Yoga is a broad subject that deals with the management of physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual states, and there are many schools of yoga in the world today. Our attempt has been to understand yoga in the context of our present day situation and environment, and to discover how we can derive the benefits from this ancient practice.
Yoga is not specifically Indian. Evidence of yoga in the form of ancient statues and carvings has been found in many different cultures including South America and Europe, but India has been the main preserver of the knowledge.
Yoga is not religion, although there is an esoteric aspect that was practised by the ancient yogis and seers who lived in isolation in caves thousands of years ago. However, the great yoga masters and teachers over the last 50 years have brought the practical aspects of yoga into focus, in accordance with the needs of society today. Therefore, it should be clear that the yogic concept should not be confused with any form of religious concepts.
It should be understood that yoga is a science of living that deals with the management and development of human personality – harmony of body and mind, and experience of spirit.
It is a practice, a system to provide the understanding of an integrated human personality and a united human society. To this end, the yoga practitioners in the past, over thousands of years, developed a series of practices by which we could attain physical health, mental harmony and spiritual upliftment. Let us look now at the Satyananda Yoga tradition.
Our tradition began with Swami Sivananda Saraswati, a highly qualified medical doctor who felt that people were not only sick in body but also in mind and spirit. He renounced his flourishing medical practice in Southeast Asia, to become a sannyasin of the highest monastic tradition and to lead a yogic life. Through the system he established, he inspired many others to follow him on this path, in this tradition, to live their lives according to the will of the divine, in the service of others, with love and compassion.
One of the jewels in this crown was Paramahamsa Satyananda, who is recognized as one of the first yoga teachers to speak about yoga in scientific terms. Through his efforts, research started to discover the effects and benefits of yoga for the management of physical, psychological and spiritual imbalances. Read more»
Some of our institutions which are dedicated to the propagation of yoga, to higher advanced learning in yoga, to social development and to research are briefly outlined below:
Bihar School of Yoga
Bihar School of Yoga is the original institute, established by Swami Satyananda in 1963 in Munger, India to propagate yoga. Today it conducts classes, teacher training, health management and yoga therapy courses. Some of the courses are for general health, others are for specific ailments like respiratory disorders, diabetes, gynaecological problems, hypertension, digestive problems, etc. Read more»
Bihar Yoga Bharati: (BYB)
The culmination of Bihar School of Yoga, has been the establishment of Bihar Yoga Bharati, an Institute of Advanced Studies in Yogic Sciences which brings yoga into the academic field. At present, a full residential four-month course in Yogic Studies is offered three times a year, with the English medium course being conducted from October to January. This course provides students with the opportunity to imbibe the principles of yogic lifestyle, while living in a traditional gurukul environment. Additionally, a systematic and progressive training is given in the yogic disciplines and practices, including asana, pranayama, pratyahara. Read more»
BYB students are now being employed by different industries, corporations and hospitals and other institutions to teach yoga. In Australia, USA, Europe and Colombia, Satyananda Yoga Academy has been established where higher learning can take place. Read more»
Yoga Research Foundation
The Yoga Research Foundation, based in Munger, conducts scientific and medical research to define the role of yoga in the management of respiratory disorders, cardiac problems, digestive disorders, pregnancy, arthritis, spondylosis, blood pressure, gynaecological problems, diabetes, cancer, HIV+, drug addiction, and so on. Through this research foundation the practices of yoga are brought into the light of scientific understanding so they can become applicable for the management of illness in society. Agreements have been made with the Apollo Hospitals to conduct research to discover the effects and benefits of yoga for cancer patients.
Applications of Yoga in Society
Today the scope of the applications of yoga in society is considerable and varied both in India and worldwide.
The principles of yoga therapy have been accepted and are being taught as a subject in nine medical colleges in the state of Bihar. The Health Department has identified thirty-six physiological disorders that can be easily treated and managed through the practices of yoga
Yoga in education: 30 years ago in Paris, RYE (Research in Yoga and Education) was started, which now operates under Government authorisation in nine countries, training school teachers to use simple yoga techniques in the classrooms which research has shown improves intelligence, memory, concentration, personality development, self esteem and social awareness. RYE website»
In January 2000 specialized training programs began, following the request of the Sports Authority of India, to train national and international athletes to improve their performances. First the coaches are trained and when they accept the usefulness of yoga, the athletes receive the training.
Yoga is being taught to thousands of inmates in prisons in India, Australia and Europe and this work has been very successful. Over three hundred life prisoners have been trained as yoga teachers and there has been a dramatic improvement in their mentality. The prisoners report that they experience a psychological improvement in their lives, with a reduction in guilt, anger and frustration and an increase in joy and peace.
A long-term project ‘Yoga for the Railways’ is operating that involves special training in yoga to the drivers, engineers, officers and workers of Indian Railways. We are also running yoga training programs for the Military Police and the Armed Forces who have very stressful jobs.
Drug addiction has been identified by Bihar Yoga Bharati as a huge problem worldwide; a problem that needs addressing urgently. Satyananda Yoga is being used in many counties to assist those in drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres as part of the therapeutic process. The techniques are most useful in releasing the stress that leads to addiction, detoxifying the body and mind, and raising self-awareness.
Specific classes are taught to pregnant women, the elderly and to those with physical or mental disabilities.
The Satyananda Yoga system
The question often comes up, “How is the teaching and training, imparted by Bihar School of Yoga different from other yoga institutes, from other traditions or systems?” We have been working with yoga for the last thirty years and trying to develop a particular idea, or vision, in relation to human nature and human personality.
The World Health Organization defines health as not only physical but also mental, social, emotional and spiritual. The Satyananda system is an integrated approach to yoga, incorporating all the different yogas to achieve completeness or wholeness. This system is designed to promote physical wellbeing through the practices of hatha yoga. In the physical dimension we are looking for balanced health, vitality, flexibility, strength, relaxation, self-control and grace.
Mental stability and wellbeing are promoted through the practices of mind management in the form of raja yoga – pratyahara (sensory withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and karma yoga (yoga of action). In the mental dimension we aspire for relaxation, concentration, improvement of memory, attainment of clarity, creativity in expression, mental balance and awareness.
In the emotional area, we are looking for equanimity, self-acceptance, inner peace, self-control, transformation, development of the personality, and devotion. Devotion means one-pointed awareness, not in a religious context, but through the channelling of emotions.
In the social dimension of yoga, we try to attain the ability to serve, to interact with others with greater clarity and wisdom, awareness of the social environment, understanding and acceptance of responsibility and life itself.
In the spiritual dimension, we are looking for compassion, understanding, surrender, intuition, and self-realization. Self-realization here does not mean realizing the spirit but realizing one’s duty for the betterment of oneself, the environment and the universe. The spiritual dimension represents the culmination of an integrated personality, outer and inner: expanded awareness, union, compassion, surrendering to the cosmic will and intuition.
Ultimately yoga provides one with wisdom to attain external and internal prosperity in life. Prosperity does not mean financial power; it means the ability to live life happily, joyously, in a contented way. The yogic concept of prosperity is not money, but contentment. Once you have contentment, no matter where you live, or how you live, you are always at peace with yourself. This contentment comes with realization and wisdom.
This is a brief and broad outline of the Satyananda Yoga system. Although yoga cannot provide all the answers to the suffering of humanity, it can definitely contribute to the betterment of human health through the practices and principles contained in it.