Meet and Meditate
with a Yoga Master
Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati
It’s not often that we get to sit with a master teacher, let alone meditate with one or have an experience of our deepest self in the presence of one that lives in a state of self-realization. Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati is coming to Richmond on October 12 to lead an evening of meditation, open to all, as she says, “seeking the wider and deeper possibilities of human life—to be fully alive, engaged and effective in the world.”
Nirmalananda’s work as a master teacher began 30 years ago when she originated Svaroopa Yoga. She has trained thousands of yoga and meditation teachers, founded the Yoga Alliance and created the yoga program at the Chopra Institute in California. She travels extensively from the Downingtown, Pennsylvania, home of the Svaroopa Vidya Ashram and Teaching Center to speak in Canada, Australia and the U.S.
In 2009, she became a swami, a yoga monk, which she says with a smile, “comes with a long list of responsibilities.” Warm, light-hearted and personable in her talks, Nirmalananda (meaning “completely free from fear, and in bliss”) teaches Svaroopa Yoga from three main principles, all geared to preparing the body for meditation.
These principles include, “Support equals release,” supporting the body right where is needed with blankets and props. This is especially important for seated poses in meditation, so sitting can be easy, comfortable and still. The second principle is, “It all starts at the tailbone,” which looks at the body from the spine outward, releasing muscles from the tailbone through the shoulders and neck. This sequential release results in a pervading sense of calm and clarity; a solid foundation from which to meditate. The third principle is, “The spine is a conduit of consciousness.” When tensions along the spine are released and energy is unimpeded, reaching deeper mental states occurs automatically.
The goal of Svaroopa Vidya meditation is to become established in one’s essential nature, unbounded and unlimited, so we experience and live from all that we are. Other meditation systems have other goals; mindfulness meditation increases awareness of the present moment, free from the past and future and Taoist meditation focuses on the circulation of inner energy to improve health and enhance longevity.
To help prepare participants for Nirmalananda’s talk in October, her teachings assistant, Rukmini Abruzzi, will hold an all-day meditation workshop on September 29 at Unity of Richmond. Propping in a seated pose will be taught, and the same principles as in the asanas will be conveyed in the day’s meditation practices. On October 12, Nirmalananda will talk about the “joyous possibilities” of being human in an evening of chanting, discourse and meditation.
Deborah Woodward is a Svaroopa Yoga asana and meditation teacher, one of six teachers in the Richmond-Charlottesville-Hampton Roads area.