Swami Sivamurti Saraswati, Greece: Sri Swamiji had sent me to Greece and told me to start in a small way. I started in a small, provincial, conservative town of Kalamata where the few people who had heard about yoga believed it was the work of the devil. They were supported by the bishop and priests there who spoke more about me than they did about Christ and the church, telling people not to go to ‘that woman’ because they will fall from grace. That naturally stopped a lot of people, and the few who did come had a lot of reservations. The classes had to be segregated for women and men, as men did not want their wives doing yoga with another man beside them.
There were also a lot of private lessons as many well-to-do people in Kalamata did not want anyone else to know that they were practising yoga. I had to stagger the classes and put half an hour in between each class so they wouldn’t meet on the stairs. Sometimes they’d overlap as someone came earlier and at that time, I had to put one person into a cupboard, settle the other person in shavasana, then give an ‘all clear’ sign to the first person.
I didn’t speak a word of Greek. I prepared the lessons in English and had them translated by a very kindly lady, who translated everything, I hope, into correct Greek. That was for many years. In this way, Kalamata was a real training ground and a learning experience in many ways. Sri Swamiji had said to me, “Don’t necessarily stay in one place. You have to go where the need is.” After some time I realized that a greater need may be elsewhere. I started travelling around, giving lectures in different towns and cities and eventually moved to Athens. I started there in a small fat. It was about fifteen by fifteen square metres, with furniture that was immovable. I had to sit and stand on the sofa and give the practices. The students had to manage under the immovable tables and chairs. I only had eight students, but they enjoyed it. When I meet some of them today, they say those were the best days.
21 October 2019, Munger Yoga Symposium