YogaLife Institute Mumbai
Shri Yogendra founded the Yoga Institute, Santacruz of Mumbai, India in 1918, the first Yoga Center open to the general public in the world. As a young college student Shri Yogendra became an ardent believer in Yoga when he met his guru Paramahamsa Madhavadasaj. From the beginning, he was a non-conformist and a very close bond developed between the Master and the student. The Guru taught him many things by direct experience. Usually their conversation centered on how to help others, sometimes how to handle a sick person therapeutically with the pragmatic and practical use of Yoga. Much was learned about healing of the body, mind, and spirit.
Shri Yogendra followed a different course than most of the students. As an only son, he had promised his widowed father he would marry and become a householder rather than remain a celibate yogi. This promise paved the way for Shri Yogendra to spearhead the movement, Yoga for the Householder. This decision was revolutionary in the Yoga world, as up until that point, Yoga was traditionally taught only to an inner circle of gurus in monastic settings without wives and children.
With a broader vision of becoming a householder to propagate a universal message of Yoga, Shri Yogendra left the ashram on completion of his training with the mission of giving the benefits of Yoga to all instead of keeping it a secret for very few. Thus Shri Yogendra became known as the Father of Modern Yoga Renaissance and the yogi who would revive the Classical Yoga ideals across the world. In bringing Yoga to the modern householder, Shri Yogendra simplified asanas, kriyas, pranayama, and meditation. He looked at the techniques from a scientific standpoint and encouraged their practical application without reference to mysticism.
Shri Yogendra believed that many people came to Yoga for solutions to their health problems and could then be slowly guided on to deeper levels of spirituality. He insisted that Yoga was a way of life and removing obstacles in one's personality would gradually lead people on to a better way of living. From the beginning his research focused on making Yoga intelligible to the common man. In that spirit, he wrote many books that addressed the common man's need to be spoken to both logically and scientifically. These books were copied and distributed throughout India. During this period he also traveled and gathered authentic information on Yoga. His travels included meeting the Mathas of the Nathayogis and along with well-reputed saints and learned people of the country.
The vow taken to spend the life of a householder was fulfilled when he married Sita Devi on 29th September 1927. Although before marriage the young Sita Devi was never exposed to Yoga, together they worked hard to establish The Yoga Institute. At that time it was not the custom for women to practice Yoga but Mother Sita Devi joined her husband in his mission. Since then there has been a revolution and today many more women practice Yoga than men across the globe.
Shri Yogendraji passed away in 1989. His eldest son Dr. Jayadeva Yogendra took over Directorship of The Yoga Institute in 1985 and continues his teachings. Since then he has introduced several new courses and pioneered work in Yoga Education and Therapeutics. He has also written several books on Yoga education and is the editor of the Yoga Institute magazine, which is distributed worldwide. His wife and present Director of the Institute Smt. Hansaji is a well-known speaker who is known for her vibrant and lively talks. Her simple and practical approach and tips from the Yoga way of life are very accessible and deep. She is well known in India as an author and charismatic yoga expert from a popular television series called Yoga for Better Living.
While the main branch of The Yoga Institute is in India, like the YogaLife Institute in the US, there are other centers inspired by the Yoga Institute's approach in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Italy, Switzerland and the UK. Together they all work to carry on Shri Yogendra's vision of bringing the practical applications of classical yoga philosophy and lifestyle practices into the hearts and minds of householders all over the world, guiding aspirants to acquire "a healthy body, a superior mind, and higher spiritual consciousness."
Dr. Jayadeva Yogendra (1929–2018), President of the Yoga Institute once wrote the following in describing the need of a certain kind of Yoga school, a life school which is the need of the hour. He was referring very much to The Yoga Institute, Santacruz Mumbai India, which is like a model for other centres.
Is there a life-school where one learns how to live? The objective of such a life-school of course will not be in helping acquire money or power or pleasure but rather in sharing and teaching of the art of a healthy way of life at physical, mental and spiritual levels. Caring, mindfulness and discipline will be its hallmark rather than its possessing tall buildings and expansive campus. All activities that go on here including interpersonal relationships in classrooms and Administrative offices will lend to a spiritual awareness. Emotional tensions will get resolved against a larger understanding of the incomprehensible and irresistible twists and turns of life. Whether it is learning of asanas or learning of yoga sutra, the learning would go on adding to the Sattvika experience. The need for specific techniques will diminish in face of a change in values, motivations, attitudes and habits. Yogic living will re-establish the homeostatic balance and treatment of diseases will be a by-product of a yogic life.
The faith in a higher reality will instill a positive approach of life and will definitely lead to a reduction in floating states of anxiety responsible for many psychosomatic and neurotic conditions. One would learn to participate fully in any and all day. This would lead to a joy in living and meaningfulness of life. The life school would prepare men and women to live well in the world again. They would not only learn this but would teach it to others as well, through sharing. Can we dream of such centers of learning in the country? It does not matter if we call this life-school "The Yoga Institute" or we call it by other names. There is an overwhelming need today for such life-school in society. What we seem lacking is not various skills involved in our work or massive information related to it but in actual living models and in living experiences of the fullness of life.