International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Delhi/Bombay/Madras/Calcutta, India


Yoga for You

INDRA DEVI

One of the leading personalities who has made a deep study of yogas is Indra Devi. She has done a great deal in recent years to popularise the benefits of deep breathing exercise and 'asanaa' with people all over the United States. She stayed in India for twelve years and had her training under Swami Kuvalayananda in his Yogic Health Centre in Bombay. Since 1947 Indra Devi has been living in California and has a studio whore she conducts classes in Hatha yoga.

Among Indra Devi's pupils are Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson. Jennifer Jones, Robert Ryan, and others.

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 bliss.

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 prominent personalities.

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
each individual learning how to achieve knowledge of his extra-individuality".

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.

"To eat meat is surely barbarous and
vegetable food is certainly purer - Who can deny that?"

SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.