Heal Yourself the Natural Ayurvedic Way!

Most of us recognize that our health cannot be separated from what we think, say, do or eat. We are born with certain specific physical and mental conditions and we need to understand these to effectively progress in life and relate to people and our environment. How do we make the best of our life?

 Natural healing system
Ayurveda, the “science of life,” is the traditional medicine of India. It is probably the oldest health care system in the world, with roots going back over 5,000 years into the Vedic era. It is called the “Mother of All Healing.” Ayurveda is one of the most comprehensive healing systems in the world, dealing integrally with body, mind and spirit.

Sister sciences
Ayurveda is allied with the profound yogic view of life and consciousness. Yogis need to understand Ayurveda to keep themselves healthy on the path of Sadhana. Ayurvedic practitioners use integrally yogic methods to achieve healing of body/mind/spirit.

Energies in our daily life
Ayurveda provides us with a system for understanding the energies and qualities that are set in motion by our daily living practices, so we can counteract or prevent the imbalances that cause disease. The principles can be applied in our daily life routine, according to our unique constitution and adapting to changing conditions such as time of the day, season, age and culture. Ayurveda affords much extraordinary knowledge and many opportunities to inform our own lifestyle choices and enhance of our skills as yoga teachers—adding greater value to the services we offer our yoga students.

Gaining popularity in the West
Ayurveda is becoming better known in the West and its influence is growing rapidly. Acharya David Frawley predicts that those who learn Ayurveda today will be pioneers in this holistic health movement that will continue to grow significantly in the future.

Complementary to other medical healing practices
The holistic and constitutional approach of Ayurveda adds depth to any medical/healing practice and to teaching yoga. It can fill in the gap left by other therapies, offering people practical tools for changing their own health, especially for the more chronic, lifestyle-induced diseases that are so prevalent in our society today. Without an actual change in diet and lifestyle, according to natural and holistic principles like those of Ayurveda, many disease conditions cannot be cured.

Influence on historical systems of medicine
Ayurveda has had a strong influence throughout history on many systems of medicine, from the ancient Greeks in the West to the Chinese in the East. Ayurvedic herbs and formulas appear in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and an Ayurvedic form of acupuncture also exists. Ayurveda is the basis of Tibetan medicine, which brought in Ayurveda along with Indian Buddhism. Tibetan medicine consists of predominantly Ayurveda with a secondary influence of TCM. Forms of Ayurveda exist in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Burma, and to some extent in Thailand.

Integrate Ayurveda into your life and practice
We are delighted to announce our new program, Ayurveda and Yoga Wellness Certification Course, August 8–18, 2014, taught by Durga Leela and Swami Sitaramananda. This is an ideal opportunity to learn how to assist yourself and others in implementing Ayurvedic and Yogic behavioral, daily routines and lifestyle recommendations.

 The basis of the course: This is a thorough, foundational course based on the books and distance-learning programs of David Frawley (Vamadeva). A 100-hour certification is awarded jointly from Sivananda and The American Institute of Vedic Studies upon successful completion.

Requirements: The course is designed for students of all kinds. You  need not have a medical background, although knowledge of Ayurveda can enhance the practice of medical doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, nurses, psychologists, yoga therapists/teachers, nutritional counselors, physical therapists, massage therapists, and other health practitioners.


It Depends on How You See Yourself and the World

The essentials of Vedanta philosophy are based on the understanding of the way we see ourselves and our world.  This understanding will guide us to know what to do to alleviate ourselves from our suffering which comes from mistakes in our way of seeing. This will help us eventually to realize our blissful true nature.


Our habitual way of seeing the world under our likes and dislikes:

We normally see our world and ourselves with our own eyes, i.e. the eyes of our mind. The way we interact with this world is through our likes and dislikes, based on past experiences.  Our objective world is split in two, one side what we like and the other side what we do not like. Constant reactions to what we like and do not like constitute our life and the perpetuation of our suffering.

When we see a buffet of food, that is how we feel: “I like this food, I don’t like this one, I like this dish, I don’t like this one.”  You meet with somebody, and immediately you think: “I like this about her, I don’t like this about her”.  You see people and you say: I like this person, I don’t like this person.  Then you go to places, and again: “I like the ocean, I don’t like the mountains” or “I like this tree, I don’t like this tree.” That is how our mind works.  If it looks at anything always there is an idea, I like it, I don’t like it. In Vietnam, there is a fruit called durian.  This fruit creates such a reaction in people, not only the foreigners but also the locals.  They hate it or they really crave it.  When they hate it, they  cannot come close and smell it , they don’t want to see it.  They put signs in taxis that says “no durian here” . The airlines put up signs that say no durian accepted on board.  Family members put your durian outside, if you eat durian, don’t come in the house. Then you have the other kind that is the durian addict,” OOOOH durian, I want durian !!!!!  Durian! I dream of durian, I want durian!!!! “  You see the reaction.

In the same manner with food, we have the same swing between likes and dislikes towards people and towards life circumstances. You spend time dreaming about places that you would love to be.  Then you hate another place and you are miserable. You suffer in the company of some people.  On the other hand, you are crazily attached to the company of other people.

Upon analysis, when one goes deeper and tries to understand the reasons of the likes and dislikes, then we find out that these grooves depend on the experiences stored up in the mind.

Any experience or thought in the mind when repeated over time will become a deeper groove and become familiar, thus creating an impression, a memory of like or dislike. The mind is formed with remembrances of repeated past impressions and it is automatic and repetitive.

We identify with our likes and dislikes

When the past groove in the mind is deep, then you like it and you say, “It is me.”  For example, I ate rice 3 times a day in Vietnam for 20 years, so I like rice!  I am called Rice Body, Rice Swami, Rice-ananda.  I like rice.  Someone else will be Pizza-ananda, Pancake-ananda, the bliss that comes from pizza and pancakes.  It is like this, do you see? It took me a long time to phase myself out of rice, and now I am “Quinoa-ananda”.

The problem is when we identify with our likes and dislikes, we miss out on a lot of things and we think limitedly about ourselves, “this is me.”  I thought rice is me!

A helpful way of seeing or interpreting our reality can be developed:

Instead of seeing the world under the eyes of “I like it” or “I dislike it”, Yoga philosophy and Vedanta gives us the framework for seeing the world through the eyes of the 3 gunas, or qualities of nature; tamas, rajas and sattva.

This will help us to understand:

1. Why we see the way we see; in other words, what is the reason of our suffering.

2. What to do to see it differently. How to change our perception of ourselves and our reality.

3. Eventually be free from suffering, attaining to a vision of oneness beyond duality, frustrations, fears and grievances.

9 Ways of Bhakti Yoga in Daily Life

Bhakti Yoga is the branch of yoga that focuses on devotion and devotional practices. God is love and love is God. Bhakti yoga uses our fundamental emotional relationships and sublimates them into pure, selfless, divine love. There are 9 traditional ways to sublimate emotions to devotion, overcome egoism, and realize God according to the teachings of Bhakti Yoga. These methods can be applied in our relationships with others:

1. Listen to inspiring divine stories – Develop the capacity to listen to others without judgment. Be honest in what you say about yourself.

2. Sing God’s glories – Learn to praise others and to look for their positive qualities and be appreciative of one’s own positive qualities.

3. Remembrance of His name and presence in prayers – Learn to hold people you love in your heart in a prayerful mood, feel the sacredness of relationships. Be detached and forgiving. Be grateful for all people who you interact with in your life.

4. Service with humility – Learn to actively serve everyone as God whether you like them or not.

5. Worship – Learn to see God in your relationships. Offer your time and presence, as well as beautiful gifts, as if they are being offered to God.

6. Prostrations – Learn to give utmost respect to people you encounter or people surrounding you no matter who they are.

7. Cultivate the feeling of being a servant of God – Learn to develop an attitude of self-sacrifice.

8. Cultivate feelings of friendship for God – Learn to open your heart equally to all, without ulterior motives and discriminating who is higher or lower than you.

9. Complete self-surrender – Learn to accept all things happening to you with equanimity and overcome your own expectations or feelings about anything done by yourself or others.

The Yoga of Selflessness

by Swami Sitaramananda

Selfishness arises from us failing to realize that we gain more from giving than from taking. Our mistaken belief that we are separate from others leads us to behave selfishly. We fail to consider the deep interconnectedness and oneness of all life, and act from the small perspective of our own egos or personalities, creating more separation. Yoga teaches us to open up our awareness beyond our small and limited perspectives, and to begin to recognize the divine Self that is in all.

In the beginning of my days of being a karma yogi in the Ashram, I did not believe I was selfish, but I was selfish without knowing it. I remember my first reaction: having to serve food to the guests and the students, I thought to myself, “I am not a waitress.”

Having to wash the clothing of the residents in the community I thought, “How terrible that I have to wash peoples’ clothing!” Always there was an “I” that gave judgment to everything, and there was a very strong sense of, “I like this, but I don’t like that.”

Yoga teaches us that we are far more than our ego and the stories we assemble about who we are and what we like or don’t like. It teaches that we are happier when we begin to move out of our egoism and away from these thoughts, beginning to serve others, regardless of whether the mind likes it at first. Through this service, one begins to experience an expansion of his or her sense of self, feeling the deep joy that comes from moving beyond separation.

We all know this great feeling when we manage to let go of our individuality and feel a sense of oneness with another person or a group, and we also know the feeling of separateness that leads us to feel isolated, unsupported or unloved. In life we often strive to define ourselves through our personalities, seeking to stand out in an egoistic way; but this is a mistake that leads to suffering. We forget that the way to get love is to offer love, not to try to be loved based on the limited personality. The more love we give, the more our lives will fill up with love.

Therefore, the secret to happiness is to love selflessly. This love in action that leads us beyond selfishness is called Karma-Bhakti Yoga, or the Yoga of Selfless Love in Service.

This conscious service and love redeems our selfish actions from the past. Nothing happens by accident; everything and everyone we encounter in life, the people and circumstances, even if they are difficult, are opportunities for us to serve and to love, and to work out our karma.

In yoga we often speak of moving beyond the bondage of karma. We need to remember this purpose. This means reaching a place where we are completely fulfilled and desireless. This is the state of love without selfishness.

Reflecting on the meaning of life and its sufferings will bring us to the determination to cut through to the root cause of our suffering, which is our spiritual ignorance. This will motivate us to do selfless service for our own sake, and not only for other peoples’ sake.

As we first begin on the path of selfless service, we may think that we do it to serve someone else or to love someone else, but as we grow in selflessness, we experience our true Self, which is the nature of the divine love that liberates us and others from suffering. It is only through experiencing this divine love and oneness that we become liberated. May you all become great servants of humanity!

To understand more about Karma Yoga, please enroll in the Karma Yoga week May 11-16, as well as apply for the seva study program at the ashram. 

The Yogic Way to Selfless Love: The Yoga of Relationship

by Swami Sitaramananda


Practicing Bhakti Yoga in Daily Life: Learning to See God Through Our Relationships
There are many different types of relationship and in fact, life is nothing but relationship. Nothing is independent. If we think we are independent we are creating problems for ourselves because we are in relationship at all times.

The Yoga of Relationship teaches us to understand that we are in this constant and complex network of relationship and teaches us to learn from the emotional patterns that we usually follow within relationship. It is through our network of relationship that we learn and grow. People in relationship serve as mirrors to each other emotionally and in various ways, so that we may reach the core issue of what it means to live in relationship, which is the relationship with our own Self.

In Yoga we aim to stop the cycle of recurring negative emotional patterns in our past relationships by looking within and by developing awareness about oneself. It is about being self-sufficient – not in an egoistic manner but in a spiritual manner. We must find ourselves in order to have true relationship with others. The moment that we improve our level of self-love, our level of love for other people also improves. It is automatic. If we hate ourselves we will hate others too. If we are angry at ourselves we will be angry with other people. If we are disconnected from our Self, then we will also be disconnected from other people.

So there is no point in projecting blame or in trying to correct things externally, we need to correct things internally.  If we find that we are always losing ourselves in relationship, it is because we have lost connection with our inner Self.  If we can constantly maintain that relationship with our Self, then we will have beautiful relationships externally.


Ideal Relationships

In Yoga an ideal relationship is based on respect, devotion and self-sacrifice. Respect means tuning our mind to the needs of the other person, and that we accept their uniqueness, no matter what we may think about them. It implies a non-judgmental attitude. Devotion is about seeing the other person as God; that means treating the person with pure, unreserved love and trust, and being ready to dedicate our time and effort to make them happy. Self-sacrifice in relationship implies that we are aware of the ego’s tendency to be selfish. We consciously offer up our own needs in order to serve others who we consider as God, because we understand that while we are serving him or her, we are, in reality, serving our own Self.

So self-sacrifice does not mean we are losing something. Instead, we are exchanging our limited view and egoistic needs with the unselfish desire to purify and uplift our self.


How the Mind Reproduces Impressions of Past Relationships

Usually we reproduce relationships that we already know. Our minds already carry impressions of our past relationships. The way in which we view ourselves, and the way we view other people is seen through the prism of those impressions left by past relationships. The impressions created by the relationships with the mother and father are especially strong. That is because those relationships began when we were very young and only our subconscious or emotional, instinctive minds are operating, so the impressions made then are very deep and unquestionable. In Yoga, it is said that our karmas choose our mother and father in this life so that we can learn and grow.

Yogis believe that we carry the joys and sufferings that come from past lives and from the subconscious minds of our family and ancestors. We carry these in our own lives and we reproduce them in our relationships. As an example, a person who grew up in a dysfunctional and very angry family will likely form a dysfunctional and angry family later on, unless he/she does a lot of conscious inner work to develop detachment and awareness of the pattern. So many patterns begin in childhood and then just get reproduced. Some other scenarios: when you were young, you were loved or not loved, isolated or put down, or if you were completely spoiled and told that everything you did was perfect, then you will keep reproducing these patterns. So the spoiled person will always blame something external. They think they are perfect because that is what they have been told all their lives. Of course, we are all perfect inside but our minds are not perfect. Our minds need to be molded in order for us to be able to reflect the perfection that is lives within us. We will have to do a great deal of self-inquiry to become independent from past impressions and to correct the pattern of reproducing past relationships.


Remedy for Problems in Relationship

Healing our relationships starts with self-love or Love of God.  We have to start to love our true Self or love God. This means we go through the maze of the mind and emotions to sort out who we are from who we are not.

We have to look at our beliefs and examine whether they are true or not. If we can discard the ideas about ourselves that are not true and understand the core value of what is true, we come to accept and love our true Self.  In other words, we stop waiting for someone external to us to give us permission to love our Self.  That is what we usually do and it typically leads to a chain of projections and reproduction of expectations that creates confusion and pain.

In Bhakti Yoga, either we address the partner as a symbolic idealized God himself/herself (the “Ishta devata” concept of personal chosen form of God) or we cultivate our ideal relationship by seeing our own Self or God in our inter-relationship with the people in our lives. In either case, the same principles apply. The same Love shines.  Either we see God in our Self or see God in Others, or a mixture of both. We are all knowingly or unknowingly on this journey towards true Unity, Pure Joy and Pure Bliss, finding the relationship with Love Itself.

The Power of Here and Now

 by Swami Sitaramananda

The mind is our instrument to perceive reality and to learn our lessons in life. To learn our life’s lessons is the purpose of our birth. Different minds perceive different realities. Yoga teachings and techniques help us to purify the mind to see a universal reality that is closer to Truth, peace and happiness.

The yogis observe the mind and understand its workings. The mind is constantly swinging like the pendulum of a clock, between likes and dislikes, or what we are attracted to and desire and the opposite, what we reject and run away from. Thus, the mind is constantly in movement – we are constantly restless, looking forward to future events or things we expect to come in the future and at the same time regretting and rearranging our past, which has already happened.

The yogis say that we continue to be trapped in an endless circle of expectation and disappointment and continue to experience the same frustrations and karmic situations. The way out is to stop the swinging of the mind and experience the liberating moment of HERE AND NOW. In the Here and Now, we have all possibilities, all creativity, all fulfillment, all satisfaction, all happiness. In the Here and Now, we actualize ourselves and feel powerful, becoming all that we can be.

There will be no fears, regrets, anticipations, worries, likes and dislikes, duality between self and others. In the Here and Now, we are One. No comparison, no feeling of inferiority or superiority, no feeling of inadequacy, nor pride, no waiting for approval nor self-efforts to prove oneself in the eyes of others. In the Here and Now, we are free– we are who we are. We are able to solve all the paradoxes in life, all the conflicts in relationships, and able to resolve the inner conflicts we have between contradicting desires.

How to be Here and Now

It is said that time and space and causality are the modes of the mind. Without mind, there is no time, space and causality. One lives in the Eternal without reason and conditions, in the state of unconditioned bliss, no matter where we are or the nature of life’s circumstances.

The Yogis say, “To transcend time, you need to transcend the mind.” All yogic techniques of meditation help us to transcend the mind, or at least to calm the mind down. The key is to keep the mind focused, unwavering, firm and steady in the moment, detached while performing the task at hand, without distractions. This is also called the state of being balanced with attention, or the state of equanimity. By practicing the yogic techniques from Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga, and the philosophy of Vedanta and the techniques of Jnana Yoga, the yogis endeavor to keep the mind under control, not going to extremes in anything, not desiring, not disliking, not overly active nor passive or depressed, not identifying with something external and becoming attached, nor hiding from the world out of fear. This is called being “in the world but not of the world,” like the lotus that grows out of the mud yet keeps its purity and fragrance.

The yogi stays focused on the eternal Here and Now of his own eternal Soul and accomplishes everything while being. This is accomplished step by step by starting to practice daily asanas and pranayama to purify and calm down the mind, also to detach from our actions in life and our current identifications, and by daily practice of meditation and concentration. The mind will become calmer and clearer, its motives and behaviors will become known, with glimpses of eternity experienced until they become the only Reality.


Food as Medicine

Food is essential to life. In the form of food only, we are able to absorb the 5 basic elements – ether, air, fire, water and earth – that will sustain the physical body. Food is also one of the three external sources of Prana or life force available to us; the other two are oxygen and sunlight. According to the Upanishads, the mind is composed of the most subtle vibrations of food. Therefore, Ayurveda, the science of life, points out that knowledge of proper diet/food-Aahar- is the main foundation for attaining optimum health and achieving balance and wellbeing.
At the physical level, food is the only substance responsible for tissue buildup. The quality of our tissues as well as the ratio of wear and tear are mainly determined by the quality of food that we ingest. Ayurveda acknowledges two distinct metabolic processes where digestion occurs: The first one takes place along the gastrointestinal tract starting in the tongue and ending in the colon where water absorption for feces formation occurs. The second stage deals with the assimilation or reabsorption of the food that is going to form the tissues in the liver.
These processes get affected with improper food taken through time. Agni, the digestive fire, weakens which in turn, prevents food from transforming effectively, paving the way for the accumulation of undigested matter or Ama. Disease appears as a result of Ama not being eliminated in due time.
The involvement of Prana is expressed through Agni’s transformational functions of food in the form of Pitta along the g.i. tract in combination with the energies of movement and cohesion; that is the expression of the Doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha, the functional intelligence primarily behind the digestive processes and also everything in relationship to health and disease.
Whatever we eat also creates an effect in the mind. Ayurveda does not classify food in terms of carbohydrates proteins, fats, etc. Food is rather classified like the gunas or qualities of the mind- Sattvic (pure, balancing), Rajasic (stimulating, agitating) and Tamasic (inert, dulling).  What we eat is what we express. The quality of food that we feel drawn to ingest generally reflects the predominating guna of the mind. Since 80% of all diseases come from the mind and the mind is under the control of the gunas, food therapy is an essential component for healing the mind.
Our inherent intelligence has programmed us to use food as therapy or medicine. Ayurveda offers a wide range of parameters, like the science of the 6 tastes, an extensive repertoire of spices and rich and diverse vegetarian food that will help promote digestion and sustain life at the physical level, provide strength stamina and enthusiasm at the energy level through regulation of Prana and Agni and balance of Doshas at the energy/vital level and control of mind and balance of emotions.


About Bharata Surya
Javier Lopez (Bharata Surya) is a Sivananda Yoga Teacher and a certified Ayurveda Practitioner, Counselor, Pancha Karma specialist and Marma therapist trained in the US and India. For the last 15 years he has led a private practice and dealt in multiple corporate scenarios leading stress and pain management programs. He is actively providing marma therapy services at the Yoga Farm Ashram & SYVC Centers in California.
Please join us for the Food as Medicine: Ayurvedic Nutrition and Cooking Certificate Course, March 30 to April 6, 2014. Bharata will share Ayurveda’s principles of six tastes and three constitutions to build recipes for restoring health and balance.  Theory and hands-on practice learning to how to cook and the proper use of spices and herbs.
This course is part of a series of modules offered by the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Organization in collaboration with Acharya David Frawley (Vamadeva).

Swami Vishnudevananda Instructions on Meditation

Now just for a few minutes, dive deep into that silence. Hear the silence, see the silence, taste, smell, and touch the silence. The last moment of your life, you’ll hear that beautiful silence, that melody of your soul, the sound of your own soul, the music of your soul. That Godhead, that peace will come to you. You will leave your body with full awareness and peace and shanti. Now dive deep. Hear the eternal sound of Om in silence, and we’ll keep silence just for a few minutes, just a few minutes.

You sit for three hours with eyes closed. Does the meditation come? Sitting with closed eyes like a statue is not going to bring you anything as long as the play is still going on inside. Continuously the play is going on; meditation is a continuous dehypnotizing of our identity with this play, this play of the body and mind.

Meditation starts in your day-to-day life. If you cannot detach yourself from the day-to-day activities, you cannot close your eyes and meditate. If we have continuous identification with our activities and nature, when we sit, the same activities will go on. Even if you keep your eyes closed, your hands clasped, your feet crossed, still the mind is not checked. The mind will play the part and you are going to identify with the mental play. Whether you are going to work with your physical body and identify with your physical body, or if you keep the physical body still and close the eyes, it makes no difference. The mind will play its part in all conditions.

In order to detach and keep the mind away from the day-to-day portion so that when you sit for meditation you will be able to withdraw the mind, you must take the first step which is called Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is the fundamental step on which your meditation practice is built. No meditation is possible without Karma Yoga; it doesn’t matter what else you do.

Excerpt from the book: Swamiji Said – A Collection of Teaching by Swami Vishnudevananda in His Own Words

Journey from Here to Eternity

Master Sivananda said that “one ounce of practice equals tons of theory.”  Swami Vishnudevanandaji not only gives us the teachings but also provides the camp ground to bring everything we learned into practice. He created the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers and Ashrams in many locations throughout the world to allow Yoga practitioners from all walks of life to practice selflessness and to apply the spiritual principles in daily life. Many Yoga students, seekers after Truth have decided to take refuge in this spiritual haven and school, not to run away from life and responsibilities, but in fact to face it with fortitude and concentration, with a good heart and good intention.  They started the search with the clear idea that, “I know that I do not know,” and became a seeker.

Heaven is not “later on” or somewhere else. It is now and here. Karma yogis in the Ashram have the chance to practice this by focusing on the task at hand, keeping the mind positive, optimistic, patient and smiling, and learning to bear all difficulties with equanimity and balance. 90-95% of the practice is the forbearance practice. How will this manifest? If we have a desire and we do not get to satisfy our desire, we suffer. By bearing the suffering and waiting and in the meanwhile doing right actions, we are working out the karma and we are given the direct experience of the truth of selflessness and the truth of calmness in adversities. We are not a victim. Keep bearing a good countenance, keep practicing a good asana-straight and balanced posture–in all situations. A good body posture at all times shows a good approach to Self realization as inside and outside is the same. It shows equanimity, balanced mental attitude and self-confidence.

Most of the time we do not know what we are doing, why things are this way or that way. But we need to bear it all: the frustrations, the expectations, the peculiarities of people we interact with. We think we are bearing other peoples’ imperfections and oddities but in fact there is only one thing that we bear: the sufferings coming from our own mind, past and present. This is called karmic suffering. By bearing, and at the same time trying to adopt a positive attitude, we are working out our karma. By practicing Swami Sivananda’s motto, ‘Adapt, adjust, accommodate,” we learn to bend our ego and to remain detached. This will lead us to wisdom and to karmic release. In the Ashram or Gurukula, we are being helped in the journey by the life example and the strength of the Teacher that is concentrated and clear, with no selfish motives. In this way it helps us to see ourselves and our impurities.

We can practice many methods to face the karma: we can either see the obstacle or the problem as Divine will and accept it, or by negating it, keep uplifting the mind by thinking of the perfect Self, or by working on calming the mind and replacing negative thinking with its opposite positive thought. All these yogic methods are taught theoretically but also practically and daily in the Ashram as the karma is playing out one moment at a time and we need to be in the Here and Now and practice ‘D.I.N.’ as per Swami Sivananda’s teaching – Do-It-Now, to be at once   eternally good, happy and peaceful. The Eternal is Now. There is no world , no in nor out, no friend nor foe. The Yogi keeps the right attitude towards life and action, working on themselves with God/ Guru as the witness to move from now to Eternity.


Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Swami Vishnudevananda’s Mahasamadhi

Swami Vishnudevananda was sent to spread the message of Yoga and Vedanta in the West in 1957 by his Master, Swami Sivananda, with the words “People are waiting”. For 37 years he worked tirelessly as an active and dedicated spiritual teacher travelling around the world establishing city Centres and Ashrams where his work could be accomplished.

The Early Years

Swami Vishnudevananda was born in the south Indian state of Kerala on December 31, 1927. After completing school he entered the Engineering Corps of the Indian Army. It was while he was in the army that he first met Swami Sivananda, one of the great saints of modern times.

After being discharged from the army, Swamy Kuttan Nair, as he was then known, was a schoolteacher in his native Kerala for a short while, before leaving his life behind and entering the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh in 1947. Within a year, he took the monastic vow (sannyas) with the name of Swami Vishnudevananda.

Swami Sivananda saw in his young disciple special tendencies towards Hatha Yoga. With his training directed towards this discipline he became an expert, mastering many of the most difficult and advanced Hatha Yoga techniques (asanas, pranayamas, mudras, bandhas and kriyas). How did he learn these ancient practices which to a great extent had been lost in modern India? He often said, “My Master touched me and opened my intuitive eye. All this knowledge returned to me from past lives”.

Remaining at the Ashram for ten years, he was appointed as the first Professor of Hatha Yoga at the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy. He held a number of other positions at the Ashram, including personal secretary to Swami Sivananda.

How Swami Vishnudevananda met his Master

Swami Vishnudevananda remembers his very first contact with Swami Sivananda:

“I first heard about Swami Sivananda in a strange way. Looking in the waste paper basket for a lost paper, I found one small pamphlet called Sadhana Tattwa. His teachings were so simple and straightforward, ‘an ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory.’i

I got a couple of days’ leave of absence from the army and went to see him. There was no kind of religious hypocrisy, no sitting on a tiger skin with ashes smeared all over his body. He had an extraordinary spiritual glow. The second time I saw him, Swami Sivananda was coming up the stairs in my direction.

I didn’t want to have to bow my head to him. I was young and arrogant and never wanted to bow my head to anybody. But
it is the tradition that you should bow your head to a holy man. To avoid the situation, I just moved out of his path. Master saw me and headed in my direction. He asked me who I was and where I was coming from. Then he bowed down and touched my feet!! My whole body began to shake violently. With all my heart, with all my life and love, I learned to bow without any type of reservation. He touched my heart not with miracles or shows of holiness, but with his perfect egoless nature. He didn’t consider that I was just a stupid boy standing there, although I was just that. He touched my heart and broke that egoism in me. I didn’t think anything else in this world would have broken this ego. That was my first lesson, and if I could attain one millionth of the state of egolessness of the Master, it is His Grace.”

The West

Upon leaving India for the West, Swami Vishnudevananda spent a year travelling, arriving on the West Coast of America in 1957. It soon became apparent that Westerners were so caught up in the whirlwind of their lives that they neither knew how to relax nor how to live healthy lives. Swami Vishnudevananda devised the concept of the Yoga Vacation and set about creating places where people could have a complete rest of body, mind and spirit. Several Ashrams and Centres were founded based on an integrated approach to yoga. Teachers‘ Training CoursesIn 1969 the True World Order was established to help create unity and understanding between peoples of the world. A unique Yoga Teachers’ Training Course was developed with the aim of training future leaders and responsible citizens in the basics of yoga discipline. Swami Vishnudevananda emphasised the importance of first finding individual inner peace which could then lead to establishing global peace and harmony. The first Sivananda Yoga Teachers’ Training Course was held in 1969 at the Sivananda Yoga Camp headquarters in Val Morin, Quebec, Canada and to date more than 35,000 people have graduated successfully from the course – many having gone on to spread the teachings of yoga around the world.

The Five Points

By closely observing the lifestyles and needs of people in the West, Swami Vishnudevananda synthesised the ancient wisdom of yoga into five basic principles that could easily be incorporated into daily life to provide the foundation for healthy living. It is around these five principles that the activities at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres are based.

Proper Exercise (Asanas) acts as a lubricating routine for the joints, muscles and other parts of the body by increasing circulation and flexibility. The asanas not only produce physical benefits, but are also exercises in concentration and meditation, promoting optimum health.

Proper Breathing (Pranayama)  connects the body to the solar plexus, where tremendous potential energy is stored. Through specific breathing techniques this energy is released for physical and mental rejuvenation.

Proper Relaxation (Savasan) is a vital part of keeping the body and mind healthy. Yoga teaches three levels of relaxation – physical, mental and spiritual.

Proper Diet (Vegetarian) is eating with awareness. A yogi takes food that has the most positive effect on the body and mind and the least negative effect on the environment.

Positive Thinking and Meditation (Vedanta and Dhyana) relieve stress and replenish energy. Meditation is well known to improve concentration and to bring peace of mind and spiritual strength. Meditation is beneficial for everyone, especially those with a hectic, stressful life.


In addition to being a tireless worker for world peace and a renowned authority on Hatha and Raja Yoga, Swami Vishnudevananda is well known for his books The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga and Meditation and Mantras. He also authored a commentary on The Hatha Yoga Pradipika and is the inspiration behind The Sivananda Book of Yoga.Peace Missions

In 1968 Swami Vishnudevananda had a vision of the world being destroyed by fire, of people fleeing in turmoil breaking down the barriers between nations in an attempt to escape. From that moment on, he embarked on a series of peace missions whose purpose was to show ‘that the idea of nationalism, or patriotism must disappear, and only one unity should exist.’ In 1971 he made headlines around the world by flying his two-seater Piper Apache plane over areas of serious conflict including Northern Ireland, the Suez Canal and the India Pakistan border. He ‘bombed’ these troubled areas with flowers and leaflets calling for peace. He also sponsored numerous festivals, conferences, symposiums and world tours – all calling for world peace and understanding.In 1983 he made an historic and perilous journey across the Berlin Wall from West to East in a microlight aeroplane, the first to be made by a private plane since the wall was erected twenty years previously. Swami Vishnudevananda recounts his Berlin Wall flight: “Just a few weeks ago I flew over the Berlin Wall with flowers in my hand. Everybody thought I’m going to be shot down. But I said, when I come with the flowers, how can anyone shoot. East Germans and West Germans, what is the difference? There was only one Germany. The moment that you put labels, then you think a person is not a human being. He should be shot. That’s what Catholics and Protestants, Hindus and Muslims, black and white, Arabs and Jews are doing. They put labels. The moment you put the label, you forget. You are no longer a human being. They can be easily killed. So when I went, I went with the label removed. The Berlin Wall crossing was symbolic. The purpose was to break the man-made barriers that exist in the mind. That’s the real barrier.”An Enduring LegacySwami Vishnudevananda was an innovator and a pioneer in his methods of disseminating the classical Yoga teachings that he learned from his Master, Swami Sivananda and to whom he dedicated his life’s work. He demystified yoga and offered clear, practical techniques for people to spiritualise their lives and attain health, mental balance and inner peace.Perhaps his greatest contribution was to popularise Yoga philosophy and practice throughout the West by establishing worldwide network of Centres and Ashrams that made yoga easily accessible to all. The key to this injection of Yoga into the mass culture was the founding of the Sivananda Teachers’ Training Courses in 1969 to train people in the essence of Yoga and Vedanta. He asked his teachers to be practitioners, and not mere preachers, and to date countless graduates are now teaching throughout the world.

Swami Vishnudevananda used to say, “Before you can change the world, first you have to change yourself. The only way to change society is like changing a cotton cloth to a silk one – by changing each thread one by one”. Through this vast network of Yoga teachers, the social fibre is changing.Mahasamadhi

Swami Vishnudevananda left his body on November 9, 1993, leaving behind him a worldwide organisation with 7 Ashrams and 20 Centres plus many affiliated Centres and teachers dedicated to propagating the ancient and timeless wisdom of yoga.