Jun 1, 1912 - Apr 10, 2008

Initiating Yoga for Women: Shrimati Sita Devi Yogendra

The Yoga Institute

The first female yoga Guru, opening the path of yoga for women

"...since Yoga claims to be a positive science, it is foregone conclusion that its various methods and exercises are undoubtedly equally useful to both man and woman. As such it makes no distinction between either caste, creed, nationality or, above all, between the two sexes. I have already observed that practical Yoga does not close its doors to women."
- Smt. Sita Devi in the article 'Yoga for Woman', published in the April 2010 edition of 'Yoga & Total Health Magazine'.

That thousands of people the world over continue to benefit from the pioneering work of the Founder of The Yoga Institute, Santacruz, Shri Yogendraji, is in a large measure due to the love, devotion and unswerving loyalty of his life partner, Smt. Sita Devi.

Sitadevi Yogendra, fondly known as Mother, was born on 1st June 1912.

She was married to Shri Yogendraji on 29th September 1927.

Shri Yogendraji, pays a tribute to the love, devotion and unswerving loyalty of his life partner, Smt. Sita Devi by saying, “Without Sita, the Institute’s work would not have been possible.”

She was introduced to yoga soon after her marriage and absorbed sufficient knowledge and technique of yoga in two years’ time.

She became the mother of two sons and was successfully combining the yoga way of life along with her several duties as an able homemaker.

It is highly appropriate that Smt. Sita Devi Yogendra was affectionately addressed simply as “Mother” by all who met her, since the word has been time-hallowed as signifying the best, most dignified example of a life of love, care and self-sacrifice for the sake of husband and children, and also the whole community.

She was the Secretary-Treasurer of the Institute and was in charge of the ladies’ section.

Mother started contributing articles to the journal Yoga from its very inception and continued to contribute articles to The Journal of The Yoga Institute and Classic Yoga International.

She began teaching women and children at the institute and has written many articles and books on the subject over the years.

In the 1934 edition of 'Yoga & Total Health Magazine', Smt. Sita Devi's article 'Yoga for Woman' was published. Her views are succinctly expressed there:

Though fostered in an atmosphere of sex prejudice, Yoga with its universal outlook refused admission to none. Yoga may therefore be practiced both by males as well as females. The yoga authorities go so far as to state that even a prostitute can attain the highest objective of life by following the course of practical Yoga. Thus, Practical Yoga removed the bar against women. Though the yogic authorities are clear on this issue, many ashramas and institutions expected to teach yoga, refuse admission to females and married men. That this should have happened in the twentieth century is really surprising!

...as there are certain constitutional differences, both physiological and psychological, between man and woman, it is essential that preference be given to those yogic practices which fulfill her special requirements. There are certain yogic exercises which are more suited to physical and mental needs of a woman than other practices. From my own experience of the past eight years, I have been able to select and formulate a graduated course of practical training which is applicable particularly to the growing needs of the modern woman.

Her first work appeared under the title Easy Postures for Women which went through various editions. This was thoroughly revised later and then was presented in a new edition, Yoga Physical Education for Women.

Yoga Physical Education for Women has been hailed the world over as the first authoritative book on yoga for women written by a woman. It has been translated in several languages.

This book is also preserved in the Crypt of Civilization.

All the cases referred to in the book were treated personally by her and the results were accepted as successful even by the medical profession.

She has treated over five thousand cases and knew enough about the science of yoga for personal health and self-improvement.

"The family I came into was very simple. There was barely any furniture. The utensils were also very few and food grains were kept in little packets. The food that was made was also very simple – only vegetable and chapatti and the same vegetable and chappattis were kept for the evening to as there was no time as everyone was so busy running the Institute," Smt. Hansaji, daughter-in-law to Mother Sita Devi, nostalgically shared.

Mother Sitadevi passed away in 2008 at the age of 97.

In her honour, The Yoga Institute celebrated the 103rd Birth Anniversary of Mother Sita Devi, in a special function on Sunday, 1st June 2014. Dr. Jayadeva Yogendra, her son, shared, "Today I am what I am because of her bringing me up in an excellent manner. I give all the credit to her. I have seen her doing various duties at the Institute, teaching the ladies and handling all the detailed work very sincerely and with a great deal of devotion.”

"Through physical and mental poise, proper carriage and movements of gentle stretching and exercising, the yogic postures help to maintain normal elasticity of the muscles, uniformity in circulation and thus to contributes to the health of all the important internal organs and the nervous system."

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