In the early 1970s I had a debilitating muscle/organ problem, and in desperation I tried 'keep fit' to help correct it....hated it. My mother, a very intuitive woman, suggested I went to yoga. Neither of us knew what yoga was, but off I trotted.
Stood in the doorway of a hall, and felt that whatever yoga was, this was 'it' for life. And so it has been. Lucky for me, the teacher, Swami Karmayogi Saraswati was a western swami (whatever that was!!), who taught asanas, pranayamas, yoga nidra, kriyas. It was most fortunate to meet and learn from him. At the end of that first year, I had my first chakra experience, but of course didn't know what it all meant, nor did I realise what had actually happened, but, I was acutely aware that I was never the same after. Nor were the people close to me.
A couple of years later, I went on to study with a wonderful woman, Melissa Jones (nee Carven), who was probably the first Satyananda disciple in New Zealand. I knew without a doubt that I had been lead to the person whom I had waited my whole life to meet, whom I'd had many visions of as a child: Paramahansa Satyananda, through Karmayogi who taught Satyananda's Yoga Nidra, and then through Melissa
Life took its twists and turns, another massive experience happened: I was still totally ignorant of what was happening to me. Later on, my life fell apart about 7 years after starting yoga, a very bad marriage collapsed, and 5 months later I came across a new Satyananda Centre in Auckland. Seven months later I went to the large Australian Ashram at Mangrove Mountain, and was given, yes, given!! full Sannyasa initiation!!
I lived in the NZ Centre, taught there and in a residential countryside ashram, for 7 years, where I lived Satyananda's teachings 24/7. Throughout this time, the internal experiences were fast and furious, however it took many years before I completely understood what had been going on: I read Satyananda's Kundalini Yoga book, the most definitive and accurate book of this type, ever.
What I did learn during those ashram years was a wealth of deep inner spiritual experience, what it all meant.....up to the level that I was at, of course. And something very important: what to do to have those same experiences. Because Yoga is a science, and. doing specific techniques produces definite results.
I truly feel that what you need to do, depending where you are at, to progress spiritually, is one of the hidden keys of spiritual life. Anyone can get hold of the teachings, but it requires experiential knowledge to know how to apply them.
It is so amazing that there are hundreds of Satyananda disciples around the globe who have lived, breathed, kundalini yoga, and who in turn are able to pass on this knowledge, not as a Guru (which one does need for kundalini) but as a teacher.
After my Ashram years I came back into society. I was acutely aware that the Satyananda Yoga system had given me a wealth of experiential knowledge in the field of chakras, kundalini, the pranas, 5 koshas (sheaths eg physical body & others), tattwas (elements), and the differing akashas, or internal spiritual spaces. Up to a very good level.
To my surprise, the internal experiences continued. Even though I'd accepted that maybe they wouldn't. I learnt that it didn't take much for the spiritual life to keep moving.... onto the next chakra, the next level, the next realm. And, that some of these experiences needed help from someone else. That someone else is one's Guru. A couple of very profound jumps in energy/consciousness, to do with chakras, are done internally, by the Guru. It is said that the Guru leads one to the Inner Light, and what a surprise it is when this happens!! There is also a very important chakra which is awakened by Guru.
All of this is tremendous, and very special. One becomes very grateful. Every single day. How could you not be??
Of course we need to do some of the work ourselves, and it does seem that this is where the yamas (social development) & niyamas (individual development) come in. They are guidelines for conduct, ethical behaviour, & really it helps to incorporate them into your life, as a way of life. They aren't hard to do, & they need to be the way that one always is, not just outwardly going through the motions. When one misrepresents oneself by acting out the yamas and niyamas in public, by word and behaviour, but privately & internally disregard them, the spiritual life doesn't progress.
One really needs to become the Inner Knowledge, with integrity and gratitude. Internally keeping on the Path, and being true to the finer nature which each of us has inside of us. We can do this anywhere, but, I truly feel that it's easier to live in an Ashram to do it!!