In order to propagate yoga in human society, many lectures, seminars and conventions were guided by Sri Swamiji and BSY sannyasins. Yoga conventions have played a vital role in raising the awareness of society in relation to applied yoga. Each convention has represented a shift in the teaching, application and understanding of yoga. The two main aims of the yoga conventions have been, firstly, to bring an awareness of yoga into the mind of the general public and, secondly, to focus on recent scientific findings and research, social and personal problems, and to provide a glimpse into possible solutions.
In my memory there have been five major conventions which have shifted the focus of applying yoga in human society. The first major convention was at Munger, in 1973, commemorating the fifty years of sannyasa of our Paramguru, Swami Sivananda, and the fifty years of physical birth of our Guru, Swami Satyananda. In this convention many great exponents and masters of yoga, scientists, educationists and thinkers came from around the country and abroad. People thronged in their thousands and chartered planes, buses and trains to attend the mega event. That convention launched yoga research and health awareness. People accepted yoga as a therapy and as a science, and the trappings of mysticism and religion were removed. Development of ashrams, yoga training centres and yogic communities became the theme of the day in different parts of the globe.
It was after the '73 convention that the yoga movement around the world took on a dynamic, scientific and professional focus. Some teachers taught yoga as a hobby, others as a profession, some formed yoga federations in their own countries, others conducted scientific research on asanas, meditation and therapy, some became sannyasins, others became karma sannyasins, some become very good friends, others remained students or associates. In their own capacity they propagated yoga through whatever means and media were available. Yoga became a global subject in the decade of the seventies.
The next shift took place twenty years later during the Golden Jubilee Convention held at Munger in 1993. At this yoga convention there were representatives from thirty-two countries of the world and from twenty states of India. Educationists, scientists, yoga researchers, distinguished personalities and heads of eminent sannyasa and yoga institutions participated. The outcome of this convention was the formation and creation of academic yoga training and teaching through Bihar Yoga Bharati. This gathering provided more focus to the work being done by independent teachers, yoga centres, yoga schools and yoga ashrams.
One year later, in 1994, there was a conference in Paris, where educationists from seventeen European countries met to discuss the implementation of yogic techniques and principles in the modern education system. A declaration was signed by the major participants, the focus of which is on incorporating yoga into the education process for the development of the student.
In 1995 there was a convention in Colombia, South America. In that convention the major practitioners of yoga and other esoteric groups from South America were represented. Even the Colombian government was represented by the Education and Health Ministers. During the deliberations, it was recommended that the government establish a faculty of yoga in the University of Andes in Bogota. This faculty would encourage research in yoga for the management of social problems such as violence, sexuality and drugs.
The next convention was held in Sydney, Australia, in 1996. Here the focus was on education, research and lifestyle. Top quality research papers were presented on the increase of melatonin secretion in the brain through meditation, on creative concentration techniques for children, on new methods of education, on kundalini phenomena, on therapy and on lifestyle. At the same time the Yoga Research Institute, the Yoga Lifestyle Institute and the Yoga Education Institute came into being to cater to the needs of Australian society.
Apart from these conventions there have also been unique contributions to yoga teaching and training from different independent centres. The Satyananda Yoga Centre in London did a study into how yoga can assist the HIV positive group. Certain conclusions have been reached about the management of this condition and yoga training is being imparted to HIV positive patients. Teaching yoga in UK prisons for physical health and mental wellbeing is another area where the Satyananda yoga centres in England are cooperating together.
In Wales, the ashram at Pantypistyll and the centre at Llandeilo have been training aspirants in the sadhanas of yoga, including kundalini, kriya, chakras and sannyasa. In Italy the sannyasins have been working with the disabled, the blind, the elderly and the handicapped. In many western countries the sannyasa tradition is now being recognized and accepted as a lifestyle.
The latest entrant in this world of yoga is a group of hardworking and devoted Korean people. It is their sankalpa to have a yoga university in Korea.
There is a definite direction in each country which is positive, constructive and uplifting. Eventually a new picture of yoga will emerge of which we are just at the starting point. In a few decades a network of yoga-minded people with a common vision will grow and each will find their place in the scheme of yogic events.