New Dvaraka Establishes Vaisnava Hatha-Yoga Center
Posted October 11, 2003
Atma Yoga represents a new way to promote the Krsna consciousness movement. Seeing the need to take advantage of the ever-expanding hatha yoga movement for spreading Krsna consciousness, Atmananda Dasa of New Dvaraka has developed a highly appealing Vaisnava hatha yoga system. Atma Yoga is externally similar to many of the commercial yoga systems but is fueled by bhakti shakti. The first full Atma Yoga Center was opened in Los Angeles, across from the New Dvaraka Temple, in January of this year. It has been a success, bringing new Krsna consciousness aspirants to the community. Additionally, two teacher training sessions have already been completed, and the new teachers are already teaching at the center. The hope is to see Atma Yoga Centers and teachers spring up all over the world, in association with established ISKCON centers. Teacher training courses are scheduled for various locations around the United States, Europe, and India during this year and the next. (Please visit http://www.yogamandir.com/teacher_training.html)
A Desire to Serve Srila Prabhupada
Atma Yoga began with a humble desire to fulfill Srila Prabhupadas desire to increase the ways that the Krsna consciousness movement can spread.
Built on the fundamentals of Hari Nama, prasadam distribution, and distribution of Srila Prabhupadas books, Atma Yoga is a hatha yoga system infused with Krsna consciousnessa novel way and meansto spread KŒ–‘a consciousness in terms of particular time and circumstance,which at this time includes the explosion of interest in physical yoga culture in America and other Western countries.
An Atma Yoga Class
Eighteen million Americans will try some form of Yoga in 2003. The Atma Yoga system is designed to mimic the form and culture of hatha yoga classes in America. The idea is that an Atma Yoga class would be agreeable to people looking for hatha yoga classes in Los Angeles, Detroit, Wichita, or Poughkeepsie. (Additionally, due to the mixture of cultures these days, this should also apply to European countries and Asian countrieseven to India.)
Class always begins with the call and response of Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya.
Then various combinations of asanas, pranayamas, mudras, and bandhas, intertwined with various Krsna mantras, make up the bulk of the class.
During the standard cool-down or relaxation period (and sometimes during the class) students hear krsna-katha; this can include poetry or stories from the Bhagavatam, excerpts from the lives of the Vaisnava Acaryas, etc.
At the end of each class there is a special meditation that integrates the mantra or mantras used during the class. This is sometimes an opportunity to instruct people in the use of japa mala.
At the end of every Atma Yoga class everybody sings along with the Atma Yoga closing song, which was especially composed for us by Nirantara Dasa. The song is based on George Harrisons My Sweet Lordand includes three full verses of the Maha Mantra.
The closing song is immediately followed by the recitation of the prema-dhvani, with the students offering obeisances and chanting Jai! and Haribol!
Immediately following the prema-dhvani, Maha Prasadam is distributed to all the students.
After the class, most of the students go to Govindas to have dinner and discuss the class or ask questions of the teacher. Many also visit Govindas Gift Shop, where they may pick up one of Srila Prabhupadas books.
Additionally, throughout the year students are encouraged to attend workshops on Vedic topics of interest to them, e.g., a presentation on human origins by Drutakarma Prabhu or a special talk by His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami. We also do all-day Krishna japa intensives called Mantric-Tantric, and of course we also encourage the students to take the teacher training.
By Krsnas grace this whole process has been systematized and can be easily taught to others and replicated.
ISKCON leaders on Atma Yoga
At a recent weekend meeting of ISKCON GBC and temple authorities in New Dvaraka, we asked several of the attendees their opinion of the Atma Yoga program. Here are some of their comments--
Devamrita Swami: This is a great program with important ramifications for the future.
Sandamini Dasi: Its fantastic. Better late than neverso many people are getting followers through yoga now. Every temple that can facilitate it should do so. It is a bridge for people to Krsna consciousness.
Sesa Dasa: We need to see innovative preaching approaches. We have to respond with Krsna consciousness in a way that people want to receive it rather than the way we think they should get it.
Kalakantha Dasa: It is worth a try anywhere. This is a very good idea for Alachua. Experienced devotees are always looking for ways to spread Krsna consciousness and simultaneously support their families.
Badrinarayan Dasa: Great idea, though the training period is not long enough in my opinion. It should be serious enough to produce really expert Krsna conscious hatha-yoga practitioners.
Additionally, Bhakti-Tirtha Swami, Radanatha Swami, Sacinandana Swami, Ravindra Svarupa Dasa, Anuttama Dasa, Kuladri Dasa, Nityananda Dasa, Naikatma Dasa, and Ekavira Dasa have all responded with enthusiasm and support.
Atma Yoga in Gaudiya Vaisnavism
In Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakuras Prema Pradipa,we read a story about a Vaisnava named Yogi Babaji. Formerly a well-known pranayama yogi, he agrees to take on students interested in Hatha/Raja yoga. By gently infusing his instruction with elements of Bhakti yoga, Yogi Babaji allows his students to see beyond the allure of the yogas of control and draws them to devotional service.
One day Naren Babu and Anand Babu offered obeisances at Babaji's feet and said, Prabhu! We will be indebted if you give us the Hare Krsna mantra.Babaji had them clean themselves externally by taking bath and internally by devotion; then without delay he gave them the Hare Krsna mantra. They then began to constantly chant hari-nama on tulasi beads. One day they asked, Prabhu! Shall we mark our forehead with tilaka? Babaji answered, Do as you like. I don't insist on external formalities.
Although Babaji showed indifference to external formalities, still, by the Babu's association with the Vaisnavas, they developed a desire to wear Vaisnava dress. When Mallik Mahasaya saw Anand Babu and Naren Babu with tilaka and mala the next morning, he thought, Krsna can do anything.
From that day Naren Babu and Anand Babu gave up their beards and moustaches and packed away their foreign shoes. They completely accepted the dress of grhastha Vaisnavas.
This wonderful excerpt from Prema Pradipa is an excellent precursor of Atma Yoga.
Contact info: For more information, please call Atmananda Dasa at
310-558-4920 or email: Atma@yogamandir.com