What is Svaroopa® Yoga?

Yoga is an ancient spiritual discipline that originated in India several thousand years ago. It is the science of consciousness and includes many practices. The two most familiar to Westerners are Hatha Yoga (yoga of the body) and Raja Yoga (meditation). Historically, they were meant to go together. Hatha Yoga quiets the mind and prepares the body to sit comfortably for meditation. In the west, hatha yoga is often practiced as a form of exercise that may or may not include meditation. Many different styles are practiced in the United States, all of which strengthen and stretch the body in a variety of ways.

The emphasis of Svaroopa® yoga is to remove spinal compression, which creates overall tightness, illness and pain in the body. This same compression also affects our ability to experience deep inner peace. Svaroopa® yoga is profoundly healing on physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual levels. It is easy to learn and accessible for almost any fitness level. Repeated practice results in increased physical health and vitality, clarity and peace of mind. Svaroopa means “your true nature” in Sanskrit. Svaroopa® Yoga was developed by Swami Nirmalananda of the Master Yoga Teaching Institute, following her years of study in many yogic traditions in the United States and India. 

What is a typical class like?

A typical class begins with your legs elevated in yoga pose of deep relaxation. The body is fully supported so that the deeply held tensions in the spine can begin to dissolve. From there, we move on to breathing practice called Ujayii Pranayama. This breathing practice increases prana, the body’s life force, which speeds recovery from injury or illness, increases vitality and stamina and reduces fatigue.

Ujjayi pranayama also balances the immune system, helping students with autoimmune conditions, allergies and colds or flu. Following the breathing practice, we explore a series of asanas (or poses) related to a particular theme. Themes include Daily Practice, Lower Spinal Release, Upper Spinal Release, Abdominals, Backbends, Standing Poses, Forward Bends, Neck and Shoulders, Balance, Inversions, Classical Poses, Vinyasa (flowing sequences), Warrior Poses, Seated Poses, and Twists.

A typical class includes between 9 and 16 poses, which are held for 45 seconds to a couple of minutes, to allow for softening. Propping and pose modifications are used for every student so that the practice is individualized to accommodate each person’s needs.

How does Svaroopa® Yoga compare with other styles?

Svaroopa® yoga distinction lies in the intention of the practice: To create core opening by releasing tension in the deepest layers of the body. This release deliberately begins at the tailbone - the pivot point of the body - and is carried up the spine, through the sacrum, waist, ribcage, and beyond. As this release is continually reinforced, the whole body begins to realign itself from the inside outward. This is the foundation of every Svaroopa yoga class, upon which all other aspects of the asana (pose) practice are built.

In the words of Swami Nirmalananda, founder and Master Teacher of Svaroopa yoga, "Dissolving these [core] tensions allows you to live with ease, both in your body and in your deeper self. That ease is your birthright. This all happens without sweat or strain because Svaroopa Yoga is not exercise, but a scientific maximization of the body's natural capacities. When practicing Svaroopa yoga, we delve into our body as if opening a precious gift carefully wrapped in many layers."

Support Equals Release

One of the key "sutras" in Svaroopa yoga is support equals release. This is the underlying thread that is woven throughout the practice. From the very beginning of each class, as students rest in shavasana, yoga's relaxation pose, props are used to allow more softening and release. As the body surrenders to this support, settling down into the blankets, settling back into the floor, a deep release of both physical and mental tension occurs.

This premise is carried throughout each series of carefully crafted poses. Along with precise alignment, students are taught the most effective propping for ease and relaxation. There is no need for self-effort in an attempt to make the pose happen. As students learn to let go and allow themselves to be supported, they discover a sense of internal support - physically, mentally, and spiritually.

The Svaroopa yoga repertoire includes standing poses, classical poses, and vinyasa (flow) in addition to foundational poses practiced on the floor or a chair. The underlying sutra "support equals release" still permeates this level of practice, even in the more challenging poses, as students further develop an internal sense of support. The core opening that was cultivated while practicing foundational poses carries forward into standing and moving, and students are able to find a sense of ease and deep release.

Who should NOT practice Svaroopa® Yoga?

Those who have organ transplants or are taking immunosuppressant medication should not practice Svaroopa® yoga. It dramatically improves the condition of the immune system and may compromise the organ transplant. This does not include individuals with hip and knee replacements, who can safely practice Svaroopa®yoga with modifications and receive many benefits from doing so. It also does not include those who have autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis. People with these illnesses can safely practice and receive many benefits from the balancing effects of the yoga on the immune system and the strengthening of the nervous system.

Women undergoing high-risk pregnancy should not practice Svaroopa® yoga, nor should a woman begin a Svaroopa® practice in her first trimester of pregnancy. The changes in the spine are so significant that they may compromise the pregnancy. Women who have an established Svaroopa® practice before becoming pregnant can safely practice throughout their pregnancy and receive many benefits from doing so.

How do I know if Svaroopa® Yoga is right for me?

Almost anyone can benefit from Svaroopa® Yoga. The practice is very accessible to newcomers because it supports the body fully with propping and pose modifications so that the deep tensions in the spine begin to release. So you never have to worry about not being able to do a pose because there are always options available to accommodate your body. And as you practice more, your body opens up in new ways, so that you can extend your range of motion and explore poses on a deeper level, all without forcing or straining. Thus the same practice is suitable for both newcomers and long-standing students, but experienced very differently.

Svaroopa® yoga sessions are organized by theme so that you get a variety of different releases in the body and learn how to keep your spine open in your daily life. Some themes, such as standing poses and vinyasa (flowing sequences), are active and some are more meditative (neck and shoulders, forward bends, and lower spinal release). All classes help you to release deep tensions in the spine, increase your strength, flexibility and balance and quiet your mind. Svaroopa® yoga will particularly appeal to those who are looking to relieve physical discomfort, improve overall health and well-being, experience more ease in the body and become more comfortable with stillness. It is also of particular interest to those who have a yearning for something more from their yoga practice than just the physical postures - an experience of inner clarity, self-knowledge, and bliss.

Can I do Svaroopa® yoga even if I'm not flexible?

Yes! In fact, you don't need to be flexible to do yoga. Flexibility is a result of yoga! And, Svaroopa® yoga supports you where your body is, not where you think it should be. And, the rest will come. Please note that it is required that you are able to get up and down off the floor unassisted for classes. If you cannot, it is recommended you start with Private Sessions first.

Is Svaroopa® yoga for beginners?

Yes! And, it is for the experienced practitioner, as well! Because Svaroopa® is so easy to learn and reliable for opening the body in ways not found in other styles of yoga it is suitable for all levels. In fact, there are several levels of classes from Beginner, Intermediate to Deeper classes –  a Continuing Level class may also be available depending on the level of students in a class. Depending on your teacher's level of training, some or all of these classes may be offered.

What are your different levels os classes?

We have several levels of ongoing classes:

Appropriate for students of all levels but especially for those new to Svaroopa® yoga. You will explore a wide variety of gentle poses. You will receive personalized instruction to ensure your safety and the effectiveness of each pose.

Appropriate for students who have been practicing Svaroopa® yoga for several months. You can also attend if you have completed the Foundations of Svaroopa® yoga training or if you have practiced another style of yoga extensively. You will learn some of the deeper elements of the Svaroopa® yoga poses.  The instructor’s permission is required before you can attend. Consult with the instructor.

Appropriate for students who have been practicing Svaroopa® yoga for at least one year, or who have attended Svaroopa® classes for at least two times per week over six months. You can also attend a Deeper class if you have attended an Intermediate Svaroopa® yoga class for six months or have completed the Foundations of Svaroopa® yoga training. Students are expected to have a consistent home practice.  You will learn the deeper elements of Svaroopa® yoga poses and more about the philosophy as well.  The instructor’s permission is required before you can attend. Consult with the instructor.

For those students who may have health issues and not feel ready to do a regular class. Regular students are welcome to join the gentle class as long as there is room.

What is with all those blankets?

There is this amazing phenomenon called the "blanket". It is plaid and plush and can support you in your yoga practice almost perfectly – it is the primary prop in Svaroopa® yoga – used for the most reliable changes in your body. Imagine…which is easier? Softening into a fluffy blanket or a hard block?

How often should I attend class to see results?

As often as you'd like! You can start with one or more classes per week. Many students feel changes after their first class! However, if you find that classes are not giving you what you need, you may want to try Yoga Therapy in private sessions. You may find that this gives you the extra boost your body needs to work through deeper tensions.

What is Yoga Therapy?

Yoga therapy is a one-on-one session with your teacher. It is a way of getting the yoga into your body at a faster pace. Yoga therapy is recommended if you are in pain, dealing with a medical condition, cannot easily move or get up and down off the floor or just want to move through deeper issues in your body and/or mind faster than a class would provide.

Is Svaroopa® yoga a gentle yoga?

No. While Svaroopa® yoga is deceptively easy, it is not considered a "gentle" yoga style. You must be able to get up and down off the floor unassisted and move around to keep up with class. If you cannot, you will get better results from working

Why pre-registration?

Just like other teachers, Yoga teachers plan their classes ahead of time, which allows for a better experience for students.  We plan our classes according to who we expect. A class with newcomers call for foundational poses; students with health issues alerts teachers to avoid certain poses; or regular students allow teachers to continue with ongoing themes.  If we know the class will be big, we can set up the blankets beforehand closer together to accommodate more students. It is very disruptive and difficult to do this once students have arrived and are lying down in Shavasana. Students can check online to see if a class is full.  If so, pre-registering will add them to a waiting list and they will be notified by email if a space opens up.

Do you have pre-register? What if I'm sure I can come until just before the class?

YES, you do have to pre-register or register. You have to know if you are able to attend the class, as to the levels of the class.  Beginner Intermediate or Deeper (Advanced). We may cancel a class if there are 1 or 2 students pre-registered 6 hours in advance. This means that if you decide at the last minute to show up, and the class didn’t have enough students registered, it may have been cancelled. You, along with possibly 3 other students who may have pre-registered would all miss that class.  If the class is full, priority will be given to those who have pre-registered. If you are not sure that you can attend a class, the best thing to do is to wait until you are sure, and then sign up. You may run a risk that the class will be cancelled, or the class may be full; however, as long as the class is on and not full, you will not be turned away if you show up without registering.

Will I be charged if I pre-register for a class and don't show up? What if I've signed up for a class and have an emergency and can't make it? What if I get sick suddenly or if I have a cold and am couching and sneezing?

If you cancel at least 6 hours ahead of time (early cancel) you will not be charged. However, if you cancel less than 6 hours ahead of time, you will be charged for the class, unless you have an emergency OR unless you are sick with something that might be contagious to others. If either of these situations arises, email or call 978.692.2100 prior to the start of the class. She can credit your account for emergency situations. This includes if you suddenly get sick… we do not want you coming to class if you might be contagious or if you are coughing and sneezing a lot!

What if there is a snow day? What if I'm registered and the class gets canceled?

In general, if Westford schools are cancelled due to weather, the morning classes are cancelled. We may have evening classes depending on the forecast, and all cancellations will be posted on the website. In addition, if you have registered for the class, you will get an email saying that the class is cancelled, and your account will be credited. In the case of class cancellations, the card expiration dates can be extended if necessary.

Expiration Date: My schedule is very unpredictable. If I'm paying up front, will I lose the classes that I've paid for?

We give you 6 months to use up 5 classes, 12 months to use up 10 classes. The class packages are time-limited because you are getting a large discount per class on the assumption that you will be coming regularly. If you are unable to use up the classes by the expiration date, please contact Holly prior to the expiration date, and she will give you some options at that time. You may be able to use those class credits toward the infrared sauna, or towards private yoga therapy sessions. However, once the package has expired, it cannot be used and no refunds will be given.

How do I pay for classes?

You may pay by cash or check at the studio, or you can pay for classes online with a credit card. You can pay by the class, or buy a package for 5 or 10 class pass, or an unlimited monthly autopay.


Massage Therapy

Where will my massage or bodywork session take place?

Your massage or bodywork session will take place in a warm, comfortable, quiet room. Soft music may be played to help you relax. You will lie on a table especially designed for your comfort.

Must I be completely undressed?

Most massage and bodywork techniques are traditionally performed with the client unclothed; however, it is entirely up to you what you want to wear. You should undress to your level of comfort. You will be properly draped during the entire session.

Will the practitioner be present when I disrobe?

The practitioner will leave the room while you undress, relax onto the table, and cover yourself with a clean sheet or towel.

Will I be covered during the session?

You will be properly draped at all times to keep you warm and comfortable. Only the area being worked on will be exposed.

What parts of my body will be massaged?

A typical full-body session will include work on your back, arms, legs, feet, hands, head, face,  neck, and shoulders.

What will the massage or bodywork feel like?

A relaxing Swedish massage is often a baseline for clients. In a general Swedish massage, your session may start with broad, flowing strokes that will help calm your nervous system and relax exterior muscle tension. As your body becomes relaxed, pressure will gradually be increased to relax specific areas and relieve areas of muscular tension. Often, a light oil or lotion is used to allow your muscles to be massaged without causing excessive friction to the skin. The oil also helps hydrate your skin. You should communicate immediately if you feel any discomfort so that another approach may be taken. Massage and bodywork are most effective when your body is not resisting.

Are there different kinds of massage and bodywork?

There are numerous types of massage and bodywork; various techniques utilize different strokes, including basic rubbing strokes, rocking movement, posture and movement re-education, application of pressure to specific points, and more. We can discuss which methods may be most appropriate for you.

What should I do during the massage or bodywork session?

Prior to the massage, feel free to ask the practitioner any questions about the technique or the upcoming session. During the massage, make yourself comfortable. The practitioner will either gently move you or tell you what is needed throughout the session (such as lifting your arm). Many people just close their eyes and completely relax, communicating if/when they need more or less pressure, another blanket, or anything else relevant to the session. If you have any questions regarding the session or about the particular technique you are receiving, feel free to ask.

How will I feel after the massage or bodywork session?

Most people feel very relaxed. Some experience freedom from long-term aches and pains developed from tension or repetitive activity. After an initial period of feeling slowed down, people often experience increased energy, heightened awareness, and greater productivity which can last for days. Since toxins are released from your soft tissues during a massage, it is recommended you drink plenty of water following your massage.

What are the benefits of massage and bodywork?

Massage and bodywork can help release chronic muscular tension and pain, improve circulation, increase joint flexibility, reduce mental and physical fatigue and stress, promote faster healing of injured muscular tissue, improve posture, and reduce blood pressure. Massage and bodywork is also known to promote better sleep, improve concentration, reduce anxiety and create an overall sense of well-being.

Are there any medical conditions that would make massage or bodywork inadvisable?

Yes. That's why it's imperative that, before you begin your session, the practitioner asks general health questions. It is very important that you inform the practitioner of any health problems or medications you are taking. If you are under a doctor's care, it is strongly advised that you receive a written recommendation for massage or bodywork prior to any session. Depending on the condition, approval from your doctor may be required.