Lifestyle Teaching

Swami Yogatirtha Saraswati

In 2013, during the Golden Jubilee celebrations and the World Yoga Convention the Bihar School of Yoga launched its second chapter of yoga. The mission of yoga propagation had been fulfilled. The aim of the new chapter is to deepen the understanding and experience of yoga as a vidya. This change is reflected in the teaching at Bihar Yoga Bharati where the emphasis of its courses shifted from an academic approach to the vast topic of yoga to living a yogic lifestyle as an expression of yogavidya.

The students learn, experience, express yoga throughout the day, while participating in all their ashram activities. Theory is covered in the hatha yoga and raja classes along with the practices. Bhakti yoga is experienced in the evening sadhana of chanting and kirtan, and the daily chanting of Sundarkand. Swamiji’s satsang and video satsangs of Sri Swamiji become jnana yoga along with the emphasis on self-study through samiksha or the Review of the Day, the SWAN meditation and the application of Swami Sivananda’s 18 ITIES.

Family members

No more than three hours are spent in the classroom. Many more hours are spent in full participation and involvement through karma yoga. With the unique blend of yoga, the gurukul system and resident sannyasins, students can only be recognized by their red and blue uniforms. Otherwise they live, work and laugh alongside guests, participants of other trainings and courses, and the short and long-term residents. They are integrated in all the ashram activities, departments and projects. Like everyone else at Ganga Darshan, they are students of life, of living a yogic lifestyle.

Sometimes more than thirty nationalities are represented in a BYB course and almost forty years lie between the youngest and oldest student. Some students never had to share a room before coming to the ashram, others are used to living with a close-knit family. The surprise at what they are offered at BYB, soon gives way to acceptance, adaptability and even more enthusiasm in their participation. Students who wanted to know about Patanjali and Vedanta, soon line up at the karma yoga desk and ask for more duties and responsibilities.

A generation born with the omnipresence of mobile phones and social media connectivity, are relieved at not being available and wasting time; they relish the freedom of choice and independence. In a world of competitiveness and insecurity, the joy of being able to express potential and be part of a community which has no interest other than the students’ growth and learning is seen on every face.

Real education

The students value yoga differently and give it a novel meaning. As relevant as sirshasana, the headstand, is the ability to look at situations from a new angle. As relevant as the twelve rounds of surya namaskara is the willingness and discipline to get up early and see the rising sun. Raja yoga becomes the skill to be aware throughout the day of head, heart and hands, koshas and gunas, the six enemies, likes and dislikes, and the inexplicable mood swings. Bhakti yoga is the effort to develop acceptance and contentment, to create and live in harmony with room mates, classmates and everyone in the ashram; and to know that this effort has to and can be made once back in society, at home and at work. For them the relevance of bhakti yoga is maintaining positivity no matter where and what.

Instead of speculating about Brahman and the mysterious ways of Maya and asking ‘Who am I’, jnana yoga is the journey into the ‘real life within’. By exploring conditionings, limitations, potential and the scope for change, jnana yoga emerges not as a distant goal but as the foundation for understanding and the continuous experience of the beauty inherent in life.

The most tangible and pertinent learning is of karma yoga as a possible way to define one’s interactions. Be it the positive attitude to all circumstances, the ability to adapt, adjust, accommodate, the willingness to give one’s best in every situation, or be it Sri Krishna’s teaching – karma or action has a purpose, meaning and a way to contribute to the upliftment of others and society.

Students learn and experience for themselves what is appropriate and inappropriate, the consequences of their choices for themselves and others. With the yama and niyama of happiness and japa, they take with them the two tools which will help them manage life in a positive, optimistic manner and thereby live a yogic lifestyle.

BYB gives the students the experience to apply yoga moment to moment and thereby enhance the quality of their own expression of head, heart and hands. Thus BYB endeavours to bring alive Swami Sivananda’s definition of education that ‘real education is the training in the art of living’.