Shri Yogendra and His Contribution To Yoga

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Shri Yogendra is one of the most influential figures of the modern yoga period. He played a crucial role in reviving Hatha yoga in India and the West. He also simplified the Hatha yoga techniques and redesigned them for the common man. In this blog post, we will explore Shri Yogendra’s life and work and his contribution to yoga.

“The best way to spread knowledge is to teach what you know and learn what you do not know.” – Shri Yogendra

Who is Shri Yogendra?

Shri Yogendra (1897-1989) was an Indian yoga guru, author, poet, and researcher. He was one of the first teachers to bring yoga to the West. He is also the founder of The Yoga Institute, one of the world’s first organized yoga centers. His teachings have influenced many modern yoga practitioners.

Before he became a yogi or a yoga guru, Shri Yogendra was known as Manibhai Desai. He was born into a brahmin family near Surat, Gujarat, on November 18, 1897. He lost his mother when he was only three years old. His father, Haribhai Jivanji Desai, was a village school teacher.

After graduating from Amalsad English School in 1916, Manibhai Desai traveled to Mumbai to study at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai. He was eighteen years of age at the time. In college, he took up gymnastics and wrestling, earning the nickname Mr. Universe because of his skills in both sports.

Shri Yogendra
Photo: The Yoga Institute

But at the same time, he also became depressed. So at the advice of a friend, he visited Paramahamsa Madhavadasaji’s Dharamshala at Madhav Baug in Bombay. Sadhus, sannyasis, and yogis did not fit young Manibhai’s vision of modern Indian society—but none of that mattered once he met Paramahamsa Madhavadasaji.

In late 1916, after a brief period of uncertainty, Manibhai left college to join Paramahamsa Madhavadasaji’s ashram in Malsar, Vadodara. At the ashram, he trained under Paramahamsa Madhavadas Ji. From his guru, he learned the practical applications of yoga and how they can be used to treat different types of illnesses.

When Manibhai left the ashram after two years in 1918, his goal was clear. He wanted to dispel the myth that yoga is only for hermits, sanyasis, and yogis, not ordinary people living in towns and cities. Manibhai also wanted to simplify the asanas to make them more accessible to a broader audience.

Manibhai, or Shri Yogendra, founded The Yoga Institute in December of 1918, now one of the world’s oldest and most respected yoga schools. His teachings emphasized the importance of practice and discipline, and he is credited with helping to popularise yoga in the West.

The Yoga Institute is one of India’s oldest and most respected yoga schools. It has trained thousands of students from all over the world and continues to do so today. Under Shri Yogendra’s guidance, the institute developed a unique system of Hatha Yoga that combines various traditional styles with Western scientific knowledge.

In 1919, Shri Yogendra visited the USA, where he got the chance to work with renowned doctors like John Harvey Kellogg and Benedict Lust, one of the founders of naturopathic medicine. He conducted extensive research and several experiments to prove the medical benefits of yoga to the West.

Shri Yogendra
Photo: The Yoga Institute

After returning to India in 1922, he began visiting yoga ashrams in Northern parts of India to search for ancient texts on yoga. Shri Yogendraji subsequently translated these ancient yoga manuscripts into a more straightforward version so that more people could learn about the significance of yoga in fostering mental and physical health.

All his life, Shri Yogendra actively worked to spread the knowledge of yoga among the masses. He found a true partner in his wife, Sita Devi, whom he married in 1927. She supported him in all his endeavors and, like him, was a pioneer in spreading awareness of yoga among women. When we talk about a way to live, Shri Yogendra can teach us a lot.

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Besides being a yoga guru, Shri Yogendra was also a writer and a poet. He authored two books on devotional poetry – Prabhubhakti (Devotion to the Lord) and Hrudayapushpanjali (Prayers from the Heart). He also translated Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali from Bengali to Gujarati. The translations were published in 1918 with consent from Rabindranath Tagore. Shri Yogendra has also written and published numerous books on Yoga. These include – Hatha-Yoga Simplified, Facts about Yoga, Yoga in Modern Life, Guide to Yoga Meditation, Life Problems, and Rhythmic Exercises, to name a few.

Shri Yogendra passed away in 1989 at the age of 92. However, his legacy continues on through the work of his students and the many people who have been positively impacted by his teachings.

Shri Yogendra: His Contribution to Yoga

Shri Yogendra’s contribution to yoga is vast and far-reaching. His work has influenced many of the great yoga masters of our time. His biggest achievement is perhaps simplifying the asanas to make them more attainable for ordinary individuals and linking them with his unique breathing rhythm. The breathing rhythm is named after him – the Yogendra breathing rhythm. Shri Yogendra’s system of Hatha Yoga is based on the principle of balancing the energies in the body, which leads to a state of perfect health and well-being.

Shri Yogendra’s approach to yoga is unique in that it emphasizes both the physical and mental aspects of the practice. His system of Hatha yoga includes asanas (yoga postures), pranayama (breath control), mudras (hand gestures), bandhas (energy locks), and meditation. All of these elements are designed to work together to balance the energies in the body and promote a state of complete physical, mental, and emotional health.

Shri Yogendra was also one of the first yoga teachers to emphasize the importance of proper diet and nutrition for achieving optimum health. He developed a system of combining food that is still used by many people today. In addition, he taught that certain foods can help to balance the energies in the body and should be included as part of a healthy diet for those practicing yoga.

Photo: The Yoga Institute

The principles and practices that Shri Yogendra developed have profoundly impacted the world of yoga. His teachings have inspired many people to pursue a path of physical, mental, and spiritual growth through the practice of yoga.

During his lifetime, Shri Yogendra worked continuously to perpetuate the message that practicing yoga can help one to lead a healthy and independent life. He also believed that yoga can help us to attain self-knowledge and moral strength. He wanted to create a better society by ‘improving’ as many ordinary individuals. By ‘improved,’ he meant inner peace, responsibility for one’s health, ethical and moral understanding, and an expansion of consciousness. He also believed that to gain truly holistic and enduring health, one must improve all aspects of one’s life, such as diet, lifestyle, behavior, exercise, posture, recreation, attitude towards others, and life in general.

Shri continued to teach and write about yoga until he died in 1989. His path was less traveled, and he often faced ridicule and criticism but remained committed to his goal. His work has inspired generations of yogis and continues to influence the practice of yoga today. Now many people choose to follow the Shri Yogendra way to live. The more you know about him, the more you understand why!


Who is Shri Yogendra?

Shri Yogendra was an Indian yoga guru, researcher, poet, and author, known as one of the first teachers who brought yoga to the west. He was born in 1897, and he passed away in 1989. As the founder of The Yoga Institute, his teaching has influenced many modern yoga practitioners.

What is Shri Yogendra’s contribution to yoga?

Shri Yogendra’s contribution to yoga is astonishing. He influenced most of the great yoga masters of our time and simplified the asanas to make them more attainable for ordinary individuals. He linked those with his unique breathing rhythm – the Yogendra breathing rhythm. His system of Hatha Yoga is based on the balance between the energies in the body, which results in a state of perfect health and well-being.

What was the message that Shri Yogendra wanted to share?

Shri Yogendra wanted to share the message that participating in yoga can help people to lead healthy and independent life. He believed that the practice can help people to acquire self-knowledge and moral strength.

What was Shri Yogendra’s goal?

Shri Yogendra’s goal was to develop a better society by improving as many individuals as possible. By ‘improved’, he meant people who have found their inner peace, who have gained ethical and moral understanding, and who developed an expansion of consciousness.

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