This is a story about resolve—how the motivation for doing something can be the most important thing in any action. 2015 started with a New Year Resolution: a trip to Amritapuri for me, and for my husband, a resolve to revive his moribund yoga practice. He signed up for the 4-Day Beginners Foundation Retreat at Amrita Yoga Amritapuri.
I was skeptical that such a short length of instruction would inspire him to practice daily but I was wrong. As I write, he has gone back to his job but gets up every morning to do his Sri Lalitha Sahasranama Archana (chanting of 1000 names of the Divine Mother) practice and Amrita Yoga practice miracles do happen!
My own motivation was different. I wanted to deepen my connection to Amma through seva (selfless service) and meditation. But when my husband told me his yoga teacher was a Brahmacharini, I signed up for the next Amrita Yoga Retreat. I was curious to talk and relate to these daughters of Amma. I often watched as they floated around the ashram in their white saris, quietly doing various jobs without any hesitation as many of the visitors chatted obviously in the café and the dining space.
My first impression of Brahmacharini Shobhana shattered all my concepts about renunciation! I had thought of it as full of only sadhana (spiritual practice)—a grim life of going against ego, of hardship, discipline and deprivation. Instead, I met a woman who embodied self-confidence, joy and intoxicating enthusiasm, in line with Amma!
I am beginning to think of the life that ego has created for us as possibly a smoke screen to true joy. The ego lulls us into thinking we are having fun, eating out, talking, partying, when we might be missing out on a real joy—one that might involve leaving the ego outside the door like an unwanted guest.
After our introductions in our little class of twenty-five students, we were asked what our resolve or motivation for taking the class was, and we had to spend some time thinking. Even this simple exercise was unusual; we often act without questioning why we are doing an action. This same careful process became our journey into Amrita Yoga. It unfolded without any force, a gentle easing into getting to know our breath, our bodies, and our connection to Nature and to God, whatever we imagined God to be.
Always, we were guided to develop gratitude to Amma as an embodiment of a Perfect Master.
Many of us found the most beautiful aspect was the constant sound of Amma’s mantra as chanted by Brahmacharini Shobhana. She connected it to our breath and the sound of the waves of the ocean outside, as if we were all linked at the source by something we could feel in our hearts. Each class had a flavor—a theme, such as devotion or celebration, and Brahmacharini Shobhana would read quotes from Amma as we held our poses.
I began to understand the power of Amrita Yoga. It was also born out of a resolve, in this case the powerful resolve of Amma herself; it was her Sankalpa. Only because of this was this yoga possible and real. It infused our teacher, her wonderful assistants and even us students, binding us in the warm embrace of her compassion.
As I struggle to write what seems like an idea that cannot be expressed by words, I realize that yoga really is an experiential journey. It has to be felt. The body is a great vehicle to get us away from our constantly chattering brains. The only way I can explain Amrita Yoga is by comparing it to the forms of yoga I have experienced in the west. These are like exercise classes where the competitive rat race of our lives end up influencing what happens on the mat. If only we would look within the way Amma’s yoga gently shows, we would find relief from running around trying to find our happiness outside ourselves, in our jobs, our relationships, our hobbies, and we would connect with the real source of joy within us. After all, it’s our experience; joy is in our own possibility.
Author: Rosario Kerekes