I was blessed to be introduced to Yoga forty years ago, by one of the first gurus to bring the Eastern teachers to the West. I met Swami Satchidananda when I was 15 years old. I started teaching Hatha classes at the Integral Yoga Institute in NY a year later.
I began the practice as a way of controlling my body--I had been taking a lot of modern dance classes. But while I was in Yoga class, I had a profound experience of peace during the Deep Relaxation. I realized that this was unlike anything I had been taught and that it would profoundly change my outlook on life and the lives of others. It was a prophetic notion.
I started attending talks by Swami Satchidananda and found that he directly addressed issues with which I had been struggling as an adolescent. He clearly expressed answers to my questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Is there a God? What is life about? How can I find peace?
I learned that the physical practices of Hatha Yoga was like the tip of an iceberg. Yoga was so much more. Integral Yoga, as taught by Swami Satchidananda, could be approached through many paths: For someone of who was intellectual in nature, there is Jnana Yoga (the study of self-analysis and scripture); for someone of action there is Karma Yoga (doing selfless service as a way of righting wrong action); for someone drawn to self discipline there is Raja Yoga (which contains Hatha Yoga, meditation and breathing techniques), and for the person with an emotional pursuasion there is Bhakti Yoga (a devotional practice, which encompases all religions). I enjoyed learning a blend of all these paths, but found that I leaned toward Bhakti, for it helped me to direct my emotional nature in a positive direction.
Yoga helped me cope with a life-long tendency toward depression. It taught me that happiness is my true nature and that it is the mind that mis-identifies with my thoughts and with material possessions that causes distress and stress.
I had been born in a Jewish family that was minimally observant and that approached religion as a tradition more than a faith. I never found spiritual balm from religion--until I learned a Yoga. Swami Satchidananda taught that "truth is one, paths are many." Through Yoga, I was introduced to other religions: Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and more--and I found a deeply spiritual balance that sustains me to this day. His teachings of interfaith are epitomized in a temple he designed called LOTUS. This stands for the Light Of Truth Universal Shrine. See www.lotus.org (a website I built).
The story of Yoga, how it was popularized in the West and the impact is has had on many lives, is told an hour-long documentary film, "Living Yoga: The life and teachings of Swami Satchidananda." See www.livingyogamovie.org to watch the trailer and learn more about the film.
(The image I am attaching is of me driving Swami Satchidananda in my car.)
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