Praying for an End to Violence: The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center

When I was invited to SF’s new-ish Sivananda Center in the Outer Sunset last Friday, one particular offering stood out. Amid what seems like endless reports police shootings (509 so far this year), I thought I'd take part in their daily Peace Chant. Swami Vishnu-devananda, founder of the international organization, and disciple of Sivananda, who arrived in California in 1957 to spread Yoga to the West, was, after all, a well-known peace activist.  One who was taken up with the idea of 'bombarding' areas of conflict with flower petals and prayers of peace. Vedanta, one of the 5 points of yoga, means 'to think positively and selflessly' in order to eradicate negativity.

The Centre offers daily Yoga classes, in the Hatha tradition, Bhagavad Gita talks, Satsang meditation, and various inspiring workshops. Recently, they hosted a talk by Meir Schneider - a man born legally blind who taught himself, via the Bates Method, to see. I asked Sankari Chaitanya, a 20+ year practitioner who came here to start the SF branch's new location, if they teach Bhagavad Gita philosophy in the Yoga classes. She tells me, ‘we don’t tend to mix the two, by practicing yoga and feeling relaxed in the body, so much goodness is happening already.’ She has a peaceful face with serene wide eyes and, like all Sivananda staff, she wears yellow, the color of wisdom.

With $10-15 yoga classes, a FREE first class, and mats provided at the studio, the Center feels inclusive and inviting. As a non-profit center, many of their offerings are donation-based or otherwise very affordable. Daily Satsang is free, and incorporates 3 types of practice; silent meditation, mantra chanting and Kirtan, and teaching of Yoga philosophy. The Sivananda organization also offers Yoga teacher training courses around the world, and over the years, has certified over 35,000 teachers!  To learn more and view their full weekly schedule of offerings, click here.

Photo: Courtesy of Sivananda Center
Post written for SFYogaMag.com