Sahaja Yoga (Sahaja in this case meaning born with and Yoga meaning union) is a form of meditation, created by Nirmala Srivastava, more widely known as “Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi” or “Mother” by followers, who believe she is an incarnation of the Adi Shakti, the primordial divine power. The term Sahaja Yoga is also used to refer to the Sahaja Yoga International (Vishwa Nirmala Dharma) organization, a ‘new religious movement’ which she founded in 1970 in Nargol, India.
The practice and associated organization grew from India and spread internationally, and there are now meditation centers around the world. The methods for practicing Sahaja Yoga are made available free of charge to those interested, and the organization claims the practice of Sahaja Yoga results in rapid, even instant Self-realization and Kundalini awakening. The practice has also notably been taught to prisoners in Italy and the United States, such as at Rikers Island to “help the prisoners’ social, psychological and spiritual recovery” Beliefs Sahaja Yoga teaches that there are seven main energy points, or chakras, on the subtle body that can be balanced by awakening the Kundalini, a normally dormant energy which exists in every human being. When self-realization is achieved, a person will feel a cool breeze on top of their head. If there is a feeling of warmth or heat, then the body has not achieved such balance. Sahaja Yoga claims to provide an easier method, (Kakar describes it as “instant” ) of attaining this state than other traditional methods such as Hatha Yoga, which rely on physical postures and breathing exercises to attain self-realisation. Practices
Some Sahaja Yogis meditate on the photo of the founder, as this is believed to help in focusing the attention needed to aid in the rise of the Kundalini. Soaking the feet in a bath of salt water, or walking in the sea, one of several techniques utilizing nature in conjunction with Sahaj methods, is said to help balance the meditator.
Sahaja Yoga in medicine
Sahaja Yoga meditation has proven effective in addressing various medical ailments, including asthma, epilepsy, and ADHD. Some of these claims have been scientifically confirmed. For example, some case studies have shown that test subjects who were practicing Sahaja Yoga meditation had “significant improvement in VCS (Visual Contrast Sensitivity)”, and that meditation appeared to bring about changes in some of the electrophysiological responses studied in epileptic patients. Other studies showed that Sahaja Yoga meditation results in fewer and less acute epileptic seizures. According to the Medical Observer Weekly, Sahaja Yoga was found to be more effective than other generic forms of meditation in the reduction of stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms. Short-term effects on asthma have also been noticed, by both objective and subjective measures. Sahaja Yoga claims that it has cured patients of “high blood pressure, asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, etc.” SY’s commentary on a study by Mishra [RK], et al., 1993, suggests that an observed increase in beta-endorphins for meditating males could explain “so-called miraculous cures” . Mishra reported that Sahaja Yoga meditation resulted in a “significant increase” in beta-endorphins between control and meditating subjects. The organization runs an international hospital in Mumbai, India, the Sahaja Yoga International Health and Research Centre, which uses Sahaja Yoga methods. This hospital claims to have been successful in curing incurable diseases such as (refractory) high blood pressure, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. Shri Nirmala Srivastava has developed a liver diet to promote better health. White cane sugar, white rice, yogurt, ginger, fruits and vegetables promote the “cooling” of the liver. Alcohol, fried foods, red meat, fish, cream and chocolate are among the foods that are “heating” and thus may be harmful if taken in excess. Water vibrated spiritually can, according to the organization, change the characteristics of water, resulting in purification.