Now Learn to Swim

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Last year in October, we had the biggest yoga convention. I am saying 'the biggest', for it was really a gathering of people who have devoted their life to yoga, and who have experience in yoga training and teaching in their own lives. This Convention was a way to honour the people who have devoted their life to the propagation of yoga.

In this Convention there was no post-holder; there were only teachers who have been involved with yoga for many years. They presented their work, their accomplishments, their research, their understanding and their approach to yoga. Listening to all of them, it was clear that the propagation of yoga is now complete. We have to take yoga to another level. Propagation of yoga was the theme of the first fifty years, in which we all played a role: Yoga ki jyoti jalau – "Let us light the light of yoga." We came together as a group to work for it. We came together as a force, a unit to propagate yoga. In fifty years, from being unknown to today's wide scope of applications, yoga has become a household word.

When I look around the world and the country, I find that misconceptions about yoga continue to exist. So many people are trying to project 'this yoga' or 'that yoga' as the final solution and answer, according to their own perspective: fusion yoga, fashion yoga, couple yoga, power yoga, hot yoga, cold yoga, no yoga, more yoga . . . The word yoga has become a khichari. Today, nobody knows the meaning of the word yoga. Everybody knows the types of yoga, but not the meaning of the word yoga.

The prevalent trend in our country is that there are many institutes who conduct teacher training courses for one week and give certificates. Can you be a teacher of yoga with one week of training? There is interest and I respect that interest; however, I do not subscribe to the approach or to the philosophy that you can become a yoga teacher in one week or one month. Ninety-nine percent of teachers in our country are people who are using yoga for their personal survival. I am not against it, for yoga has to give this opportunity too. However, what about the sincerity part of yoga? Is yoga going to become a joke in the next fifty years? Will yoga represent the sanctity of the tradition as defined by the seers of the past?

After the World Yoga Convention, the thought came clearly that 'You have to work to sustain yoga in the next fifty years.' You have propagated yoga: you are doing yoga, she is doing yoga, he is doing yoga, they are doing yoga, we are doing yoga, in whatever way.

Now you have to go deeper and explore the possibilities of yoga. You have played enough on the beach, putting your toes in the water, then running and making sand castles. Again going to the water, then making sand castles. That has been the game you played with yoga until today.

From now, you have to go into the water for a swim; and that is the next fifty years of yoga training: do not play on the beach, learn how to swim.

11 April 2014, Worli, Mumbai, India