Adult Education and Yoga

Anand Prakash, MA, Publications Dept., Literacy House, Lucknow

The term 'adult education' has been used differently by various adult educationists. The emphasis has been placed on one or more of the following aspects of an adult's life:

  1. Awareness of life problems and their root causes
  2. Change in attitude and behaviour
  3. Acclimatisation to the present surroundings
  4. Accessibility to the spheres of new knowledge
  5. 'Fullness' of life
  6. Awareness of one's own dignity
  7. Development of analytical thinking
  8. Increased consciousness
  9. Improvement in external activities:
    • a) performance of civic duties
    • b) increased efficiency in work performance
    • c) increased sources of family income
    • d) individual or group efforts to improve community life
  10. Improvement in health status.

One can easily compress these aspects into one word - development. The development of adults, both illiterate and literate, in an age range from 15 to 45 years, has been the main concern of the adult educationists. The word 'development' conveys the meanings which are both as subtle and deep as various imperceptible levels of human personality, and as gross and conspicuous as outer levels of life such as material comforts, money, etc. The development, in its gross sense, covers three major aspects of life-social, economic and cultural. It also lays emphasis on an adult's increased capacity to analyse and nationalise the events or acts. According to the yogic viewpoint, such development is like a building erected on an unstable foundation. Undoubtedly, this state of development can be fully or partly attained, but it will not last long. Often the former, subtle aspect is ignored, without realising the fact that the outward development alone is not only ephemeral and temporary but superficial too. A coverage of both the aspects presents the real picture of a developed human personality.

The following thoughts are presented in support of this hypothesis for consideration of the adult educationists:

  1. An adult's problems and their root causes, a chief concern of the adult educationists, cannot be correctly identified unless the root problems, called 'kleshas' in yogic language, are tackled. Surface problems of poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, social evils, etc. can only be hidden behind the curtain of temporary relief measures, despite sincere efforts of the adult educators, unless the root problems are removed through a yogic discipline imposed on the life.
  2. Change in attitude and behaviour is much talked of in adult education circles and has a close relationship with the working of the mind. Unless and until the consciousness of the individual, which generally works at the lower levels of mind, is made to journey upwards, through yogic meditation to the higher levels of mind, no permanent change in the attitude and behaviour is possible- simply by taking resort to educational techniques such as conducting group discussions, organising study tours, exhibitions, demonstrations etc.
    Complexes, fears, tensions, stresses- the bitter gifts of the modern age- considered to be some of the major obstacles in the way to the behavioural and attitudinal change, cannot be got rid of merely through exposing the adults to the oral and written words until body and mind are fully relaxed through yogic practices. Purification of body and mind is one of the aims of yoga. The purification breaks down the complexes, etc. and replaces them with correct and healthy mental programming.
  3. How an adult should be enabled to acclimatise to his living environment - quickly changing society and its values- especially in industrialised and urban areas, has been lurking in the minds of adult education program planners for quite a long time. If an adult is able to establish an harmonious relationship with the external world, he can get rid of many of his mental disturbances. This is possible through the yogic practices combined with the auto-suggestion technique which reprogram the adult's mind and bring about the desired results in his life. The yogic techniques of meditation enable an individual to flow with the life rather than fight with it. They program the mind in such a way that a state of non-anxiety is attained, self consciousness disappears, and it becomes easy to form a real estimate of external events without any stress or disturbance.
  4. Doses of new knowledge, covering social, economic and cultural development, including alphabetisation skills, are administered to the adults through the written-spoken words and various audio-visual aids. The knowledge, thus imparted, is received by them at the rational level of their minds. Little has been thought of their intuitive knowledge and creativity which are seated at the higher levels of their mind- the super conscious part of the mind. If the adults are enabled through the yogic practices to move their consciousness to those levels of their mind, the capabilities and knowledge which they will receive from those ends will provide a very solid base to what they are receiving at the rational level of what yoga terms as 'middle mind' by the adult educators.
  5. The adult educationists have been contemplating the ways of enabling adults to lead a 'full' life. By fullness is meant the fullest use of their capability, creativity and potentials. Modern psychologists hold that normally an individual does not use more than one tenth of the possible capacity of his brain. Sometimes an adult has a natural flair for something without knowing it.
    The knowledge of the psychic realm of his existence may reveal to an adult the whole vista of his potentialities. The various centres, called chakras in yogic terminology, situated in his psychic body are very closely associated with many useful things e.g. rising above the animal nature, gaining vitality and energy, divine manifestation of love, states of blissful intoxication, acquiring powers of intuition, viewing events occurring on planes other than the physical, etc. If these chakras are concentrated upon through the yogic practices, many of the untapped faculties which are presently inactive or unconnected with the adult's consciousness, will be awakened. This will pave the way to what the psychologists call a life of 'self actualisation' or in other words fully illumined potentialities.
    The yogic meditation can very well take care of those adults who lack initiative and do not want to respond even when the opportunity knocks at their doors. Both psychologists and yogis feel that an individual should not be allowed to lead a stagnant life, remaining always in the same mould. He should be constantly inspired to develop more and more. By practicing the yogic meditation, an adult can lead an active life, fully conscious of his potentialities and creativity, free of tensions and fears, with his mind completely harmonised with his surroundings.
  6. Awareness of one's own dignity is something which an adult wants to treasure. The scientists hold that each cell contains total knowledge of our evolutionary past. The yogis say that infinite knowledge exists within and an individual is 'a miniaturised version of the universe'. When, through the yogic practices, the consciousness of an individual is allowed to soar high and transcend the higher levels of mind, the seat of super consciousness, then the real 'I' is seen who reveals this reality. This revelation transforms an individual into a divine entity.
  7. Development of analytical thinking is one of the goals of adult education but it can hardly be regarded as one of the ultimate goals. The yogic practices can lead an individual beyond the regions of intellect (analysing, rationalising, etc.) to the regions where everything is transcended, where words lose their importance, gestures become ineffective, and intellect becomes a hindrance. There exists what can only be experienced, a blissful, divine experience that is much higher than mere intellectual delights.
  8. The adult educationists have been trying to increase the consciousness of the adults so that they come to know about various avenues of development, many openings of activities and diverse outlets for their energy. If this increase is confined to the intellectual levels of the mind, the result is liable to be negative and distressing. The new knowledge of the avenues, openings and outlets will give birth to new desires which in turn will create dissatisfaction as all of them will not be fulfilled. Let their consciousness, therefore, be developed vertically upwards to the higher levels of mind rather than horizontally on the lower levels of intellect.
  9. Improvement of external activities e.g. individual or group efforts to improve the community life, vocational jobs to increase the family income, participation in vocational training programs, performances of civic duties, etc. forms a major part in the adult education programs. According to the philosophy of yoga, it is an adult's inner being which endows him with the ability to do the external activities efficiently. If the inner being is not in harmony with his external environment this reflects in the lack of skill, interest, energy and enthusiasm. When one dives deeper into his mind, to learn about the functioning of his inner being, in the state of yogic meditation, the results begin to manifest themselves in the form of external activities.
  10. Raising the health status of an adult is one of the major aims of adult education. It refers to an improvement in both his mental and physical health. It is now being realised that the present age of competitive living can negatively affect the mind. The intense external activity, another characteristic of this age, may also have bad effects. Yoga can take care of the mental health of the adults through its meditation techniques. Meditation frees the mind from all conflicts and worries. It enables one to harmonise his mind with his surroundings. It makes one feel that in him is a storehouse of inner energy which he can direct to malfunctioning organs and even his physical diseases can be cured by this energy.

In the state of meditation, involuntary systems of the body are controlled. This results in the reduced metabolic rate of the body. The stimulation of adrenal and sympathetic systems over long periods of time, the root cause of many diseases, is also controlled as the body is completely relaxed and free from tensions and fears. Meditation also makes the septal regions (part of the limbic system situated in the brain) operate for a longer time, thereby releasing tensions. It is therefore not advisable for the adult educators to make the adults depend on medicinal therapy until the root causes of the disease are removed by yogic techniques. Yogic therapy is a 'whole' treatment of the disease whereas medicines only cure the affected organs, often with repercussions on the other organs. The interrelationship between mind and body establishes the supremacy of the effect of meditation on disease. Other yogic techniques such as asanas and pranayama also exert a very positive influence on the diseased body.


An effort has been made here to show how yoga can help the adults develop in the real sense of the term and not merely on the external levels of material prosperity and increased intellectual knowledge. No effort has been made, intentionally, to enumerate and elucidate the yogic techniques as it would have been out of place in the present context.

It is not the least intended to confine the adults within the boundaries of any religion or dogma through yogic practices. Yoga is a way of life. Different stages of meditation are its milestones. Yoga is within easy reach of each and every adult of any nation, caste, creed or sex, irrespective of his literacy and educational background.

The dimensions of the adult education programs are more varied and deeper than what they are thought to be. Let the adult educationists come forward to join hands with yoga and try to dive even deeper into the lives of adults. The integration of yoga with the adult education programs augurs well for the future.