Author Archives: Swami Shrutananda Saraswati

Yoga: The Fountain of Youth

By Swami Shrutananda

You always look better at the end of a meditation program or yoga class.  That’s because, when you arrive, often you don’t look so good. Perhaps your skin is ashen and dry.  Or your face, your neck and shoulders are crooked – even your gait.  You may look anxious and worried, the outside showing what you feel like inside.

All this makes the light in your eyes dull and your face wrinkled.  Instead of skipping though life, you may be limping along.

I watch people come in for yoga classes and meditation programs. They limp in. They skip out. It’s completely reliable. 

— Gurudevi Nirmalananda, Changing Your Future, Teachings Article, April 2023

In the 16th century, explorers looked for the Fountain of Youth to feel young and more alive again.  Yoga is the Fountain of Youth.  I love watching you during your yoga class or meditation program.  When it ends you look younger.   Your spine has lift.  Your face softens as your wrinkles melt away.  You have color in your face.  More light shines through your eyes.  You look radiant and you feel full of life.

I went through this too.  Before yoga, I was getting physical therapy for a neck & shoulder injury.  Unfortunately, it was not taking care of my pain. Then I started yoga.  My spine lifted and lengthened.  My pain lessened as my shoulders, neck and head moved back in line with my spine.  As I did more yoga, I felt better and better. 

Then Gurudevi taught me to meditate. I felt even better.  The pain in my neck completely went away.  My body was more fluid, and my mind was sharper and clearer.  I had more energy. I felt younger and more alive.   

How does this work?  Yoga and meditation ignite your own healing power.  Through these practices, the energy that was trapped by your spinal tensions begins to flow.  This energy is yoga’s fountain of youth.  When this energy is flowing through your spine, you get younger.  Simply look in the mirror.  This energy enlivens your body, your mind, your heart, and your life. 

Where does this energy come from?  Your own Self.  From your yoga practice you deepen more and more into the source of youth – your own Self, your own Divine Essence.  This is the mystery and the majesty of yoga.  As you deepen within, your own mystical energy flows stronger and stronger through your spine.  Along with being enlivened and youthened, you have access to deeper, richer and more profound experiences of your own Beingness.

You feel younger when you are more your Self. This is because your own essence that is arising is ever young.  It is the eternal.  Yet your body does have a limited life span.  Tick, tick, tick.  It means that the time is now!  Do more yoga and to deepen into your own Self while your body and mind can respond.

In a Teacher Training program, a middle-aged student was frustrated with another student who often distracted the group with her antics.  At one point the frustrated student said, “You are younger.  I am older.  I have less time left to deepen into these teachings.”  The younger yogi got it.  

Unfortunately, the frustrated teacher had less time than she thought.  A few years later she was diagnosed with cancer and died.  How much time do you have left?  Nobody knows.  How do you want to spend your time?

The poet Bhartrihari warns:

I thought I was enjoying sense pleasures;

I did not realize they were enjoying me.

I thought I was spending time;

I did not realize it was spending me.

   — Bhartrihari Vairaagya Shataka, verse 7

The reality is you always find time for what you really want to do.  If you want to feel better, you can make time for it.  It means that you miss out on another opportunity.  You can’t do everything.  Are you choosing to get old – or young?  Are you choosing to be peace-filled – or anxiety filled?  What you choose determines what you will get.  It is a personal choice.  To be young and vitally alive, as well as to deepen into the eternality of your own Beingness, do more yoga.

Where Is God?

By Swami Shrutananda

Really!  Where is God?  God is inside. The One Divine Reality has chosen to become the universe and everything in it.  This is described in the Pratyabhij~nahrdayam, sutra 4: 

Citi-sa.mkocaatmaa cetano’pi sa.mkucita-vi”sva-maya.h.

Consciousness willingly takes on contraction, in order to become both the universe and the individuals, who have the universe as their bodies in a contracted form.Rendered by Swami Nirmalananda

Before yoga, I looked for God outside.  God was up there somewhere.  My mind would imagine a white bearded guy up in the sky.  Some people see God as the formless.  Others see God in nature: in the sky, the trees, the majesty of the mountains, etc.  

Yoga agrees that God can be experienced when you look outside.  This is because the One Divine Reality manifested all things and becomes all things.  Yet this sutra also says more.  

The One Divine Reality, called “Consciousness” in this sutra, has chosen to become everything in this universe, including you.  God has become you and me.  Now, consider which is closer, God on the outside or God on the inside?  This is why yoga gives you practices for looking inside — particularly meditation.  

“Self” is the word yoga uses for the One Divine Reality when found inside.  Meditation, especially Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation, gives you deep and profound experiences of your own Self.  God has not only become me, but God is also being me.  God is being you.  This is a pretty radical statement.  

At first, I didn’t take this teaching personally.  Yet I finally got it when I heard my Guru — Gurudevi — explain it.  She said, “Seeing your own inner Self is more tangible than the sky.”  When I heard those words, God crystalized into being me.  In my physical body, with my mind, through all the levels of my own being, I experienced that I am God.  I am the One Divine Reality whether looking outside or inside.  There was a joy, an aliveness, a delight in being me! 

This is the foundation of all the yoga practices and teachings: God is being you.  Where is God?  Right here!  You are a physical tangible expression of the One Divine Reality.  Additionally, your mind is a contracted form of the One Divine Reality.  God is being you.  

To fully understand this radical statement, you have to personalize it.  Say it out loud, or even whisper to yourself, “I am a physical, tangible expression of the One Divine Reality.” 

God wants to be you.  God, the Self, is willingly choosing to be you with all your quirks and idiosyncrasies.  God delights in being you.  All you ever wanted was to be more you.  This is what yoga gives you.  Yoga gives you the knowing and the experience that God is being you. It is time to know that you are truly Divine.  

How do you come to know?

  • Do more Satsangs with Gurudevi.  She offers them every Sunday and Wednesday online or in person.  Gurudevi’s teachings and presence propel you inward to experience yoga’s profound, mystical truth that you are the Self.  

  • Do more meditation.  Meditate every day.  For support in making your daily meditation consistent, join our online Meditation Club.  Gurudevi will make meditation deep and easy for you.

Do You Know?

By Swami Shrutananda

My tears began to flow.  I was on a long drive back to the Ashram.  I found several religious stations that played upbeat and positive music.  A Christmas song about Jesus was the one full of the most tenderness and devotion, “Mary, Did You Know?” by Pentatonix.

The song makes Jesus personal:  “Mary, did you know… when you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God?”  “Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?”  Mary, did you know “that sleeping child you’re holding is the great, I Am?”  Probably not.  

For me, the song describes the potential of a human being by describing the Jesus’ greatness.  Probably your mother did not know your greatness unless she herself was Self-Realized.  Yet, more importantly and more personally, do you know your own greatness, your own Divinity, your own Self?  Probably not.  Some students describe their knowingness of their own Beingness when they were young.  However, they shut it down as they grew.  

Does your mother need to know the greatness of your being for you to know?  Do others in your life?  If so, you will be waiting for a long time.  Yet this is what the Guru sees in you when they look at you or think about you.  Even if you cannot, the Guru sees your own greatness, your own Divinity, your own Self. 

When I hear devotional songs about other great beings, I think of my Guru, Gurudevi Nirmalananda.  I feel fortunate to have a living Guru.  I can tangibly see her form.  I can hear her teachings, made so relevant to me in this day and age.  I can talk to her on the outside or inside.  She is always accessible.  The yoga we practice comes from Siddha Yoga.  It is the yoga of being in relationship with a siddha, a Self-Realized being.  Gurudevi is such a being.

This song “Mary Did You Know?” touches me so deeply.  It touches my inner yearning to know my own greatness, my own Divinity, my own Self.  It brings up tears because the knowing is so close, yet just beyond my reach.  

Fortunately, I have a Guru, a living Guru, who reveals my own Divinity to me.  It is the function of the Guru to help you to reveal your own greatness to yourself.  This happens through the Guru’s presence, teachings and the practices they give you.  This is the gift of a living Guru.  

The Guru performs miracles.  The Guru’s miracles don’t include walking on water, curing blindness or bringing the dead alive.  The Guru’s miracle is much more personal to you.  She burns away that which gets in the way of you knowing your own Self.  You will feel fresh and new, and full of joy.

Gurudevi’s Guru said:

The power of the human being is so great that he can even transform himself into God.  God lives hidden in the heart of every human being, and everyone has the power to realize that.

-Swami Muktananda, Where Are You Going? page 5

You are embodied Divinity.  You already are God.  That is amazing.  But you simply don’t know, not yet.  Through your yoga practices, you come to know that you are God.  You are the Lord of all creation.  You are the great I Am.  The knowing is hidden within.  The Guru reveals that which is hidden in your own being.  It is the Guru’s function to reveal your own Self to you.

Traditionally, yoga does not honor a great Guru’s birthday.  We honor the anniversary of their death.  At the end of life, you see what that little baby did with their life.  Those we honor knew their own greatness, their own Divinity, their own Self.  And they helped others to find That within themselves.

Do you know?  Do you want to know?  Get a Guru.  I have one and I’ll share.

Limitless You

By Swami Shrutananda

The Truth is your inherent nature is limitless.  Limitlessness is inherent to your essence like the wet is the inherent nature of water.  Water would not be water if it were not wet.  In the same way, your own essential nature is limitless, unbound, and free.  While this is your human potential, your current condition is that you are bound.

Gurudevi Nirmalananda describes it this way in her commentary on Divine Sutras 1.2:

J~naana.m bandha.h

Consciousness takes on limitations, binding Herself with limited knowledge, limited happiness, limited ability, limited time.  This is called bondage and is caused by the not-knowingness of your own Divine.  The purpose of yoga is freedom, the freedom to know and to be your own Divine Self.

Consciousness is the One, the Source, the Ultimate Reality.  To become the universe and everything in it, including you and me, Consciousness takes on levels of contraction — limitation.  Due to this contraction, we feel like small, limited human beings.

I see these limitations play out when I’m teaching a Yoga Pain Clinic.  I love to help people with their aches and pains; they come to find out how yoga can help.  Yet they have a limited idea of the true healing capacity of their own body.

They also suffer from limited happiness, especially due to their pain.  They have a limited ability to conceive of what they can really do with their body and in their life.  They feel they have limited time, so how can they fit yoga into their already too-busy life?  Yet, if they don’t do the yoga, they will not heal.  It only works if you do it.  

Near the program’s end, I teach a few easy Svaroopa® yoga poses they can do at home.  I know the yoga poses will help many of the conditions that participants brought in.  Yet many think they cannot do what I’m teaching because of their condition.  It is like they have put a plaster cast on their body with their mind.  They think, “I can’t move this way.  I can’t move that way.”  During the Pain Clinic, the yoga poses work on their mind as well their body.  This frees them from the limitations they have imposed on themselves.

A few years ago, a new yogi told me he could not get on the floor.  He had had a double knee replacement.  I told him that yoga could still help him.  I was teaching the Svaroopa® Yoga Magic 4, to release spinal tension from tail-to-top.  The first two poses are in a chair, which he could do.  

The third pose, Anjaneyasana (Lunge), is done by kneeling on the floor.  He restated he could not get on the floor.  So I had him do a variation of the pose in his chair.  The final pose was Jathara Parivrttanasana (Rotated Stomach Pose), for which you must get on the floor.  I demonstrated it.  Then I looked over.  He was on the floor doing it!  

The shackles of his mind were beginning to loosen.  He was freed from the limitation of what he thought his body could not do.

This same student had already signed up for my four-hour yoga workshop later that afternoon.  He asked me, “Can I do it?”  I said, “Yes.”  As the afternoon progressed, I watched as this student got up and down off the floor many times.  Each time was quicker and easier.  

By the end of class, he wanted to try Anjaneyasana (Lunge) on the floor.  He tried, but the limited movement in his knees would not allow it.  Yet his mind was open to the possibility.  This was huge!  The shackles, the limitations, which he had put on his body, were dissolved.  By the end of class, his face glowed, his were eyes bigger and brighter, and his body was lighter.  He was radiant! 

Svaroopaâ poses and the breathing practice give you great benefits, both physical and more than physical.  You may have begun yoga to heal your body or decrease its pain.  You soon discover that there is a deeper essence.  You discover the “you” that is more than your body and more than your mind.  Yoga calls it svaroopa, your own Divine Self — limitless You.