No one knows exactly how old yoga is. I’ve recently seen images of wall paintings showing Egyptians in poses that look strangely similar to upward bow, dating back to 1180 B.C. There are even images of Egyptian ladies performing what we would call “drop backs”, pictured in Vanda Scaravelli’s book ‘Awakening the Spine’. I mean, come on, isn’t this crazy?
In any case, during most of yoga’s history the knowledge would be transmitted from teacher to student in one-on-one sessions. And while all this remains murky ground, we can pinpoint one date: The opening of the world’s first yoga centre! Unsurprisingly, it’s located in India, still going strong, and yes, in case you’re wondering – the centre is also on Facebook and Twitter.
THE YOGA INSTITUTE in Mumbai has been established in 1918 which makes it the oldest running yoga centre globally. Its founder, Shri Yogendraji (born as Mani Haribhai Desai in 1897 in Gujarat) embarked on spreading the (then secret) knowledge of yoga among the masses as he felt yoga could “help improve the lives of householders”; he dedicated his life to curing people from their ailments through therapeutic yoga.
Today, the centre welcomes on average about 1.000 students a day who attend the extensive programme: Apart from asana classes there’s a book club, discussions on better living, satsangs, health check ups, health camps, and the centre runs its own Yoga Teacher Training Courses, with students being able to pick from programmes lasting one month to one year. It also organises corporate workshops and yoga camps for children.
Another attraction is the ‘Museum of Yoga’ the centre has put together, and now, listen to this:
“The Yoga Museum aims to show Yoga as a way of life – not as sports or physical culture. It also provides a guideline for all interested in studying authentic Yoga. It is necessary to present a sane and balanced view of Yoga which is such a dire necessity amidst the confusion that has spawned in Yoga activities in India specially and abroad.”
If you fancy going, the centre today is welcoming students from all over the world – they even offer hostel facilities. You can find them online here, follow on Twitter here, and ‘like’ them on Facebook here.
Definitely on the list of places to check out during my next India trip!