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 Ashram. Her legacy of teaching is preserved by her many books and recordings.
Yasodhara trained teachers carry forward Swami Radha’s legacy of teachings. They 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.
Swami Sivananda Saraswati
Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh (1887-1963) was one of India’s great gurus, and the founder of the Divine Life Society. Known for his generosity and selfless heart, he has inspired many to follow the 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 maha-guru (grandfather) of our lineage, a visionary for his time.
Swami Sivananda Radha, Founder
Born in Germany in 1911, Sylvia Hellman was among the first women to become a photographer/journalist as well as an advertising writer and designer. She was also a modern interpretative dancer in Berlin, but soon realized that worldly success brought little of enduring value. The destructive war years in Germany 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 later 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 centres across Canada, the US and Europe, where yoga classes continue to be 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.
Learn More About Swami Radha:
Swami Radhananda first came to Yasodhara Ashram in 1977 where she met Swami Radha and became a lifelong student. She was the director of the Yasodhara Yoga Centre in Lethbridge, Alberta from 1986 to 1990, when she moved to the Ashram. Initiated into sanyas in 1994, Swami Radhananda was president and spiritual director of Yasodhara Ashram from 1993-2014, and a living example of the quality and integrity of Swami Radha’s teachings. Swami Radhananda passed into the Light on January 28, 2021.
Swami Radhananda opened the way for the next generation of yogis and yoginis to embrace the rewards of spiritual life. She updated the Ashram’s teaching style to become interactive and experiential. And she also encouraged environmental resiliency, ensuring that the Ashram 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.
Please see Celebration of Life and Tributes Page for her inspirational life.
Swami Lalitananda became the president of Yasodhara Ashram in 2014 and carries forward the lineage in this tradition, whose leadership is passed through women.
A student of Swami Radha’s since 1979, she served as her personal assistant and editor for eight years, which offered many opportunities for direct learning. Her development continued under the mentorship of Swami Radhananda, who initiated her into sanyas in 1996.
Swami Lalitananda is committed to listening to the Ashram and to the world around us in order to maintain the essence of the teachings while adapting to the demands of the times. Her leadership style is practical, approachable and intuitive with a focus on inclusivity, collaboration and intergenerational succession. Her challenges since taking the presidency include the fire and rebuilding of the Temple of Light, the ongoing global pandemic and the recent passing of Swami Radhananda.
Swami Lalitananda brings an innovative spirit to yoga practice – she founded “Radha” a yoga studio, eatery and gallery in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and was a columnist for the award-winning magazine, Ascent. She is also the author of two books, including The Inner Life of Asanas.
Our senior teachers are swamis who all studied closely with Swami Radha, worked closely with Swami Radhananda, and continue to support Swami Lalitananda in the teaching and management of the Ashram.
Swami Lalitananda, President
Swami Lalitananda became a student of Swami Radha’s in 1979 and a teacher in this tradition in 1982. She had the privilege of living and working with Swami Radha for eight years and also experienced the mentorship of Swami Radhananda for many years. She has a background in counseling psychology.
Swami Lalitananda loves welcoming people to the teachings that have brought so much joy and meaning to her own life. She is committed to passing this lineage to others who are committed to self-inquiry, spiritual practices and to the challenge of learning to live together in harmony—in community and in the world.
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 Yasodhara Yoga 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 Padmananda was first introduced to Swami Radha’s teachings at a talk on Kundalini Yoga in 1987. After three years of attending regular weekly classes in Cranbrook, BC she arrived at the Ashram for the 10 Days of Yoga in 1990 and became a regular visitor over the next 20 years. During that time she did the Yoga Development Course in 1992 and 2007. She continued to live in Cranbrook, where she managed the Cranbrook Yasodhara Yoga Centre and owned an independent bookstore. She moved to the Ashram in January 2013.
Swami Satyananda first met Swami Radha in 1983, and was so inspired that the practice of yoga became a life purpose and passion. Before moving to the Ashram in 1991, Swami Satyananda worked as a mentor teacher and curriculum designer in the field of education. Her love of learning continues to grow and deepen through the practice of yoga. Swami Satyananda has lived and taught classes at Yasodhara Yoga Centres in Canada and the US and has written articles for a variety of publications about the Ashram, Swami Radha and the Teachings.
Swami Sivananda brings to Swami Radha’s work over 40 years of practice with the teachings as well a wealth of experience in project management and environmental assessment. After decades of managing Infrastructure projects at the Ashram, he now is a valued mentor. He was initiated into Sanyas in 2001, and served for many years as Secretary Treasurer and Vice President for the Society.
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 Yasodhara Yoga Centres and with Timeless publications and videos. She loves the Ashram land and the people.
Swami Sukhananda first met Swami Radha in 1988 and was deeply moved by her experience. She has been living and teaching yoga at the Ashram and in Europe ever since. Sukhananda was formerly an adviser to governments on sustainability, environmental and organizational issues. She is a historian whose articles about Swami Radha’s work have appeared in British and North American yoga magazines. She enjoys the beauty of the Ashram, and is continually inspired by yoga and by witnessing its transformative effects.
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 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 afterward 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 Yasodhara Yoga 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.”
Our teachers range in age and experience, but they all share an inspiration to teach because of the impact Yasodhara Yoga has had in their own lives.
Chuck has been at the Ashram for “a few moons.” He first came to the Ashram for family and then for himself. Having learned and practiced the teachings, the next step in his growth was offering Yasodhara’s Hatha Yoga. He enjoys bringing his own personal way of sharing the Light through the asanas and speech. Through all of his Karma Yoga, Chuck carries the teachings and shares the Light.
Francesca came to the Ashram in the summer of 2010 on the Karma Yoga program, and has remained connected to the work and teachings ever since. She has made a special heartfelt connection with sacred dance, Hidden Language, the practice of the Light, and Mantra. She is deeply grateful for all she has received from the teachings at Yasodhara. She loves being a part of this community and sharing the Light with others.
Durga was introduced to the teachings in 1999 in Ontario where she was attracted to their clarity and practicality. Attending weekly classes inspired enrollment in the 2004 Yoga Development and Teacher Certification courses. She facilitated weekly classes in Peterborough for 10 years. In 2014, Durga relocated to live at the Ashram where she continues as a resident, sharing her enthusiasm by teaching workshops and outreach online classes.
Gauri came to the Ashram in 1996 and immediately felt a connection with the Light Invocation. After offering classes through Yasodhara Yoga Edmonton for years, she now is pleased to make the Ashram her home. Her commitment to selfless service through teaching and other Karma Yoga brings her great joy and inspiration, as does a focus on lifelong learning.
Jess has been a Hatha teacher since taking the 3-month Yoga Development Course at Yasodhara Ashram in early 2019. She has been teaching the Yasodhara way of Hatha Yoga within the Ashram community, and is continuously learning from this experience, the students and the learning environment at the Ashram.
Xue came to the Ashram for an artist retreat in June 2019 and has mostly stayed ever since. She loves the relaxation practice, Hidden Language Hatha and Mantra. The YDC and Hatha Teachers Certification course she completed in 2020 transformed how she approached her practice and teaching. She feels blessed to live in the Ashram and is passionate to serve those who seek the Most High.
Shakti first came to Yasodhara Ashram in 1993, and began her lifelong commitment to this lineage with the Yoga Development Course in 1996. She lived and taught at the Victoria Radha Centre for ten years, and moved to the Ashram as a long term resident in 2014. She leads the Infrastructure Team at Yasodhara, and brings her passion for music and art into the daily work and play of the Ashram.
Utpala met Swami Radha at the opening of her centre in Calgary in 1982. Studying there, reflection, mantra and Light made such a positive difference in her life that she continued on to become a teacher. She lived at the Ashram from 1986 to 1996 and returned there for many summers after leaving to teach in Radha Centres. She has returned to the Ashram and is committed to making Swami Radha’s teachings available to others.