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Shirley Walter had unparalleled access to Swami Rama and Himalayan Institute leaders over 35 years. One of Swami Rama's earliest disciples in the United States, she served as a founding director of the institute in the U.S. She also started the institute's center in Schaumberg, Illinois, and directed the center in Glenview, Illinois for many years.
Shirley had been studying and teaching yoga and meditation for several years when she first heard Swami Rama lecture in 1969. She was initiated as his student in 1970 and began hosting his lectures and classes through her own studio, Northwest Yoga Center. She also helped produce some of his earliest U.S. publications. In early 1971, Swami Rama asked Shirley to meet with him alone and seduced her, despite her protests that she was married and he had taken vows of celibacy. She soon discovered she was pregnant. Swami Rama privately acknowledged Robert as his son, but forced Shirley out of the institute when Robert was less than a year old.
Shirley started her own yoga center, Lotus Yoga, but returned to the Himalayan Institute several years later, at Swami Rama's invitation. She went on to head the two institute branches, help develop its yoga teacher training program, and travel to Swami Rama's ashram in India every winter. When Robert fled the institute in 1997, Shirley was forced out of the Glenview center and her home, and left with no pension or property at the age of 65.
She re-started Lotus Yoga and soon had a flourishing teacher training program. She shared space with a friend who was a follower of Swami Veda Bharati, one of Swami Rama's successors. But Shirley was forced out - again - in 2008 when Swami Veda refused to acknowledge Robert as Swami Rama's son. Despite Shirley's years of selfless service, she was ostracized for acknowledging the truth of her intimate relationship with Swami Rama.
Shirley still teaches hatha yoga and meditation in the Chicago area.