By Kathryn Boger, RYT
Lying on my back, two minutes into Maria Sichel’s Svaroopa® Yoga class, I’m noticing that I feel a little guilty. Should I allow myself this much pampering? Five minutes into the class, Maria stops by to adjust the soft, thick blankets under my lower legs to ensure that the 90◦ angle of my hips to my knees is just perfect. My apprehension begins to melt away. We start class with a guided relaxation exercise meant to be the bridge between our busy everyday life and a place of inner stillness; a place from which the practice will unfold. Maria instructs us for the next hour through a series of simple, methodical movements to safely warm up and open the lower back, hips, and spine. There are more than 20 muscles overlapping in thick bands in this area of the body and it feels as if these simple movements are miraculously reaching and releasing tension from every one of them.
Svaroopa® Yoga was founded by Swami Nirmalananda, formerly Rama Berch. The birth of Svaroopa Yoga, similar to other lineages of Yoga, came to Nirmalananda through “shaktipat”, a kind of instantaneous transmission of knowledge from Guru to student. Nirmalananda describes how she received the asana/meditation practice that would later form the basis of Svaroopa® Yoga from her Guru, Swami Muktananda, in an instant, but it took her 15 years to fully understand and integrate what she had received. She continued to practice and as she practiced she experienced a powerful opening of the spine which created a state of bliss. The Sanskrit word “svaroopa” is defined in The Yoga Tradition by Georg Feuerstein (a scholar of ancient Yogic texts), as “the Absolute in innate form”, the direct experience of which creates a state of bliss.
In practice, Svaroopa® Yoga involves easy repetitious movements which provide a release of tension along the spine, beginning with the tailbone and working up through each segment of the spine. As deeply held tensions are released, circulation improves and the natural healing systems of the body kick in. Svaroopa® Yoga does not require any particular level of fitness and the postures are relatively easy to do. With the help of a certified Svaroopa® teacher, even a beginning student will soon be able to experience the feeling of wellness that ensues. Svaroopa® is also a great compliment to other styles of Hatha Yoga as it can improve a student’s ability to access the movement of prana (energy), making their practice more productive and enjoyable.