By Yogacharya Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani

Dr. Ananda is one of our new guest writers. He is the chairman of the ICYER (International Centre for Yoga Education and Research) Ananda Ashram in Pondicherry, India. You can find more information about him in our guest writer post or on his websites:

Dr. Ananda
Dr. Ananda

There is a modern trend found everywhere nowadays. It seems like anyone who just attends a Yoga class can call themselves a yogi. There was even a recent article that said matter of fact, “Those who practice Yoga are known as Yogis”. Many years ago, Swamiji and Ammaji were returning after a long world tour and decided to make a list of the ten top yogic personalities they had met on that long tour. At the end of the whole exercise, it was most surprising to find that not even one of the top ten were “practicing yogis”!!

Traveling all over the globe in recent years has given me the privilege of experiencing both the similarities and dissimilarities between the East and the West. I grew up in the Ananda Ashram and having been exposed to students belonging to a multitude of nationalities I thought I knew all about them. Yet, I have now realized, one needs to experience a dolphin in the water and not on the dry ground if one is to know it truly. I have also come to know that many sharks abound too!

I have also had the chance to be “up to date” on all modern Yoga news thanks to the numerous Yoga journals that come to us from every part of the globe in exchange for Yoga Life, the wonderful monthly journal of our ashram that is now in its 42nd year of publication under the excellent editorship of Ammaji. The general impression one gets from most Yoga magazines is that the west is only interested in the physical aspects of Yoga or take to it as a fancy that lasts not too long. I have however found that my experiences in the west have been quite different! I have found that there are many sincere seekers who desire the ‘real thing’ and some who have imbibed Yoga into their very essence.

Dr. Ananda
Dr. Ananda

Generally Indians seem to have Yoga built into their genes whether they know of it or not. Scratch any Indian and you will find a Yogi hidden inside. However we take our cultural heritage for granted and will not appreciate ‘that’ which is right in front of us. We lack a sense of discipline and easily fall back on the crutch of ‘it’s my karma’. On the other hand, I find western Yoga students more disciplined and capable of greater intellectual analytical understanding. Yet, they are handicapped by the lack of a typical Indian understanding of universal connective-ness and don’t have the benefit of cultural concepts that have been around for thousands of years. Ultimately a good student transcends every barrier and every limitation and I have wonderful students and members of my Yoga family from every corner of the globe today.

Dr. Ananda
Dr. Ananda

A few years ago I was invited to present at the International Yoga Therapy Conference in the USA and had the chance to interact with great American Yoga teachers such as Larry Payne, Rama Jyothi Vernon and the eminent researcher Dr Sat Bir Singh Khalsa. It was also a pleasure to meet the famous personalities of Yoga such as Mukunda Stiles, Nina Priya and Amy Weintraub who are amazing human beings. I had one of those very special astonishing experiences during the first panel presentation when Larry Payne who was to speak got up from the panel and invited me to come and take his place and share my views instead. I was blown off my feet with that magnanimous gesture that I would have never expected anywhere in the world and it was happening right here in the USA! Larry set the stage for a successful conference with that heartfelt gesture that I will treasure for my whole life. I hope that I will be able to do the same for others in the future as it propelled me to do my best in all ways possible. All in all I can only describe my American experience as a magical one that enabled me to see that there are sincere people on the Yoga path willing to see the grandness of Yoga.

I was also recently invited to be major presenter at the “Reunion in Yoga”- IYTA World Yoga Convention held at Sydney, Australia in September 2010 with nearly 200 delegates attending the convention held after a gap of 13 years. It was something special to note that previous such special invitees have been Swami Satyananada Saraswathi, Swami Gitananda Giri, Swami Satchitananda, BKS Iyengar, Andre Van Lysbeth, Lilias Folan, Howard Kent, Mansukh Patel and Swami Maheshwarananda. It was a truly lovely experience to meet and interact with so many loving souls who were motivated by the ‘real thing’.

Dr. Ananda
Dr. Ananda

Personally it was such an honor to be invited as the Major Presenter at the convention and share the stage with eminent personalities representing Yoga ‘down under’. It was indeed a pleasure to meet and interact and exchange views with such loving people like Wendy Bachelor, Leigh Blashki, Louise Wiggins, Margo Hutchison, Trish Brown, Michael de Manincor, Anne Nakhoda and Mary- Louise Parkinson. We met so many wonderful people and the love, respect and attentiveness of all participants moved us greatly.  It was a joy to share with such human beings and, ‘Do your best and leave the rest” became a household word for us all.

What I have understood from all these experiences is that there are sincere Yogis and Yoga Sadhakas everywhere in the world and that we must not label the East or West either as good or bad. Instead we need to work on imbibing the best of the East and the best of the West in a true yogic integration.

If you liked this article or have any questions or comments – we would love to hear from you. Please comment below. 

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11 replies on “Yoga in the Modern World

  1. Nice article. in my experience I have noticed that there are so many people who are genuinely practicing with a very limited understanding of themselves and that gets transferred in their yoga practice as well. if their capacity to understand is not there it does not matter how much of true yoga is hovering about. If the teachers are not capable of guiding the most sincere students then what are the chances that the students are going to benefit and be able to understand yoga. The texts reveal that one of the major problems is confusion of philosophies. In like with the article the divine mother will not put all her children in one place.say, India. That cord of sincerity is struck everywhere in all entities and not limited to humans only but in all beings. Lastly the most sincere sadhakas, yogis, adepts are not easily to be found, for they are all in hiding, in seclusion doing their sadhana (practice). How is it possible to meet them if they are not parading themselves? Whether yoga in the ancient world or in the modern world it comes down to practice of silence in silence.


  2. Thank you Ananda for sharing your experiences. Congratulations for the honour you are receiving being an invited speaker at such magnificent gatherings. Please keep enlightening the world like this ! Well written article!


  3. Doctor Anandaji is a gift to the world. He takes the best from his legendary parents and spreads the knowledge in his own, very generous, contemporary and sincere way.
    I feel blessed to be his true friend in this lifetime. Larry Payne Ph.D.


  4. I studied with Dr. Ananda’s father, Dr. Swami Gitananda Giri in Pondicherry and have been teaching in the USA since 1973. I have been immensely impressed with Dr Ananda’s work and I commend for gaining him as a guest contributor.

    Dr. Ananda, you are most gracious and wise, I think, when you write, ” . . . There are sincere Yogis and Yoga Sadhakas everywhere in the world and . . . we must not label the East or West either as good or bad.”

    I have noticed over my yoga career, however, that few “exercise-oriented yoga” practitioners in the USA become interested in the deeper teachings of yoga, the teachings that produce substantial changes in consciousness. (This ratio may differ in India.) And I would guess that this has always been true: few experience the burning passion to know the atman, the really big self. In days of old, you imply in your opening words, those yoga practitioners who felt this were called “yogis”. I know your father used the word that way.

    I still think it is useful to us yoga folks to make this distinction, between a proficient asana-ist and a meditation master, for example. The title “yogi” won’t work anymore. But perhaps we could come up with another term. And India might lead the way for us . . .?


  5. How wonderfully and succinctly Dr Anandaji shines the light of Wisdom on a current misconception. To set free limited notions on what the term ‘East’ and ‘West’ really mean in a yogic sense is ground-breaking. In the great scheme of things who knows how many lifetimes a jiva has spent experiencing both climes………Many thanks to my Guru and teacher Anandaji for being a catalyst for greater understanding and union worldwide.


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