Discovering the Himalayan Yoga Tradition – A five thousand year old Lineage of Himalayan Masters.”

I had the privilege and blessed gift to visit the ashram of the Himalayan Yoga Tradition founded by Swami Rama and currently presided by Swami Veda, who is the spiritual guide of the Tradition in Rishikesh, India in September 2013.

Unbeknown to me and my fellow teachers travelling on this journey from the West to meet the ancient traditions of Yoga in the East, an angel of a teacher, Aditi M. Gaur arranged for 17 of us to sit in an hour meditation with Swami Veda, who has taken a 5 year vow of silence that began in March 2013. A truly intense and profound experience beyond words!

Himalayan Yoga Ashram Rishikesh Blog

This brings up the question:

What is the Himalayan Yoga Tradition and who is Swami Veda?

The Himalayan Yoga Tradition is one of the few known remaining traditional lineages that exist today. These traditional lineages can trace a clear line of Masters over thousands of years who have handed teachings down via a Guru-disciple relationship. A lineage is also one who is connected with the masters from the tradition through an unbroken link over time. Other authentic lineages include:

  • Sivananda
  • Paramahansa Yogananda
  • Bihar School of Yoga

And others that continue their work away from the public eye in cave monasteries and ashrams in the Himalayas.

My Rishikesh, India trip with my “Yoganga” family was indeed the most incredible experience of my life. It would never have been so without Jim Harrington and Aditi M. Gaur. Aditi taught a module on Jim’s advanced teacher training program and retreat where she shared with us ancient approaches to Asana, Pranayama and Meditation. We were profoundly affected by our time in India and what we learnt from Aditi and Jim.


Aditi’s initial training was done through the Sivananda lineage after which she pursued her path to become an initiate of the Himalayan Yoga Tradition, recognizing Swami Rama as her Guru. South African Yogis were blessed to experience her shining light, incredible wisdom and wealth of knowledge during her visit to Cape Town and Johannesburg in March 2014. She shares with us further insight on the Himalayan Yoga Lineage and Swami Veda Bharati, who is much revered in India as a true master.

What is the essence of the Himalayan Yoga Tradition?

As a small sadhaka with limited understanding, I would say that the lineage I belong to teaches us to see the reality within. The uniqueness of the Himalayan Yoga Tradition is the fact that it can trace a line of Masters over thousands of years and the link between them remains unbroken in this way the lineage is still ‘alive’. If you travel within the Himalayas the mere mention of the names of Swami Rama and Swami Veda Bharati brings tremendous respect and reverence. I have been in the presence of several spiritual teachers and each time I share with them that I have been initiated into Swami Rama’s lineage they bow in reverence and speak of him with the respect that only a Master commands in India.

Who is Swami Veda and why is he so revered?

Swami Veda Bharati is a direct disciple of Swami Rama and a Mahamandaleshwar which is considered to be “Master of a Great Circle” in India. It is a much revered honorific title. Besides the four Shankaracharyas, the Mahamandaleshwars constitute the religious leadership of the Hindu faith. Swami Veda has been reciting the Yoga Sutras since he was nine years old and was proclaimed a “child prodigy” by the Hindi Press in 1946. What is interesting here is the fact that he has never gone to school, yet speaks 17 languages fluently.

My interactions with Swami Veda have revealed to me a kind, loving and humble soul who has walked the path that his Master guided him to with complete sincerity and devotion. Despite his frail health, (having five ruptured discs in the back and six arteries completely blocked), he continues to guide his students and disciples, displaying selfless love for all of them. I feel blessed and honoured to have been in his presence and have learnt so much from my interactions with him. He sets an extraordinary example for us young sadhakas to follow.


Please share with us the difference between being a student and an initiate of a Lineage?

From my limited understanding I would like to say that a student comes, takes a couple of teachings and goes but an initiate makes a commitment. A commitment to grow and serve according to the principles and teachings of the Lineage. By taking initiation you commit to a Parampara, (Tradition) and not just one person from the Lineage. You adopt the Tradition and it adopts you. It guides you and nurtures you in your journey to realize yourself and acts as a fencing, so to speak, to protect a shrub that has just sprouted from the ground so that it does not get trampled on or destroyed, allowing it to grow into its potential. As the shrub grows into a mighty tree, it becomes a source of shade for others. Most importantly this tree has fulfilled its purpose by reaching its potential. In my personal experience I have witnessed how my initiation gave new direction to my life, bringing depth and focus and allowing me to seek guidance when I needed it most from those who have faced the same challenges that I face today as a small sadhaka, (student). There is a gentle reassurance and certain security in that.

Swami Rama Photo Board

How does one become an initiate? What is the process and what does it mean to be an initiate?

The initiation process is a simple but powerful one and I don’t want to go into any details here but would like to say that it’s a commitment that must be made after much thought and introspection. It is good to ask yourself if you are ready to grow within the teachings of the tradition and accept them as your guides on your spiritual journey. Then, one must look for a lineage that is known to be authentic. Contacting, them, spending some time with them and then deciding to get initiated is a better way to make this commitment. The spiritual path is not an easy one to walk on so having a support system that can understand and guide becomes vital to one’s growth. Additionally, having access to teachings and practices that have withstood the test of time also make becoming part of a lineage worthwhile. If you are serious about walking the spiritual path and are determined to grow it would make sense to find people who can systematically guide you, on the other hand if you feel you aren’t ready to make the commitment, its best to take your time and explore. I must say that initiation should not be confused with renunciation. I get asked this often. You don’t have to give up your family, your career and your life to become an initiate. You receive a personal mantra during the initiation and you return to your life. The mantra becomes your best friend and through its chanting your evolution happens. Receiving a mantra and returning home is not enough, one must use it in one’s daily sadhana, (spiritual practice). All growth comes from that.

I often see people who have collected ‘mantras’ from several traditions, going through several initiations and don’t practice anything. To me it seems to be a waste of blessings conferred. If a seed has been planted within you, it would be a shame to not allow it to reach its potential.

Does the Himalayan Yoga Tradition offer programs for those seeking short term study?

Yes indeed. Their website offers details on the programs that they offer which include Teacher Training Programs, long and short study courses and retreats. It is always nice to go and spend a few days at the ashram in Rishikesh ( and explore the options available as well.

Himalayan Ashram Cottage

What other services does this institute provide for interested visiting learners?

The ashram is a wonderful place to go and learn and one should make the trip at least once a year. Here you get to learn ways to live in a happy and fulfilling manner. Being a lineage of dhyana yogis one can learn a systematic approach to meditation bringing it into your daily life. The lineage also teaches asanas as a preparatory step to Meditation (Dhyana). One can also undertake a silence retreat under the guidance of a mentor or teacher and I can tell you that this can be a deeply moving and powerful practice to take on.  

Words cannot truly capture or measure the beauty and honour I had of visiting the Himalayan Yoga Ashram and the privilege to sit in meditation with Swami Veda. That particular event marked one of the most sacred moments of my Rishikesh experience.

I extend immense gratitude to the Powers that Be, to Jim Harrington and to Aditi M. Gaur for what was indeed an opportunity of a lifetime!

At Himalayan Yoga Institute, Rishikesh 2013 Blog





Vajrasana & Virasana Poses & the practical difference between the two.


      • Begin by placing yourself on the hands and knees with the knees & feet together
      • Move back and sit on the heels of the feet with the hands resting on thighs or by placing the back of the right hand inside the palm of the left hand
      • Be conscious of the position of the tailbone – tuck the tailbone down by pressing the sit bones onto the heels of the feet – this will release any overarch in the lower back and straighten the back from the tailbone through to the crown of the head
      • Close the eyes and be consciously aware of the breath
      • Stay for as long as is comfortable


Counterpose / Pratikryasana:

      • Release from sitting position and bring hands to mat
      • Stretch right leg out, toes on the floor for at least 5 breaths or longer then release
      • Repeat the same with the left leg – Ideal for beginners
      • Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog for intermediate to advanced practitioners


      • Stretches the top of the feet
      • Beneficial for those who have flat feet as it helps to lift the arches of the feet
      • Stretches the quadriceps muscles i.e. the thighs
      • A Meditative pose for advanced practitioners
      • One of very few asanas that can be practiced after a meal
      • A calming and therapeutic pose 

Cautions and Modifications:

      • People who have had serious knee injuries or operations who cannot flex the knee inward must avoid this pose
      • For stiff knees one can place a folded blanket or rolled up hand towel under the knees
      • Initially this pose is generally most uncomfortable for the top of the feet, this discomfort will go away with regular practice of the pose – for further comfort one can also place a blanket under the top of the feet
      • If blankets do not suffice then one can use a wooden meditation bench to sit in Vajrasana

 Meditation bench

Vajrasana on bench



Begin by placing yourself on the hands and knees with the knees together

      • Separate the feet wide apart
      • Slowly move backwards and sit IN BETWEEN THE FEET
      • The top of the feet will be on the mat on either side of the hips
      • Place the hands on the thighs or place the back of the right hand inside the palm of the left hand
      • Be conscious of the position of the tailbone – tuck the tailbone down by pressing the sit bones onto the mat thereby sitting tall and creating space between the vertebrae
      • Stay for 5 – 8 breaths as a beginner and for as long as is comfortable as a more advanced practitioner

Virasana Profile

Counterpose / Pratikryasana:

      • Release from sitting position and bring hands to mat
      • Stretch right leg out, toes on the floor for at least 5 breaths or longer then release
      • Repeat the same with the left leg


      • Stretches the top of the feet
      • Beneficial for those who have flat feet as it helps to lift the arches of the feet
      • Stretches the quadriceps muscles i.e. the thighs
      • A Meditative pose for advanced practitioners
      • A calming and therapeutic pose

Cautions and Modifications:

      • People who have had serious knee injuries or operations who cannot flex the knee inward must avoid this pose
      • For stiff knees one can place a folded blanket or rolled up hand towel under the knees
      • For those who have extremely stiff knees or very tight hips one can place one or two or as many blocks or blankets as needed between the feet to sit on

 Virasana with support

Therefore the MAIN DIFFERENCE between the two asanas is that in Vajrasana – Thunderbolt one sits on the heels of the feet and in Virasana – Hero Pose one sits in between the feet.

Wishing you awareness and healing in your practice! 

Yours in Yoga,


White outfit hands in Namaskar

Happy Heart with Yoga!

Heart Photo

February is known for Valentine’s and in South Africa, summer, with the theme of love and warmth being associated with the month it seems fitting to nurture not only body and mind but the heart too.

Yoga not only exercises all muscles and body parts but activates and balances the energy centres or chakras of the body. The heart centre has an essential position of all seven chakras. It is the central chakra and its primary focus is on love for the Divine, unconditional love and compassion for oneself and for others.
Physically we need to keep the heart healthy by eating well and exercising regularly. Yoga postures keep the heart healthy with cardiovascular sequence poses such as Suyra Namaskar, (sun salutations), that provide a complete workout for the whole body. Besides providing overall physical, mental and emotional well-being, a regular yoga practice will assist and maintain good circulation throughout the body, an important health physiology considering the heart centre’s physical action is that of circulation.
On an emotional level, we need to keep our heart healthy by nurturing ourselves with love, compassion and kindness. This nurturing is not only towards others but essentially towards ourselves.
Practise Bhujangasana / the Cobra, Matsyasana / the Fish or Urdhva Dhanurasana / the Wheel, to open the heart centre.

Yoga Girl in Bhujangasana

Yoga Girl in Matsyasana

Yoga Girl in Urdhva Dhanurasana

Remember that behind all the marketing of Valentine’s month, the true value and meaning is that of being healthy, being loved and loving others. Nurture body, heart and mind with compassion, with love and with yoga.

Much love and blessings of health,



Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog Pose.

Adho Mukha Svanasana

Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog Pose

  • Begin with both hands and knees on the mat
  • Knees and the feet are hip distance apart and hands are shoulder width apart slightly more forward than shoulders
  • Spread the fingers apart and evenly pressing on the mat
  • Curl the toes of both feet under on an inhalation
  • On an exhalation lift the knees off the mat and raise the tailbone upwards simultaneously straightening the arms and drawing the chest towards the legs that are in the process of straightening
  • Try to align the head with the straight arms
  • Initially keep the legs slightly bent to consciously lift the tailbone upwards by lifting up onto the toes of the feet
  • Maintaining the height created with the tailbone slowly begin to straighten the legs as much as is possible and is comfortable bringing the heels down to the mat as much as possible
  • It is not essential that the heels touch completely or the feet or completely flat on the mat
  • Pull the shoulders away from the ears and rotate the upper arms away from one another opening the space between the shoulder blades
  • The thighs rotate inwards towards one another, this is further facilitated by moving the inner aspects of the heels of the feet AWAY from one another
  • Have the intention and conscious awareness of drawing the hips upward towards the armpits and the armpits downwards towards the hips
  • Hold for 5 breaths as a beginner or 8 – 10 breaths or more for a more advanced practitioner
  • To release slowly bend the legs and the arms bringing the knees to the mat and return to the starting position.

Adho Mukha Svanasana One Arm Mala Bracelet

Counterpose /  Pratikryasana:

  • Balasana – Child Pose
  • Ardha Adho Mukha Virasana, (also called Mandukasana), big toes together knees wide and upper body resting between the knees on the mat
  • The 2 poses are ideal for beginners
  • OR
  • Vajrasana – Thunderbolt Pose – sitting on one’s heels – More comfortable for advanced practitioners

Extended Balasana

Adho Mukha Virasana with Mudra



  • Stretches, tones and strengthens the arm muscles
  • Relieves stiffness between the shoulders
  • Strengthens and stretches the leg muscles
  • Relieves back pain
  • Relieves fatigue
  • Rejuvenating
  • The pose is an inversion – an inverted forward bend  or “V” and is soothing and calming in an invigorating way in that it brings re-oxygenated blood to the brain which calms the central nervous system. Forward bends are known to be withdrawing and calming as are inversions. 

Cautions and Modifications:

  • If prone to aching wrists due to prior injuries or perhaps repeated practice, turn the hands outwards. Determine at which angle the fingers point outward is most comfortable and keep the hands in that position for the duration of Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • In the classic hand position of fingers pointing forward it is essential that the weight is distributed evenly on the hand as much as is possible and for the duration of the pose
  • Press more weight into the thumb and index fingers, the pads below the fingers and less of bearing weight on the wrist itself
  • Try  to prevent the head and the neck from hanging down: remember the neck is an extension of the spine and should align with it
  • Do not practice this pose if suffering from Glaucoma or any eye infection.
  • Do not practice if suffering from any ear or chest infection such as upper respiratory or respiratory infection such as bronchitis etc.
  • Do not practice if recovering from any swelling in the face and head area.
  • The last 3 cautionary notes should be adhered to any inversion poses. 

Chakra Association:

Ajna Chakra, (“Third Eye” Centre) – (One can rest the forehead on a bolster or a block).

Ajna Chakra Yantra

Wishing you happiness in your practice! 

Yours in Yoga, 




Natarajasana Pose – Dedicated to Shiva, Lord of the Dance.

Natarajasana with Chin Mudra

  • Begin in Tadasana – feet together or Samasthiti – feet hip distance apart
  • Maintain a firm left leg and bring the toes of the right foot on the mat
  • Bend the right leg taking the right foot behind the thigh and grab the top of the right foot or right ankle with the right hand
  • Maintain a hold on the foot with the hand throughout the pose
  • Align and connect both knees side by side to establish alignment and steadiness
  • On an inhalation move the right heel  / foot away from the right thigh or buttock by lifting the leg back and away from the body simultaneously straightening the right arm and lifting the left arm up above the head
  • The intention is to bring the right thigh parallel to the floor and the right shin perpendicular to the floor with the right foot pointing upwards
  • Keep the chest as upright as possible
  • Keep the hips square i.e. both hips facing forward as much as is possible
  • The left leg should be as firm and straight as is possible or comfortable
  • Hold for 3 -5 breaths as a beginner and 8 – 10 breaths as a more advanced practitioner
  • To release slowly bring the right arm down releasing the extended right leg back to the starting position and bring the left arm down
  • Return the right leg to Tadasana

 Counterpose /  Pratikryasana:

Tadasana, (feet together) or

Samasthiti, (feet hip distance apart).

–       Both are ideal for beginners

Ardha Uttanasana or


–       Ideal for advanced practitioners


  • Rejuvenates and stretches the spine backwards
  • Stretches, tones and strengthens the leg muscles
  • Strengthens the ankles
  • Stretches and tones the quadriceps muscles
  • Stretches and strengthens the arms
  • Opens and expands the chest
  • Invigorating

Natarajasana on the deck

Cautions and Modifications:

  • If  prone to inner ear ailments, e.g. Vertigo, other balance disorders or flat feet, practice close to a wall for extra support and a sense of security by placing the fingertips or extended hand on the wall
  • Unlock the knee joint of the balancing leg if the stretch proves too strenuous
  • Use a belt around the foot to hold the leg if the stretch is too challenging on the shoulder
  • Avoid the pose if suffered any knee injuries and in early stages of recovery
  • Do not raise the one arm if it compromises one’s balance, rather rest the hand on the waist or hip

 Chakra Association:

Svadisthana and Anahata Chakra.

May your practice bless you in every respect! 

Yours in Yoga, 



“Celebrating the person I am today.”

Meditation View with Sun Refelection

What do you want for the new year?

People tend to focus on resolutions for another full year ahead, any and all, to begin from the first day of January. How common and easy it is to box things into time frames or associate with special events, this somehow gives a resolution validity and purpose. That seems far too easy and perhaps somewhat empty in its conviction.

We should not have to have an event to make a resolution or to start anew. The meaningful step should be made because we not only want change  for the better but because we need it, irrespective of new year association or not. Yet… I do concede that if such a date provides motivation to set and to meet a goal then I am all for that which encourages one to move forward.

The popular resolutions range from improved professional success, financial security and loving relationships, all of which provide a sense of balance in life. I personally feel that the thing, once put into practice, that bring theses popular goals to light requires serious hard work and immeasurable patience, and that is working on oneself from within. Whether you practice through Yoga, through meditation or through therapy or all of the above, do yourself a favour and find that practice that will truly allow yourself to look within to heal, to learn and to be able to outwardly see the direction ahead with greater insight and clarity.

I would not be the person I am today if it were not for my Yoga practice and the profound lessons it has taught and given me. Through the asana, (posture), practice on the mat, Yoga has permeated through the physical aspect and with certainty affected and effected me on an emotional, mental and spiritual level. I am proud to humbly say that I am a better person for what Yoga has gifted me.

It has not been an easy journey. The countless hours of physical practice aside, the most difficult part has been the inner reflection, contemplation and realization of who I am, the forgiving, the faults, the accepting, the pain and the letting go, yet the reward cannot be measured quantitively and the quality of existence makes the journey truly worthwhile. No-one said life would be easy and we all have come to realize that it is through challenging times and experiences we become stronger and wiser. So too is working on oneself challenging but undoubtedly worth every single effort to do so.

The lessons my Yoga and meditation practice have imparted on me have been constant, supportive, forgiving, nurturing, healing, loving and abundantly therapeutic, especially on those days when life seems to want to have the upper hand.OM Abstract yogi figure

My sankalpa, (resolve), for the present and for each day of the year is to continue this practice of genuine integrated well-being that Yoga provides me because I know this will steer me in the right direction to attain the love relationship I deserve, the professional and financial success I am capable of and the ultimate blessing of celebrating the person I am today and not the person I was in the past!

Thank you Yoga and all that you encompass!

Forever grateful,


Namaste Sign


A humble tale of my Rishikish Retreat with two exceptional teachers, Jim Harrington and Aditi M. Gaur. By Juanita Caprari.

I had the privilege to meet, be taught by and share a profoundly special retreat and course with Jim Harrington and Aditi M. Gaur in Rishikesh, India in September 2013. Together with 16 fellow teachers and avid yoga practitioners we embarked on an unforgettable journey of all that is truly and authentically Yoga.  In the process we learnt more about each other and we connected to a deeper level of ourselves. A union, (how fitting the word which translates from “Yoga”), that binds us together on all levels and will remain with us eternally.

Phool Chatti

I feel I could write a book on my incredible experience in Rishikesh, I want to shout it out to the world, I want people to know how such an experience can change your life and you would never look back. You would raise your arms and extend your gratitude to the heavens and ask to be blessed with being able to return to do it all over again! It is a personal story and one day I will write more of my beautiful experience of this retreat and course, but for now I would like to introduce you to Aditi M. Gaur who lives in Mumbai, (Bombay), India.

Aditi at Vasishista's cave in RishikeshI would like my fellow yogis in the community to know about her because Aditi will be in Cape Town in March 2014 and will teach at Spirit Fest 2014 as well as facilitate a retreat in the same month with Jim Harrington.

I believe Jim needs no formal introduction as he is a revered teacher and much loved in the yoga community. By no means do I make light of his contribution to our journey in Rishikesh or his reputation. If it were not for Jim, our India epic would not have happened. If it were not for Jim, we would not have met Aditi who touched every single one of our lives. So forgive me for not “introducing” Jim to you all but I do believe you either know him well or know of him. I have utmost respect and deepest gratitude to Jim for his gentle soul, his friendship, his teaching and for taking us on his first India retreat with him! Needless to say, we hope to return with him next year!

Jim at Kujna Puri Temple in Rishikesh

(To receive regular updates from Jim please visit and sign up to his newsletter on the site.)

So please do take the time to read a short profile on Aditi and her beautiful blog, “Yogalaya”

born out of the idea to share and provide traditional and ancient yoga teachings in modern times.

Teacher Profile Aditi M. Gaur:

“Having been a successful entrepreneur and a national level athlete, Aditi found external success at an early age, but soon learnt that it came without inner peace. It was the quest for peace and fulfilment that lead her from the Corporate world to the Himalayas where she served as a volunteer, studying yoga and the scriptures from saints and traditional yogis. Her spiritual practices and interactions with these learned Masters convinced her that external success was easy to achieve but internal success was hard to come by and it was on their urging that she took to teaching yoga as a way to serve and share.

Aditi M. Gaur Teacher Profile“For me my practice is about worshipping the divine within and this is what I offer to my students as well — the ability to switch off and discover who they really are. I was taught that this process requires a quiet mind hence my class focuses on bringing stillness in the body and mind through asana, pranayama and relaxation.”

Aditi teaches a traditional Hatha Yoga practice. She has earned her RYT 200 certification from the Sivananda Yoga & Vedanta Centre and is currently studying for her RYT 500 certification with the Himalayan Yoga Tradition.”

About the Yogalaya Blog:

“YOGALAYA a name derived from “Laya Yoga”, meaning inward absorption, was born from an idea that I had about building a platform that could provide traditional teachings in a modern format. I often find teachings being presented as ‘traditional’ but in truth these teachings have been watered down considerably and it would often make me cringe. As I travelled through the Himalayas and met unknown yogis and little-known masters, I realized that their wisdom and teachings were much needed in the world today, even though it seems as though they may not be suited for the 21st century. The truth is that they are just as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago. Having been a part of the corporate world for twelve years and then one day realizing that the external success had brought me no fulfilment at all I moved to the Himalayas for a couple of months to work as a volunteer and study Yoga. My interactions with various spiritual teachers and leaders made me realize that what I needed to do first was start to understand who I was and why I had come into this world. From these answers, it seems, everything else would come. In the ten years that I have been studying and practising yoga, I have tried to understand what ‘sadhakas’ or aspirants on the path are looking for when they turn to the practice of Yoga. While some want a lean body through asanas only, there are others who are looking for something deeper – how to find peace, how to be happy and how to find fulfilment in life.

Whether it is playing the role of a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a friend, or a companion, all of us are looking for answers on how to play each of these roles effectively so that we may find happiness. We all, it seems, are looking for the same thing. My aim with Yogalaya is to enable and assist on finding some, if not all of these answers. Also because I too, as a sadhaka, am a part of this pursuit and have been blessed with the opportunity to learn from those who have found some of these answers and are willing to share with others unconditionally and selflessly. Yogalaya is only a small way to enable this sharing. “-           Aditi. M. Gaur –

Please do yourself a blessed favour if you are able to join the yoga family at Spirit Fest to take the time to meet Aditi and read and spread the love of her articles on Yogalaya. Your mind and soul will be richly rewarded if you do.

With love & gratitude,


Gomukh and I in Ram Julla