Recent History of Yoga

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Bihar School of Yoga has been involved in yoga propagation since 1963. When we were propagating yoga, we saw the various changes that the human society faced globally. When we started teaching yoga, there were only three or four prominent yoga teachers in the world. In the decade of the 1960s, yoga was seen as a way to develop a better body, to have a more curvy body, slim hips, wider chests, bigger biceps and to be a yogi man. It was a physical-oriented practice. ‘Trim the waist lime’ used to be the slogan in the west.

In the 1970s, it was the psychic discoveries in relation to yoga, which people looked into. How can the heartbeat be stopped voluntarily, consciously? Swami Rama was able to stop his heartbeat for 15 minutes, and after 15 minutes, the heart would start to pump again. This research was conducted in America in the Meninger Foundation – how can yogis have control over the autonomic functions of the body?

Swami Nadabrahmananda controlled his breath for one hour. Today people can hold their breath for seven minutes maximum with proper training; he was holding the breath for one hour. Similarly, many other researches were conducted. People looked into yoga as a means to enhance mental powers like telepathy, clairvoyance and clairaudience.

In the decade of the 1980s, yoga became meditation. Everybody used to think of yoga as meditation and used it to meditate for stress management, for change in the cardiac behaviour, to regulate hypertension and blood pressure, and for psychological stress management.

In the 1990s, we applied yoga in many areas, like in halfway homes, drug addiction centres, old age homes, in clinics for physically and mentally challenged people, catatonics, prisoners, railways, the army. We worked with armies in Germany, Columbia and India. In the 1990s, the neti lota used to be part of the standard pack in the German army. Soldiers always carried a neti lota in their bags; the same in Columbia and India.

When late Dr Abdul Kalam, who became the President of India, was still a scientist, I used to advise him and Dr Selvamurty in yoga practices to bring yoga to the army and to the defence areas. We had made a plan to go to the Antarctica and to do experiments with yoga in that climate. When he became the President we had to drop the plan. It was at that period that yoga was developed in different areas in society and many courses were conducted for stress management, business management and for various groups in society.

At that time, we also did one of the biggest researches on respiratory problems involving ten thousand patients globally, from different countries, backgrounds, dietary and cultural habits. It was a massive program. For the first time a global sample of respiratory disorder was collected by a yoga centre and a program developed to help manage respiratory problems.

What had started in the 1960s to the 90s continued in the first decade of 2000 and gained much more momentum. By this time there were many yoga teachers in the world. When we started there were only four or five brands – Iyengar Yoga, Satyananda Yoga and Sivananda Yoga, Yoga of Great Universal Fraternity and a few more brands. By 2010, there were thousands of yoga teachers in every country. In France alone, Satyananda Yoga had trained 70,000 school teachers to teach yoga in the classroom environment. I had gone to the UNESCO in the year 2000 with a research conducted by the Bal Yoga Mitra Mandal, Munger. After seeing one presentation, within one hour the UNESCO adopted a yoga syllabus for 17 countries.

After 2009, the need of propagation was over, and in 2013, during the World Yoga Convention held in Munger, we declared that the time of yoga propagation had come to an end. On 21st June 2015, the first International Day of Yoga was celebrated. After that we embarked on the second chapter of yoga training. Due to the International Day of Yoga, people have become aware of yoga and are adopting the physical component of yoga, which is good. It is a journey that is starting for them and as the interest develops in their life, they will explore yoga more deeply.

19 January 2020, Ganga Darshan, Munger