Spiritual Directors & Teachers
Swami Sivananda Radha is the founder and spiritual inspiration for Yasodhara Ashram. A pioneer in the development of yoga in the West, her approach was distinguished by her unique ability to synthesize yogic teachings and western psychology.
Although she passed away in 1995, her presence is felt by all who visit Yasodhara. Her legacy of teaching is preserved by her many books, essays and audio and video recordings. Swami Radha left the Ashram under the care of her designated successor, Swami Radhananda, whose dedication has supported a thriving and ever-evolving community.
Swami Sivananda Radha
Sylvia Hellman was born in Germany in 1911. As a modern interpretative dancer in Berlin, she soon realized that worldly success brought little of enduring value. The destructive events in Germany through the war years only increased her desire to find a lasting and meaningful purpose in life.
She immigrated to Canada in 1951 and became a Canadian citizen. A visionary experience led her to her guru, Swami Sivananda Saraswati of Rishikesh, India. At his ashram she received intense training in the philosophy and practices of yoga, and in 1956 she was initiated into the sacred order of sanyas to become Swami Sivananda Radha.
At her guru’s request she returned to the West to establish an ashram for the study of yoga. In 1956, in Burnaby, British Columbia, she founded the first ashram in Canada and opened the Yoga Vedanta Bookstore on Robson Street in downtown Vancouver. In 1963, the Ashram moved to its present location in Kootenay Bay, BC, and took the name Yasodhara. To respond to the needs of increasing numbers of students in urban environments, Swami Radha also opened Radha Centres across Canada, the US and Europe, where yoga classes are taught by teachers trained at Yasodhara Ashram.
Swami Radha’s major focus was to interpret the ancient yogic teachings of the East so that they could be understood and applied in the daily life of westerners. She set high ethical standards and encouraged students to develop quality in their lives and manifest their own ideals. Her teachings are based on building character as a foundation so that the energy gained through spiritual practice is directed wisely.
A pioneer in the North American yoga movement of the mid 20th century, Swami Radha’s teachings continue to inspire the yogis of today.
Mary-Ann McDougall was a mother, educator and director of Radha House Lethbridge before she moved to Yasodhara Ashram in 1991. A student of Swami Radha’s since 1977, she became president of Yasodhara Ashram in 1993 and was initiated into sanyas the following year to become Swami Radhananda. She now oversees the direction of Yasodhara Ashram, maintaining the quality and integrity of Swami Radha’s teachings.
As a longtime householder yogini, Swami Radhananda has a special understanding of how to incorporate yoga and spiritual practice into daily life. With professional expertise in educational consulting and a passion for adult learning she has been instrumental in developing the Yasodhara Yoga training programs. She has also successfully opened the way for inter-generational involvement in yoga through the Ashram’s diverse programming. Her current focus is on creating an environmentally resilient community, ensuring Yasodhara will be a place of learning and transformation for generations to come.
Swami Radhananda is the author of a memoir about her time with Swami Radha, Carried by a Promise: A Life Transformed by Yoga, and a book of inspirational essays, Living the Practice. To read more about her, visit radhananda.org
Swami Sivananda Saraswati, (1887-1963) was one of India’s great gurus, and the founder of the Divine Life Society in Rishikesh. Known for his generosity and heart, he has inspired many to follow the selfless path of yoga.
Swami Sivananda initiated Swami Radha in 1956. To initiate a woman, and a westerner, in the 1950s was groundbreaking. After an intense training period, he encouraged her to establish her own ashram in the West, so that she could share the teachings of yoga.
Swami Radha has said of her guru, “Yoga is the path of knowledge that permitted me to find the Light within myself, and to discover my own divinity. Gurudev Sivananda, a man of great character, was my inspiration in awakening to this Light.”
Swami Sivananda is the honoured ‘grandfather’ of our lineage, a visionary for his time.
Yasodhara Trained Teachers
Yasodhara Ashram-trained teachers work from their experience and rely on their own foundation of yoga practice to guide and inspire others. All of our teachers renew their training every three years in a process of continuous learning.
Ours is a practical philosophy of teaching and learning, so whether a class is led by new teachers, guest teachers from Radha Centres or senior teachers, their aim is to create an atmosphere of self-directed learning and discovery.
Our senior teachers are swamis who have all studied closely with Swami Radha, and now work with Swami Radhananda in the teaching and management of the Ashram. They include:
Swami Sivananda is a long-time resident of the Ashram and serves as the Vice President for the Society. He is a full-time karma yogi and teacher. He was initiated into Sanyas in 2001. He brings to Swami Radha’s work over 35 years of practice with the teachings as well a wealth of experience in project management and environmental assessment.
Swami Lalitananda is the author of Inner Life of Asanas and is an editor for Timeless Books. She has a background in Counselling Psychology, and has been teaching yoga since 1982. Initiated into sanyas in 1996, she now lives, works and teaches full-time at the Ashram. President of the Friends of Radha Foundation, a charitable organization that oversees the Ashram’s teachings throughout Canada, Swami Lalitananda also travels to present workshops at Radha Centres and international conferences.
Swami Saradananda has been a student of Swami Radha’s teachings since 1969, and an Ashram and Radha Centre resident since 1984. He is particularly interested in aspects of the Kundalini system related to Mantra, sound and music.
Swami Samayananda manages the teaching schedules and teachers at Yasodhara Ashram. She has been an educator for over 35 years in educational institutions, businesses, private consulting agencies and Yasodhara Ashram and Radha Centres. While living at the Ottawa Radha Centre, Swami Samayananda worked with a palliative care team and a cancer centre offering yogic tools to support patients.
Swami Jyotihananda first tasted the sweetness of Swami Radha’s teachings during the Ten Days of Yoga, in 1977. In 1982 she started the first Radha Centre in Calgary, and for the next 15 years was involved in teaching in Calgary, England and Europe. She moved to the Ashram in 1998 and was initiated into sanyas in 2005. She brings a love of the teachings of Swami Radha and a deep trust in how they can radically change people and help them to evolve.
Swami Matananda has been living and teaching at the Ashram since 1990. She first came for the 10 Days of Yoga and she has been on a path of ever deepening commitment to Swami Radha’s work since that time. She has a background as an elementary school teacher and an artist, with degrees in Education and Fine Art from Alaska University. In addition to teaching and managing at the Ashram she has worked at Radha Centres and with Timeless publications and videos. She loves the Ashram land and the people.
Swami Premananda first came into contact with Swami Radha in 1987 through her book “Radha: Diary of a Woman’s Search.” He was inspired to come to the Ashram for the Ten Days of Yoga and then shortly afterwards to the YDC, where he met Swami Radha. He moved to the Ashram in 1990. An experienced builder and carpenter, he worked directly with Swami Radha on construction projects in various Radha Centre locations and at the Ashram. On March 19, 2012 he received an initiation into sanyas and became Swami Premananda. “I am growing into this new manifestation.”