By Laura Kaae
Killeen Daily Herald
TEMPLE – Twelve years ago Sevika Linda Ward gave up her full-time job as a stress management consultant in Dallas to pursue the ancient teaching of yoga.
After one class, Ward was sold on the spiritual practice and decided to take a year off to pursue yoga in Yogaville, Va. (yes, she points out, that is a real place), where she became certified as an instructor.
It was in Yogaville that Ward was also appointed the surname of Sevika, which was given to her by Swami Satchidananda, her Hindu guru, that translates from Sanskrit to "one who serves."
But before she could go back to her day job, Ward was asked to teach yoga classes in Coimbatore, India, where a yoga institute was opening up.
Ward recalls her time in Coimbatore as
"refreshing, spiritual and delightful, warm and welcoming."
With the aid of a translator, Ward taught four classes a day and gave all of the proceeds back to the institute.
"It was an amazing experience," she said. "The most important thing you learn is being able to be calm and aware and peaceful in all situations."
Since that time in India, Ward has begun teaching yoga daily, having never gone back to her full-time job in Dallas.
Now, Ward teaches in Killeen, Georgetown and Temple every week, including Thursday evenings at the Hindu Temple on Midway Drive in Temple.
At about 6:30 p.m. on any given Thursday inside the recreational room, just a few steps from the ornate Hindu worship center where ceremonies are regularly going on, you'll find Ward sitting on the floor in the middle of her group of students teaching them to chant, meditate and find a path to their inner peace.
The classes, she said, are nothing like the type of yoga you'll find inside a health club.
"It goes beyond the body strengthening and flexibility – those are just side benefits – and goes deeper into your being and your heart," Ward said. "You become very content and happy."
Of the six different types of yoga practice, Ward said all help participants attain peace of mind, including the kind she teaches– hatha yoga.
"It takes you to the same place," she said. "My yoga guru said, 'Paths are many; truth is one.' Religion can be going to church, or you can get the same peace of mind through hatha yoga. It goes beyond the physical and gives you the same devotion to truth."
Although Ward admits most of her students (who range from under the age of 5 to over the age of 80) come for the physical benefits of yoga, many will stay for the calming effect yoga has on the mind and spirit.
Regardless of why they come, all classes begin the same way – with chanting.
"Om Shanti" is repeated six times, while participants close their eyes.
The translation is simple, Ward said. Om shanti means "peace."
"It is a very traditional yoga class," she said. "Much different than others. It comes from a lineage of sutras (threads of knowledge). It's been taught for thousands of years."
One student, Jennifer Douglass, 29, has also grown so fond of yoga over recent months that she has decided to pursue getting her license for teaching it.
It's not just an exercise, Douglass said, it's a lifestyle.
"You think about yourself being part of a much bigger picture," she said. "A lot of people write it off as chanting and incense burning. It's so much more. (People should) just give yoga a chance."
Another student, Pruitt Davis, of Morgan's Point, has been doing yoga for 15 years, but recently began taking classes at the Hindu Temple when he heard Ward was teaching.
"She doesn't push and she helps you with different poses," he said.
Davis said, when he began to experience signs of aging, such as losing his balance, he decided yoga would be the best class for him.
"I wanted relaxation and the calming [effect] it offers," he said.
With his 70th birthday approaching, Davis said taking yoga classes three times per week helps him feel better and breathe easier.
"You learn right away where your weaknesses are and you try to take care of those," he said. "Yoga is the basis of all my exercising."
People of all ages and religions are invited to attend Ward's classes, which she said can lead people of any faith practice to be closer to their god.
"Whatever your god is, it can lead you there," she said. "You don't have to be Hindu or Christian or Buddhist. It takes you into a quiet, contemplative state of mind."
Contact Laura Kaae at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7464