Yoga and Pedagogy

Lecture by Swami Satyananda at Condorcet High School, Paris in May, 1977

As small children most of you were not exposed to yoga. Of course now you may be able to understand yoga more than children, however, in the future their life is going to be influenced more than your life. They have accepted yoga from the level of innocence. You, however, understand yoga through your intellect. Therefore, yoga is going to do greater good for them and not so much for all of you. If you are convinced of this statement then you will expose your children to yoga.

The whole of creation, civilization and cosmos is subject to a great law which operates in everyone and at every time. Within these two decades great changes have taken place throughout the world. This cosmic change is continuing and has influenced the structure, thinking and cultural preferences of mankind. I come from India which has also necessarily been influenced by these modern currents. Now everyone is talking about the Aquarian Age. Minds are becoming naturally more spiritual, and there is a tendency towards encouragement of the spiritual attitude in life. Everyone is interested in concentration and meditation. At this time it is very fitting that you have introduced yoga into your school and teach it to the small children. These teachers should be given many thanks and congratulations for this most wonderful and noble venture. I am only sorry that I cannot be here with you to teach asanas every morning, every day.

As a child I was exposed to yoga. At the age of six my parents taught me mantra, yoga, the Bhagavad Gita, and they gave me the Bible to read. At that age it was very difficult to learn all these things. Everyday I had to recount to my father what I had read, but as time went by I thanked him for creating such a noble passion in my life.

Please do not think that I am only a mystic. I am a mystic through and through, but I am also a student of science and psychology. I believe that through the practice of yoga, enlightenment can be reached, but at the same time, the contributions of yoga are not limited to the world of the mystic. When I realized this I experimented with yoga in different strata of society. The experiment covered a wide range of people. More than a decade ago I started traveling around the world, visiting different countries, lecturing in the major universities and meeting with leading intellectuals psychologists and psychiatrists. In this way I exposed the different religions, cultures, age groups and professional groups to yoga.

Five years ago I conducted an experiment in India involving hundred girls from a higher secondary school. Prior to the experiment I had trained four teachers for a period of six years in yogic theory and practice, psychology, physiology, the art of relaxation, and the science of concentration and meditation. We then contacted the girls' parents and made a complete chart concerning each girl's individual likes, dislikes, fears, abnormalities, etc. Then we taught them appropriate yogic practices which consisted of postures, a few breathing techniques and the occasional practice of relaxation and concentration for some of the girls. After three months we again contacted their parents and found that these girls had experienced very positive changes in their personalities. Those who had fears were freed of them. Many who had repeatedly suffered hysterical and epileptic fits were completely alright. Finally they were given intelligence and psychological tests in which they quantitatively demonstrated their improvement.

My conclusions were and are that yogic practices can bring about changes in the human personality by influencing the endocrine glandular system. Yoga exercises in general and the exercises of concentration in particular, maintain the health of the pineal gland. A healthy pineal gland balances the emotions and the mental functions. Our children seem to go crazy, they become schizophrenic because there is an imbalance between emotion and thought. This imbalance has to be corrected, and the way of doing it is to maintain the health of the pineal gland which exercises complete control over the emotions. This has been fully investigated by eminent scientists and specialists.

All the hormones are controlled by one gland, the pineal gland. As long as this gland is intact, everything is fine. Usually, however, the pineal gland starts to calcify at the age of seven. When control of the pineal gland is maintained for a sufficient period, say up to the age of sixteen or seventeen, then the child attains puberty and emotional maturity. Then the control exercised by the pineal gland is removed and the pituitary gland commences functioning. The pituitary gland secretes about twenty groups of hormones; one of these is responsible for the development of sexual organs and the onset of puberty. However, if the pituitary does not function properly, the hormones do not mutually interact in a balanced way. Then when the child reaches puberty he or she develops epileptic fits, inexpressible fears, inexplicable anxieties, perhaps a kind of jealousy. So this imbalance of hormones creates a corresponding imbalance in the emotional personality. Generally, these imbalances are first noticed at the onset of puberty. Therefore, to counteract these effects, there are a few yogic postures which should be practiced just prior to puberty. Yoga is the way to maintain control over hormonal secretions. The glands play an important part in the emotional structure of girls and boys. Fears, anxiety, over-emotion, criminal tendencies, aggressiveness, shyness, guilt, inferiority, lack of confidence, etc. may all be psychological problems, but they are associated with physiological interactions also. Therefore, yoga postures are designed to create the necessary balance in hormonal behaviour.

It is also very important that concentration should be taught to children right from an early age. All of you feel difficulties when you have to sit for concentration because you have never learned it fully. It is only at the age of thirty to fifty that you have started concentration practice. If I start to learn a sport like badminton at my age, I will naturally find it very difficult. But if I had practiced from the age of eight or nine then perhaps today I would be a champion! In the, same manner, concentration is an art, an ability, it is a faculty which cannot be developed any time you like. There is a great conflict between the mind and the emotions as one becomes older. When you concentrate too hard there is an explosion in the unconscious mind which often you cannot face because you do not understand it. But if you had started the practice of concentration at an early age, perhaps by now you would be at home with it. In my ashram I live with children. I do not live with elderly people for they are often too serious, too particular, too tense. I do not want such tension; I want to laugh. Without any meaning, sometimes, I want to do a somersault, and if elderly people are there they will say, 'Look at this monk, how he is somersaulting'. They want me to be serious, and I want to be relaxed like a child. One has to play with children, to study them, to compare them with flowers. One has to consider the purity of water, the purity of God and the purity of children. It is also said in the Bible and by the great saints, 'Be like a child'. I am sure all this is going deep into the minds of these children and in time they will blossom into beautiful flowers.