Archive for the ‘yoga history’ Category

The Teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

yoga certificationBy Virginia Iversen

Paramahansa Yogananda was a very well-known and beloved Indian guru who first introduced many westerners to the esoteric teachings and practices of Kriya Yoga. The ultimate goal of Kriya Yoga is to reach God realization. Yogananda was born in 1893 in a small town in Northern India to a devoted Kshatriya family. From a very early age, he was deeply spiritual. His brother, Sananda, has relayed many stories about Yogananda’s profound longing for a teacher and his many spiritual experiences. Yogananda’s deeply held spiritual belief was that all of life on this earth is but a dream. That our world is, in essence, a dream inside a dream, and that our only goal in life is find God and to merge with the divine.

Yogananda relayed many of his spiritual experiences throughout his lifetime in his extraordinary accounting of the stages of his spiritual unfolding in the seven hundred page book, “Autobiography of a Yogi.” If you are on the Yogic path, this is one of the most highly recommended books about the practice of sadhana and the deepening experience of merging with God. If you do read “Autobiography of a Yogi,” the footnotes themselves contain almost as much esoteric wisdom as the text proper. Yogananda was a firm believer in experiencing God directly, outside of the context of any organized religion, through the innate power of intuition. He also taught that much of humankind’s suffering comes from a primary misidentification with our current and transitory roles, instead of with the eternal presence of God.

One of the most beautiful accounts of Yogananda in this book is his experience of meeting his own guru. At the age of 17, after several years of longing and searching for a teacher whom he could call his own, Yogananda was introduced to Swami Shri Yukteswar Giri in 1910. Yogananda recalled his meeting with Swami Giri as a profound soul-to-soul knowing that was permeated by silence. In this meeting, Yogananada recounted that, “The obscuration of this lifetime disappeared into a fragile dawn of prenatal memories.” Yogananda felt a supremely divine connection to Swami Giri as his guru from many previous lifetimes. In fact, Yogananda exclaimed at their first meeting: “This was not the first sun to find me at these holy feet!” The sacred recognition between the two men was immediate and lasted a lifetime.

Yogananda spent over thirty years in the United States sharing his profoundly uplifting spiritual wisdom and blessings during countless spiritual discourses. He came to the United States initially as India’s delegate to the International Congress of Religious Liberals that was being held in Boston in 1920. In 1924, Yogananda embarked on a cross-country teaching tour of America. Thousands attended his lectures. He founded the Self-Realization Fellowship in 1920 in order to share his teachings. The headquarters of the Self-Realization Fellowship are located in Los Angeles, California, where his students continue to disseminate his teachings to this day.

© Copyright 2012 – Virginia Iversen – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Meditations on Yoga in America – Part I

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

yoga teacher trainingBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

The rich history of Yoga in America has been mined for material by a number of writers recently, and has produced several surprisingly diverse publications. “The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America” (2010) by Robert Love, “The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America” (2010) by Stefanie Syman and “American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation, How Indian Spirituality Changed the West,” (2010) by Philip Goldberg all address the same general topic, but focus on different aspects of the experience.

The books span in focus from narrow to impossibly wide (the Western world) with varying degrees of success. “The Great Oom,” details the story of Pierre Bernard, sometimes known as ‘the first American yogi,’ originally from Iowa. He learned Yoga from a Calcuttan master and established orders in San Francisco and New York, where he was raided by police and questioned on morality charges numerous times. Bernard was supported emotionally, financially, and instructionally by the women who were his disciples and at times, his practice had a definite cult of personality. His success culminated in opening a Yoga-themed retreat and rehabilitation center on the Hudson River in Nyack, New York in the 1920s.

The wealthy of the day, including Vanderbilt family members, came to the Clarkstown Country Club, as it was known, to study under Bernard and his followers. He became the savior and major employer of the town, running a chemical company and an airport, as well as a semi professional baseball team. Bernard even purchased an elephant, which he used in novelty “acts” at the club. The book provides an intriguing look at a true American success story: an entrepreneur with a knack for self promotion, a flair for drama and the “right place at the right time.” Occasionally, the story is bogged down by lengthy descriptions of the social intricacies of Bernard and his group, but the book provides a window to a character most people know little about. It does not, however, provide insight on the effects of the introduction of Yoga on America.

That is the goal of “American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation, How Indian Spirituality Changed the West.” Rather than use a single influence like Bernard as a thread around which to weave the narrative, Goldberg uses thousands of smaller examples to support his hypothesis that without realizing it, Americans have adopted Vedantic principles and swallowed some of the eastern religion’s principles whole.

© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Yoga in the Former Soviet Union

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

About Yoga in the former Soviet UnionBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

What was it like to practice or teach Yoga in the former Soviet Union? “If I had said I was practicing Yoga, it would have been like saying I was going to the moon.” – Elena Ulmasbaeva, Director of the Iyengar Yoga Center in Moscow.

Imagine a country where Yoga was regarded as illegal Eastern mysticism, and people who practiced it were viewed as quacks and contortionists. This was the prevailing view in the USSR, despite the existence of quasi-legitimate organizations like the Yoga Association of the USSR, founded in 1989, and whose membership once totaled 5,000 brave souls.

In pre-Communist Russia, some credit a painter and aristocrat, named Nicolas Roerich, and his wife, with traveling to India to study Agni or Fire Yoga and bringing back the teachings around 1894. The man was nearly single-handedly responsible for Yoga in the Soviet Bloc; Vasily Brodov, was an intriguing figure. A Moscow native, born in 1912, he was a natural dissident who spent time in the gulags, and on the front lines, in World War II.

Through strokes of luck, he survived and became a lecturer at Moscow State University, writing his thesis on progressive thought in India. He met India’s President in 1964 during his visit to Moscow, and around the same time, met Indian guru, Dhirendra Brahmachari. Deeply inspired, he began studying Yoga and produced a documentary film on Indian gurus in 1970, which the authorities promptly shelved.

Brodov continued to promote Yoga privately and through the system of samizdat (underground self-publishing.) He was a compelling advocate, as he had been wounded on the front lines in World War II and carried long-term effects of his time in the gulag, but had recovered much of his health – thanks to his practice.

A letter was sent to the Central Committee in the early 1970s, from a group of scientists and public figures, requesting that Yoga be legalized, but to no avail. In fact, in 1981, a law was passed forbidding citizens to practice Hatha Yoga, play bridge, or study karate; and as late as 1986, a Soviet citizen was imprisoned for three years for teaching Yoga.

Only with the advent of perestroika, did Yoga become acceptable to mention in open company. Brodov lived to become the first chairman of the Yoga Association of the USSR and the introduction of “health clubs” around the country, featuring Yoga. Asanas were renamed “relaxation and concentration exercises.” Only postures were permitted, under the guise of health; mantras were forbidden with the exception of “om.” Enthusiasts braved police oversight until the collapse of communism entirely in 1991.

Today, no trendy Moscow fitness center would be without a Yoga class, and conservative estimates place the number of students in that city, alone, at 3,500 or more. Yoga books, magazines, and websites, in Russian, are plentiful. Still, there are many Russian practitioners today who remember difficulties and repression of the past, and who can feel truly grateful in the release of a posture.


“Yoga in the USSR” by Linda Cogozzo, Yoga Journal, May-June 1991

“Yoga Behind the Iron Curtain: The Untold Story of Underground Yoga During the Communist Regime” by Kristin Barendsen, Yoga International, January 2006

“Yoga craze catches on in Russia” by Evgenia Lents, Russia & India Report, May 4, 2010

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An Introduction to Yoga

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

By Rick Jackson

The Origins of Yoga

When it comes to traditional mental and physical disciplines of human practices, we come to the term called yoga. Yoga originated from India and was associated with practices in meditative religious congregations branched in their philosophy. As of today, some people take yoga exercises for physical purposes and meditation. However, some people believed that there is nothing wrong in implementing yoga art as an exercise used in daily regiment promoting healthy living.

The yoga practice is merely more than a structure of physical exercise for health. It was an ancient course to spiritual growth which originated from India it is widely practiced.

The Paradigm of Yoga

The yoga history was based in the civilization of Indus Valley; the techniques they used were practiced to initiate spiritual growth. The yogis encourages combination with the Atman (transitory self) the Brahman (eternal self). The Hindus used the term Brahman to mean “GOD” which the Yogis thought that God is a spiritual substance and impersonal that co-exists with all of reality. This yogi doctrine was so called pantheism that views everything is God.

The Pre-Classical Yoga – the creation of Bhagavad-Gita. A mutually brought aspect in human existence; Jnana (knowledge), Bhakti (devotion), and Karma (cause and effect). It was then that the Gita tried to combine these three yogi traditions sacrificing ego through self-knowledge.

Classical Yoga – also classified as the Yoga Sutra and was composed by Patañjali (known to be as the founder of Yoga. He believed that every human being is composed of Purusha (spirit) and Prakrti (matter) and to which, the goal of Yoga is to give spirit its freedom from the material world.

Asana – Physical activity

Dharana – Concentration

Dhyana – Meditation that leads to Samadhi

Niyama – Religious and personal observance of devotion, purity and study

Pratyahara – Abstraction of senses

Pranayama – Breath regulation

Samadhi – Absorption in the sublime and blissful awareness

Yama – ethical conduct or self-restraint

Post-Classical Yoga – the development of Hatha Yoga and other branches of yoga. The time where human body was considered as the temple of immortal soul.

Modern Yoga – attributed to the yoga guru Swami Vivekananda and taught the Five Yoga Principles.

Proper Breathing (Pranayama)

Proper Diet

Proper Exercise (Asanas)

Proper Relaxation (Savasana)

Positive Thinking and Meditation (Dhyana)

The Forms of Yoga

If you would like to pick up yoga, you would like to buy a good yoga mat so that you can practice it at home in your own covenience.


Tradition of Yoga in the Indian Society

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

By Jennie Gandhi

Yoga has a deep hidden philosophy of life that harmonizes the body, mind, and soul. The term was originated from a Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ that means ‘union’ or ‘joint’. As the name suggests so does the traditional spiritual activity reflects the true life’s philosophy.

Yoga took birth as a form of spiritual attainment during the Golden Age. It dates back to almost 26,000 years ago or the time of ‘Sat Yuga’ that we commonly refer to as. It was founded by Sage Patanjali in the city of Rishikesh that is now considered to be the city of Yoga. It is a beautiful holy city situated at the foot of Himalayas on the banks of River Ganges.

This traditional activity is also found in the pages of Bhagavadgita and Upanishads. Infact it forms an integral part of the Hinduism that practices certain activities to ensure freedom from negativities and attainment of spirituality. Many intellectuals and known people in the old age are credited for spreading the divine message of yogic activities in order to attain the supreme goal of life. It is the Hindu religion that has paved path for the endearing acceptance of yoga worldwide.

It is also believed that during the Golden Age when Yoga was introduced, Indian society also witnessed the birth of a new community known as Buddhism. Both yoga and Buddhism follow the same beliefs and principles and work in synchronization for a common supreme goal.

The basic principle of yoga is purification. It is believed that human body is filled with many impurities and the negativity that actually hamper the peace of mind and greatly affects the purity of the inner soul. The great yogis of the country have discovered the influence of impurities on human mind and hence they took way of yoga to get way with a pure body and mind. This purification of body, mind, and soul is the actual philosophy that helps attain real wisdom and spiritual liberalization.

In the modern era, yoga has become an indispensable part of Indian culture and tradition. Everyone across the country tries and takes out some time for yogic activities from their busy schedule. This helps them relive daily pressure and keep their mind at ease. It also helps to improve working capacity, offer a positive approach, and review moral values. Apart from this, yoga is a perfect remedy for various diseases and ailments like diabetes, digestive disorders, arthritis, chronic fatigue, and heart conditions.

To sum it up, yoga is a divine pathway to a healthy and pure body, mind, and soul.