Thanks to the grace of Mahaprabhuji and Vishwaguruji, the Alexandria Ashram was thrilled to welcome the esteemed Swami Umapuri for almost five weeks, with the Atlanta Ashram hosting her also for four days of programs. It was a lively time with many special classes and events organized for bhaktas and practitioners. It was also a deeply spiritual opportunity for divine practices and pujas (ceremonies), and the energy and wisdom of one of our Gurudev’s close long-time disciples.
Shivaratri. Joined by Sadhvi Prempuja Puri from Atlanta, S. Uma Puri led a beautiful Shivaratri observance with a talk about its significance for seekers, plus singing of wonderful bhajans and spiritual songs in English, Shivalingam puja with chanting of the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra, evening prayer, and special prashad of kheer (sweet rice). Bhaktas and other yoga students attended and savored the joyous feeling of the evening.
Mantra Anusthan. S. Prempuja and Alexandria disciples were blessed to participate in a 24-hour Mantra Anusthan led by S. Uma Puri. In addition to hours of mantra japa, this beautiful and profound experience included fasting and the breaking of the fast, a brief outdoor walking meditation, and a little rest granted by our wise and generous leader.
Courses on Yoga for Healthy Joints and Yoga for a Healthy Back. The Alexandria Ashram offered for the first time ever, the YIDL course on Yoga for Healthy Joints, taught twice weekly by S. Uma Puri. Three teachers and a number of students attended and learned the new movements and postures from a master teacher. Umapuriji’s deep knowledge of orthopedic care, massage therapy, and physical therapy infused the course with expertise about the health of our joints. This expertise also benefited students in her Yoga for a Healthy Back class, where she helped practitioners to understand the use of yoga as therapy for back pain.
Self-Inquiry Meditation. S. Uma Puri led a divine 5-week class in Self-Inquiry Meditation, teaching participants to find motionlessness and comfort in their posture, awareness of body and breath, observation of their thoughts and “how am I?” inquiry into the Self, as taught by Vishwaguruji, and gradual stillness of mind.
Guest Teaching. The entire YIDL Alexandria community was able to learn from S. Uma Puri’s 30 years of YIDL teaching experience, due to her generous attendance, observation, and teaching in each and every class at the Ashram, benefitting the classes of children, seniors, and of all YIDL system levels.
Vegetarian Cooking Workshops. The Ashram kitchen was full of eager cooks and eaters, who learned how to make some of Vishwaguruji’s favorite foods: chapatis, 'Mahaprabhuji’s soup' (kadhi), daal, subji, and other dishes, prepared in two three-hour workshops led by master chef S. Uma Puri. Participants who were previously unfamiliar with vegetarian cuisine became inspired by the delicious taste and beautiful appearance of the meals we prepared and shared together, not to mention the fun we had.
Atlanta YIDL Programs. S. Uma Puri traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, for five days of programs at the Yoga in Daily Life Ashram, teaching about pranayama and asanas and the fruits of practice – harmony of body, mind and soul. The program included workshops on therapeutic yoga, Satsang at the Shiv Temple of Atlanta on the subject of Hatha Yoga, and beautiful nature walks.
Shank Prakshalan. A master of Hatha Yoga Kriyas, S. Umapuri led a Shank Prakshalan Spring detoxification and purification practice for a group of six disciples, including two bhaktas who travelled to Alexandria from San Francisco – Amrit Sagar and Mira.
Teacher Workshop. Teachers gathered for an inspiring two-hour workshop with Umapuriji toward the end of her visit, to receive the benefit of her observations and recommendations for YIDL classes in Alexandria. She movingly spoke to us of our mission to support and serve each and every student to the best of our ability.
Holi. The full moon of the Holi festival coincided with our Farewell Satsang for S. Umapuri, who organized a celebratory bhandara with pot-luck dinner, preceded by a slide-show of the Ashrams in India. With her considerable story-telling skills, she recounted for us the ancient story of Holi and its illumination of the triumph of good over evil.
S. Umapuri captured our hearts! We will miss her greatly and hope for another visit soon.
Asked her thoughts about the visit, she wrote these words:
“With the blessings of Almighty in the physical form of Gurudev, it was possible to serve our Alexandria and Atlanta Ashrams. A few words about these times are – ‘friendship, love, understanding, warmth.’ If I could, I would embrace all of you forever in my heart, THANKS!”
Whilst travelling between Europe and America, Swami Umapuri was also invited to visit London and Edinburgh ashrams.
Disciples and practitioners in London had the special opportunity to attend inspiring weekend workshops at Swami Madhavanandaji Ashram in both February and March, when Swami Umapuri was on the way to and from America. The workshop themes were 'Heal Yourself with Nourishment and Meditation' and 'Prana - the Life Force'. The February program included cooking demonstrations of how to prepare healthy vegetarian meals.
Swami Umapuri also met with the London team of YIDL instructors to give training, support and advice; and she shared inspiring stories and bhajans at satsangs with all, on the Sunday evenings.
Yoga in Daily Life students in Edinburgh were treated to a brief, but very special visit from Swami Umapuri on the evening of the Spring Equinox, 20 March 2017, when she gave a workshop titled, 'How to overcome stress and live a healthy spiritual life'.
Mahaprabhu Deep Ashram was filled with people keen to learn, and the program lasted longer than planned due to the genuine interest shown. At the end, many expressed how touched they were by the generous practical advice that Swami Umapuri offered with such warmth and wisdom. Her talk especially emphasized the importance of going slowly, remaining fully aware, and being kind to ourselves in our practice. She also encouraged using a mantra, and expressed how vital it is to find a spiritual Master who we feel connected to, to guide us towards our highest human potential - with a reminder that we all need expert teachers in all areas of our lives, in order to learn correctly from those who have truly mastered their subject.
During the break, the group of both regular and new students enjoyed vegetarian refreshments while sharing a renewed enthusiasm for their yoga practice, and then gathered again with Swami Umapuri for a question & answer session. The long and spiritually nourishing evening concluded with chanting traditional arati, prayers.
The participants were very grateful to Vishwaguru Swamiji for suggesting that Swami Umapuri could include a program in Scotland on this occasion, and the local YIDL organisers felt it was a great support for the small ashram. All are now looking forward to welcoming Vishwaguruji and Swami Umapuri back to Scotland for more programs in the future.