The Origins of Sivananda Yoga

Sivananda Yoga represents Swami Vishnu-devananda's practical implementation of raja yoga and vedanta philosophy. Swami Vishnu-devananda was a student of Swami Sivananda (1887—1963), for whom this approach to yoga is named and upon whose teachings it is based. Born in Pattamadai, Tamil Nadu, South India, Swami Sivananda served many years as a medical doctor before devoting himself exclusively to the practice and teaching of yoga. His approach to yoga represents a synthesis of classic yoga teachings, integrating the principles of the four main yoga traditions of India: bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, karma yoga, and raja yoga (see Chapter 1). Author of more than 300 books, Swami Sivananda founded the Divine Life Society and established the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh, North India.

Swami Vishnu-devananda, who was one of Swami Sivananda's most fervent and adept students, was born in Kerala, South India. Swami Sivananda sent this young protégé to North America in 1957 with a 10 rupee note and the simple encouragement: "People are waiting."2 Swami Vishnu-devananda designed a practical five-point system in order to make the teachings of yoga and vedanta more accessible in the West. He implemented this system through his teaching, writing, and founding of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres in Montreal, Canada, in 1959. His seminal text, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga, which was published in 1960 and is still extensively read today, brought these teachings to widespread attention. His sensible and simple-to-follow approach to yoga gained many adherents and made what had seemed an esoteric Eastern approach accessible.

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