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Sivananda World News: The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Ashrams

Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp, Sivananda Headquarters, Val Morin, Quebec, Canada

Om Namah Sivaya from the Yoga Camp! In early December as we started the last week of TTC, the students were much more comfortable with the teaching classes, as the round of Open classes began. The confidence and trust could be seen and day by day the entire group could feel the improvement. Swami Rajeshwarianandaji led the mantra initiation ceremony in the morning with 26 of the students taking part. It was inspiring to see them all ready, with offering in hands and the mind set in their chosen mantras and practice. One Wednesday Satsang happened in Samadhi Estates. It was appreciated by all, as the energy in Swamiji’s house was very peaceful. The students had their pranayama practice and after that most of them went through the day much quieter and focussed on their studies, as the exam was to take few days from there. Saturday morning exam day: We held a shorter Satsang and students were sent to have a light snack as the expected exam took place. With a good team of staff they were corrected quickly and the graduation ceremony was prepared. The evening ended with an inspiring talk by Swami Rajeshwarianandaji, the graduation and a beautiful talent show.

Few guests were with us for the weekend and they all enjoyed and entire event. One could feel the friendship and love that had been developed through the intense 4 weeks of training. The next day the TTC students headed home and the staff began a massive clean up at the Ashram, preparing it for the holidays that were fast approaching. One evening we all went to the Montreal Centre to participate in the Christmas party. The Centre had been beautifully decorated by Sushila and a group of karma yogis that came throughout that week. Swami Rajeshwarianandaji then travelled back to Rome. Her presence during the month was greatly appreciated by all and she will be missed.

During mid-December the staff all pulled in together to get the Ashram ready for Christmas. All the rooms were done, windows cleaned, wood polished, bathrooms scrubbed and the kitchen completely cleaned, organized and stocked. The decorations were hung and the beautiful Christmas trees were dressed up. The energy of celebration could be felt throughout the week as the holidays were fast approaching. Joanne did a wonderful job wrapping all the gifts and carefully placing them under the tree.
During the week we had two snowshoeing outings, one going round the Ashram land, marking and packing the snow and another to Mount McMaster, that is right next to the Lake Raymond, where we have some of ours silent walks. This one was led by Uma. Guests and staff both joined. From the view point we could see not only the lake but also the Ashram. The weekend was very quiet and enjoyable, giving that last breath to the staff before the busy days ahead. We all looked forward to receiving our Gurubhais from the Ranch, New York, Montreal and Toronto Centres for the Christmas celebrations. All is well in the Ashram. Pranams to all the Sivananda Family as the New Year begins.

Sivananda Dhanwanthari Ashram, Neyyar Dam, Kerala, India

Om Namo Narayanaya. Early December was calm after the high energy of the November TTC. Tapovan, Nagraj and THomas rejoined the staff after finishing the course. Additionally Babeesh and Renjith from TTC have joined staff.  A group of six new teachers are now having regular training under the care of Nirmala and Shubash. Seventeen people were initiated into the two week Fasting & Detoxification Programme conducted by Narayana. Within a day the number rose to full capacity of twenty, including six staff members. We celebrated Swami Vishnudevananda’s star birthday. We celebrated with big Ailyam Puja and Pongala at the lakeside temple near Swamiji’s lakeside house. Many local ladies participated with the staff and guests. Puja was conduced by Aji Shanti. We welcomed Swami Gayatriananda for the season and Hasu & Anil Patel for the cultural programme.

During mid-December the Christmas atmosphere crept into the Ashram, initially with some modest tinsel in Siva Hall. Then some coloured lights outside the Hall. A new magnificent 10 foot Christmas tree arrived from Cochin. Staff quickly decorated it for presentation on the stage.  Christmas carol practice took place every evening. We were blessed by the arrival of Hasu and Anil Patel, Poornam ji and family and six Yogis on Wheels. Hasu is a well respected sitar player and composer, living in USA. She performed and conducted daily music workshops for the guests. We were blessed by a long-awaited visit from Poornam ji and family. Poornam ji is a long standing teacher and supporter from Chennai. Six physically challenged young men, “Yogis on Wheels”, enjoyed the Christmas festivities with us for a week. The Fasting Detoxification Program finished with a very sweet ceremony in the Rajarajeshwari Temple. All twenty participants benefitted from the program. On the same day the Yoga Ayurveda Cultural Program started with a Ganapati Homa and Duryodhanam Katakali performance that evening. We were sad to see Harish and Haridas leave. New staff member, Shyam, quickly fitted into the group. Pranams to all Sivananda Staff.

Sivananda Ashram, Netala, Uttarkashi, Himalayas, North India

Om Namo Narayanaya. Sending best wishes for a Peaceful New Year. May the Gurus’ blessings of be with us all for 2015. Pranams. Om.

Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Meenakshi Ashram, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India

Om Namo Narayanaya. In early December we said ‘cheeeese’ as we photographed the cheers from the TTC group. The courses, both Yoga vacation and TTC, proceeded well. Together we worshiped Goddess Devi with a special Pooja in the midst of Devi chants especially the Lalitha Sahasranamam. The students and guests were highly exited to dress themselves in Indian ethnic costumes for the celebration. They participated in the ritual with same enthusiasm. The Temple construction reached its completion with picket-fencing done on its northern boundary using nutmeg wood as a creative alternative for the cliché style wall. The lighter colored wooden fence, with green forest landscape behind. Plus the saffron canopy above made a scenic sight. December 11th, a significant date for all members of the yoga community to celebrate, was the declaration passed in the UNGA, announcing June 21st, chosen for being the longest day of the two solstices in the Gregorian calendar, as the International Day of Yoga. As an early celebratory step to welcome the New Year we were equally happy to receive the ‘Calendar 2015’, featuring rare pictures of Swamiji, matched with his appropriate quotes.
May Master and Guru be with us all. Peace and Pranams to the Sivananda family.

Sivananda Ashram Yoga Ranch Colony, Woodburne, NY, USA

Greetings from the Yoga Ranch! In early December we started preparing for an ice storm by checking that we had all the supplies necessary and checking generators. Luckily, the weather was only contained to surrounding the area and we were able to get to New York City, to pick up Mahahdev Chaitanya from the airport, from his long awaited return from India. Mahadev Chaitanya had been in India for seven weeks, first participating in Sadhana Intensive and then teaching in the Kerala TTC. There were 14 participants for the weekend program on Positive Thinking. The Satsangs were full and lively chanting helped to lift the already positive energy of the Ashram. Kamala left the Ashram to serve at the New York Centre for a few months. We will miss her and wish her all the best.
Staff sends Pranams to all! May the Gurus’ blessings of be with us at this time of year.

Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm, Grass Valley, California, USA

Om Namo Narayanaya. In early December the TTC began with a Ganapathe Homa held at the Krishna Temple platform by Swami Vasishtanandaji. We were fortunate to have a break in the weather to have this Puja outside. The weather cooperated again for the walk of the Peace Labyrinth during Satsang one Wednesday morning. Following meditation, chanting, and a short video on the history and use of the labyrinth, students, teachers, and staff walked the labyrinth, experiencing the unique energy produced by this practice. Severe storm warnings had been issued for the area. The staff worked very hard to bring in anything that might be damaged in the forecasted 60 mph winds and heavy rains. Most of the high winds occurred at night but the rain was continuous for 2 days. The TTC students held up well and kept their spirits up.
The Ashram welcomed the Temple Bhajan Band for a Saturday kirtan concert (and workshop) with classical bhajans producing a sweet energy amongst all. It was a great way for the students to begin the second week of TTC.
Swami Swaroopananda, accompanied by Swami Premaswaroopananda, Rukmini, and Jnaneswari stayed on following the EBM meeting and left for the Bahamas.

During mid-December the TTC completed the second week and were diving into the daily practice. They began their teaching groups and were inspired by the many aspects of the teachings. The Ashram celebrated Channukah, with nightly lighting of the menorah before meditation. The group was exposed to several special guests with Mary Thompson (“Ayurveda Psychology”) and Dr. Marc Halpern (“Prana, Tejas, Ojas”) visiting from the California College of Ayurveda. Kirtan group Shakti Rising hailing from Mt. Shasta, led an inspired concert of classic bhajans. We thanked Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University for his insightful talks on “Happiness” and “Forgiveness”, sharing tools to access the higher aspects of the mind. Swami Sitaramananda and Ananta Chaitnay, were on their way to India, stopped in Dubai to teach a 5 day Yoga retreat to a group of 62 serious and eager Russian students, organized by Rami Bleckt who brought a similar group to Vietnam last year. The retreat was held outside of Dubai in a nice hotel surrounded by desert mountains with hot springs. We enjoyed the nice chants from the mosque five times each day and night. The students enjoyed chanting, lectures, asana classes outdoors in the sun, taught by Ananta Chaitanya and Russian Atmajyoti who was translating non stop on everything. Om Namo Narayanaya and seasonal blessings to all the Sivananda family.

Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat, Nassau, Bahamas

Om Namo Narayanaya, Blessed Selves. In early December the weather was sunny and cool. The Christmas lights were installed sending us into the festive spirit. Satsangs have moved to the garden platform to accommodate the growing number of guests. This was a perfect setting for Karnamrita Dasi’s concerts “Harmonizing our Lives with Mantras, Ragas and Voice”. She also led afternoon workshops for guests who wanted to practice chanting and sanskrit pronunciation. Mavis Gewant completed her painting series with workshops on the imagery of chakras and painting planet mandalas. We welcomed Father William Meninger who presented the Enneagram as a Tool for Personal Transformation. It was a very popular topic and he led a series of engaging Satsangs He also led afternoon workshops on “The Process of Forgiveness”. Tulku Sherdor, from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition presented his course on Meditation: “Deeply Exploring Our True Nature”. Katie (Ambika) Papo started her workhshop series: “Yoga, Stress, and Food”. Pranava led the Essentials of Yoga I course which had quite a large number of students; therefore, we offered 2 yoga classes, one in the evening and one in the afternoon led by Omkari. Students completed and graduated from the course. The Essentials Yoga II course was also inaugurated. We also inaugurated the Transformational Cleansing with Dr. Tom Francescott who will lead the 7-day cleanse.

During mid-December the winter season officially arrived. The days were warm and sunny with cool mornings and evenings. The Ashram was festive and lively. The Christmas trees were lit up and the lights were strung across the pathways. Each evening we lit the Hanukkah candles during evening Satsang. Our holiday guests and guest speakers were arriving as we prepared for our Unity in Diversity Symposium.
Roshi Bernie Glassman and his partner Roshi Eve Myonen Marko joined us to present “Living a Life That Matters” talks during Satsang. Swami Brahmananda presented Raja Yoga: The Royal Path to Enlightenment during morning Satsangs; Sundari (Nora Benian) offered Restorative Yoga and Healing Therapies workshops and massages. We had 3 blissful nights of chanting with Durga Das (David Newman) who joined us with his wife Mira and musicians. Students completed a transformational cleanse with Dr. Tom Francescott. Dr. Tom, a naturopathic doctor, has a natural health Centre in New York and is the director of Dr. Tom’s Tonics. Om Shanti Staff are well and send lots of Prem. Pranams and prayers for Peace to all!

Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat House, Reith/Kitzbühel Tyrol, Austria

Om Namah Sivaya. In early December final preparations were done for the TTC including hall set up and decoration. Twenty-one students arrived for the “winter” TTC. An harmonious inauguration ceremony followed. Shree Krishna contributed with a mantra recitation, purifying and elevating at the same time. Christmas preparations are also on the way. We were nearly fully booked and more enquiries were coming in daily. OM.

Sivananda Ashram Chateau du Yoga, Orleans, France

Om Namah Sivaya. In early December we had a guest speaker on Ayurveda, Vincent Marechal, who gave two well-received introductory talks. He has on own clinic near Paris. Many TTCs took mantra initiation. Yagneshwara conducted a Kanya Kumari Puja. The TTC students loved it and afterwards they received their spiritual names. The next day was the final exam. The good news was that everybody passed, many were excellent. Overall, it was a very inspiring TTC, with 2 students staying on for Karma Yoga for a few months. Preparations for the Christmas celebrations were in full swing.

During mid-December the sun hardly came out from behind the clouds. It was raining frequently. Still, we had a joyful week of final preparations for the Christmas season, a few temporary staff came to help in the various departments. Then, the first guests came for the special Christmas and New Year programme, and the prana began building. Staff were rehearsing and learning their part for our theatre play “Krishna and Sudama”.
Ishwara and Karuna, who both took the last TTC here, are already assisting in the classes. OM.

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Nivritti Marga – the path of renunciation

Preyo-Marga – the path of ignorance / the path of pleasure.

Sreyo-Marga – the path of knowledge.

Pravrittimarga – the path of action or life in the worldly society

Bhakti-marga – the path of devotion

Jnana-marga  – the path of knowledge

Nivrittimarg – The path of renunciation or Sannyasa; the path of return to Brahman.

Archiradi-marga – The path of the gods; the northern path; taken by the Jiva after death through which the Yogi ascends to the world of Brahman.

MAYA: The illusive power of God.

Maya is powerful. Except, in very rare cases, where the Samskaras are very strong, a taste for a life of contemplation does not manifest itself in man. The Avarana of Avidya /the veil of ignorance is so thick that spiritual practice is not sufficient to easily pierce it. Life then only creates Samskaras which take shape in future births. No doubt, Satsang, Japa and Dhyana help a Sadhaka a lot. But, if at the same time you do Vichara, develop Viveka and cultivate Vairagya, then the progress is extremely rapid. Vairagya and Viveka are absolutely necessary. Without these, no amount of Satsang, Japa or Dhyana will produce immediate results. Because Maya is extremely powerful: she can be annihilated only through Dridha Vairagya, only through intense dispassion.

Live in the present, forget the past. Release hopes of the future. – Sri Swami Sivananda