Influential Spiritual Leaders: H.H. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji

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The life and time of on the most influential Spiritual Leader: H.H. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji President of the International Yoga Festival Rishikesh  

H.H. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji  invites you to join him at the IYF 1-7 March 2019. Register Now:  https://www.internationalyogafestival.org/register/

  

“Welcome Home!” – this greeting is offered to every guest and visitor to Parmarth Niketan Ashram, a true spiritual haven, lying on the holy banks of Mother Ganga in the lap of the lush Himalayas. “Parmarth Niketan” literally means “Dedicated to the Welfare of All.” A friendly welcome and this simple mission statement expand into a vast array of programs and services that are led by or inspired by or driven by, or a combination of the three, the ashram. The ashram runs schools, hospitals, ecological programs and disaster-relief projects with no discrimination on the basis of caste, color, creed, gender or nationality.

I first came to Parmarth Niketan in 2013 on a spiritual adventure, attending the International Yoga Festival. I was hooked – Home! One of the aspects of Parmarth most attractive to me is the charity work. Pujya Swamiji says, “it’s culture, nature, and future” – a culture of love and togetherness, focused on our common nature and this one planet we share, to create the future we desire. This vision is further unfolded in the programs and efforts of the ashram or that are associated with Parmarth. This year I made the personal decision to move to India, to live at the ashram as a sevak, in service to the vision and mission of Pujya Swamiji and the ashram’s various programs.

His Holiness, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji serves as President and Spiritual Head of Parmarth Niketan Ashram. Pujya Swamiji selflessly and tirelessly uses every moment as an opportunity to give and to teach others the gift and value of giving. Every day you will find him participating in a multi-variety of activities: Meeting with government officials, faith leaders, and devotees; leading spiritual ceremonies and community programs; offering darshan and inspiring words; and chanting at the inspiring Ganga Aarti celebration held each evening on the banks of the sacred Ganga River in Rishikesh. From His example, countless others are inspired to action in their own communities in the areas of healthcare, education, the environment, and social justice.

The purpose of this story is share with you some of the charitable work of the ashram, seeking to inspire you to make a difference, and perhaps sparking a fire in you to serve in some way or even to come visit us at Parmarth in Rishikesh, India. I have aligned the work with Swamiji’s theme of “culture, nature, and future”.

From a cultural perspective, Pujya Swamiji is part of a global effort to bring faith leaders together for a more peaceful, healthy and sustainable world – a cultural approach for change that is all about nature – the Interfaith Humanitarian Effort. In addition to faith leaders, the ashram brings together Entertainers for Peace, where the stars are inspired to shine for a more peaceful world.

Entertainers have a unique position and opportunity to influence peace and Swamiji challenges them to rise to the occasion. Efforts to bridge business leaders and political leaders are also a piece of the cultural change efforts – all in the name of peace. Lastly, Pujya Swamiji led a labour of love and intellect to create the Encylopedia of Hinduism, sharing one of the most beloved and lasting gifts of the Indian people to the world. The encyclopedia is 11 volumes of more than 7000 entries from over 1000 scholars, bringing together hindu history, scholarship, and contributions to the development of the world. We are One culture, One world – a world that is about Love and Togetherness – if we choose it to be.

Nature is fascinating, complex, ever-changing, and an endless opportunity to see ourselves in relationship to the world around us. Since coming to the ashram, I have learned of some drastic predictions coming from the United Nations around water, global warming, and the impact of food choices on the health of people and our earth. The ashram’s goal is to awaken us all to the difference we make and the changes required. The ashram’s efforts begin at home here in India, where Pujya Swamiji inspires India’s leaders for a clean and green India and a more peaceful world. The ashram’s specific programs include the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA.org), the world’s first initiative to engage the planet’s many faiths as allies in efforts to create a world where every human being has access to safe drinking water, improved sanitation and proper hygiene.

Nothing short of a behavior change revolution is require to insure health, sustainable WASH for nearly half of India’s population. One of my favorite signs here at the ashram is for the World Toilet College, providing classroom and outreach trainings that cover the entire range of sanitation projects. Plus, there’s WASH on Wheels which brings dedicated social workers, volunteers and performers to all areas of India; the WaterSchool used to train and motivate teachers and students to learn the principles of sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene in order to be agents of social change; and  Women for WASH which seeks to develop women entrepreneurs against pollution, hardship and disease right in their own neighborhoods and villages.

I am much more aware today of the significant role women can and do play in making change for the health of communities and our planet – and nature and culture balance and support one another. The Divine Shakti Foundation (DSF) is dedicated to the holistic well being of women, their children, and orphaned/abandoned children, and to all of Mother Nature and Mother Earth. Again, to make is personal, Menstrual Hygience Management was not on my radar screen before getting involved with Parmarth – it is now and the solutions are so simple – but they require me to think differently and to act differently. Creating a clean, green, and serene world means everyone is supported and barriers to health and wellness are removed. The Ashram’s efforts in these areas includes Gurukuls (schools) and Orphanages, education, and a Rural Development Program. There are programs such as Project Give-Back: The Heart of Healing, a health care program with annual free health care camps in Rishikesh.

Nature is a key element to understanding ourselves and I am convinced that any personal spiritual journey requires me to consider nature. What I understand today is that my relationships to people, to Mother Nature, to communities, is beyond borders and boundaries, and beliefs and ideals. It’s a matter of the heart – and about sameness and connection. Hope is our hands, and programs like Ganga Action Parivar (GAP) raise awareness about the need for collective and holistic, solution-based action to address the crucial issues facing the holy river Ganga. And Ganga broadens beyond this sacred river in India to encompass all rivers, all sources of water, all peoples. Briefly, Pujya Swamiji speaks of environmental preservation and 6 T’s: Toilets, Trash, Taps, Tigers, Trains, Trees – you can visit the ashram website to learn more how each of these has an impact on nature, and is influenced by culture and affects our future.

The final call in Pujya Swamiji’s vision is for the future. I think this is where the personal call most comes in – what future do I want? Knowing what I know now, how do my choices change? Choices around water, food, material possessions, care for my body, community, world – and those around me. It’s an interesting path – one that I find support along the way from the community here at Parmarth, through yoga and meditation, and through meeting amazing people from around the world who are involved in the change. So my last thought is – who do I surround myself with? How do I use my senses – what do I watch? what do I listen to? how do I touch? what do I allow my mind to gravitate towards? Ask yourself these questions – and perhaps our paths will cross as walk the path of “culture, nature, and future”.

I feel a sense of pride and I draw inspiration from these programs and initiatives, being called to make a difference in the world. Change really does depend upon each of us – it is a matter of the heart – the heart of me, the heart of you, the collective Heart of one earth! And for me, through the Heart of the One – the Divine – “any name, any form, no name, no form” – together we can. “Welcome Home!”

You can learn more about the ashram’s charitable mission and projects by visiting www.parmarth.org 

Article by Ed Fink a sevak at Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh (Himalayas), India.

Yoga Alliance Australia and Italia Introduced New Standards

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Yoga Alliance® – Australia and  Yoga Alliance® Italia Yoga Industry leaders Introduced New Standards for Yoga Training

As the popularity of yoga in the world grows each year, so does the need for more rigorous yoga teacher training programs. That is why Yoga Alliance® International/Australia and Yoga Alliance®-Italia/International (sister organisations) believe that yoga teachers and training providers deserve a better support system in comparison to what they have had in the past. Let’s see how…

In 1987 the International Yoga Federation (IYF), the largest yoga organisation in the world, under the honorary Presidency of Indra Devi (a.k.a.The First Lady of Yoga) created standards to celebrate yoga teachings of all traditions and the diversity, harmony and integrity of yoga practices all over the world

The IYF implemented three yoga teacher training systems:

1) The Indian Traditional Gurukula System.
2) The American System or Standards by hours.
3) The European System by Programme and years.

Since 2000, the most significant independent world’s renowned Yoga Alliance organisations (Australia/Italy/International/Canada/UK-Professionals/USA) the yoga community’s primary advocacy organisations and Register of certified yoga schools and teachers, have adopted standards for teacher training by hours. The most commonly used and widely accepted 200-hour YTT international standard was created in 2001 to set forth the minimum hours required to become a yoga teacher anywhere in the world.

In January 2017, the Yoga Alliance® International/Australia and its sister organisation Yoga Alliance® International/Italia’s Educational Standards Committee (ESC) assembled a diverse range of experts within the yoga industry for a comprehensive review of the existing yoga teaching standards (most standards are voluntary in the sense that they are offered for adoption by people or industry without being mandated in law) supported by both organisations. The decision was based on the proliferation of low quality yoga teacher training, inadequately trained yoga teachers and unscrupulous providers who deliver substandard training,

The two organisations felt that their existing standards were out of date and restrictive in their breakdown of course content and hours. Rather than requiring a specified narrow curriculum, the ESC decided that keeping the bar high for training programs content, structure, the number of contact hours a program should incorporate, the experience of the teaching faculty, the course entry prerequisites and online learning, within a reasonable period of time would increase acceptance and integration of yoga teachers within the industry.

After exploring a variety of existing credentialing models, the ESC proposed to improve the foundation of the existing credentialing system by raising the Standards of Practice and level of professionalism of credentialed yoga teachers and yoga schools and thus provide consumers with independent assurance that yoga professionals who hold Yoga Alliance Credential possess the knowledge, skill, or ability to practice their occupation competently.

Meaningful Standards for Yoga Teaching from Australia to Europe to China

In April 2017, after receiving input from member schools, world renowned yoga experts and experienced yoga teachers, Yoga Alliance® International/Australia added to its existing credentialing system the 250-PLUS and 500-PLUS hours standards both designed to elevate the profession of yoga teachers a title that has no legal force as there are no legal requirements for yoga teachers and there is no statutory legislation specifically governing the teaching of yoga anywhere in the world.

While the 200-hour widely adhered-to standard is a relatively new concept,Yoga Alliance®-International/Australia and Yoga Alliance®-Italia/International believes that 200 hours is just not enough to teach yoga. Besides, it has become a point of contention within and outside the yoga community.

Although some experts may agree that the 200-hour model is more accessible for aspiring yogis, more studios and experienced teachers welcome the 250 PLUS and the advanced 500 PLUS hour standards instead. The “PLUS” standard enables training providers to incorporate more hours of study, practice and teaching methodologies into their programs so aspiring teachers can go more in depth into the study and teaching of yoga to prepare themselves to teach beginning and intermediate yoga classes.

On September 1st 2017, Yoga Alliance® ItaIia/International signed a “Partnership Agreement” with the C.S.E.N (Italy’s largest National Educational Sport Organisation) and its sister organisation Benessere C.S.E.N to implement the “PLUS” standards in Italy. The C.S.E.N is recognised by the Italian National Olympic Committee C.O.N.I and by the Italian Paralympic Committee C.I.P.

The C.SE.N aims to promote and disseminate sporting activities with high social value, to establish favourable conditions for a wider development of physical education, sports and health as well as cooperating with autonomous organisations from other countries.

In 2015 as part of the organisation restructure, the C.S.E.N established the National Holistic Sector Benessere C.S.E.N www.benesserecsen.it a body engaged in the drafting of national guidelines and reference standards for the training of holistic operators and yoga teachers, defining training courses curriculum and minimum hours. With yoga  been practised by more than two million people in Italy, the Benessere C.S.E.N has become Italy’s largest Register of Yoga Teacher and schools.

The agreement between the C.S.E.N and Yoga Alliance® ItaIia/International has given rise to a series of initiatives aimed at improving many aspects in the international and national Yoga industry. Among the first actions taken was the need of the C.S.E.N to equalise the training standards of the Yoga sector in Italy to the international ones.

Following the important decision by both organisations to raise the minimum training standards from the basic 200 to 250 and 500 PLUS hours,as of September 1st 2017, Italy is the first European country and the second in the world after Australia to have implemented new standards for yoga training courses. Upcoming projects and ongoing initiatives see the two organisations acting in constant and harmonious symbiosis.

The New Standards can be used freely by other Yoga Organisations
Although Yoga Alliance®-International/Australia and Yoga Alliance® ItaIia/International Standards might be a great reference point for other organisations, they are not legally binding. In fact, both organisations permits its standards to be used freely by other organisations if they see fit.
Following the review of the standards scheme from Yoga Alliance®-International/Australia and Yoga Alliance® ItaIia/International, miles away from Italy and Australia, a U.S-based organisation by the name of Yoga Alliance on September 1st 2017 (the same exact date Yoga Alliance® ItaIia/International implemented the new standards scheme) announced on their website: “The New Standards Review Project”.

Yoga Industry Innovators

Yoga Alliance®-International/Australia and Yoga Alliance®-Italia/International were the first Alliance organisations to understand the importance and need for innovation. Bringing innovation meant being open to new ideas and being able to adapt to change.

Offering new credentials such as: RYS 250 PLUS/350 and 500 PLUS hours and new meaningful standards to those who meet the requirements of the standards means that a registered yoga teacher has met certain criteria and has made a commitment to becoming a safe and qualified teacher.

  

  Yoga Alliance e CONI Italia

Teaching Yoga

In composing the Teacher Training program, I came across a series of personal reflections … “Who is the Yoga teacher?”, “What does it mean to teach Yoga?”

Fundamental questions for those who decide to start a training course, which often go into the background, focused on finding a suitable course for hours .. for the subjects studied .. for costs.

But they are also fundamental questions for those who already teach, reflections that sometimes do well to face ..   And then I rediscover and remind myself that teaching Yoga does not consist in simple information that the teacher transmits and disseminates, keeping them detached from oneself and leaving them at the end of the day in a Yoga Shala.

What one theaches should be one’s own state of being, a way of life that is necessarily part of the teacher himself. In learning Yoga, the teacher can accompany and support the student only to where he has come himself, he can point a light only to those places in which he was willing to cross. It can empathize with the student’s research and with the problems that may emerge in the course of this research, just because he personally embarked on the same journey.

Here then teach Yoga is continuous research, a continuous discovery of themselves, those sides that every time we find new, fragments of us that from time to time, experience after experience, we bring to light to find that balance so difficult to reach .

And then I remind myself that the foundations of the Yoga tradition are closely linked to the conduct of a life in which our actions are congruent and consistent with our values ​​and with what we transmit to others.   If we present ourselves as

“Yoga Teachers”, which is science and the art of living, then we must put ourselves into practice that way of life. If, on the contrary, we only want to teach positions and postures, then it is better to give to what we do a name different from Yoga.

A long journey … towards the Heart of Yoga ..

Article by Amrita Ceravolo Yoga Alliance (Italia/International) Master Yoga Teacher, Vice president of “Sathya Yoga – International School of Yoga Studies”, in Milano (Italy) affiliated with Paramanand Institute (India). Honorary Director of “Paramanand Institute of Yoga Sciencese & Research” (India), Honorary Director of “International Association of Indian Yoga” to find more about Amrita’s events and Yoga Teacher Training Courses visit her website :www.sathyayoga.academy  www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006514069373

Amrita Ceravolo Master Yoga Teacher

Amrita Ceravolo Utthita Astha Padangusthasana

  

 

Amrita Ceravolo Ustrasana Variation