Yoga is over 5000 years old, yet is relatively new to Americans. Almost 50 years ago, the philosophy and practices of asanas (Yoga postures) that originated in India were initially popularized in the United States. Swami Satchidananda was one of the first Yoga masters to bring the classical Yoga tradition to the West. He taught Yoga postures to Americans and introduced them to meditation and a vegetarian and more compassionate lifestyle after he was invited to America in 1966 by the iconic pop artist Peter Max. During this period of cultural awakening, a small circle of Peter Max’s artist friends beseeched the swami to extend what was supposed to be a brief stop in New York City so they could learn from him the secret of finding physical, mental and spiritual health, peace and enlightenment. Three years later, he led some half a million American youth in chanting OM, when he delivered the official opening remarks at the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Festival, and he became known as “the Woodstock guru.” The distinctive teachings he brought with him blend the physical discipline of Yoga, the spiritual philosophy of Vedantic literature and the interfaith ideals he pioneered. These techniques and concepts influenced a generation and spawned a Yoga culture that is flourishing today.
Today, an estimated twenty million Americans practice Yoga as a means for managing stress, promoting health, slowing down the aging process and creating a more meaningful life. The teachings of Swami Satchidananda have spread into the mainstream and thousands of people now teach Yoga. You can buy Yoga gear (or mats) at Target, pick up Yoga for Dummies at the local library and catch some Yoga moves on television and in classes offered at spas, health clubs, community centers and offices of major corporations.
Yoga has been instrumental in:
o Medical therapy applications and breakthroughs proven by Dr. Dean Ornish to reverse heart disease (new studies in prostrate cancer underway)
o Improvement in grades, attitude, focus, flexibility and adaptability of children, including those with special needs
o Peacemaking efforts and bringing people of all faiths together in respect and appreciation for the unity within our diversity.
Released in honor of the 2014 Centennial (100th birth anniversary) of Sri Swami Satchidananda.
Excerpted from “Living Yoga: The Life and Teachings of Swami Satchidananda,” a film written and co-produced by Joshua M. Greene and directed and co-produced by Shiva Kumar. Running time: 18 minutes.
Swami Satchidananda, a disciple of the renowned guru, Sri Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, was known for his combination of practical wisdom and spiritual insight. He lived a life of service, demonstrating by his own example the means of finding abiding peace. Born to a devout family in South India in 1914, he gave up a personal life for a life dedicated to inner peace and spiritual knowledge. In 1966, he was invited to visit the West, where his deep spiritual realization made a profound and lasting impression.
Avant-garde filmmaker Conrad Rooks (Chappaqua, Siddhartha) first studied Yoga with Swami Satchidananda in Sri Lanka and then flew him to Paris. On the voyage back to Sri Lanka, in July 1966, Swami Satchidananda was to make a 2-day stopover in New York as a guest of Peter Max. America’s preeminent pop artist narrates stories about how he and his art friends beseeched the swami to extend his stay in New York so they could learn from him the ancient teachings of the East. To serve these sincere students, Swami Satchidananda consented. The organization founded on his teachings, Integral Yoga® International (IYI), now has more than fifty centers and offers some of the most highly respected programs for Yoga teacher certification. Integral Yoga combines various methods of Yoga that help one find the peace and joy within.
The role of spirituality in wellness and the link between inner peace and outer peace is also explored in the film.
2013 (c) Integral Yoga International/Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville, Inc.