New Integral Yoga Minister — Reverend Laksmi Scalise
Interview by Sarah McElwain
Reverend Laksmi Scalise, RYT 500, IYM, began a Yoga practice more than 40 years ago. She is involved with the healing arts as a sound healer, gong master, Reiki master, dowser, and astrologer. Laksmi is a senior teacher under Grand Gong Master Don Conreaux. She is a chakra-balancing, Reiki, and sound-healing practitioner at the Integral Yoga Wellness Spa and was recently ordained as an Integral Yoga minister to serve the public in many ways, performing ceremonies like weddings, blessings for newborns, memorial services, and so on.
How did you first come to IYI?
I discovered Yoga in 1973 by watching Richard Hittleman’s TV program “Yoga for Health,” getting up every morning at seven to practice. I went upstate to practice Yoga and fast for six days, during which I received shaktipat from Baba Muktananda. In 1977 I began attending classes with Swami Bua at the Divine Light Society on 58th Street and practiced there every day for five years, teaching his class when he traveled.
I was hit by a car in the 1980s, and my life and practice changed. In 2001 my entire life fell apart. I was very ill for a while and was finally diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, in 2003, a major turning point. I began watching a hospital-bed Yoga program on TV and using mantras and meditation. As I began to get better I started going to the McBurney Y, on 14th Street, for Yoga classes. I met Sumati Bates there, and she brought me to Integral Yoga. I began working in the kitchen and was involved in the development of Spa Day. A few people encouraged me to become a teacher. I had no money, and it was suggested that I write to Swami Ramananada. Through the work exchange program I was able to take my first TT. Also, I was falling in love with Swami Satchidananda and his teachings. From the mid-1970s on to the present, my interests have led me to Yoga, astrology, dowsing, crystals, Reiki, and sound healing.
If you want to learn something, you teach it. Yoga has saved my life more than once, and I wanted to share the embodied spirit that comes when one is practicing with others. In my classes I want to give people the experience of the subtle energy release that moves through the body when there are no other concerns.
Swami Satchindanada said that everything in the universe is vibration. I was a karma Yogi (doing room setup) for Grand Gong Master Don Conreaux’s gong bath and loved the gong from the first moment I heard it. The universe, or the Divine, led me to the gong. Chandra asked me to staff Don Conreaux’s first gong training at IYI. Playing the gong was like coming home for me. I went on to using singing bowls and gongs during classes and special workshops; the vibrations they generate help bring the body into balance. The gong sound is intense; the bowls offer a gentler tone and vibration. Both help the body to align more easily so that students go deeper into postures and deeper into themselves during the class.
Why did you become ordained as a minister?
Fifteen years ago, in order to heal and find Self, I took up celibacy to maintain a one-pointedness in that direction. I had little to no religious training while growing up, but my father was an inspiration. He was a Holocaust survivor and, in his own, eccentric way, a very disciplined person. I internalized that as a child, and it was a great resource to draw on as I did the work necessary to self-heal. The discipline was also helpful as I studied. I’ve always been interested in what happens after death, and I explored theosophy, Vedanta, the Vedas, Sanskrit, the Puranas, “A Course in Miracles and Astrology.” The truth is one, the paths are many!
The titles “minister” and “reverend” didn’t sit too well with me. Rudra explained that becoming a Satchidananda reverend was akin to taking sanyas and being a householder. It was at that moment that something clicked. The rest just happened.
What do you plan to do with your ministry?
I don’t know. I’ll follow where it leads. My ordination at Yogaville was a short while ago and a profound, transforming experience. I felt the direct transfer of love and light pass into me from Swami Satchidananda Maharaj.
I do know that it opened my heart, allowing for a greater expression of light and love. I feel brighter and more available and committed to my vow to be an instrument for that light. I hope to be an inspiration that anything is possible. That’s what becoming a reverend means to me.