves, far away from the mainstream spirituality of the time, partly because mainstream spirituality said you had to reject the body in order to find God.  The tantrics said, “Your own teachings say that Shiva has brought forth all that exists out of His own Divine Beingness.  Thus, everything is holy, even my own body.”

Their spiritual endeavors began with Grace, through a transmission of energy from the Guru, which awakened the yogi’s inner power of upliftment, Kundalini.  As this sacred energy unfurled from tail to top, different yogis had different experiences depending on their personal readiness and individualistic nature.

Those who were more kinesthetic, rather than visual or auditory, experienced physical movements.  Others copied their spontaneous movements, which are today’s yoga poses.  Some yogis believe the forest sages made up the poses, having their disciples stand like a tree or move like a cobra, but the origin of these sacred body movements is in the sacred — not in the mind.

Doing the poses invokes the experience that those initiates were having, the inner experience of your own Divinity.  Svaroopa® yoga excels at this because it is the yoga of Grace.  I have devoted my life to the force of Grace, as did my Guru and his Guru before him.  We focus on core opening so that your spine becomes open and breathing and your spinal energy moves freely.  In other words, while you get the physical benefits that Svaroopa® yoga promises, you are getting more.

Yoga guarantees the upliftment of your own consciousness while you live in your body, a body that is being purified and made sacred through your breathing and your poses.  These changes in your body makes you able to see and to be the Divine Reality.  You also see, and even revel in, a Divine World made of out one thing:  Shiva.

Originally published July 2012

[1] Excerpt from “Wondrous Boat Ride,” song from the 2005 movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”

Upliftment is More than Personal Growth

By Swami Nirmalananda

Life makes sure you continue to grow and change whether you want to or not.  Life pushes you through so many lessons you try to avoid.  It’s a karmic truth.  But yogis do it differently.  Yogis are proactive about change, a specific type of change called upliftment.

Many people actively seek out self-improvement through the arts, travel, continuing their education, therapy or introspection, or an ever-expanding circle of people and experiences.  As wonderful as these growth experiences are, they are not the same as upliftment.  The upliftment of your own consciousness is yoga’s promise, even when you are simply doing a few poses to improve your physical condition.  Yoga sneaks up on you.

The physical changes provided by Svaroopa® yoga’s core opening have a profound effect on your body, but also on your mind and psyche.

  • While increased flexibility protects you from injury, even making your tissues healthier and younger, it also makes your mind more flexible, more adaptable and resilient.
  • As your muscles lengthen and become less dense, your mind and heart are becoming more open.
  • Your breathing capacity expands as your core opens up. This physical change makes you feel less contracted as a person, more expansive, even generous and compassionate.
  • As your spine lifts and lengthens, you stand taller in the world, more willing to be authentically you, as well as to speak up for yourself and others.
  • As your rib cage opens, your heart opens. You become more understanding of others and more compassionate, even to those who have hurt you in the past, whether you are in communication with them or not.
  • As your tailbone lengthens, you become free from fear. Anxiety cannot take over your mind anymore, so you have lots of extra energy and enthusiasm for life.  What is there that you cannot do?

When I meet someone new, which often happens on an airplane, they usually ask what I do.  I give them an easy answer, “I teach yoga.”  Thirty years ago they answered me, “Yogurt?”  Now they say, “I should do that.”  They all know they should be doing yoga.  They all know that yoga would be good for their body.  They even know that yoga offers something more, which they prove to me by saying, “Yoga is good for stress, right?  I need to learn how to relax.”

What they don’t know is that yoga is doing more to you, with every yoga-breath and every yoga pose.  It’s a sneaky system:  it will make you spiritual even if you didn’t want to be.  It’s deeply fulfilling.  It makes life worthwhile.

Your religion may be important to you, so you don’t need the spirituality that yoga provides.  How fortunate you are!  Yet yoga will still offer you spiritual benefits, deepening what you get from your church or temple.  Many yogis find their religious background to be unsatisfying, yet they still have the innate human hunger for the experience of the Divine.  Our modern world reinforces nature as a place to go to be touched by God.  Maybe music does it, or maybe for you it’s art that does it, or you get it through visiting ancient sites or monuments.  Yoga does it too.  Yoga specializes in Divinity — yours.  Yoga opens your inner experience of your own Divine Essence, called svaroopa, your own Self.

First published July 2012