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Scandinavian Yoga and Meditation School

An independent school of yoga, tantra and meditation founded in 1970 by Swami Janakananda. Classes throughout Scandinavia and northern Germany. Also offer teacher training and workshops.

Submitted in section: Religion & Spirituality: Yoga: Teachers and Centers: Scandinavian Yoga and Meditation School

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Review 4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by: adidam, Feb 21 2013 4:26AM

This is a Satyananda Yoga centre located in a quiet rural part of Sweden with many pine forests and some lakes. It has a number of buildings for accommodation and meditation etc... set in the grounds.

The schedule is quite tough from 5.15 to 22.00 every day, with periods of yoga, work, kitchen work, free time (often spent sleeping), and a session in the evening with singing/lecture/meditation.

The culture is very Scandinavian here. Everything is compulsory, regardless of discomfort of illness. It is not possible to make any exceptions for any student and all classes must be attended - if you do not arrive the classes waits and a search party is sent out to find you and bring you into the room.

Once a week there is a "day off" and no yoga classes. However it is not a holiday as there are work periods, and a compulsory walk of 4 - 6 hours and you are not allowed to be slow, you must walk at the same pace as the group, not in front or behind; and you must not talk about yoga on this day.

The focus is on teaching yoga and complying with the centre. Self-expression, complaints, dramas, talking back, leaving the yoga room, are strongly discouraged. In between classes Such things as knitting or playing music or singing is discouraged in public areas but possible in your room. Thinking is totally discouraged as the swami feels it is of no benefit and detracts from yoga.

No contact whatsoever is permitted with the outside world. No internet or phones and music players - everything must be given to the ashram staff on arrival; and will then be in the middle of rural Sweden with little access to the outside world and very little public transport.

This attracts teachers of an authoritarian style who would like to have strict obedience from students who just listen and do not make trouble for the teacher. The Ashram staff (mostly Scandinavian) also work under a strict disciplinary and hierarchical code following all rules and little room for other ideas or making any comments about the centre. Some staff members apparently worked in mental health institutions, which is another environment of strict control over people.

The staff are able to use mobiles, internet and music players during the course, and do not "go on retreat" with the students. Students must surrender all such equipment or be asked to leave. Students who leave the grounds of the course are asked to leave. The staff occasionally 'visit' students rooms and confiscate any contraband - so if you bring chocolate biscuits make sure they are well hidden - outside perhaps ?

Lectures are 2 to 2.5 hours long. If you stand up to go to the toilet, you are challenged by the staff about what you are doing and asked to stay in the room. If you have a flu (especially in the winter courses) you are asked not to cough at all - the Swami says you are coughing because you have "self-pity" and that no other students should feel sorry for you. If you have fever or flu you may not have any time off or anything special and may be warned not to be "dramatic".

Food. This is high quality organic food, mainly grains and root vegetables with delicious home made bread. Diet is quite simple to support yoga practice. Breakfast is grain (like Millet / Barley or rice) that is soaked / boiled overnight until soft. Outside of meal times there is no food or drink available except cold water from the tap in the toilet.

It's not Indian style with satsangs and darshans; it's very Scandinavian emphasising cohesion and not being different and just accepting authority figures.

Yoga is taught slowly at first building up to knowledge in different areas, with specialities of yoga nidra and kriya meditations, in general following the Bihar School of yoga books information from "Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha", "Prana and Pranayama", and "Meditations from the Tantras",and "Yoga, Tantra and Meditation in Daily Life" (Janakananda). The pace in the class is quite slow. High quality yoga is taught along with rarer aspects of yoga like Pranayama and Yoga Nidra which are difficult to learn without being in a course centre for an extended period.

If you have an existing yoga practice or meditation routine, it is unlikely to be possible to continue with it on the course - staff only want you to practice what they teach. Novice students then are the best candidates for the courses.

During the 3 month course the staff would like to have some time off, so there is an emphasis to get the students to do everything so the staff can no work. In the yoga room once the patterns are established some sessions are taken with a CD (yoga nidra) or meditation timer (ujjayi) and the teacher no longer comes to class. The students press PLAY on the CD player. The Yoga Nidra is a typical CD ending with looking in your face in the mirror which you can buy in the shop.

The work, 1.5 - 2 hours a day, can be of many types from heavy work lifting tree logs in the forest, cleaning light industrial waste, cleaning in the houses, machine work, or kitchen preparation. In addition to this work there are shifts in the kitchen every 2 or 3 days for 1.5 hours. Additional tasks may be assigned to you that are carried out throughout the course which can take any amount of time. Many activities are "mindless and unnecessary" according to a one of the old staff members in order to teach students a lesson through discipline and hard work.

Clothing. Summer can be very warm bring shorts etc... , winter down to -20 C at times bring warm workwear and solid boots that may get very dirty and worn. Spending a lot of time in the yoga room means having multiple yoga kits is good. Socks are also good.

Tantra. This may confuse some people as the centre is an old-fashioned hierarchical ascetic yoga centre with strict obedience in a traditional style. The Kriya Meditations are considered "tantric".

The Swami was teaching TM (Transcendental Meditation) for some time and influenced by the book "Altered States of Consciousness" (Tart), spent some time with "encounter groups", then studied with Satyananda in India for some years before setting up this centre. When young he says he was a nervous child and was taken to a doctor to see what was wrong with him. The doctor told him to lie on the floor of a dark room and be silent. He enjoyed this state, and he had his first experiences. He likes the character "Uncas" from "Last of the Mohicans" who had to remain very quiet and aware as he feared for his life whilst being hunted, he likens this to yoga. He talks about many books he has read so you do not need to read them. He discourages reading.

Ma Sita is an interesting and demanding character at the ashram. She was on a yoga course at the ashram some 20 years ago, and the Swami took her as his wife. She does the Yoga Nidra / Ujjayi breathing on some courses for a few days, until she is replaced by an audio CD and digital meditation timer and no longer attends. In the evening she sometimes arrives with an elaborate dress and her white husky and does the singing and dancing. She is quite a strange contrast to the exhausted students and stern-lipped staff (who smile once a year), as she dances around like Cinderella. The world music and singing and dancing is appreciated by students.

They lives nearby in a big yellow house with large walled garden, forest and a lake that is maintained by the students. He arrives occasionally to do a class or talk and then leaves immediately.

Students. The majority are Scandinavians mostly Swedes and Danes who have had contact with other outreach centres in Europe. The rest international. Mainly newcomers to yoga. Few have serious experience on the path or have studied any texts. Most have little or no experience of meditation. A few return to do multiple courses. A few come for solutions to serious medical conditions and feel they benefit. Many come to get put into good shape - feel they need discipline - there is talk of losing 12 kg in 3 months. Many are in a life change and quit jobs and families and don't know what to do. Many 20 year olds, some older. One student said it was like a "youth work camp".

The courses are roughly EUR 300 / week and there are no refunds. The swami feels the prices are "silly" cheap. The course information and contracts say "NO REFUND" many many times on them - perhaps this is a common request from students. However, refunds can be negotiated in certain circumstances, and there is always "Allmanna reklamationsnamnden" Department of Sweden which protects Swedish consumers.

3 month course is EUR 3,400 at Haa. The official Satyananda centre in India charges EUR 1,500 for similar course.

A few students normally leave early on longer courses, especially during the long enforced silences. 33 days of silence on the 3 month course.

Everything is compulsory, there are no exceptions.

Other costs : Washing clothes EUR 5, horse riding EUR 10, shampoo EUR 10, pyramid flotation tank EUR 2.

Smaller outreach centres are available in other European countries.
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