|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Yoga? No thank you," people in America would often say at the
mere mention of the word. "I am not interested in a weird cult;
nor do I care to learn the rope trick, snake charming, fire-eating,
or other similar things. I can very well live without them."
This conception as to the real meaning and purpose of yoga was still
so prevalent in the minds of the majority of Americans when I first
arrived to the States in 1947 that friends kept advising me to call
yoga by some other name if I wanted to teach it here.
They kept telling me that this term was likely to scare away most people,
because many a charlatan and mischiefmaker has been styling himself
as a real yogi in order to impress their audiences, particularly if
they consisted of wealthy dowagers.
It was not an easy task to make it clear that yoga was neither a religion nor a creed nor was it a kind of magic connected with fortune-telling, ghost dabbling, or even hypnotism, but a science: a method of physical, mental, and spiritual development.
In my lectures I told over and over again that Yoga has originated
in India thousands of years ago; that only of late it had been made
popular as a way towards perfect health, lasting youth and a longer
life. To a chosen few it still is a Path towards Self-Realization. That
Yoga has several branches ranging from that which teaches control over
the body to that which leads to Samadhi, a state of illumination and
The first stage of Hatha Yoga called the Asanas is the one that is most suited to Occidentals and should, in fact, be practised by every man, woman and child the world over as this would give them a happier, healthier, and more meaningful existence. It would relieve them of their ailments, fears, tensions, complexes and problems. The Asanas [Postures] consist of deep breathing, postures, relaxation combined with diet.
The diet usually consists of sattvic foods : salads, greens, vegetables,
and fruits in their fresh natural state should be preferred to the cooked,
fried, canned, or highly seasoned dishes. It goes without saying that
the killing of our smaller brothers and eating them is still a habit
of our cave men and barbarous days, though me may not be aware of it.
The message of yoga is very illuminating and practical, as it deals
not only with our hopes, aspirations, emotions and spiritual unfoldment,
but also with the process of respiration, digestion, elimination, and
the function of all our glands and organs including the brain as well.
In my first book "Yoga the Technique of Health and Happiness" which was published in India in 1948, with a foreword by Dr. G. V. Deshmukh, I was trying to bring Yoga into the life of every Indian family, so that they should realize what great help Yoga might be to them in restoring and building the health of the body, in giving peace to the mind and in unfolding the spirit.
In my recent book, "Forever Young Forever Healthy" I have made the same attempt in regard to Americans.
In my task I was greatly, helped by my wonderful friend and student
Gloria Swanson who talked about Yoga in lecture platforms, radio and
television programmes. She proclaimed the benefits of Yoga with great
enthusiasm when introducing my book at the opening lecture in New York.
The fact that Yehudi Menuhin was doing Yoga exercises daily and that
Greta Garbo, Jennifer Jones, Robert Ryan, Ruth St. Denis and other film
stars have been studying with me, made an average man think that there
must be something to Yoga after all if it has been taken up by so many
Personally I firmly believe that Yoga is the best, if not the only
way for curing our ills and solving our problems. As Gerald Heard writes
in his "Source of Civilization " ; Yoga solves the problem
of the self-divided individual, that of society, consciousness and life
and indeed of the universe through the single solution of
It may be that it is India's destiny to save our present-day civilization through Yoga which would influence the individual, the family, the community, the nation, and eventually the whole world and set it on the path of continual progress and peace.