Monthly Archives: April 2019

The Ultimate Pose

By Swami Nirmalananda & Vidyadevi Stillman

Yoga’s asanas (poses) did not come from a bunch of yogis playing charades in the forest.  “Ooo!  Ooo!  I know!  It’s a frog!  No, a rabbit!”  “Bingo!  You’re right!”  “Wow, this feels really good.  My back feels better, my breath more open, even my mind is calmer.  Hey guys, let’s put this on the list.” There are some yogis writing that the forest sages made up the poses, having their disciples stand like a tree, pose like a tortoise or move like a cat, but the origin of these sacred body positions was not conjured up by anyone’s mind.

The sages in the Himalayas were living and practicing far from mainstream spirituality of the time, both Classical Yoga as well as Hinduism.  Studying with the tantrics meant the new yogi began by receiving a transmission of energy from the Guru, an initiation called Shaktipat.  Shaktipat awakens your inner power of upliftment, the sacred energy called Kundalini.

As this energy flowed up their spine from tail to top, different yogis had different experiences depending on their individual nature and readiness.  Those who were more kinesthetic, rather than visual or auditory, experienced physical movements.  Other yogis copied their spontaneous movements, which are today’s yoga poses.

Vidyadevi says, “After I received Shaktipat, during meditation my body would move spontaneously into Fish Pose, with my chest lifting and my head leaning way back.  Over time, this movement completely cleared up chronic neck and sore throat problems.   Through the years, Kundalini has moved me into other poses as well, as gunk was cleared out of my spine.   Some of the positions were painful, though beneficial, while others were pure ecstasy, with bliss pouring up my spine.  I can see why ancient yogis copied others’ spontaneous movements to get what I got.  But what I got was much more than mere improvements in my body and mind.  I got my Self.”

Doing the moves in the photos and videos, too many yogis are pushing or forcing their body into the poses, without realizing they’re tightening their spine in order to get the same look.  When Kundalini moves you, the asanas are effortless and profoundly opening.  In Svaroopa® yoga we don’t copy “the look.”  Instead we use the asanas to give you the openings Kundalini would provide by moving you into spontaneous poses.  You get the results, amazingly deep and amazingly easy.

Many have already gotten Kundalini awakening through our core opening practice, but whether your Kundalini is awakened or not, your asanas are tremendously beneficial.   It’s incredible how they improve your physical condition along with your mind and emotions.  Yet, these are side effects, not the real reason for the poses.  Ultimately, your spinal decompression prepares you for the true meaning of  “asana,” to be able to relax into an easy, upright seated pose.

Sthira-sukham-aasanam — Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 2.46

Asana is the seated pose, easy and upright.

This sutra is a “definition sutra,” meaning it defines the third of eight pivotal practices known as the “eight limbs.”  The first two limbs, yama and niyama, are lifestyle practices.  They are about how you handle the world and how you handle yourself in the world.  Asana is the third limb, in which you begin working on your body.

Just like in English, Sanskrit words change meaning over time — except for “aasana.” It is one of the rare Sanskrit words that has remained the same for 10-15,000 years.  It means “to sit,” as in “the disciples sat close to their Guru while He gave the teachings.”

What does the Sanskrit dictionary say?  It begins with “sitting, sitting down,” and expands the meaning to “seat, place, stopping, dwelling, encamping, abiding.”  It clearly doesn’t mean “to move fast, to jump around, or to hang from a trapeze,” as so many Westernized yoga trends offer.

Yoga’s eight limbs take you through a process of interiorization.  Your lifestyle practices have calmed your mind and emotions, so next you work with your body.  Asana is not about the external world.  You leave your day behind to do your yoga class or home practice.  You may think it’s for your health or for peace of mind, but it’s all for the purpose of learning how to sit.  The seated pose is the single most important pose of all!

Rama Avatar, Part 9

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Sita, abandoned by her husband Ram, found love and support from Valmiki and his disciples in the Ashram.  Especially the female ascetics took special care of her, as she was pregnant.

After a few months, Sita gave birth to twin boys.  Valmiki blessed them, naming them Lava and Kusha.  Lava, the youngest, was like his mother Sita in features, complexion and mannerisms, fair and gentle.  Kusha had his father’s features, complexion and mannerisms, dark and kind.

They were brought up by the guidance and teachings of Valmiki, their beloved Guru.  Valmiki taught them everything they needed to learn including the Vedas, martial arts, and war tactics.  But especially, he taught them the “Ramayana,” the story of Rama, the king of Ayodhya, a poem he composed.  They learned to recite the Ramayana, accompanied by a musical instrument called the “veena.”

Lava and Kusha enjoyed singing the Ramayana, but without knowing that they were singing about their own parents’ story, as Valmiki had promised Sita that he would not reveal her identity to anyone, which included Lava and Kusha.  Valmiki also taught them special astras (energetic weapons), to be used only in unavoidable situations.  The twins were great in their studies as well as in combat training.

Meantime in Ayodhya, the wives of Rama’s three brothers (Mandavi, Urmila and Shrutakirti) also gave birth to two children each.  Lakshmana and Urmila had Angada and Chandraketu.  Bharata and Mandavi had Thaksh and Pushkal.  Shatrugna and Shrutakirti had Subahu and Shatrughati.

As much as these events were to be celebrated, somehow things were not the same in Ayodhya ever since Sita was sent away.  Rama couldn’t be himself without his beloved wife Sita.  Rama’s state affected all in Ayodhya Kingdom.  Rama didn’t have the heart to see the people and help their lives as a king.  Ayodhya started to dim in its glory.  The royal mothers were very worried.  Vasishtha, Rama’s Guru wasn’t pleased with what was happening either.  He needed to do something to restore the glory and happiness back to Rama-Rajyam (Rama’s Kingdom), Ayodhya.

At Valmiki’s Ashram, Lava and Kusha were preparing for their journey to Ayodhya.  They were going to fulfill their Guru Valmiki’s command to recite the Ramayana there.  They went to their mother to get her blessings.  Sita blessed them and told them to meet Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, and to get his blessings before coming back to the Ashram.  The twins were very excited to have a chance to meet Rama and Sita in Ayodhya.

They started their journey towards Ayodhya by singing the story of Rama along their way in all the villages and cities.  They were instructed by Valmiki to introduce themselves as his disciples, which they did proudly.  People in thousands gathered to see the twins recite the Ramayana.

The news about two young children reciting Rama’s story reached the palace grounds.  The queen mother, Kaushalya requested her guards to invite these children to perform in front of her and the rest of the royalty.  The twins were very happy that they had a greater chance of meeting Rama and Sita at the palace.

When the children arrived at the assembly, their looks and divine presence mesmerized everyone.  When they started singing, the audience was in awe about their talent and their devotion to the King Rama.  Rama himself heard them singing and rushed there to hear them.  The minute he saw them, he felt something in his heart.

After the twins finished reciting the Ramayana, he inquired about the composer of this beautiful poem, and asked the children who they were.  They answered that they were disciples of Maharishi Valmiki, who composed the poem and taught it to them.  Rama felt some sort of happiness after a very long time.  He wanted to reward them with jewels and pearls.  They refused to accept any gifts and only wanted to see the queen, Sita, as they were so eager to meet her.  Without a word, Rama turned and went into his chamber, his head bent down in sorrow.

The twins worried that they said something to hurt Rama.  They asked Kaushalya, “Did we say something wrong, to hurt our hero, King Rama?”  With a heavy heart and eyes full of tears, the queen mother broke the news that Sita been sent away.  The children were very disappointed to hear about Rama renouncing his wife in order to fulfill his duty as a king to his constituents.  They were too small to understand the sacrifice that Rama had made.  They were angry, to a level of hating Rama, for him making such harsh decision.  They went back to the Ashram convinced not to sing Rama’s story anymore, as they felt betrayed by Rama due to his actions towards Sita.

Sita was waiting at the Ashram, eager to ask the twins about Rama.  But she saw their disappointment and anger in their faces.  She asked them about Rama’s well-being.  The twins answered with disgust that he was doing fine.  Then she asked why they were annoyed and angry.  Thus Sita came to know about what had happened at the palace.

She advised her children not to be angry, explaining that Rama has to follow his dharma as a king, fulfilling the laws of the land.  The children were not ready to accept her argument, also saying they were worried about what would have happened to Sita in the forest.  They also told her their decision not to sing Ramayana any more.  Sita was devastated to hear the children feeling such hatred towards Rama, as she was expecting the exact opposite from them after they met him.

Whatever Sita said didn’t appease the children.  Finally, Sita said that she would not speak to them ever again if they don’t sing the praise of Rama.  Without any other way, half-heartedly, the children agreed to continue to sing the Ramayana, for the sake of their mother’s happiness.

In Ayodhya, poverty and depression was on the increase.  Drought was taking hold.  Food shortage was becoming a big issue and, the never-before heard word in Rama-Rajyam, crime was staring to take root.  Maharishi Vasishtha, Guru of Rama, had to do something to get Ayodhya out of the desperate situation it was in.

After a lot of thought, consulting with the queen mother and Rama’s brothers, he decided to ask Rama to perform a ceremony named “Ashvamedha,” for the benefit of the kingdom.  In an Ashvamedha yaj~na, a horse with the king’s flag was sent on a tour through all the lands, to return to the yaj~na if no one opposed it or imprisoned it.  If it was imprisoned, the king will have to free it by peace or force.

Hearing this from his Guru, Rama was puzzled because a king without a queen cannot perform this yaj~na.  The only way to perform this mighty yaj~na would be for Rama to remarry.  When this was suggested, Rama became unusually angry and outright rejected the plan.  He told everyone that he is a follower of the ‘eka-patni-vrata’ (vow of loyalty to one wife), that his love for Sita was only for her and cannot be shared with anyone else.  Rama was a living example of righteousness.  He said he couldn’t even dream of being with another woman.

Vasishtha suggested they make a golden statue of Sita, to have next to Rama while conducting the yaj~na.  Rama agreed, only to fulfill his duty as a king.  The citizens of Ayodhya brought all the gold they had, to be used for the statue of Sita, saying that the state of the land was their fault to begin with.

This was the first time they were able to see Rama after Sita was sent away.  They were so happy to see their king.  The statue was made and the yaj~na begun.  Rama’s brother Shatrugna led Ayodhya’s army, following behind the horse, chosen especially for the tour of the land, carrying Ayodhya’s flag.

The news of Rama’s Ashvamedha Yaj~na reached Valmiki’s Ashram.  Sita was devastated to hear the news, as she knew a king had to have his wife in order to perform such a ritual.  She fainted, as she couldn’t bear the thoughts of Rama with another queen.

Rishi Valmiki knew what was happening with Sita and went to her rescue.  While she was unconscious, he was able to transmit his meditative energy, to lift Sita out of her physical body on a trip to Rama’s chamber in Ayodhya.  Sita saw the devasted Rama treating her golden statue as her, pouring his heart out to the statue.

This made Sita even sadder, but at the same time relieved that her husband’s love for her had not diminished.  Seeing her husband’s devotion towards her, even after he had renounced her, brought peace to Sita.  She travelled back to the Ashram, reentered her physical body and thanked Valmiki for the revelation.

She was filled with remorse and shame that she doubted her beloved husband, so she wanted to do reparation for her action.  As suggested by Rishi Valmiki, Sita decided to do a puja for Mata Lalita Devi, to be done uninterrupted for ten days.  For the puja she needed one thousand lotus flowers.  Lava and Kusha promised to bring them to her.

Guru Valmiki had an important event to attend and left the ashram for a few days.  Sita started her puja and immersed herself in the worship of Mata Lalita Devi.

More to come…

Chakras Are Not Important

By Swami Nirmalananda & Vidyadevi Stillman

Chakras are not important.  It’s the nadis that count, especially the central energy channel (nadi), through your spine.  All the other 71,999,999 nadis radiate off from it.  Secondary nadis crisscross the central sushumna nadi from side-to-side several times, creating energy whirlpools that are your primary chakras.  If the energy flowing through your nadis is low or imbalanced, the whirlpools won’t whirl.  Chakra means “whirling disc,” so the whirl is essential to the meaning of the word as well as to the inner function each performs.

Also depicted as a series of lotuses, your chakras depend on your nadis in order to function.  Svaroopa® yoga works on your nadis, thus balancing all your chakras.  Every Svaroopa® yoga class is a full nadi opening and chakra-balancing session.

The true power of the energy flowing through your nadis is significantly greater than most websites convey — more than most teachers know.  Vidyadevi says, “Only a Kundalini master really knows.  I can see that this is true because I’ve been studying with a Kundalini master, Swami Nirmalananda, for years.  Only now am I beginning to see what she knows.”

The map of inner development shown in the chakra drawings clearly displays the inner process of spiritual development.  First you uplift your focus from your lower three chakras, into and through your upper three and beyond.  Beyond the six chakras, your sahasrar (crown) blossoms you into what you have always been, though you didn’t know.

You don’t lose your lower 3 chakras when your crown blossoms.  Once your chakras are opened, it’s like you’re able to use both hands to play all the keys on the piano.  Your heart is open while you are paying your bills, which is a first chakra issue (survival & security).  You see and understand your own inner dimensions while you are arguing with a teenager, a second chakra issue (esteem & affection) mixed with a third chakra (power & control).

Even if you’re not yet enlightened, you run on the energies of your chakras.  When the energy flowing through your nadis opens and balances your chakras, every interaction is inspired.  Every thought is scintillating with Consciousness.  Every choice is made for the betterment of others.

While many in chakra workshops are seeking improvements in their life and relationships, yogic literature says the chakras are about your inner work.  They map the mystical process of spiritual growth that reliably unfolds once Kundalini is awakened.  Nadis are more important than chakras because spiritual progress comes from Kundalini moving through your central nadi.  Swami Nirmalananda says, “This is why I rarely teach about chakras.  They’re like neon lights, drawing your attention to something, but the neon lights don’t work unless the electricity is flowing.  I focus on the electricity.”

The vinyasa (sequencing) of Svaroopa® yoga uses the poses to create an inner opening from tail-to-top.  This invites your next step: the unlocking of the energy at the tip of your tailbone for the inner arising of Consciousness-Itself (Kundalini).  For this you need shaktipat, the awakening of Kundalini.

Kundalini rises upward, passing successively through the chakras. — Vij~nana Bhairava 29

Signs that Kundalini is awakened include heat climbing your spine, inner sensations or even spontaneous physical movements.  Svaroopa® yoga comes from Swami Nirmalananda’s experience of these physical movements, clearing away imbalances and blockages from her nadis.  This is where all yoga poses and breathing practices originated from.

Once you’ve received Shaktipat, you may experience certain chakras being opened in meditation, perhaps seeing a lotus, the God or Goddess residing in it, or the colors within it.  You may feel subtle sensations of the inner unraveling, even tickles or thrills of bliss.  You get what you need and what you are ready for.

When you cooperate with this process, it goes easier and faster.  This is one of the things that makes Svaroopa® yoga unique.  Each pose targets specific areas of your spine, to reliably unravel the blockages in the same way that Kundalini does.  This inner opening also opens up profound mystical experiences for you.

Other styles of yoga teach practices to invoke Kundalini, while scholars study about Her in the Sanskrit texts.  Yet, without Kundalini being awakened, it’s like they’re studying swimming without getting wet.  Theory doesn’t take you to experience.

The most important feature of Svaroopa® yoga is that our teacher, Swami Nirmalananda, is a Shaktipat Guru.  She knows Kundalini.  Thousands of Svaroopis have gotten Kundalini awakening.  While you get amazing physical benefits from our core opening practice, this inner awakening is the most valuable result.  It opens up the mystical dimension of your own Self.

originally published September 2017

Chakras & Nadis

By Swami Nirmalananda & Vidyadevi Stillman

Yoga’s map of chakras is very well known, a beautiful description of the multidimensional reality within your own body.  Yogis perceived and mapped these energies thousands of years ago.  You may have seen modern drawings of different colored lotuses along a spine, depicting the human energetics system.  Your spine is the main energy channel (nadi) of the 72,000,000 nadis that make up your body.

Three nadis are primary: the central channel through your spine plus one on each side.  Your left and right nadis crisscross several times, creating energy whirlpools that are your primary chakras.  Located along your spine, they are in the center of your torso, both front-to-back and side-to-side.  Each is an energy vortex that can blossom like a lotus, though currently partially closed and probably imbalanced. 

So many books and internet sites offer information though few report yoga’s teachings accurately.  Swami Nirmalananda says, “Artistic misrepresentations don’t help you explore the mystical dimensions within; like a GPS gone awry, they lead you in the wrong direction.”  So, what do you need to know?

Every chakra has multiple colors in it, not the single color usually depicted.  The different colors in the lotus center, on the petals, and in the Sanskrit letters on each petal have deep significance, along with other intricacies to be blissfully explored within.

You have no blue or green chakras.  It is not a rainbow in there!  As you explore, you will find a lot of red in various centers, which is the color of energy, blood and embodiment.

Chakras are grouped along your spine, not evenly spaced.  Check the accuracy of a drawing by seeing if the lower three chakras are all below your waist.  Many modern writers and artists don’t accurately separate your first 2 chakras, at the bottom and top of your tailbone, only 1½ – 2” apart.

You have only 6 main chakras, not 7.  The energy center at the top of your head is not a chakra, because it is not a whirlpool where nadis cross.  And it’s already open.  This is the good news.

The value of this map of Consciousness is that it clearly displays the inner process of spiritual development, uplifting your focus from your lower three chakras, through your upper three and beyond.  Chakras 1, 2 & 3 are about external circumstances and your power of choice; 4, 5 & 6 are about progressive openings into transcendental consciousness.  Beyond chakras, your sahasrar blossoms you into what you have always been, though you didn’t know.

Before Kundalini can arise, She descends — Shakti (cosmic energy) contracting to become the individual and the universe.  This contraction is from top-to-tail, a downward flow through increasing levels of densification and individuality.  Shakti locks Herself down in a coil just below the tip of your tailbone, at which point She is kundala (coiled), therefore called “Kundalini.”

Svaroopa® yoga pose sequences always start at your tailbone, creating an inner opening from tail-to-top.  This invites your next step: the unlocking of the energy at the tip of your tailbone for the inner arising of Consciousness-Itself (Kundalini).  For this you need shaktipat, the awakening of Kundalini.  This is the job of the Shaktipat Masters.  Swami Nirmalananda says, “This is the great gift I received from my Baba, and share with you today.”

Originally published September 2017