Take Care of Your Future Generation

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

We have provided our children with everything for their fullest knowledge and development. We love them and want them to be happy and to grow into fine, well-balanced individuals. But something has gone wrong. Our generation is living in a vacuum. As parents, we do not know how to develop and harmonize all the aspects of our own being, so how can we teach our children to do so? In the educational system also the child is not considered as a whole. The leaders give food and games to the workers and rule them; we do the same with our children. But the future of humanity rests with the child and he has to be cast into a sublime pattern.

Yoga and education

As it was in the past, yoga must again become a part of the education system. In ancient India, yoga was taught to little children in gurukul as a science. Gurukul means the family of teachers, and definitely, children belong to the family of teachers. But later on the science of yoga degenerated into a religion; it was interpreted as a form of mysticism and equated with witchcraft and magic. For hundreds of years, so many erroneous interpretations were prevalent. Now, however, the intellectuals of our time are rethinking, and they are going to fill up this great generation gap.

For decades I have been working to promote these principles around the world. I have met educators everywhere, and finally things have born fruit. The Danish government was perhaps the first to arrange yoga teaching officially, at the rate of 120 kroner per hour for yoga teachers. It was the first government to issue brochures on yoga and send them, once a year, to all its citizens. That was followed by the Educational and Health Departments in Northern Ireland. The Sports Council there provides regular training for yoga as part of its activities.

Similarly, in the United Kingdom, local governments have introduced yoga into the night schools. Two years ago, I received official information from the Sports Ministry of Czechoslovakia that they were also introducing yoga. This means that not only the educators but also the governments have started to think along yogic lines. If the community realizes the need for yoga, then the government will have to follow suit and provide facilities for teaching yoga.

Revival of the yogic science

In India, we have been working towards this end for many years. During the dark periods of Indian history, yoga suffered a serious decline. Well, the loss is not only India's but the whole world's. It is now vital that the governments of every country concerned with raising the social standard of its people do everything possible for the revival of this science. But this must be undertaken in a very concrete way.

Thousands and thousands of teachers have to be trained. At the same time, the syllabus has to be made ready for different classes. Children of the primary, middle and higher secondary schools all have different needs for physical, emotional and mental development. They can be taught the same practices, but in different ways, with different emphasis, according to their intellectual grade and capacity.

Asanas have to be presented to children according to their particular level. It is not necessary to divide them according to class. The same exercises in the pawanmuktasana series can be done at different grades, however, we must take care that the way we teach and the way they practise is not detrimental to their growth. You can carry a child to the state of Patanjali's seventh step, but how will this influence his development?

Role of mandala in teaching children

Adults can be given nadi shodhana pranayama: inspiration, retention, expiration, in a straight technique because they have very stable minds and imaginations. The child, however, is at different stages of growth and does not have a stable mind or imagination. Therefore, in teaching children a proper basis must be given from which the practice can be developed.

I will give you an example. Draw an inverted triangle. Now start from the apex at the bottom, and inhale up to the left corner. Stop and pass over the base of the triangle to the right corner. Exhale and come down. This is the triangular mandala which can be given during nadi shodhana pranayama.

You should understand that children have the capacity to express archetypes through the medium of mandala. This is difficult for adults. The subconscious mind of the child has a very delicate opening while ours is behind the iron curtain. Further, the child's subconscious is wide open to both positive and negative influences.

Now the educators will have to decide what kind of mandala should be selected for the particular grades, because the child's mental and emotional level is different to ours. Similarly, their capacity of imagination is also different. But, what is more important, the structure of the brain and its responses to external objects is completely different.

Become a child again

As adults we have forgotten how to think and feel like a child. But it is necessary to experience the world of the child once again before we start to teach yoga to children. This does not just mean to try and behave as a child, but to think and feel and imagine as children do. Listen to their fantastic stories in the same way as they do. All children believe in fairy tales, but we don't. How then can we enter their world and stand at one with them?

I have been working to establish a system which will be useful for all teachers, not only in Europe but all over the world. Recently I wrote the following three lines to one great world leader, and I hope they will be remembered in history.

'There is turmoil throughout the world today.

You can do nothing to eliminate it.

Take care of your future generation.'

—11 August 1980, Zinal, Switzerland Printed in YOGA Vol. 21, No. 8 (August 1983)