Soul of Yoga
Loving Spirit is our Cause;
Awakening Soul is our Mission;
Beautifying Character is our Path.
—Tom Kelly, co-founder Soul of Yoga
Twenty yoga studios within a five-mile radius means that, at any hour of any day, you’ll see Encinitas residents with rolled up yoga mats tucked under their arm, some with sweaty brows of matted-down hair, catching their breath and catching up in parking lots and on sidewalks. Although here in the West it’s more commonly known as the physical practice of postures and poses, the original purpose of yoga is to create union between the body, mind and spirit. The physical postures are just one of the 8 ways to deepen this union. Others are guidelines of behavior toward others and toward self, breath work, focus on Inner Self (instead of the external world), concentration, meditation and, last but not least, bliss. A visit to the Soul of Yoga includes all of these eight. In addition to the yoga classes we’re all familiar with, their entire calendar is filled with weekly meetings, workshops, meditations, weekend retreats, Sunday morning services, and teacher training programs.
The Soul Center is “a fusion of like-minded, like-hearted, and like-souled individuals who come together in a safe, accepting and loving environment to not only heal and ‘get fit for the Infinite’ but to experience more fully Infinite God Presence,” says Tom Kelly, cofounder. The Soul of Yoga, also known as the Soul Center, is East of I- 5 less than a mile, tucked up and away from the busy Encinitas Blvd. Although easy to get to, it’s also easy to drive right by.
Tom and Trisha Kelly are the cofounders of The Soul Center. Tom grew up Catholic until he was 18-years old. From 19 “until my ripe young age of today, which is 61,” he has been steeped in the Yogic tradition of Patanjali’s eight steps of Raja Yoga while following devotedly the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, which essentially brings clarity to the underlying unity of Christianity and Yoga. Yogananda is also his Sat-Guru (messenger of Truth), one whom he “trusts with my soul,” Tom says. “I am who I am today because of the grace of my Guru. So the sum total of me today is the sum total I bring to every class, meditation, workshop and to life.”
“It is definitely time on our planet to stop thinking and behaving like mortals and start living and loving as immortals. In other words, it’s time to show up as a soul,” says Tom about Souls Anonymous. These are meetings created “so that we could show up in the presence of other beings and ‘practice’ being our true Self, our Soul.” The 8 Steps are connected to the Chakra system and all Wednesday meeting and Soul-Briety weekend attendees “climb up the spine to the Divine.” An attendee recently said, “I am so happy to share with you that my practice of spiritual fantasy that I have learned in Souls Anonymous and the 8 Steps of Soul-Briety is now turning into my reality in life.”
“Because it is an idea whose time has come,” the Sundara 300 Advanced Yoga Teaching Training program is a unique opportunity to study directly and intimately with some the most highly acclaimed master yoga teachers in the world today. Unlike other programs, this 300-hour program combines the different lineages of yoga, alignments and philosophies in a way that underscores the spirit of union and true essence of yoga. “In the science of Yoga, there is no otherness. There really is only one underlying teaching of peace, oneness and unity with Source,” says Tom. “Sundara means the unspeakable divine beauty of the soul. And since everything we do and offer at the Soul Center is about soul awakening, the Sundara Yoga School of Life teacher training is the proverbial ‘shot in the soul.’”
Although this training is for those who have completed a foundational yoga training of 200 hours and are ready to dive deeper, Tom clarifies that “all are welcome to everything at all times! The Holy Ones are behind our efforts and we are very meticulous to be attuned to the Divine Hand operating behind the scenes. Anything is possible when the heart is in the right place, when for and against are forgotten. We make the workshops during the 300 hour open a la carte to the general public so one can choose from quite a variety of healing, yogic and spiritual topics.”
Participating yoga masters include: Leslie Kaminoff (Yoga Anatomy), Nischala Joy Devi (The Energy Bodies), Tim Miller (Ashtanga Yoga), John Friend (Anusara Yoga), Roger Cole (Iyengar Yoga), Tom Kelly (Spiritual Studies), Trisha Kelly (Metaphysics), Brian Dorfman (Yoga Therapy), Larry Payne, Ph.D. (Prime of Life Yoga), Guru Meher Khalsa (Kundalini Yoga), Vijaya Stern (Ayurvedic Healing), Flossie Park (Prenatal and Teen Yoga), and Frank and Serpil Iszak (Silver Age Yoga).
Can’t make it to the Center in person? Tom: “Stay tuned for an idea whose time has come. Soul TV is the Soul Center’s heart and soul online with the world. It’s a channel that channels love, light and Spirit. The divine fellowship we experience ‘in house’ at the Soul Center we now want to share and experience with receptive souls everywhere on this planet. The mission of Soul TV is to establish global divine consciousness and soul friendships worldwide and practice (like we do at Yoga Church) universal Oneness and unity.”
TLC: I’ve heard that the Soul Center is based on Soul Awakening. What are some of the ways that you bring this to the community?
Tom: “For starters, soul awakening is all that Trisha and I are about. More important than having a practice ‘on the mat’ is how you live your life ‘off the mat.’ With over 70 years of combined focused spiritual living, Trisha and I are living stronger than ever in attunement with the Divine One’s plan for our life and liberation. We don’t bring anything to the community, ‘They’ do. Our job is to be ego emptied and soul filled. Joy is more contagious than sadness. Example speaks louder than words. The quality of one’s vibration (not just words) is what influences our planet for better or worse.”
TLC: The Soul Center is a non-profit organization and some classes and workshops ask for only a donation or love-offering. Why did you choose this model?
Tom: “A non-profit is much attuned to my heart’s mission. I like to kid and say that the purpose of our non-profit is to produce prophets! At this point for me, since living as a monk for 25 years and making a whopping $60/month, there is no other way to do this thing called life. The only thing I want back is more happiness for me and others. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna advises that we act dutifully in life to please Spirit alone. Following is Yogananda’s thoughts about what Krishna is advising: ‘To renounce all for God, thinking of Him all the time during worthwhile spiritual activities, serving Him and His children without monetary gain, and meditating deeply on God at night and in the little daytime gaps of free time – that is the highest way.’”
TLC: What’s Yoga Church? Isn’t this concept contradictory?
Tom: “Yoga Church is a morning honoring the true Oneness of all Life. Of course this concept is contradictory and there are many who come to Yoga Church who are recovering Catholics, Jews and fundamentalists. Here again is an opportunity to leave your dog(ma), your stories, your ‘six guns’ (what your think you know) outside the Yoga Church and just show up as a soul. Yoga Church is an opportunity to practice Oneness and world unity by meditating, breathing, chanting and holding the Divine Consciousness while we move together during yoga postures as one humanity. Our theme and vibration is always the same – Love. And love is the power that dissolves the barriers of the illusion that we appear separate from one another. Remember, there is only the Infinite One.”
TLC: What are you most excited about at the Center these days?
Tom: “I am most excited about the spiritual growth I am daily experiencing in my Self and seeing in others. In other words, I’m happier today than I was yesterday. Now, I might be projecting onto others, but I see them happier, too. And during soul gazing, looking into each other’s eyes, during Souls Anonymous and Soul-Briety, I witness, see and feel more and more true, lasting love. We are all about empowerment at the Center and I get a special rush of joy seeing others blossoming into their greater potential. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that these experiences are real and if they can happen at the Soul Center they can happen anywhere, anytime.”