A Path of Grace

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati & Rukmini Abbruzzi

Svaroopa® yoga is a path of Grace.  Everyone else is on the other path, the path of self-effort.  In Rukmini’s first yoga class, the movements of those athletic, acrobatic yogis were graceful.  But the Grace of Svaroopa® yoga is completely different.  Swami’s beloved Guru, Baba Muktananda, gave her Shaktipat initiation, awakening the dormant energy called Kundalini.  Kundalini is your own Divinity in a seed form that grows and blossoms within.  That transmission created Svaroopa® yoga and enlivens it today.

“After Baba sent me back to America, I could see that my students were not getting the openings that the poses are meant to provide, the openings I knew so deeply and so intimately.  So I taught variations, using angles to target their spinal tensions, providing the core opening that is now named Svaroopa® yoga,” says Swami Nirmalananda.  It surprised me when people started getting Shaktipat.  Now I realize that I was carrying my Guru’s Grace, a gift to the next generation. Over several decades, I have watched a few teachers take the poses out to teach under a different name.  While the poses are still enjoyable, their students don’t get Shaktipat.  That flow of Grace doesn’t enliven their teaching or their students’ practice.”

Yet Svaroopa® yoga is a hatha yoga, so there still is 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.

“I remember my first yoga class,” Rukmini describes. “I had done yoga at home with a book, so I was awed to encounter a group of acrobatic, athletic yogis wearing spandex and using towels on their mats to catch the sweat.  I wanted a peaceful, quiet mind, and I found it – the intense physical effort made me focus on my body, so there was little room for other thoughts. The class pushed me to exhaustion, so then I was too tired to think.  Ahh, peace…”

Svaroopa® yoga provides a reliable experience of peace as well but brings it about in an entirely different way.  You don’t become exhausted; instead you are filled from your own Inner Source.  You are “blissified.”

Patanjali pairs self-effort and surrender in Yoga Sutras 1.12, promising that your churning mind will be stilled by abhyasa and vairagya. Abhyasa is persistent practice.  Vairagya is surrender, a profound letting-go. Patanjali puts the two together:  self-effort and surrender.  Why?

  • Self-effort is very important; you must persist in order to accomplish anything. But self-effort alone makes you prideful and arrogant, or you become mean and self-punishing.
  • Surrender is essential. In Svaroopa® yoga, we surrender to svaroopa, your own Divine Self, which is found through Grace, the gift of Freedom. Yet surrender alone makes you into a doormat, without any clarity or will, and leaves you stranded in helplessness.

You must have both:  self-effort and surrender.  You already know about self-effort, so we teach surrender in every class.  When Rukmini tried out her first Svaroopaâ yoga class, she was used to doing Shavasana in other styles of yoga — flat-on-your-back, flat-on-your-mat, 90-seconds of ticking clock at the end of class.

She grudgingly accepted two zeds and a roll under her knees. And that final Shavasana was a revelation!  She says, “It felt like coming home. I felt a deep comfort and ease in my body, a calm and peace in my mind.  I felt bliss.”

The surrender and Grace are there in the final Shavasana; they are in every pose.  Svaroopaâ yoga arose out of Grace. It’s suffused with Grace in the same way that ice is made out of water.  How can you take the water out of the ice?

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 practice Ujjayi Pranayama, do the Magic Four, meditate, or you do it all.  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. Do more yoga.  Do more Svaroopa® Yoga.

Previously Published, April 2013