Swami Ramananda, president of the Integral Yoga Institute of San Francisco, recently conducted a teaching tour in Brazil. He shares his experiences of sharing Integral Yoga throughout the country.
I started my teaching trip to Brazil in Lavras, where Atman Vieira runs an Integral Yoga Center. It’s a small town with a large university where he started teaching a few students back in 2007. Now he has trained a number of teachers and the free classes they offer at the university get about 150 students per week! I met with a group of 19 basic Teacher Trainees he is training in Lavras, plus another group of 12 that he is training in another city 6 hrs away, Niteroj. We had a weekend of Raja Yoga and 20 of those 31 received initiation and spiritual names. I performed a puja to bless his center in town, and Monday evening, my workshop at the university had about 85 people that peppered me with questions for a full hr after I finished talking. Clearly, Atman’s service has had a huge impact on Lavras and southern Brazil. Many of the teachers he trained are teaching Integral Yoga in other cities now and deeply inspired by Sri Gurudev Swami Satchidananda’s teachings.
My visit continued at Jai Vida in Belo Horizonte, the dynamic Integral Yoga Center started many years ago by Sivakami Sumar, and now guided by Renata Sumar and Prakash Laporte. First, we completed 11 days (one half) of Raja Yoga Teacher Training (TT) with 13 participants. It was inspiring to see how they dedicated themselves to the study and practice with sincerity and focus. They supported each other through the challenges of preparing and presenting the sutras to each other, initially with such nervous energy, but by the end, they all looked relaxed and natural.
We practiced asana and some meditative Sufi dances to break up the hours of sitting, and we deepened our practice of pranayama and meditation throughout the course. The group will continue to develop their personal practice and to integrate into daily life one sutra per month until we meet again next year to complete the training.
A personal highlight for me occurred when some children who are practicing Yoga there saw us dancing in a circle, doing one of the Sufi dances of universal peace. The children were enthralled and pleaded for me to teach them as well. I spent some time teaching them the dance and talking with them in my broken mixture of Spanish, Portuguese and English. Later, one of the young girls told her mother, “I have another grandfather now — the swami.” My heart melted.
After a few days of rest, I taught another group of 12 students the first half of Intermediate TT, which will be completed in July when Renata Sumar comes.
Again, I was inspired to see the focus and enthusiasm of the group. We studied the asanas in great detail, and they really worked at developing personal practice of pranayama and meditation.
The highlight for all of us was the Bhagavad Gita study, where we found Sri Gurudev’s commentary on these profound teachings to be immediately relevant. We laughed together at our own minds and were deeply moved by the comprehensive approach to self-transformation that Gurudev made so clear.
On the Friday evening of my last weekend, Jai Vida organized a satsang for the general public and over 80 people crowded into the main classroom and the adjacent rooms to hear the teachings and ask questions. The next evening, 9 people received initiation and embraced Sri Gurudev’s presence and guidance in their lives.
My final weekend was spent with yet another group, the 21 participants in Basic TT at Jai Vida, taught by Prakash. Our time was spent entirely focused on Raja Yoga and I was once more delighted to see such keenness to learn from the group. We enjoyed exploring the application of ancient wisdom to the current world culture we dwell in, and I was happy to see the way Prakash is having them incorporate the sutras into their daily lives throughout the entire year of the training.
I was well cared for the entire visit and inspired to see the dynamic service being done there that is transforming many lives and spreading Integral Yoga all over Brazil. I left with a deep sense of gratitude for Sri Gurdev’s way bringing Yoga to our lives, and for the honor of giving a voice to his teachings. I commend Atman, Prakash and Renata, and the many dedicated Integral Yoga teachers in Brazil, for all they are doing with such heart and soul.
About the Author:
Swami Ramananda is the president of the Integral Yoga Institute of San Francisco and a greatly respected master teacher in the Integral Yoga tradition, who has been practicing Yoga for more than 35 years. He offers practical methods for integrating the timeless teachings and practices of Yoga into daily life. He leads beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level Yoga Teacher Training programs in San Francisco and a variety of programs in many locations in the United States, Europe, and South America. Swami Ramananda trains Yoga teachers to carry Yoga into corporate, hospital, and medical settings and has taught mind/body wellness programs in many places. He is a founding board member of the Yoga Alliance, a national registry that supports and promotes Yoga teachers as professionals.