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 Sahaja Sims

Nayaswami Sahaja has been practicing meditation since 1984. She visited Ananda Village for the first time in 1986 and became a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda later that year. Sahaja moved to Ananda Village in 1995 and has served in many different roles over the years.  In 1998 she became a certified Ananda Yoga teacher and has taught yoga and meditation ever since. She is a Lightbearer minister and most recently coordinated the  Ananda Meditation Centers and Groups throughout the U.S.  Sahaja is enthusiastic about serving as co-manager Ananda Meditation Retreat with her husband Nayaswami Gopal.

Nayaswami Gopal Sims

Gopal has been studying and living the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda since 1976. He has taught and served Ananda in many capacities over the – in the Bay area, Sacramento and Ananda Village. In recent years, while teaching yoga and meditation at Sierra College, Gopal developed a program called “Peace for Warriors” bringing the transformative techniques of yoga and martial arts to help veterans and others suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders.  He hopes to offer this course at Ananda Meditation Retreat soon.

Gopal brings his love for God and enthusiasm for service to Ananda  Meditation Retreat where he offers his support to that of the energetic and selfless staff in maintaining and increasing the holy and sacred vibrations in this place of sanctuary.     

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.

Nayaswami Anandi Gray

Anandi lives, serves and teaches at the Ananda Meditation Retreat in Nevada City, California. She has a gift for clarifying the teachings of yoga and making them practical. Her deep calmness helps everyone around her feel comfortable and relaxed. Anandi is a 30+ year practitioner of Kriya Yoga and founder of the Ananda Yoga & Meditation Center in Ashland, Oregon. Before moving to the Meditation Retreat she was adjunct instructor of Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga, and Psychology at Southern Oregon University. She is an Ananda Minister and member of the Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society.

Bachelor of Science (Nutrition), Master of Theology (East-West Religions), Master of Science (Counseling Psychology), E-RYT 500. Previous 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.

Nayaswami Susan McGinnis

Susan has been a meditator and Kriya Yoga practitioner for over 30 years. She was one of the early members of Ananda’s community in Seattle. Susan helped to start and then manage East West Bookshop, providing the greater community with a gathering space and programs for seekers of all traditions. She served as a Lightbearer Minister for the Seattle Sangha, and taught their popular Raja Yoga course, as well as other classes.

Here at Ananda Meditation Retreat, Susan works with guest services, teaches, leads satsangs and counsels others. Her many years of connecting with people in all walks of life help her to share the transforming teachings of yoga and meditation in creative, down-to earth, and practical ways that anyone relate to and use to uncover their inner joy and live happier, more fulfilling lives on all levels.

Susan also volunteers with OnlinewithAnanda’s Ananda Course in Meditation, sharing with meditation students around the world.


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.