The story of a Yoga pioneer
Bright, diligent, studious and athletic, imbued with a sense of duty and responsibility, Mani passed with flying colours in the examinations and spectacular success on the sports arena.
He had set a goal to appear for I.C.S. examination as Indian Civil Servant was the highest rung of the Indian bureaucracy. At the age of 17, he went to Bombay to study in the prestigious St. Xavier’s college.
Mani got fond of gymnastics and wrestling. As he grew in strength, his reputation also grew. Mani was hailed as a local Mr. Universe, and the helping hand in times of need and difficulties— the strong one in the service of the weak.
His reputation as a wrestler spread far and wide. When he appeared at Ahmedabad for his matriculation exam, his skill as a wrestler was the talk of the college.
Something more than studies had drawn Mani’s mind. He had suddenly become contemplative and withdrawn, lost in wonder about the meaning of life. Some cue to this mood comes clearly in some of his early poems written a little later. “The Yogi” , a poem translated from the original Gujarati illustrates this symbolically.
The banyan roots grace
A pitched dark night,
And the solitary desolate place
Is devoid of light.
But from somewhere a song arose
Like feeble lunar glow,
Round the faint dhuni, a yogi froze
Into a mystic smiling overflow.
In his lap a lute he played,
His fingers moved on strings
And well engrossed thus he stayed,
Experiencing a mystic musing.
The voice arose the joy to keep,
His ears sensed a thrill
He stayed in this divine sleep
Ending all his worldly ills.
On 26th August 1916, Manibhai Haribhai Desai attended a discourse by Paramhamsa Madhavdasji and was greatly drawn to the Master and surrendered to him as his Guru.
With the blessings of his Guru, Shri Paramhamsa Madhavadasji, Yogendraji went on to spread the secret knowledge of Yoga among the masses.
He declined the offer of monkhood and with his master's permission decided to go ahead with his mission of spreading awareness of Yoga to all.
Shri Yogendra had promised his father one thing that he would return and be a householder. He would marry. He wanted a bride that would share his life, be a partner in his life goal. A girl from any community would do as long as she was cultured and educated.
On 29th August 1927, at Malleswaram, Bangalore, Shri Yogendraji was united in marriage to Shrimati Sita Devi, daughter of Mr. S. R. V. Rao, Zamindar of Koilampundy.
Seen here in the image is Yogendraji with wife Sitadevi and two sons, Jayadeva and Vijaydeva.
He was the first yogi to simplify the techniques of Hatha Yoga and design them such that the common man could practice them and gain the same benefits.
Yogendraji always emphasized on practicing Kriyas regularly. Here he is seen demonstrating Jalneti (nasal douching) without the use of any external aid. He always believed in self reliance and so promoted the technique by using one's own palms.
Much of the training was related to practical and pragmatic use of Yoga and the application of it in various situations of sickness and suffering. The cause of these problems had to be first studied and based on the intuitive skill of analysis he would use his expertise to treat various ailments and diseases of people flocking to him.
Shri Yogendraji with his keen incisive mind has always preferred to get to the root of the practice taught and has applied himself with dedication to make some of the difficult practices of Yoga available for the modem man.
He has simplified some of the asanas and correlated them with a special breathing rhythm which derives the name from him—the Yogendra breathing rhythm. This has become an accepted part of the asanas. He systematized the asanas and endowed them with a correct methodology.
Yogendraji studied in detail and conducted thorough examination as well as research for each patient visiting The Yoga Institute.
The Institute had equipped itself with a twelve bed hospital and an outpatient department to handle a large number of patients every day. The results which accrued were very encouraging and a report was published — Research Procedures for Investigating Claims of Treatment of Diseases through Yoga.
In essence it established what was known to the Yogis of old that Yoga had its own parameters and had to be evaluated differently from the limited research methodology of modern medicine. Shri Yogendraji who was the Yogi on this medical panel who had been working since 1918 on the claims of Yoga therapeutics, reiterated that Yoga is an education in healthy living at all stages.
This got accepted in modern medicine which has also come to believe that health is not absence of disease.
He applied simple but scientific place sequence in the performance of many asanas. By sharp contrast he exposed the vital difference between asanas and other forms of physical education.
In order to effect the total psychophysical unit — the whole man — he kept in mind Yoga’s dictum of catering to the whole personality-complex.
Shri Yogendraji in his crusade to bring Yoga to modern society pioneered the teaching of women. In fact his first student was a little girl named affectionately Mira whom he taught at the behest of Paramahamsa Madhavadasaji at Matheran. He also prompted his wife in to this practice and spread the awareness of yoga to all women.
Shri Yogendraji has devoted much of his energies in making Yoga available in the educational field so that it has been found necessary to chalk out detailed plans to implement it not only as a form of physical training but keeping in mind a holistic approach. In this he has augmented Yoga in the State and Central Government levels where proposals have been submitted, for Yoga education.
Life Problems is the first published book by Shri Yogendraji in 1926.
Much earlier, he had already written and translated many books referring to the values of life, thus affirming his attitude both to poetry and philosophy.
Sir Rabindranath Tagore's Bengali Gitanjali translated into Gujarati by Yogendraji in 1918.
Yogendraji has written many authoritative texts on yoga based on ancient scriptures. Some of his most revered books are preserved in the Crypt of Civilization for posterity; they are to be opened after 6000 years.
Out of the 700 books selected by a panel of eminent judges from millions of books available for selection, only a few were selected from India, out of which four books authored by Shri Yogendraji and his wife Sitadevi, from The Yoga Institute, were included in the Crypt of Civilization.
The four books are -
Yoga Personal Hygiene by Shri Yogendraji.
Yoga Asanas Simplified by Shri Yogendraji.
Hatha Yoga Simplified by Shri Yogendraji.
Yoga Physical Education for Women by Smt. Sitadevi Yogendra.
It is a matter of great pride that the work of The Yoga Institute has been preserved as an authoritative representation of our civilization.
For such a pioneer, only a poetic verse seems to best pay tribute:
In the diamond mirror
Of thine soul
We see hopes
For the future of humanity.
In time - the essence of life,
Time the healer,
And giver of light,
We see you honoured
In the gladness of the hearts
Of those yet to come
As they will install you
As a Savior
And we salute you
And honour you
On behalf of
The future humanity
And we thank God,
For the blessing
Of the gift of your life to us.
Glow you Founder
Of The Yoga Institute,
Glow you Father of Yoga Renaissance,
Glow you holy Soul, glow,
Glow all the way
And shed the light
On weary paths
Of struggling humanity
In the timeless chain
Of life and death.
Text based on 'Yoga for All' by Hansa J. Yogendra