Our Directors

Our directors are long time devotees of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, and the lifelong students of the Self-realization teachings of Raja Yoga. You will find in us a friend and guide for your personal or guided retreat.

Nayaswami Durga Smallen

Nayaswamis Durga and Vidura Smallen are founding members of nearby Ananda Village. They came to Ananda in 1974, after searching for two years for a community that would embrace spiritual principles at the center of daily life. Today they are the Directors of the Ananda Meditation Retreat.

Durga has a natural ability to bring light and comfort to all whom she meets. She has a ceaseless inspiration and drive to make each retreat guest’s stay uplifting and comfortable.

Nayaswami Vidura Smallen

Vidura served for many years as community manager of Ananda Village. Even-minded and cheerful is his motto, I think. Vidura has a knack for seeing the humor in life, he brings a real sense of harmony to the retreat environment. Vidura is also trained as a Sharing Nature guide, leading programs that are designed to open the heart and mind to the fullness and beauty of nature.

With his even-mindedness and harmony that he brings into every thing he does along with his tireless service the benefits of having time spent with Vidura will be a joy that will be remembered for quite some time.

Our Teachers

Nayaswami Nitai Deranja

Nitai Deranja is co-founder of Education for Life (EFL) International. In 1972 he started the first EFL elementary school and in 1997 co-founded the first EFL high school. In his role as president of EFL, he currently oversees a network of six schools in the U.S. and Europe. Nitai has two wonderful adult children, both of whom attended Education for Life schools. He is the author of two books: For Goodness’ Sake: Supporting Children & Teens in Discovering Life’s Higher Values and The Art of Joyful Education.

Nitai graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California in Berkeley with a Bachelor’s degree in Humanistic Psychology, the first degree of its kind awarded at Berkeley. Later he earned a lifetime California Teaching Credential and a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of California in Davis. A founding member of Ananda, Nitai has been teaching yoga philosophy and meditation since the 1970s.

Anandi Gray

Anandi, B.S. (Nutrition), M.Th.(East-West Religions), M.S. (Counseling Psychology), E-RYT 500 is a 30+ year yoga practitioner, a teacher, licensed counselor and coach. For 20 years she was an instructor at Southern Oregon University where she taught courses in Raja Yoga, Holistic Health, Hatha Yoga, and Psychology. She is an Ananda Minister and a member of Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society. Other occupations include Feature Editor of The Chronicle, a daily newspaper in Connecticut; Account Supervisor at Ketchum Advertising and Public Relations in San Francisco; Director of the Jackson County Rape Crisis Recovery Team, Oregon; and Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor. She is the author of a book (unpublished) on Raja Yoga.

During that time she continued to practice and teach yoga and meditation. Anandi found her spiritual guide, Yogananda, in 1985 and started the Ananda Yoga & Meditation Center in Ashland, OR that year. She now lives and serve at the Ananda Meditation Retreat. Anandi has a gift for clarifying the teachings of yoga and making them practical. Her deep calmness helps everyone around her feel comfortable and relaxed.

Nayaswami Susan McGinnis

Susan lived in the Ananda Seattle Community since it began over 25 years ago, helped to start East West Bookshop there as one of it’s buyers and managers for many years before serving at Living Wisdom School.

As a light bearer, teacher, sadhana leader, organizer, and also a Nayaswami we are honored and deeply grateful to include her
now in service at the retreat.


Guest Teachers

Nayaswami Maria

Nayaswami Maria has been a member of Ananda since the early 70s. She and her husband were leaders of the Sacramento Ashram and Community for over 2 decades. Along with her husband they have created a program for young people in learning and mastering Organic Gardening here at the Village.

Maria is a teacher, and a minister, but more than this Maria is extremely inspirational. Her love for Chanting and the Teachings gives the richness and depth of knowledge that can only come through experience as well as study.

Nayaswami Mukti

Nayaswami Mukti is a Raja Yoga teacher on staff at the nearby Expanding Light retreat. She has a joyful effervescence that brings light and simplicity to complexity. Mukti also teaches Yogananda’s Healing and Meditation Techniques and Chanting to Achieve Higher Consciousness.

Staff

Charles Evans

Charles is the resident gardener of our 5-acre meditation gardens. His list of credentials speaks to a adventurous and curious soul. Author of several landscaping books, he has also been a building engineer, chef, art gallery owner, and even enjoyed a brief stint as a cowboy in Oregon.

Charles is Findhorn trained in the art of intuitive gardening. And this is what the guest invariably feels when he takes them on a tour and gives a talk on this subject. This is how Charles has integrated yoga and nature. He has a gift of tuning into the spirit of plants and trees, so that the love they receive from his care and attention is what the gardens share with you.

He loves to share his experiences of intuitive gardening as well as the history of the land with visitors. His nature and gardening stories will be a favorite part of your stay here.

Brannon Forrester

Originally from Southern Oregon, Brannon holds an Honors B.S. in Entomology Cum Laude from Oregon State University. He has been a disciple of Yogananda and part of Ananda since 2002. He holds a broad view of the world, having traveled to Kenya (to run with the Kenyans), China (to study kung fu), Australia (to participate in a running camp), England and Europe (as a student abroad), Belize (as a ecology student) and Mexico (on a church service trip).

Having worked in Ecological Monitoring and Conservation with the California Fish and Wildlife and the National Park Service all over California, he harbors a deep love and respect for the natural world. His private passions include long-distance trail running, rock climbing, and mountaineering. After six months working in Yellowstone National Park, he took a job at Ananda Village at the end of 2011 and eventually came up to the Meditation Retreat in 2013. Currently the Kitchen Manager, he cooks, cleans, leads sadhana’s, and works on the generator-battery system, enjoying the variety of life at the Retreat, as well as the silence of living removed from it all.

Brannon brings his deep appreciation for nature and for Ananda’s spiritual path to all he does, embracing service to the guest as the central tenant of that path, and goes out of his way to make all aspects of the guest’s experience enjoyable and uplifting.

Christina Francesca

Originally from Las Vegas and San Francisco, with stints of living in England and Denmark, Christina is certified in Ananda Yoga-RYT 200, Ananda Meditation, Expressive Yoga (Barefoot Sanctuary), Reiki I (The Healing Trinity), personal training (WITS), indoor cycling (Schwinn UK), has previously taught at swim schools and Pure Barre, and has studied Sivananda Yoga in Kerala, India. She received her MA in Cultural & Creative Industries from King’s College London and BA in Communications/English from UNLV.

Christina teaches Creative Writing and yoga and meditation at Ananda’s Living Wisdom high school. She also teaches English composition through UNLV’s Distance Education with a focus of “What’s in Your Food?” She strives to raise awareness in these matters, along with the power of self-realization and connection with others and the environment.

Such efforts inspire her to share contemplative arts, yoga and meditation with everyone, helping them see the benefits and applicability in daily life. She takes a gentle approach in making the teachings accessible for all. Christina lives at the Meditation Retreat and is passionate about spirituality, health, and serving community and her guru, Paramhansa Yogananda.

Allie Regester

Originally from Baltimore, Allie is the newest disciple and staff member at the Meditation Retreat. Her spiritual journey began three years ago, while living and serving in a hospital in Sri Lanka. Arriving at the Meditation Retreat to participate in the Seva Yoga Program, Allie instantly felt a sense of peace and understanding she had been searching for. Now working in the Retreat Office, Allie feels blessed for the spiritual teachings of her Guru and for the opportunity to serve.

Allie holds a B.S. in Nursing from the University of Delaware, with a concentration in Holistic Nursing. With experience working as a Labor and Delivery Nurse, Allie is inspired to spread yoga and meditation teachings to women in order to create a nurturing and natural child-birthing experience. Allie recently completed a 200 hour YTT certificate program in Peru and is motivated to continue learning ways to spread these teachings to others.