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Who Brought Yoga To The West

The Later Part Of His Life

Swami Sarvapriyananda on ‘The Man who Brought Yoga to the West’

Yogananda had mostly confined himself to literary work, editing and revising his earlier work and gradually withdrawing from public life. It was during this time that he was working on his autobiography.

Paramahansa Yogananda passed away on March 7, 1952 in Los Angeles following his delivery of a memorable speech at a banquet honouring Dr Binay R Sen, Indias Ambassador to the United States.

His love for India never left his mind and soul. Even as he was traversing to the other world, he was praising India, his beloved motherland. He was reciting a few lines from his poem My India before sliding to the floor:

Mortal fires may raze all her homes and golden paddy fields,Yet to sleep on her ashes and dream in mortality,O India, I will be there!


The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Time magazine covered the sudden passing away of the Swami. Yogananda was mourned by a large number of followers who found a different direction to their life through his teachings.

The Indian government formally recognised his outstanding contribution by issuing a postage stamp in his honour in March 1977.

The Goddess Pose By Michelle Goldberg Review The Woman Who Brought Yoga To The West

A new biography of Indra Devi tracks the yogis Zelig-like life, her fierce independence and time as a go-to figure for the likes of Greta Garbo

Those who dont know the history of hatha yogas rise in the west might be forgiven for making some assumptions. Its easy to imagine that the exercise regimen was introduced to America and Europe by traveling hippies who discovered it in India, then eventually co-opted by yuppies in the 1980s who had grown tired of their Jane Fonda workout videocassettes.

That would go a long way, after all, to explaining the success of Lululemon Athletica, the yoga apparel retailer founded by an Ayn Rand-loving billionaire who famously refused to stock clothing for plus-sized women. Avaricious capitalists certainly love to exploit the Age of Aquarius for the sake of money.


As Michelle Goldberg points out in The Goddess Pose, however, thats not how it happened at all. Yoga in America, she writes, first took root among rather square elites and then spread to the counterculture before being reappropriated by the mainstream. In other words, the western version of yoga was originally less George Harrison and more Betty Draper.

Definition In Classic Indian Texts

The term Yoga has been defined in various ways in the many different Indian philosophical and religious traditions.

Yogabija, a Hatha yoga work 14th century CE “The union of apana and prana, one’s own rajas and semen, the sun and moon, the individual soul and the supreme soul, and in the same way the union of all dualities, is called yoga. ”

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Review: Michelle Goldberg’s The Goddess Pose Explores The Life Of The Woman Who Brought Yoga To The West

A new book explores the life Russian-born Indra Devi, known to followers as the First Lady of Yoga.

Reuters


This article was published more than 6 years ago. Some information in it may no longer be current.

Title
The Goddess Pose: The Audacious Life of Indra Devi, the Woman Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West
Price
$32

It’s become very easy to roll eyes at the women who flock to yoga studios every day with rolled-up mats under their arms, pricey workout clothes painted onto their bodies. You’ve seen this woman. She glides into the studio on a Tuesday at 10 a.m. like it’s her job. She’s not here for a spiritual awakening she’s here for a perfect round ass. But as Michelle Goldberg reveals in her new book The Goddess Pose, yoga was a fat-trimming diversion for “respectable bourgeois ladies” before it became the domain of hippies and dreadlocked Caucasians. I always assumed that at some point around the time Alanis Morissette bestowed her thanks unto India, yoga was co-opted by the elite another Starbucks where there once was an independent bookstore. But it turns out the practice just came full circle. Good news for the yogini who suspects she’s taking part in a global sham: yoga is a tradition corrupted, and in a way, it always has been.

Lara Zarum has written for The National Post, Slate and The Village Voice, among other publications.

Bks Iyengar: The Man Who Helped Bring Yoga To The West

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The man widely credited with popularising yoga in the West has died. How did an Indian boy born into disease and poverty grow up to transform the way the world keeps fit?

Right now, on exercise mats and in gym classes across Europe, North America and beyond, countless people who couldn’t tell you the first thing about Hindu or Buddhist spirituality are stretching, squatting and concentrating on their breathing.


BKS Iyengar, who has died at the age of 95, was credited by many with helping make this happen. In 2002, the New York Times suggested:“Perhaps no one has done more than Mr Iyengar to bring yoga to the West.”

His own Iyengar yoga system was a global phenomenon, followed by millions. His books were sold in 70 countries and translated into 13 languages. Celebrities like violinist Yehudi Menuhin and author Aldous Huxley feted him. In 2004 he was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine.

“He had a great influence on, I would suspect, every yoga teacher there is,” says Chrissie Harrison, chair of the British Wheel of Yoga.

But he was an unlikely candidate for reshaping the world’s workout regime. His poverty-racked childhood in Karnataka was plagued by typhoid, malaria, influenza, typhoid and tuberculosis. Doctors predicted he would not live past 20.

He said he was so poor that he survived on rice and water for long stretches. He would travel around Indian villages giving yoga demonstrations.


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The Globe & Mail: Review: Michelle Goldbergs The Goddess Pose Explores The Life Of The Woman Who Brought Yoga To The West

Gratitude to theglobeandmail.com for the following vintage yoga story.

LARA ZARUM reviews the book The Goddess Pose by Michelle Goldberg in this weeks Globe & mail.

See this post and more Yoga & Meditation related stories at DownDog Diary:

Its become very easy to roll eyes at the women who flock to yoga studios every day with rolled-up mats under their arms, pricey workout clothes painted onto their bodies. Youve seen this woman. She glides into the studio on a Tuesday at 10 a.m. like its her job. Shes not here for a spiritual awakening shes here for a perfect round ass. But as Michelle Goldberg reveals in her new book The Goddess Pose, yoga was a fat-trimming diversion for respectable bourgeois ladies before it became the domain of hippies and dreadlocked Caucasians. I always assumed that at some point around the time Alanis Morissette bestowed her thanks unto India, yoga was co-opted by the elite another Starbucks where there once was an independent bookstore. But it turns out the practice just came full circle. Good news for the yogini who suspects shes taking part in a global sham: yoga is a tradition corrupted, and in a way, it always has been.


Read the full review at theglobeandmail.com

  • Title The Goddess Pose: The Audacious Life of Indra Devi, the Woman Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West
  • Price $32

The Shift From Literature To Practice

While the intellectual fascination was a great starting point, it wasnt quite enough to merit a countrywide yogic revolution. It seemed that the physical presence of a teacher was necessary to shift the American people from theory to practice.

This teacher took the shape of Swami Vivekananda, a monk of 30, who traveled to America to give a speech at the World Parliament of Religions in 1893. There are two things you should know about this famous speech

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Yoga & The Fitness Craze

As the fitness industry boomed during the 1970s, the physical practice of yoga evolved. Influential teachers such as B.K.S. Iyengar, Yogi Bhajan, and Bikram Choudhury arrived in the United States with their distinct styles of practice. Iyengar’s weighty Light on Yoga, a guide to over 200 yoga poses and 600 photos, has become the seminal book on yoga postures.


The no pain, no gain aerobics craze of the 1980s led to a rise in fitness-related injuries, which in turn prompted even more interest in yoga as a viable and low-impact way of staying fit and healthy. Yoga videos by Jane Fonda and Raquel Welch hit the market, as yoga classes expanded their reach to gyms, health clubs, YMCAs, and recreation centers across the country.

Paramahansa Yogananda: Father Of Yoga In The West

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What Paramahansa Yogananda brought to the West is perhaps one of the greatest gifts to humankind Indias ancient science of Yoga, the science of knowing the Self, of realizing and experiencing who we truly are, divine souls with unlimited potential.

SNS | New Delhi | January 5, 2021 9:38 pm

Paramahansa Yogananda

He is regarded as the father of yoga in the west as he introduced Kriya Yoga. In addition to it, his teachings were exceptionally acclaimed. He was also a founder of Self-Realization Fellowship , the international society that was formed to share Paramahansa Yoganandas yoga and meditation teachings with the world. This foundation aimed to build cultural bonds and spiritual understanding between East and West.

In the words of SRF President, Brother Chidananda, What Paramahansa Yogananda brought to the West is perhaps one of the greatest gifts to humankind Indias ancient science of Yoga, the science of knowing the Self, of realizing and experiencing who we truly are, divine souls with unlimited potential.

On 19, September 1920, Paramahansa Yogananda arrived in America from his native land, India to serve as an Indian delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals convening in Boston. His first speech on the topicthe science of religion was described by the Congress organizers as forcible and impressive.

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Transcendental Meditation Spread Across America

Meditation and yoga exploded across America in the early 60s, when an unassuming-looking yogi came out of the Himalayas to spiritually regenerate the world. Maharishi Mahesh Yogis Transcendental Meditation empire now claims 40,000 teachers and more than four million practitioners, with 1,200 centers in 108 countries.

The Westernisation Of Yoga

As we approach the 16th century, Yoga is becoming more and more talked about in the West.

Modern Yoga as it is known in the West took off in the late 1890s, when Indian monks began spreading their knowledge to the Western world for the first time. Moreover, people who traveled to India were able to rub shoulders with the yogis and observe their practices first hand.

The Precursors of Yoga in the West

The introduction of Yoga to the West is often credited to Swami Vivekananda, the first ever Indian monk to have visited the Western world. Vivekananda organised numerous world conferences on the subject by describing yoga as a science of the mind. He translated Yogic texts from Sanskrit into English and in 1893, during a visit to the US, sparked the nation’s interest by demonstrating Yoga poses at a World Fair in Chicago. As a result, many other Indian Yogis and Swamis were welcomed with open arms in the West.

In 1920 Paramahansa Yogananda came to address a conference of religious liberals in Boston. He had been sent by his guru, the ageless Babaji, to “spread the message of kriya yoga to the West.”

In 1924 the United States immigration service imposed a quota on Indian immigration, forcing people like Theos Bernard to travel to the East to seek teachings. He returned from India in 1947 and published Hatha Yoga: The Report of a Personal Experience, an important text for yoga in the 1950s which is still read today.

Modern Yoga

The best known are:

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What Is Iyengar Yoga

  • Form of Hatha yoga created by BKS Iyengar
  • Brought to the West in the 1950s when Iyengar started to work with violinist Yehudi Menuhin
  • Iyengar used around 50 props, including ropes, mats, blocks and chairs to align and stretch the body
  • Iyengar yoga is now taught in more than 70 countries and the guru’s books have been translated into 13 languages

Other well-known yoga practitioners were active around the same time, “but not in the same way and not with such a systemic and rigorous attention to detail in the postures”, says the Open University’s Suzanne Newcombe, who has researched the development of modern yoga.

Iyengar’s method was a form of Hatha yoga. It was, he said, a mixture of art and science. He focused on the physical side of the discipline, emphasising asanas and breath control. He pioneered the use of props like cushions, blocks and benches.

Some traditionalist critics complained he did not do enough to promote the spiritual side of yoga.

“His defence was that yoga was more than just a physical practice but that physical practice offered a gateway,” Newcombe says. “He had a very non-dogmatic approach. “In later years he worked much harder to promote a more spiritual approach, but he didn’t want to tell people what the content of their spiritual beliefs should be.”

But he did not abandon his ascetic lifestyle. A strict vegetarian, he was still practising asanas for three hours a day at the age of 90.

He Never Meant To Spread Yoga To The West

The Woman Who Brought Yoga to the West

Despite how accounts of his life and time in the US make it seem, Vivekananda had gone to America to collect funds for the impoverished in India. However, the success of his speech at the Parliament catapulted him to fame and made him one of the most sought-after gurus.

Despite Vivekanandas initial intentions, his popularity after the parliament made him Indias ambassador in America. For the next two years, he traveled across the states lecturing and teaching yoga to eager students before he returned to India.

During this time, in 1896 and 1897, before Vivekananda was to return, two more influential figures came to America Swami Sardananda and Swami Abhedananda. First, Swami Sardananda delivered a lecture at Harvard University and was offered a faculty position, which he declined.

In 1899, Vivekananda returned to America and founded the New York Vedanta Society which is still open today. And his influence prompted the opening of ashrams in Los Angeles named Shanti in 1902 and Ananda in 1923. Americas first-ever Hindu Vedanta temple was also opened in San Francisco in 1906.

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Vivekananda’s Appearance In Chicago

Swami Vivekananda was born in 1863 in a well-to-do Calcutta family. As a young man, he became a disciple of the mystic Ramakrishna and took monastic vows shortly before his teachers passing. After traveling in India for five years, Vivekananda left India to travel to the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago, an interfaith conference held during the massive World’s Columbian Exposition.

According to the legend that has grown around Vivekanandas appearance at the Parliament, despite travel difficulties and nervousness, the swami addressed the crowd as sisters and brothers of America to thunderous applause. Vivekananda then rode the wave of success and lectured, wrote books, and opened branches of the Ramakrishna Mission known as Vedanta Societies during two separate U.S. tours.

The approval given to Vivekananda at the Parliament in Chicago was not unique to him, however. In the account of the Parliament published by its president John Henry Barrows, applause was also freely given to the other speakers as part of the self-congratulatory spirit of the Parliament. And Vivekananda did not just receive praise at the Parliament. Barrows also noted that very little approval was shown to some of the sentiments expressed by Vivekananda in his closing address.

Vivekananda sitting center among a group of men.

Jim Navy/Flickr Creative Commons

Paramahansa Yogananda Wrote The First Modern Spiritual Classic

In 1920, Paramahansa Yogananda addressed a conference of religious liberals in Boston. He was sent by his guru, the ageless Babaji, to spread the message of kriya yoga to the West.

Although his early works had unpromising titles like Recharging Your Business Battery out of the Cosmos, his 1946 Autobiography of a Yogi remains a spiritual classic.

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If You Practice Yoga Thank This Man Who Came To The Us 100 Years Ago

Long before he arrived in the United States to bring the ancient Indian practice of yoga to the West, Paramahansa Yogananda visited a temple in Kashmir and fell into an ecstatic trance: in his vision he saw the temple transform into a gleaming white mansion. It sat on a hilltop in a distant land.

Years later, he visited Mount Washington, a hilltop neighborhood less than six miles from downtown Los Angeles. And there he saw it, the gleaming white mansion.

I recognized it at once from my long past visions in Kashmir and elsewhere, he wrote.

The mansion was actually the long abandoned Mount Washington Hotel, and it would soon become the headquarters for the Self Realization Fellowship, the global organization Yogananda founded a century ago this year. The lasting power and reach of the group is a testament not only to the yogis cross-cultural charisma and uplifting message, but to the qualities that made Los Angeles his ideal spiritual home.

Around the world, L.A. is known for being open-minded and a forerunner in all sorts of things culturally, technologically and spiritually, said Brother Chidananda, president and spiritual head of SRF, as its known. He felt that L.A. was a place where he was most likely to find a receptive audience.

Today it houses a visitor center and gift shop and an administration building that includes his living quarters, left exactly as they were when he died in 1952.

When Yogananda arrived in L.A. in 1924, he fit right in.

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