Piedmont Yoga Studio News July 2008 | iHanuman


Love, Service, Devotion, Yoga

Piedmont Yoga Studio News July 2008

I've been intending for a couple of months to pick up our story line with Sri Yogendra, one of the unsung heroes of modern yoga. Born Mani Desai in 1897, he became in his late teens a disciple of Paramahamsa Madhavadasa, who at the time was reputed to be 118 years old. Paramahamsa, which means "great swan" (or "goose") is an honorific title given to highly enlightened beings (why is an enlightened person compared to a swan? That's a long story for another time). Mani's father threw a fit when he found out his son-a bright kid destined for great things in the world-had dropped out of college to become a yogi, which in those days meant a life of renunciation and celibacy. Pop and the guru finally came to a most unusual resolution: they decided that the boy would stay with Madhavadasa for yoga instruction, but eventually would marry, get a job, and carry on the family name.

In 1919 Mani, who by this time was calling himself Swami Yogananda (four years later he switched to Yogendra to avoid confusion with another Yogananda), traveled to the US to promote yoga. He put on some spectacular exhibitions of yogic expertise for skeptical physicians-he expanded one lung to three times the size of the other-and opened a medical clinic in upstate New York . But Yogendra never really liked this country, he thought Americans were too materialistic and superficial-imagine that!-and when called back to India in 1923 to tend to his ailing father, he never to set foot in America again.

In 1927 Yogendra married Sita Devi, a woman-or maybe we should say "girl"-half his age. In those days Indian women didn't have many opportunities for working outside the home or to study yoga. But Yogendra was something of a rebel and, in current lingo, a feminist. Women, he wrote, were traditionally "subjected to cultural insults and injustices," and that in his mind, the "study of practical Yoga can be undertaken successfully by one and all," which definitely included women and I suppose, despite evidence to the contrary, Americans. So Yogendra trained Sita Devi in yoga and eventually handed her the reins of the medical clinic he'd established in 1918. Sita Devi took to yoga like, well, a swan to water, and in 1934 she wrote the very first book of yoga directed specifically to women, Yoga Physical Ed ucation, which you can still find today. All of you folks of the female persuasion might keep a warm spot in your heart for her, since she faced and triumphed over the usual prejudice and criticism faced by many pioneers and ground breakers...and hey, you non-females might want to thank Mr Yogendra for standing up to tradition and showing us the way.

So what would a yoga class with Sita Devi be like? Here's a session modified from Yoga Physical Ed ucation that should take about 25 minutes (the number in brackets [] following the pose references the same pose in Light on Yoga): Tadasana with hands in Anjali Mudra [1] (30 seconds) > Vrkshasana [2] (30 seconds each side) > Utthita Hasta Padangushtasana [11] (1 minute each side) > Trikonasana [4] (1 minute each side) > Garudasana [23] (1 minute each side) > Padmasana [45] (1 minute each side) > Parvatasana [47] (2 minutes each side) > Yashtikasana (Stick Pose, like Shavasana [200] with the arms stretched overhead) (1 minute) > Bhujangasana [31] > Matsyasana [51] > Halasana [91] > Paryankasana [42] > Ushtrasana [16] > Makarasana (each of these poses 1 minute each) [26] > Shavasana [200] (3 minutes).

Yoga Style: 

Receive a Heartfelt, Inspired Newsletter with Special Features, Seasonal Updates, and Coupon Codes for Use with Our Yoga Downloads.