Today was the first day of training! Domingo walked me first thing this morning!
The Club has a lot of stairs up to the gym and I was surprised I had to stop half way up and take a breath. After putting my items in my day locker I was ready to venture up another set of steps to meet Luke. Surprisingly I ran these stairs without effort. What is that about? Met with Luke at the gym. He started me on the weight bench face up with hand weights. Soon I realized that even sitting up from a laying position was more than my back to do and so we agreed he would take the weights and I could turn on my side to get up. Ugh!
My intention is to be gentle with myself and just witness and I have done well so far. My mind did wander back though to when I considered myself macho and had definition in my shoulder muscles. Oh, mid 1990s. That was 20 years ago. Watching my slow unsteady movement with the free weights was a real wake up call to how truly out of shape I am!
Next was the Nautilus for my back, where I learned to squeeze as he pressed the middle of my back. Was I ever mistaken! I really thought I knew what I needed and could do it on my own. His training is so attentive and so different than what I expected. I see this could change my life!
Wow! My eyes lit up when we went to the racquetball court for lunges. Have to digress here. When I used to work at a Federal Prison camp (as a counselor,) I worked out regularly with my dear friend and coworker Herm. We had a great time spotting each other and we both got a great workout; thus the definition in my shoulders. Well, one day we invited another coworker; I’ll call Carlos to play racquetball. Mind you, I am not a good racquetball player, but it was fun and a lot of exercise. Well, Carlos could not just have fun. First he tried to teach me. I didn’t want to be taught, I wanted to play for fun. Next, he came onto me sexually. Yuk! We were there to play racquetball. Next, he started putting me down. Really? I quickly realized that the three ways he knew how to be with women were to 1 – tell them what to do or how to do it 2 – treat them as sexual objects or 3 – be verbally abusive. Well, that was the last time he was invited to play.
Nevertheless, my eyes did light up at the Club because I loved racquetball. Loved the fun I had with my friend and also the high that comes from fun exercise and belly laughs!
Back to lunges. It was interesting how I realized how poor my balance was. I moved to the side of the wall in case I needed to touch it for support. My lunges seemed to be fairly good for the first time and I enjoyed it. Next planks.
Laying on the mat I did my first plank. The tension in my lower back was of concern, but my shoulders did well. Luke was a gentleman and although I only made 10 seconds at a time, he was kind. The second set was a killer. My mantra was “torture.” The third set surprisingly was much easier and I sat back in the child’s pose and thanked my body for all she did today!
This inteview was conducted at the Yashodhara Ashram in British Columbia, Canada on the beautiful Kootenay Lake.This is part 3 of 3 parts.
(Some sections have been edited for grammar.)
Candess:When you are talking about that, some of the yogas like the Divine Light Invocation is one of the tools I have been using here and there are so many tools. It has been incredible. What is one of your favorite tools?
Swami Samayananda: For me, one of my favorites is Mantra. I have had a mantra practice since early 1980s. I also do my practice with a harmonium, which I like. There is that whole practice of having an instrument. I tend to be restless by nature so it gives my hands something to do. Also, singing has been a big part of my life. To be able to channel all of that into the mantra and to have a practice like that that doesn’t get old, it just keeps getting deeper and deeper and it feels to me like a dear friend. It is where I go each day and it offers me tremendous support.
Candess: I love the Satsang. The chanting and the mantra is so beautiful. I have a book coming out in January that is called 12 Weeks to Self-Healing: The Gift of Pain. What way would you say that one of the Yoga practices would be helpful in self-healing?
Swami Samayananda: Swami Radha wrote a book called The Yoga of Healing. In it, there are several chapters. Some I remember are working with the Light. It is a small book and at the end of each chapter it has four practices you can do. The first one is on the Light and the Divine Light Invocation is one practice. There is also a section on breath. We know that connection with breath and our own healing and when we get anxious, the breath shortens, shortens, and shortens. That is not healthy for the body. Working with breath is healthy and calming for the body. Also, Hatha Yoga, especially when it I approached from more than the physical. What is my body saying to me as I am going into the pose and doing the pose. Mantra, absolutely for sure. Especially the Hari Om mantra is a healing mantra. Using mantra is healing as well. Relaxation is very healing. Those are a few.
Candess: That is great! One of the reasons I came her is to rest. I had been pushing myself too hard. We had a whole day on learning to rest. I learned so many tools that I would not have known before. It’s been very helpful.
If someone wanted to go on retreat here, what would be the best way for them to find out about the programs?
Swami Samayananda: The best way would be to go to our website and just take a look at what we offer. There is a whole range from weekend workshops to 3 day retreats, 4 day retreats, 10 day retreats like you are on now, to our 3 month Yoga Development Course. There is just about something for everybody. Our basic retreats really introduce people to the practices we offer here, Swami Radha’s teachings. There are some specific ones, like we have one coming up called the Inner Life of Asanas which is a way of going deeper with the Hatha Yoga practice. We had one this summer not too long ago called Facing Change, Exploring Options, so there are lots of different ways for people to come and be here. People can also come on private retreat and join with us for a couple hours in Karma Yoga so they feel connected in the community. The rest of the times, they can enjoy the prayer rooms. It is beautiful as you said. The trails, the lake, the Temple, the library are all available for people when they are here.
Candess: I went to the Temple the other night and I could just feel Swami Radha there. I thought, this must be her favorite place.
Swami Samayananda: – It is.
Candess: It was so clear to me. It was so beautiful there.
Swami Samayananda: – She said when she died, that is where she would go.
Candess: I have another guide that I work with and I was connecting with this guide, but Swami Radha was right there, so I thought OKAY!
Is there anything else that would be helpful for people to know about being a Swami or your life path or being here at the Ashram.
Swami Samayananda: I think one thing that is important for people to know about coming here is it is a time of renewing, learning some practices, some tools as you said to take away. There is no dogma in yoga. There is not doctrine. It is not a religion. I think it is really important. We are an Ashram; it is a spiritual community, so we have people who come who are Buddhist, who are Christian, who practice in the Jewish faith, Muslims, and people who have no particular tradition that they follow but are open to that spiritual dimension and they just want to take a step further. I think that is often a relief.
When people come, we do have imagery around. Imagery and symbolism whether we know it or not is very important to us. We live it anyway and symbols are there simply as a symbol that is reflecting some in ourselves so sometimes for some people, and part because of our Christian Judaic background in the West, images can be a little off-putting; but they are so beautiful and the have so much to say to us if we open them up and take them apart. I think the biggest thing is it is a beautiful place to be, to heal, to renew, to gain perspective and then take what is meaningful back out; bridge it back out to your life, back home, family, friends, work, whatever. Often people will come back and get a little bit more and take it back, back and forth. That is what I did for years.
Candess: That is wonderful! It took me probably to day eight until I started feeling myself again, so it was such a wonderful place to renew and relax. Thank you so much.
This interview was taken at Yashodhara Ashram in British Columbia, Canada on the beautiful Kootenay Lake.
(Some sections have been edited for grammar.)
Candess:When I hear you talk, it sounds like what’s happening is that you are keeping the truth of what Swami Radha had in terms of living out what she taught, to truly keep living it and not have a separation.
Swami Samayanda: Yes, and no matter what the changes are that happen, there is that very solid core that cannot change, because that is what an Ashram is. It is the center of one teacher’s teachings and we are all committed to that. To what she gave us and in our gratitude, that is what we give back. These have to be applied to what is happening in the world. Our focus now is to be carbon neutral by 2013. We are not cut off from the world. Our sustainability, how do we care for our forests? Our development, Yashodhara Heights, three cabins that we built are all extremely green. We are very much in tune with what is happening with the world and what the concerns are in the world, and bringing them right in to our community, right here. We are always asking. We can go back to her teachings and it is all there. Carbon neutral, it is all there. Sustainability, it is all there. We say, “I am sustained by Divine Light, I am sustained by the teachings.” So how do we bring that out then, into the actual physical place we work and to the people who come.
Candess: That is exciting. The more I hear about this, I am so grateful I am here. My connection with the Spokane Radha House has been mostly through Yoga for Health and Healing and the Dream Yoga. There are a lot of forms of yoga other than the physical. Can you tell me more about yoga?
Swami Samayanda: It is interesting in the West, we have taken one yoga practice out of the entire yogic system and we call it yoga. It’s basically Hatha Yoga. It’s working with the body. It is mainstream. When you say the word yoga, everybody thinks of a studio and doing postures and that kind of thing. Yoga, actually if you look at the original sutras, the yoga sutras by Patanjali; asanas are a very tiny, tiny, part of the yogic system. Their original intent is to prepare the body to be still for meditation and other yogic practices. I see that changing in the West, where a lot of people were just interested in the physical part of it. More and more I hear people say, I know there is more. What more is there? There has got to be more to this. There are probably about 39 kinds of yoga, of which Hatha is just one. What Swami Radha brought back were several that we work with here.
We work with Dream Yoga, which is the interpretation, learning to interpret our own dream messages. We work with Kundalini Yoga which is the study of, really of how we use energy, how we express ourselves, the choices we make and how that comes out in our speech, in our behavior, in our thoughts. We also work with the Yoga of Light and our primary way of doing that is through the standing practice of doing the Divine Light Invocation. We focus on Mantra Yoga, which is the yoga of chanting, sound, vibration. We work with Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is the basis actually of our Ashram which is the yoga of action. Work is service. It is different than just volunteering. We actually do the yoga and ask ourselves what we are learning from it. What is the work teaching us? It is not just doing the work, getting the work done itself, its what we are learning in that process.