Laurel, Hermosa Beach, CA (1974)


My journey into yoga began in 1974. I was living in Hermosa Beach, CA and I attended my first hatha yoga class with Renee' Taylor. Renee', originally from Belgium, was a student of Indra Devi's. Indra Devi was the first Westerner to study with Sri Krishnamacharya in India. Russian born Indra, was also the first Westerner to teach yoga in India. Renee' and Indra were colleagues for a time in Hollywood, teaching Gloria Swanson, Marilyn Monroe and others. Renee' certified me to teach in 1974.

"Prayer with the body" Hermosa Beach, CA (1975)

The practice began to transform my body and mind, and I became a vegetarian which was congruent with the yogic lifestyle. The practice so inspired me that I wanted to share it with others. I knew that I had found my life's work. In teaching classes, I found surrender and prayers for guidance to be essential. Teaching became a privilege, and I sought out teachers of numerous styles as if on a quest. Two of the more well known teachers were Swami Satchidananda and Swami Vishnudevananda. I yearned to know the deepest truth of my existance.

This deep yearning led to a profound experience of samadhi (oneness) which occurred on Father's Day in 1975 at Paramahansa Yogananda's retreat center in Encinitas. I began to formally study the teachings of Parmahansa Yogananda and his Self-Realization Fellowship in 1975. I took inititiation into Kriya meditation the following year. It was in reading "Autobiography of a Yogi" that I was introduced to the "Joy Permeated Mother", Anandamayi Ma of Bengal, India.

Laurel at Taj Mahal in 1977

My First Trip to India
I longed to go to India, where yoga has it's roots. I especially wanted to meet Anandamayi Ma (below left). So, in August of 1977, I made my first trip to India. Immediately I felt "at home". I spent much of my first trip with Ma in Hardwar. Being in Ma's presence was very powerful. It was as if she could see deep within me. Her very presence enabled me to see many of my patterns & habits (samskaras) that created suffering.

I also enjoyed visiting the saint Deoria Baba (below right). He practiced a form of yoga in which he lived above the earth in a stilted hut (below center). He attributed the longevity of his body to this practice. During this time, I witnessed as Baba went to the river to bathe, submerged, and did not re-emerge until about thirty minutes had passed. Baba told me to visit him for seven days to receive instruction. He taught me to keep remembrance of the Divine.

Anandamayi Ma giving darshan in Vrindavan (1978)

Deoria Baba's hut (he can be seen sitting outside the door)

The saint Deoria Baba, reputed to be over 250 years old, in Vrindavan (1978)

Vrindavan, India (1978) - ferrying the river to see Deoria Baba

Second Trip to India
I met Dudadhari Baba (below right) in Hardwar on my second trip to India in 1979. At 105 years old he had a very rigorous daily hatha yoga practice which he did with ease. He wore only burlap sack cloth. I was inspired by his love of devotional rituals such as chant, fire ceremonies, & bathing in the Ganges. I often stayed at Baba's ashram, where he was building a beautiful temple and a Sanskrit school. My parents stayed here with me when they visited.

Laurel's father, Dudhari Baba, and Laurel in Hardwar

Mother Krishnabai was seventy-five when I met her in Kerela, South India. Her Anandashram was like heaven on earth to me. I stayed there many times. Krishnabai taught us to practice mantra, chant, and bhakti and karma yoga. Under her guru's guidance, Papa Ramdass, she became Self-Realized. She was very sweet and helpful to me and to all around her.

Much of my time was spent with Anandmayi Ma, who was traveling to various places in India. I travelled, usually by train, to meet other saints and teachers, the most memorable being Swami Janananda, Harikhan Baba, Shyama Ma, and Sai Baba. I studied for a time with B.K.S. Iyengar, and met Desikachar and his father, Sri Krishnamacharya, the teacher of my first teacher's teacher.

Laurel (left) and students with Swami Dayananda, South India (1983)

Swami Dayananda

Third Trip to India
Before making my third trip to India, I lived in South Fallsburg, New York at Swami Muktananda's Ashram where I was certified to teach Siddha Yoga. I was involved in helping to train new yoga teachers. I left for India in March 1982. I was primarily with Ma during that time. During August of that year, Anandamayi Ma left her body (mahasamadhi). She had a great impact on me. She lived in such an exalted state. I travelled and visited many of my old favorite teachers, and met a few new teachers, and then met my Vedanta teacher, Swami Dayananda (above left) in Rishikesh. I studied and traveled with Swamiji for the next six months. He is a gifted teacher. I studied yogic texts with him such as Bhagavad-Gita. I loved visiting the ashram of Ramana Maharshi in Tiruvannamalai (below right). I was greatly inspired by the many saints I met in India, and I am grateful for the beautiful teachings I received.

Laurel and friends at Anandashram (1978)

Laurel at Ramana Maharshi's ashram. Mt. Arunachala is behind.

After returning from India in Spring of 1983, I lived in Santa Barbara, CA, where I continued to study Vedanta with a teacher named Radha, whom Swami Dayanada had trained. I also went back to Los Angeles during this time to make two yoga videos with my first teacher Renee Taylor. I moved to Oklahoma and taught yoga there. I returned to my home town Dayton, Ohio in August, 1984 and began teaching yoga. In Spring of 1992 I met Kali Ray. Kaliji has given me incredible inspiration in my own practice and in teaching. The Triyoga® she teaches is very transformative. I became certified by Kaliji to teach Basics and levels one and two. I continue to benefit from my study with Kali.

Attending a workshop with Kaliji at Moksha in Chicago, (Laurel seated)
Laurel in Extended Wheel in the garden at Celebration of Life
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