Yoga center offers free meditation classes

Erica Magda

Erica Magda

By Kate Leifheit

Mantra chanting, mixed with the rhythm of a drum and guitar, softly moves with the breeze through the windows of a small building beside a hand decorated hammock with warm-colored strings.

The view of the hammock extends over a still pond where dozens of goldfish swim to the water’s surface, making ringlets in an attempt to nibble on mosquitoes and water spiders.

The mantra chanting, “Baba Nam Kevalam,” means in Sanskrit, “Only the name or the idea of the nearest and dearest one.”

Ananda Liina Yoga and Meditation Center, 2308 N. High Cross Road, Urbana, is an eco-friendly center surrounded by prairie and located next to the organic farm, Tiny Greens.

The solar panels on the roof passively heat the building and the center’s water system, which comes from the man-made pond. The windows, located on the south side, help heat the rooms in the winter because the facility has neither a heater nor air conditioner.

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    “We would like to be able to completely grow our own food here and to generate our own power; to be really self-sufficient to show an example of economic wealth and technology self-sufficiency,” said spiritual teacher Madhuviduyananda; also known as Dada, “brother” in Sanskrit.

    The center provides free yoga and meditation classes three times a week, followed by a short lesson on the concepts of philosophy and yoga.

    Recent concepts included benevolent communication and how to cultivate consciousness.

    Most classes are taught by spiritual teacher Dada and full time volunteers; Margo Mejia, spiritual name Mainjurii, “blossom,” 26; and Devaprasad , “gift of graciousness,” 23. Devaprasad preferred to be called by his spiritual name.

    Upon entering the building each person welcomes one another with the word “namaskar,” which means, “I greet you, your innermost self, with all my mind and all my heart.”

    For Yoga and Meditation class, the yoga asanas are meant to relax the body and calm the mind for physical and mental composure in order to practice meditation. An asana is a posture in which the practitioner feels comfortable.

    “On a deeper physiology level they exercise the glandular system of the body so they fine tune hormonal secretions.

    Yoga asanas are a very subtle art and a very subtle science. The way you move your body and the way you breathe actually affects your hormones and makes your mind much more calm and elevates your mood.” Mejia said.

    Andrea Quarles, 26, a yoga instructor at the University’s facilities, ARC and CRCE; began yoga and meditation a few years ago to try to calm her external character in anticipation of having a son, Issak Rei, who is now two years old. Immediately she felt more at peace, but that tranquility strengthened when she attended classes at Ananda Liina.

    “I wanted my child to see someone who was at peace and centered, blissful, and not someone who is crazy and screaming and fighting.” Quarles said. “And when I came out here is when I felt a really huge shift in myself because I could actually talk to people and ask questions.”

    Ananda Liina provides yoga and meditation classes for students at the Illini Union. One class occurs for free Wednesday nights from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

    Robbie Nagel, 23, graduate student in foreign language, noticed a difference between the settings.

    “They gave a class in the Union and it was so different. There were more students there and it’s different when you meditate (at Ananda Liina). You can hear birds chirping. It’s somewhere new out from the rest of the world,” Nagel said.

    The Union classes first captured volunteer instructor Mejia’s interest before she decided to investigate further with Ananda Liina.

    She ended up attending yoga on Wednesday and Thursday nights even though she had papers due on Fridays.

    “I used to pull some all-nighters but the practices for me of yoga and meditation were so good for relieving stress and clearing my mind, calming myself down, that it made it so much easier for me to fulfill my activity requirements,” Mejia said.

    The Ananda Liina community is the result of a movement that began in 1955, in Kalikata, India, by Spiritual Master Shrii Shrii Anandamurti. Spiritual teacher Dada studied under his master until his training was complete and then he proceeded to move and serve communities all over the world; Australia, Greece, Croatia and India.

    Eventually, this led him to teach the Ananda Marga lifestyle in the states.

    “(Ananda Marga) originates in the human mind so when we learn to develop benevolence, compassion and integrity, and bring that out in the world as teachers, social workers, as government officials and that is how we can overcome the tremendous challenges that we are facing in this society,” Dada said.

    Part of the Ananda Marga lifestyle is to only eat foods that are healthy for both the body and mind.

    This consists of a vegan diet full of vegetables and fruits; however, unlike vegans, they are allowed to eat dairy. The Ananda Marga diet is called “Sentient”.

    Ananda Liina hopes to expand their community by building a sisterhood women’s center to focus on women’s health care and spiritual classes.

    The center also wants to start a kindergarten class to reach out to kids and parents.

    “It is important to be a place where people can become stewards, become leaders, who can be an example, who can help the community and society at large,” Dada said, and Quarles agrees.

    “It’s a part to change the world. There are people who come here who are from U of I that are going to go out to change the world. It’s putting out those little threads out all over the world. There’s benevolence and love. I can drive in a car and have people pass me and I can tell them I love them and I don’t even know them, but I know they are a part of me and we’re all connected,” Quarles said.