This week, Mystic Mag had the opportunity to speak with Yoga Teacher Rukmini Chaitanya. We discussed her beginnings, what services she offers, and what she loves most about her profession.
When did you first know that teaching Yoga was your calling and how did it come about?
I have been practicing yoga since I was a teen, but it was only when I came across Sivananda Yoga (about 21 years ago) that I realized that yoga was much more than a physical practice. I discovered the depths of the yogic teachings including meditation, devotional practice, the path of selfless service and ultimately yoga as a path to Self Realization and spiritual liberation.
I took the Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training Course in 2002 and started teaching immediately after the course. It gave me great satisfaction to see how people’s lives become better, their mind calmer and their health improves through the practice of Swami Vishnudevananda’s 5 points of yoga – proper exercise, proper breathing, proper relaxation, proper diet, positive thinking and meditation. These days, I am especially enjoying teaching meditation, yoga philosophy and yogic scriptures onsite at the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas as well as online through our online learning platform.
What services do you offer?
At the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas as well as in all of the Sivananda Ashrams worldwide, we offer yoga vacation programs, yoga teacher training courses, other training and courses of various topics related to health and healing, Ayurveda, yoga therapy, meditation and yoga philosophy. We also offer detoxification programs, juice fasting programs, ayurveda cleanses and retreats.
In the Sivananda Centers that are located in most major cities in the world we offer daily yoga classes, courses on yoga, meditation, positive thinking and a wide range of other topics.
We also offer daily online yoga classes, and other online courses (taught as a series of weekly sessions) on yoga, meditation, philosophy and yogic scriptures.
How can Yoga affect physical, mental, and spiritual health?
According to our founder, Swami Vishnudevananda, Yogic postures keep in tune the entire physical system, internal and external. Yoga exercises or asanas, involve systematically stretching muscles rather than contracting them. The effect is to tone the body, release tension , and ensure excellent circulation, digestion assimilation and elimination. The body is kept supple, at the same time, concentration and serenity are developed. He also says that yogic breathing, pranayama, increases the amount of energy in the body, cleanses the lungs, reduces the amount of sleep needed, calms the nerves and still the mind. Swami Vishnudevananda also emphasized proper relaxation to maintain mental, spiritual and physical health. The yogic relaxation techniques remove the stimuli of the senses and tune the practitioner to the inner awareness. Sivananda Yoga also emphasizes the importance of yogic vegetarian diet for maintaining physical, mental and spiritual health. Finally, we teach positive thinking and meditation techniques to ensure that the mind is kept positive, joyful and serene.
What can a person expect from your Yoga classes?
We have yoga class of 60 min, 90 min or 2-hours. The class starts with initial relaxation and proceeds to pranayama (Breathing exercises). We then practice Sun Salutation, a warm up practice, leg raises to promote flexibility and strength. We then proceed to the practice of our 12 basic postures including variations, depending on the level of the participants. There is a relaxation practice before and after every posture and much emphasis on breathing. We have classes for beginners, intermediate, advanced as well as gentle yoga, chair yoga, adaptive yoga. We also teach yoga for seniors, yoga for children, pregnancy yoga. There is also the option to schedule a private yoga class or a yoga therapy session.
People leave the class very calm, relaxed and at the same time full of energy to proceed with their daily tasks.
What is the most important detail in maintaining a relationship of mutual trust with customers?
We do not consider our visitors to be “customers”. They are members of our spiritual family, they are our students and guests and we do our level best to take care of them, serve them well, and help them on their spiritual journey. We are available for advice and support and we make sure they know that the ashram is their spiritual home. This is the reason that so many of them keep coming back year after year. Some of our guests have been coming regularly for the past 40 or 50 years.
What do you love most about your profession?
For me, yoga is not a profession. It is a spiritual path. It is also the goal of life – to realize the union of the individual soul with the Supreme Being. Yoga is a way of life that takes us from ignorance to knowledge, from suffering to happiness and from bondage to freedom. Yoga provides ways to constantly grow, never to be bored and to always feel inspired and have clarity about the goal of life. It is a great honor and privilege to be a part of an ancient lineage that goes all the way back to Lord Narayana and Lord Siva, with Adi Shankaracharya, the great saint of the 8th century in the middle and all the way to our Param Guru Swami Sivananda and our Guru and founder Swami Vishnudevananda. I am especially blessed to study directly under the guidance of Swami Swaroopananda, who is a direct disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda.