Until a few months ago I had never even heard of the Bihar School of Yoga, Munger, or of its founder, Swami Satyananda Saraswati. One evening, a friend invited me to a yoga nidra session conducted by the BSY Bombay Ashram, but I was reluctant to attend as I felt sure that yoga was not for me.
However, out of sheer curiosity, I went, and I returned again and again thereafter. My initial misgivings were dispelled and I was impressed by the quality and depth of the practice. I felt immediately that this was something spiritual, not just a physical or psychological method of relaxation, and could appreciate the enormous benefit of this 30 to 40 minute technique. It is a practice that takes you deeper and deeper into the hidden recesses of your mind, into nooks and corners unknown to your conscious mind, and gradually into the beyond, should you persist in the practice with regularity. Each time it is a different experience.
Very soon I decided to go to Munger for a one month visit. In contrast to the other yoga schools I had visited I sensed much spirituality and truth there (irrespective of religion). Just prior to my visit, I had a very fresh and first time slipped disc and the pain was considerable. However, from the day I arrived at the ashram and started a regular practice of morning walks, pranayama and backward bending asanas, the pain completely disappeared.
I enrolled for the Teachers Training Course which had just started. Although basic, this course was an invaluably powerful and relaxing experience. Asanas, pranayama and simple sattvic diet contributed to enhancing one's awareness of body, mind and environment. It was a well integrated and total program which included practical work sessions in karma yoga. The cost of the course was low, and all inclusive.
Initially I was somewhat sceptical of all the sannyasins in gem, however, I soon discovered that I was looking through prejudiced eyes. Most of the sannyasins at BSY are a happy, sincere, relaxed and hard working lot, who sleep no more than 5 to 6 hours a day. Backgrounds range from Ph.D.'s and medical doctors to born spiritual adepts who have never gone through conventional education. As early as 2.30 a.m. you are woken up by people bathing and humming kirtans like 'Ananda Gopal', 'Shriman Narayan', 'Om Anandam'. In fact, when I went out for morning walks I often found the gatekeeper chanting 'Ommmmmm'.
The vibrations at Munger can be felt quite deeply. When I was there, Swami Satyananda was present throughout and so the energy field was particularly strong. A Bombay friend, who was also there during my stay, arrived with a diabetes count of 207 and in less than 3 weeks he was down to 130. His treatment consisted of normal ashram food without restriction as to quantity, some asanas, pranayama, yoga nidra and shavasana; no medicines. Another person in his late fifties from Hyderabad, crippled by spondylosis and angina over the years, was up and about without pain within a few days. There are innumerable cases who have benefited by attending courses at the ashram and living the simple way of life for a short period of time.
In fact, a stay at the ashram is ideal for businessmen, industrialists, professionals and top management personnel who live with anxiety neurosis, hypertension and tranquillizers of all sorts. From my experience, immense benefit can be derived, not only for themselves but also for their families, if they decide to come to the ashram for their vacation. Let them try this just once, and make yoga part of their daily life from then on.
The ashram is not a place of rigid rules and regulations. All you need to do is follow the practices and see what happens. No one asks you to stop doing anything. After all, it is not that desires no longer exist. It is just that the quality of one's mind is transformed by ashram life and regular yoga practice. Consequently the negative desires that diminish one's conscious awareness are as good as gone, because they do not attract your attention anymore. This is the way of tantra. You may still continue to eat meat, drink and smoke, or you may not. At the end of a three week stay I felt no urge for alcohol and cigarettes, even though I had been habituated to both before my arrival. In fact, I felt light and rested, as if I was almost floating in the air. I am certain that if I continue with my practices the urge for alcohol and cigarettes will completely disappear, in a natural manner.
My experience was that the practices were aimed at enhancing awareness of one's body and mind and bringing one down from intellectual preoccupation to heartfelt sincerity. The classes are spontaneous, without rigidity of structure or learning by the book method. The courses cover your whole well being, from a total perspective, rather than from the usual isolated medical viewpoint. I found that Swami Satyananda is not merely a great yoga teacher in the sense usually understood. He is a spiritual guru whose method is yoga. His yoga is total, all encompassing and multidimensional.