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Spreading the message of one love. Image Source: http://bkinfo.in

BY VRITIKA JHUNJHUNWALA

Brahma Kumaris is a worldwide spiritual movement dedicated to personal transformation and world renewal. Founded in India in 1937 by Dada Lekhraj Kripalani, who later took the name Brahma Baba, Brahma  Kumaris has spread to over 110 countries on all continents and has had an extensive impact in many sectors as an international NGO.

The Philosophy

The organization believes that all souls are intrinsically good and that God is the source of all goodness. Our true identity is not the physical form, but the spiritual being which embodies love, peace, purity and understanding. The university teaches one to transcend labels associated with the body, such as race, nationality, religion, and gender and aspires to establish a global culture of mindfulness.

Head Quarters and other office centres

The spiritual headquarters of Brahma Kumaris is in Mount Abu, India. The Brahma Kumaris spiritual headquarters is known as Madhuban (Forest of Honey). Activities of international interest are coordinated regionally from offices and retreats in London, Moscow, Nairobi, New York and Sydney, Philippines and Brazil. The movement claimed to have more than 825,000 regular students, with over 8,500 centres in 110 countries

The Founder

Brahma Kumaris was founded by Dada Lekhraj Kripalani, a retired Indian businessman, in 1937 in Hyderabad, a city now in Pakistan. Lekhraj was brought up within the disciplines of the Hindu tradition and after different jobs; he entered the jewellery business to earn a considerable fortune as a diamond trader. In 1936, around the time when most people his age start to plan retirement, he entered into the most active and fascinating phase of his life.

After a series of deep spiritual experiences and visions, he felt an extremely strong pull to give up his business and dedicate his time, energy and wealth to laying the foundations of what later would become the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University. Between 1937 and 1938, he formed a Managing Committee of eight young women and surrendered all his property and assets to a Trust administered by them. After guiding the creation of many Brahma Kumaris centres throughout India, he passed on in January 1969

Courses and other Activities

The courses and subjects range within a variety of technical and gradual processes that include ‘The study of spiritual knowledge’, ‘Raja Yoga meditation’, ‘Conscious assimilation of virtues’, ‘Serving others spiritually’, ‘Overcoming anger’, ‘Positive thinking’, ‘Self-esteem’, ‘Stress-free living’ and other residential courses.

Lifestyle

Brahma Kumaris recommend a specific lifestyle in order achieve greater control over physical senses. This comprises of complete celibacy in or out of marriage, Sattvic vegetarianism, abstaining from alcohol, tobacco and non-prescription drugs, early morning meditation and wearing white clothes to symbolize purity.

Brahma Kumaris International Headquarters in Abu Road. Image Courtesy: http://www.brahmakumaris.com

The role of women

Brahma Kumaris is the largest spiritual organization in the world led by women. Although women hold the top administrative positions, they make decisions in partnership with the men. It is a consensus model of leadership based on respect, equality and humility. As such, it stands as an exemplar of accomplished and harmonious jurisdiction.

The United Nations and other activities

Brahma Kumaris is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) of the United Nations accredited by General Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

In promoting the purpose and principles of the United Nations, the spiritual trajectory of awareness, attitude, vision and action is used by Brahma Kumaris in the areas of the Millennium Development Goals, Climate Change, Food Crisis, Gender Equality, Global Public Health, Humanitarian Emergencies, Human Rights, Women, Children, Youth, International Decades and Days.

Current Leaders

Dadi Janki, born in 1916, she is the active Spiritual Head of Brahma Kumaris. Engaged in the mission since 1937, she spent 40 years based in London from 1974. Deep and insightful, she is an absolute joy to listen to and observe.

Dadi Hirdaya Mohini is the Additional Spiritual Head of Brahma Kumaris and stands true to her name that means ‘the one who attracts the heart’. She was one of the original members of the boarding school set up in 1937 by Brahma Baba.  Simple, silent and profound, she also inspires millions throughout the world.

Dadi Ratan Mohini is the Joint Spiritual Head of Brahma Kumaris and is one of the backbone members residing at the Headquarters. Dedicated and forthright, her focus has been the development and training of teachers throughout India that serve as the spiritual resource to the team of young people responsible for the personal development of youth. Now in her eighties, she remains lively and young at heart.

Meditation being the core teaching of these enlightened women, they also believe that spiritual awareness gives us the power to choose good and positive thoughts over those which are negative and wasteful. If these practices are adopted in one’s daily life, we begin to live in harmony, create better, happier and healthier relationships to change our lives in the most positive ways.

For more information on the Brahma Kumaris and their organisation, please visit their official website. 

Vritika lives in India where she immersed herself in authentic principles of Yoga and meditation through intense study, reference reading and oral teaching. Having learnt and taught the benefits of meditation in modern life, she aims to bring peace and well being to people in innumerable ways demonstrated by Yogic wisdom. To read more of her writing visit her blog 

Yoga at Sagar University. Picture Source: Youtube.com

BY VRITIKA JHUNJHUNWALA

Yoga is quickly being recognized by modern Indians and Westerners as a proper science and one of the leading institutions that help to impart this ancient knowledge is Sagar University.

Dr Hari Singh Gour University, formerly and more popularly known as Sagar University is located in the city of Sagar, the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. It was formerly named “Sagar University” when founded on 18 July 1946, during the British Raj. Based on a research study conducted recently by the government, more than 3,500 government and private Indian universities were assessed based on various parameters, including research facilities, students’ employability and popular perception and Sagar University along with IIT and IIM-I ranked as the top universities in Madhya Pradesh.

Encompassing most of Sagar City on Patharia hills and the main campus sprawling over 830.3 hectares of land, the University was established on 18th July 1946 by Dr. Sir Hari Singh Gour with his lifetime earnings. This 18th University of India is the oldest and biggest University of Madhya Pradesh has as many as 26 departments with their own departmental libraries. Apart from conventional degrees, postgraduate and research courses, Geology, Pharmacy, Criminology & Forensic Science, Anthropology, Performing Arts, Journalism & Mass Communication, Adult Education, Electronics, Business Management, Microbiology, Biotechnology, Yogic Science and Computer Applications are some of the  special subjects that attract a large number of students worldwide.

The main objectives include attaining peaks of excellence in the dissemination of knowledge and learning with a view to developing global competencies as well as to contribute to national development by generating trained manpower. Department of Yogic Studies is accredited by NAAC and provides Yoga courses for Bachelors, Post graduation and Certification purposes. The basic objectives of these courses are to provide broad scientific knowledge and professional skills to the students willing to develop their career in the field of Yoga.

Their Yogic courses have a comprehensive and practical approach to understand and teach Yoga. They include a mixture of Diplomas, Bachelor and post graduation degrees like Junior Diploma in Yoga (12 months), Bachelor of Arts (12 months), Graduate Diploma in Yoga (12 months), P.G. Diploma in Yoga and Naturopathy (12 months), P.G. Diploma in Yoga and Psychotherapy (12 months), P.G. Diploma in Yoga and Meditation (12 months), Master of Arts in Yoga (24 months) and Doctor of Philosophy (Yoga) (36 months). Of these, the Diplomas and Masters programs are the most popular among students.

Education is not considered just a theoretical part of learning, at Sagar University Yoga is taught first hand ( Asanas, Pranayama, Ashtanga principles) and students also learn a variety of ancillary courses as Yoga is a profound science that envelops every aspect of life. Some of the modules and subjects taught are Foundations of Yoga Therapy & Naturopathy, Human Biology according to Yogic Science, Principles of Health & Therapy, History, Misconceptions and Modern Application of Yoga. Knowledge of the different schools and kinds of Yoga are imparted along with bare yoga practices such as Prayer, Yogic Diet, ideal place, discipline, dress, bathing, time and sequence for yogic practices.

Students also learn about eminent Yoga Institutions and their contributions and can browse the well-stocked libraries to work on their modules in extensive detail. From learning about the human body and its meaning and importance in Yoga & Naturopathy, basic knowledge of the definition of health, disease, therapy and its principles and classifications is also provided. Apart from this, students also study alternative and modern therapy to bring about a middle ground to use the best techniques required to treat patients according to their symptoms and stage of illness.

Institutions like Sagar University not only impart precious and ancient knowledge that is the cornerstone of Indian culture but also teach the society about the innumerable benefits of Yoga and the ease of applying it to one’s life. In modern times, we’re in dire need of authentic teachers as misinformed practices us in many ways. Such institutions are not only helping to employ the youth, but empower them with unique tools of self-transformation as well.

Useful links to Courses offered at Sagar University

P.G. Diploma in Yoga and Naturopathy (PGYN)

P.G. Diploma in Yoga and Psychotherapy (PGYP)

P.G. Diploma in Yoga and Meditation (PGYM)

For more information regarding Sagar University please visit their website.

Vritika lives in India where she immersed herself in authentic principles of Yoga and meditation through intense study, reference reading and oral teaching. Having learnt and taught the benefits of meditation in modern life, she aims to bring peace and well being to people in innumerable ways demonstrated by Yogic wisdom. To read more of her writing visit her blog 

KPJAYI, Mysore, India. Photograph – Coni Hörler

BY GOWRISHANKAR HOSAKERE

One of the first things I asked myself when I started Samyama Academy of Yoga was, “What is it that I want to teach?” and “How much fees should I charge the students?” I wanted to find my expression in a wide variety of meanings, as yoga the age-old and oft-misrepresented science is taught in various schools today.

First Yoga Teacher Training (YTT)

My first reference was from the school where I received my teacher training certification. I did my 200-hour YTT at Rishikesh and had researched several schools before joining the YTT program in Dayananda Ashram on the banks of the Ganges. I felt two things; the fee was high and the certification was liberal. It was clear that there was a demand from foreigners who wanted to learn yoga and get a certificate. I noticed that schools that offer TT programs, list their programs & schedule, call for enrollments, offer early-bird discounts, and also charged a fair bit for certification. I also noticed that schools offered differential fees for Indian and foreign students. Foreign students paid much more than their India counterparts.

The KPJAYI experience

Later, I went to study at KPJAYI. I noticed that KPJAYI does not comply with the norm of the ‘time-bound certification process’. As the flag bearer institute of the Ashtanga Yoga lineage in India, the TT was clearly separate and not part of the standard teaching. A student needs to dedicate to the practice first and demonstrate resolve and perseverance before approaching a certification. At some point in the students’ practice, years after starting, the teacher would deem that the student was ready to teach. While I am not aware of the fee process for certification at KPJAYI, I felt this provided me with some of the answers I was looking for. I had always felt it was not appropriate to give out certificates to students who couldn’t do even basic asanas well. The fact that KPJAYI had a working model for this was a big learning for me.

Learning to Meditate

During my next study break, I decided to focus on meditation. I had started to meditate in 2006 and have been a regular meditator since.  The personally challenging year 2011-12, was spent in meditation. I booked myself for Vipassana Meditation (as taught by S.N.Goenka), as being in silence for 11 days felt like the right thing to do. Also, I have always been drawn to Buddha’s teachings. What followed was life-changing. The method of teaching and the importance of practice was enlightening. Vipassana is taught without discrimination on nationality/religion/gender. To receive a certification, and to become a Vipassana teacher is a deeply involved process, requiring several years of dedicated practice. Vipassana works on a ‘pay it forward’ philosophy. Students can pay any amount they feel they want to, to help the teaching continue to students that follow.

Incorporating the lessons

My journey in my own school followed the outline above. I started my school by charging similarly to what schools in Rishikesh would charge for certification programs. I charged differently for Indians and foreigners. I was not at peace with this decision. Yet, I pursued, in the solace that I was doing what was already accepted to several people. When I came back from studies at KPJAYI, I stopped offering teacher training, which completely dried up my revenues. However, I still charged more for foreigners than Indians. I was not sure if I wanted to change that, though it bothered me. I wasn’t ready to do what I felt was right. When I returned from Vipassana, everything changed. I felt more strength and peace and wanted to do only those things that gave me peace of mind at large. I felt it was wrong to charge differently for foreigners and Indians. In fact, several foreigners travel long distances and spend quite a bit of money just on just travel and accommodation.

Class in progress at the Samyama Academy of Yoga. Photo: Gowrishankar Hosakere

The downside of a fair decision

Of course, the downside of merit-oriented certification is that as a teacher you cannot guarantee to certify anyone until you have spent several months observing their practice. Students do feel that they do not want to spend time in a place that does not guarantee certification. The downside of charging non-discriminatory fees for foreign students is that foreigners can tend to view the teaching as not-up to the mark, as they live in societies where they interact in predominantly commercial frameworks of demand-supply pricing and profiteering. I have had several foreigners ask me why I would charge so less, given that other schools charge much more. I have not been able to answer that question satisfactorily.

Teaching the timeless wisdom

Personally, I feel the whole teaching of yoga and meditation is to deepen the individual’s desire to turn inward. Given its nature, the teaching of yoga and meditation should be non-discriminatory and be very demanding on a students’ commitment to study. The teaching starts with the body but is really about the mind, the ego, and the wisdom required to go beyond leading life simply based on existing engrams. The whole message of the teaching of spirituality is “Attha hi atthano natho” – that “you are your own master”. Irrespective of the times, the teaching is timeless. The introduction of commercial flavours (offers of guaranteed time bound results and discounts) devalues the timelessness of the teachings and wavers the focus of the teacher and the students.

Gowrisha is a yoga teacher and IT professional whose passion is to spread yoga as a lifestyle practice to as many people as he can. He has studied under Shri Sharath Jois at KPJAYI and attended several meditation and yoga programs. He runs a traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa Mysore class and led class along with meditation classes at his school, Samyama Academy of Yoga in Basavanagudi, Bangalore. He shares his views on his website. Connect with him via Facebook and Quora 

Bihar School of Yoga in Munger. Photo Credit: Coni Hörler

BY SUSHANT PANDEY

A few decades ago, yoga was the subject of only philosophical debates and study, very few people knew the practical side of it. It was Swami Sivananda (of Rishikesh) who completely changed the approach towards yoga. He presented before the people the practical and more scientific aspects of yoga. Indian culture has always been rich in terms of philosophical ideas, but teachings of Swami Sivananda equipped the people with certain techniques and modalities through which they could lead a life full of health, creativity and mental, emotional as well as spiritual fulfilment. Swami Sivananda gave a very clear mandate to his disciples to propagate yoga in society. Swami Satyananda who was a disciple of Swami Sivananda; was given the mandate to spread yoga from door to door and shore to shore.

Swami Satyananda and his team of disciples systematized the entire system of yogic practices and made them easy and graduated so that any person could benefit from the practices regardless of his state of health physical, mental or otherwise. In 1964 he founded Bihar School of Yoga in Munger (Bihar province). Yoga became established as a therapeutic tool, as an aid in training, as the ideal lifestyle, as a means for total education. He made the practices easily intelligible to the modern mind. Today Satyananda yoga is respected worldwide as the authentic yoga tradition and in India, it is known as Bihar yoga.

Approach of Satyananda Yoga   

  • Yoga as a holistic science

Yoga has been known to be the science, which addresses the issues like awakening the dormant faculties and refinement of the human mind. Any person feels that he needs to improve in certain areas, but then he finds himself helpless when he does not find an appropriate technique or a way out. There is no one science in the present education scenario, which can take care of this requirement completely. There are exercises for physical fitness, which again address limited parts of the body. And in spite of recent advances in psychology, there are no standard practices to improve the quality of the mind. Yoga is the only system, which provides a “complete” methodology for the development of total human being.

  • Yoga as a “need-based” tool

“Satyananda yoga” has developed a series of graduated practices, called the pawanmuktasana, which makes it easy for a beginner to start the practices. A beginner on the path will not be able to do complicated postures because his joints are stiff and his body is not flexible. Pawanmuktasanas are a boon for him. It is this system of graduated practices that make “Satyananda Yoga” accepted so easily worldwide. It does not mean that the system caters only to beginners on the path, (and there are practices which are very advanced), but it means that an aspirant has to go step by step and cannot really take jumps.

  • Yoga as a means for developing awareness

“Satyananda Yoga” makes one develop “awareness”, that quality of alertness, which makes a person stand apart. A person who is aware is balanced, awakened to life experiences, has clarity of mind under all situations and acts efficiently. Developing awareness through yogic practices is the hallmark of “Satyananda yoga”.

  • Yoga for eliminating psycho-somatic overload

One very important complementary practice of “Satyananda yoga” is the practice of pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses. The gross mind is normally totally extroverted in the waking or aroused state and is always busy in responding to the input from the senses in the form of sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. In this way, it gets overloaded and accumulates stress, because there is no knowledge of how to stop this process.

In yoga, there is a methodical process to stop this overloading so that the mind comes to a state deep rest and relaxation.  Swami Satyananda has founded a very simple and highly effective practice of progressive mental relaxation called Yoga Nidra, which is the trademark of Satyananda yoga tradition. This practice has been instrumental in helping psychosomatic problems like hypertension, diabetes, asthma etc. The modern medical science has not been effective in treating these diseases because there is no technique available to ease the mental tensions. The practice of yoga nidra is complementary to the package of practices and it makes it easier for the other practices of asana and pranayama to take root. Only when the deeper tensions are removed can the body-mind absorb or assimilate other practices better.

  • Cleansing of toxins

Satyananda yoga also accepts that there can be gross impurities in the physical body, which can bar one’s progress on the path of holistic and positive living. Modern lifestyle and habit patterns are the factors disturbing the equilibrium of physical and the mental health. The accumulated toxins in the physical body can be removed through the Hatha yogic process of shatkarmas or the six cleansing practices which cleanse the digestive tract, the sinuses, the frontal lobe of the brain, the inner and the outer vision, the prana vayus and doshas.

Thus through the collective practices of the Satyananda yoga one finds the centre of existence within oneself as awareness grows and there is spontaneous flowering of “inner discipline or Anushashanam, the system of Satyananda yoga does not restrict the yogic practices to the practice room only but it believes in the principle of taking yoga into one’s life and living yoga and life with awareness and fullness.

Sushant embarked on a journey of yoga in 1997 as a postgraduate student of Yoga Psychology from Bihar Yoga Bharati (Deemed University); known worldwide for its authentic and systematic teachings of the yogic discipline. After completing his Post Graduation in Yoga Psychology; he was involved as an intern in various projects/studies in prisons, army, hospitals and corporate for one and half years. After an internship; he was appointed a lecturer in the Department of Yoga Psychology at Bihar Yoga Bharati, which provided him ample opportunities to explore the theoretical as well as practical dimensions of yogic knowledge.

He is the co-founder of Rishikesh Yogis Yogshala and is currently living in Russia & India. He conducts retreats and workshops on Yoga philosophy, meditations and Kriya Yoga.  Connect with him on Facebook.

 

Thorough research is important before signing up for your YTT. Photo Courtesy: Ekattva Yogshala

MANOHAR PRASAD NAUTIYAL

Choosing a yoga school in India for your yoga teacher training certification can sometimes be an overwhelming task. India being the birthplace of yoga is home to thousands of yoga schools, academies, and ashrams which makes the decision more confusing. That being said, you can select the right yoga school for your YTT by looking for the right qualities.

In this blog, we list out the basic 10 pointers that you must keep in mind while researching for your yoga teacher training centre (YTT) in India. Read the rest of this entry »

BY VRITIKA JHUNJHUNWALA

“YOGA” is an ancient Sanskrit word which, in only two syllables, encompasses the entire body of spiritual experiences and experiments of tens of thousands of Realised Masters. These Masters have discovered the Ultimate Reality, Sat, and in their infinite compassion, have carefully marked a path for others to follow. Of these great saints and sadhus, Bengal and especially its capital city Kolkata have been fortunate enough to house some of the gems in the treasure chest of Indian spirituality. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Yoga Therapy was greatly influenced immensely by Guruji BKS Iyengar. A picture from RIMYI, Pune.  from Photography: Coni Hörler

BY MEREL MARTENS

Since yoga is becoming more and more mainstream, yoga therapy is rising in popularity too. I have studied medicine myself and have been practicing, studying and working with yoga for many years now. It is beautiful to observe that yoga therapy is not only being embraced by so-called ‘alternative people’ and ‘yoga lovers’, but by medical professionals alike! For example, in the yoga therapy programs that my school offers we have students working as physiotherapists, as well as students who have never opened a medical textbook in their lives. Read the rest of this entry »

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