Yoga in Yugoslavia

Swami Anitananda Saraswati

The first serious steps towards yoga in Yugoslavia started in 1980. Until that time people usually practised gymnastic exercises with some elements taken from asanas, and called that yoga. Then a small group of people joined together and began to practise a yoga teachers' programme from Swami Satyananda which was published in the BSY 'Yoga' magazines. Years later, most of the people from that group became disciples and sannyasins of Swami Satyananda.

One person from that group met Swami Satyananda at the airport when he visited Belgrade in 1974. This meeting was probably the most important for the beginning of yoga in Yugoslavia. It finished with Paramahamsaji's words: "We will meet in two years in Munger." And two years later she was in Munger. Her name is Swami Tirthatanda. On her return to Yugoslavia she translated the book Yoga and Hypertension which was published in 1980. This book was an initiation for many spiritual seekers in Yugoslavia, as it was the first original book about yoga.

I met Swami Satyananda in November 1981. A few months later Swami Yogamudrananda visited Belgrade and guided a three day seminar. She transmitted living knowledge of Swami Satyananda. Many people came to the public lecture to hear and take part in the seminar. It gave new strength to disciples and was another step forward in spreading yoga. In the following year a group of people went to Switzerland for a seven day seminar. Nobody will forget their first meeting with guru. After this seminars were held one after another with Swami Yogamudrananda in Belgrade. She also conducted seminars in France and Switzerland which again was a good opportunity for people from Yugoslavia.

In 1983 Paramahamsaji visited Switzerland and again a large group from Yugoslavia participated. He came to Place Lipice where Swami Anandananda organised a seminar and many initiations took place. In 1984 and 1985, at Guru Poornima in Athens many people were initiated into karma sannyasa and mantra. Since 1986 a few young people have taken Poorna sannyasa, a lot of groups have been to Munger, and in November 1994, forty people went to Rikhia to have darshan of Paramahamsaji.

So the number of people interested in yoga and spirituality has increased every year, even though the state of Yugoslavia has decreased in size. Political, religious and social crises, as a consequence of war, have ignited the flame of consciousness in many people and an interest in, and a need for, yoga became very strong. Yoga classes began in most of the larger cities and as well as Bihar School of Yoga there are many other yoga schools and aspirants.

Since 1984 a large number of BSY publications has been translated and published by sannyasins, disciples and devotees. In 1988 the first yoga centre was registered under the name of 'Satyam'. One of its most important tasks was the publishing of the 'Yoga' magazine. As well as the Satyam Yoga Centre there is also the Darshan Yoga Centre. Disciples organise classes, seminars, ashram visits, publishing and outside classes in sports centres, private apartments, hospitals and other institutions.

Even though there are different methods of teaching yoga, a strong bond exists among the teachers and disciples in a typical Yugoslavian and Balkan way. When seminars, ashram visits, etc. have to be organised this bond shows itself. These days I enjoy listening to questions about yoga because I can see the changing attitude towards yoga, not only as a discipline for health but as a spiritual science and a path for knowing oneself through the expansion of consciousness.