Patanjala Yoga Kendra Hosts Chinese Students
Senior Iyengar Instructor Zubin, who teaches in Mumbai taught a nine day intensive course to 52 students, including 35 students from China. This was Zubin's third year to teach a course in Rishikesh to a Chinese group mixed with students from Yoga Kendra. The Chinese students were here to learn how to practice Iyengar Yoga and to experience Indian culture. One of the themes of this year’s course was to be a student of yoga and use your body and your mind to improve your life now and for the future. On the final day of the course, films about India, a music presentation by old students, tributes to Zubin and a Puja celebrated the success of the course.
Yogi Shiromani Award 2012
On 11th March 2012, Siddhartha Krishna received the Yogi Shiromani Award (2012) granted by Prakash Deep Institute of Ayurvedic Sciences (India, UK and the Netherlands). This came as recognition of Siddhartha’s work in spreading the traditional teachings of Yoga and Vedanta in India and abroad.
In his address, Siddhartha outlined a comparative analysis of Yoga and Ayurveda to show the deep connection of both healing systems. He said that Samadhi (deep meditation), the goal of yoga, is in Sanskrit an antonym of vyaadhi (sickness). Therefore, Samadhi should be understood as perfect physical, mental and spiritual health. Yoga achieves this siddhi (accomplishment) with the help of Ayurveda, as stated by Sage Patanjali in Yoga Sutra 4.1.
The award was presented by Dr. Anil Mehta (Founder-President of the PDI Ayurvedic Health Resorts, India, UK and the Netherlands) in the presence of eminent scholars and personalities such as Dr. Mahaveer Aggarwal, VC of Gurukul Kangri University, Haridwar; Dr. Dinesh Katoch, Deputy Advisor Ayurveda, Ayush Delhi; Ma Gyan Savera, a well-known Spiritual Healer; Dr. Vivek Mohindra (Director, PDI Ayurvedic Health Resorts, India) and Pt. Vishnu Panigrahi (Yoga Coordinator, PDI). Prakash Deep Institute of Ayurvedic Sciences is a well-recognised Ayurvedic institution with branches in India, UK and the Netherlands.
Yoga in India Video
Yoga for School Kids
A Yoga Camp was organized on the 18th and 19th April 2011, at St. Fidelis Sr. Sec. School, Aligarh, UP. Around 500 children from class 10-12 participated in the event which introduced them to the benefits of yoga. With a strength of more than 3000 children, St. Fidelis ranks among the best schools of the city.
The kids were taught simple standing postures, Surya namaskaras, sitting postures and also some forward bendings. The asanas were taught in a dynamic way which involved many speedy movements, because such movements activate unused joints and muscles, reduce stiffness in the body and invigorate the mind. Undoubtedly, all students fully enjoyed the movements and creativity provided by the asanas.
In the evening our yoga team was deeply touched as it visited the Savio Navjeevan Bal Bhavan, a home for homeless children from the streets and railway platforms.
Visit by Yogacharya Shri B.K.S. Iyengar to Omkarananda Patanjala Yoga Kendra on 3rd January 2011
Report by Dianne Brooks
It is the end of December 2010 in Rishikesh, the streets and businesses are quiet, tourism is down... yet the Iyengar Yoga Centre at Omkarananda Ganga Sadan is full to capacity as usual.
“Listen everyone,” Usha is smiling and can hardly conceal her happiness. “Guruji is coming to Haridwar on the 2nd of January. He has been invited to attend an International Conference on Yoga for Health and Social Transformation. It is to be hosted by Yogrishi Swami Ramdev Maharaj at the University of Patanjali. Mr Iyengar will be the honoured guest.”
We all start talking.
“Listen, listen to me. I have talked to Prof. Ram Kumar Sharma at the University and I have been given special permission to attend with my students. This is a great privilege to see Guruji.”
“Who would like to come?”
Fifty hands immediately go up.
In self-practice over the next few days Usha updates us on the program she is planning and tells us that she has been in contact with Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (R.I.M.Y.I) in Pune, and has asked if it might be possible for Guruji, time permitting, to come to the Yoga Centre at Omkarananda Ganga Sadan on the morning of the 3rd January before returning to Pune. He has agreed.
His last visit to Rishikesh was more than seventeen years ago so this will be a very important occasion for the Yoga Centre, Usha and her students.
Preparation begins and our Saturday class on New Years day is changed from 6:00 pm to 9:00am. This will give us enough time to prepare the yoga hall for Mr. Iyengar’s visit. A welcoming banner is made, carpets are laid down, the stage is covered and Sage Patanjali is beautifully decorated with flower garlands. Mahalia will bake fresh cookies, Marie Christine will be in charge of making Guruji’s favourite coffee, Eyal and Martin assign us all tasks and Vinod Barthwal the Manager and Shailendra the Assistant Manager of Omkarananda Ganga Sadan make sure everything is in place and perfect by the end of the day.
Sunday morning on the 2nd of January more than fifty people board the bus at 9:00 am to make our way to Jolly Grant Airport near Dehra Dun. We have with us the most beautiful flower malas, red roses, petals and a priest from Omkarananda Ashram who will welcome Guruji by chanting the Purusha Suktam as he steps out of the airport.
There are more than seventy of us there to greet Mr. Iyengar... students from twenty different countries around the world . . . Brazil, United Kingdom, Israel, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland, France, Korea, Germany, China, Canada, Russia, Columbia, India, U.S.A., Taiwan, Spain, Argentina and the Netherlands. Col. D.L. Sachdeva, the Principle of Omkarananda Saraswati Nilayam has accompanied Usha today. Swati Chanchani, one of Mr. Iyengar’s senior teachers, her son and a small group of her students from Yog Ganga in Rajpur and also a group of students representing Rudra Dev’s yoga centre join us there for the welcoming.
Guruji is not expecting such a large crowd and immediately shows his delight when he walks out of the airport doors. The priest begins chanting and Rudra’s students join in quickly offering flowers. Usha then steps forward and places a beautiful shawl around Mr. Iyengar’s neck. She appears filled with light and love for her teacher. Guruji then graciously moves very slowly through our group to receive the malas around his neck and the single roses from each student. He pauses where he can thanking us and smiling. He is weighed down with flowers and affection. His son-in-law Shri Parthasarty is accompanying Mr. Iyengar and guides him to the awaiting car that has been sent by Swami Ramdev. The vehicle is quickly covered in more roses and he again pauses for a few moments placing his palms together in Namaste.
Upon Arrival at Patanjali Yog Peeth (Haridwar) we are issued guest passes and through the generosity of Professor Sharma we are ushered to reserved seats at the front of the auditorium.
Swami Ramdev greets all his guests on the stage and then there is lightening of lamp on stage followed by introductions, formalities and an overview of the four day gathering.
Mr Iyengar is then invited to address the audience and is given a standing ovation by all his students. He speaks easily for more than twenty five minutes and begins by telling us about his early life, his poor health as a child, his relationship with his brother-in-law T. Krishnamacharya of Mysore, his study of yoga and the far reaching effects it was to have on the world. He also speaks in detail about the importance of Patanjali´s Sutras. See a full transcript of his speech here.
At 8:30 pm we are invited to have dinner and Usha and some of her students join Mr. Iyengar, Swami Ramdev, Swami Chidananda Saraswati of Paramartha Niketan and some of the other delegates in their small dining room for a meal.
It was a great day and not to be forgotten by any of us.
Mr Iyengar Returns to Omkarananda Ganga Sadan
Monday, January 3, 2011
The police are controlling the traffic between Sivananda Arch and the entrance to Omkarananda Ganga Sadan in readiness for Guruji’s arrival in a few minutes.
It is now the turn of the Iyengar Yoga Centre at Omkarananda Ganga Sadan to host B.K.S. Iyengar, a legendary figure in the world of yoga and named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2004 for his contribution to yoga.
The entrance reception area is filled with flowers and photos of Guruji and everyone is in place lining his pathway from the car to the entrance of the yoga hall. As Mr. Iyengar enters the building, the Priests are there to greet him and perform Purna Kumbha (welcoming prayer). The chanting begins and the students can hardly maintain their silence for more than a few minutes before bursting into applause. Once again, we drop red rose petals on the floor as he walks past us all. He is smiling and making eye contact with everyone as he walks towards the yoga hall. Inside the room Swami Vishveshwarananda, President of Omkarananda Ashram Himalayas, Kumari Somashekhari, General Secretary of Omkarananda Ashram Himalayas, and Swami Narasimhulu, Trustee of Omkarananda Ashram Himalayas, are there to welcome their honoured guest. Guruji is then led to the beautiful statue of Sage Patanjali to perform a Pushpanjali (offering of flower), as Siddhartha Krishna chants the invocation to Patanjali and we all join in.
With the formalities completed Guruji moves to the stage and takes his place. He appears relaxed and happy as he does Namaste to us all and informally begins to talk asking us about what it means to be a Sadhaka, he asks us to see and find out what we see with the mind and with intelligence and tells us the body acts and the Self observes. He spoke of Union... Self to skin, skin to Self... See a full transcript of his speech here.
Swami Vishveshwarananda concludes the gathering with some very joyful and affectionate words, thanking Guruji for coming today and remarking on one of Guruji’s earlier comments that ‘we are the ocean.’ “Guruji... if we are the ocean, then you are the Ganga,” he said.
Guruji is then invited for some refreshments in the reception area where Marie Christine was waiting to serve our guests coffee and cookies. Kumari Somashekhari chatted with Mr. Iyengar and expressed the Ashram's heart felt gratitude to Guruji for helping Usha in her road to recovery.
Guruji left the building to rousing cheers, applause and calls from the students. “We love you Guruji.”
Guruji and the Dalai Lama in Conversation on Mind-Training and Happiness
New Delhi, India Habitat Centre, 20th November 2010
Guruji, deciphering the Yoga Sutras of Sage Patanjali in a scientific way, explained the seven stages of achieving happiness through Yoga. He explained that when the intellect of the heart and the mind meets, the ego or the "I" is nullified. Then a practitioner experiences boundless joy and happiness. In fact, the very aim of yoga is to achieve a calm and positive state of mind in our daily life. A practitioner of yoga treats negative emotions, such as anger, jealousy, hatred, etc. as separate entities, and thereby is able to bring the mind under control.
The discussion was attended by Indian and western scientists, among them physicists, neuroscientists, scholars, as well as the general public.
At the 3rd International Yoga & Indian Music Festival
Rishikesh, 1st to 14th November 2010
The 3rd Free International Yoga & Indian Music Festival (1-14 November 2010) was organized in Rishikesh, the world capital of yoga. The event was attended by students from all over the world as well as various pre-eminent musicians and yoga teachers, including the 100-years old Swami Yogananda and the renowned Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa (Los Angeles, USA).
Usha Devi taught three classes at the festival which were attended by over 130 students. The purpose was to introduce them to Iyengar Yoga. She brought home the idea that Iyengar Yoga is not physical. It is a method to spread awareness all over the body, to penetrate deeper into our own self and to be with ourselves for a moment. It is a wonderful way to develop stamina and inner strength, enabling us to face challenges and remain happy in the face of all adversities. Everyone can achieve this through practicing Yoga as taught by Guruji.
Siddhartha delivered two discourses on Sage Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. The first session was about Kriya Yoga (Yoga Sutra 2.1), the first and most important step into yoga, because it radically changes the outlook of a practitioner towards his own practice and life in general.
The second session was about Love and Devotion (Yoga Sutra 1.23) in Yoga. He told that though devotion is associated with God, it can be cultivated by believers and non-believers alike. It is an exercise for emotions to develop our heart. Coupled with our yoga practice it becomes a profound source of inner strength.
Intensive Yoga Course
In the October Intensive Yoga Course a student of Usha Devi, Ms. Rujuta Diwekar, famous dietician and author of the bestseller “Don’t lose your mind, lose your weight” brilliantly explained methods to nourish our Annamaya Kosha (the material body that is sustained by food). She explained that proper nourishment enables us to stay in the posture for a longer period of time, which is the goal of practice according to Sage Patanjali (Yoga Sutra 1.13). She also explained that Mitahara, or eating the right food in the right quantity, in the right combination, at the right time energizes the muscles which in turn improves our practice of Yoga. She also gave very helpful tips on lubricating the joints to avoid crackling sounds and pain in the joints.
At the end, all the students were invited by Pujya Swami Chidananda Saraswatiji from Paramartha Niketan to attend the traditional Arati held on the holy banks of Mother Ganga. At the end of the event Swamiji honoured our beloved Usha Devi, a devoted student of Guruji Shri B.K.S. Iyengar, who attracts students from all over the world, for her unrelenting contribution in the field of Yoga, an intricate part of our Vedic heritage. Pujya Swamiji also recognized the immense contribution of our revered Guruji Shri B.K.S. Iyengar for his scientific approach towards Yoga and making Yoga popular all over the world.
A Wonderful Musical Eveningon 28th March 2010
On the eve of the 28th March 2010, Patanjala Yoga Kendra hosted an amazing music concert for the delight of the yoga students and music-lovers.
The soul-elevating concert was rendered by Pt. Barun Kumar Pal. Barun ji plays an instrument of his own creation, known as Hamsa Veena. Born into a musical family in Bengal, he was initiated into the musical tradition by his father Bankim Kumar Pal, a senior sitar player belonging to the Enayat Khan Gharana. However, his style has been influenced by many great artists like Pt. Nikhil Banerjee, Pt. Kartik Kumar and most significantly by his guru Pt. Ravi Shankar. Barun ji demonstrates tremendous control over his instrument. Undoubtedly, he has gone through a sustained and vigorous sadhana (dedicated practice) under the able guidance of his guru Pt. Ravi Shankar to achieve his goal. Indeed, his emotional and devoted music enters slowly into the hearts of the audience and remains there forever.
Balinese Cultural Night on 19th February 2010
On the 19th February, Nyanyian Dharma, a renowned music group from Bali (Indonesia), visited our centre, as part of their all India tour "Dharma Ashram Yatra". They offered a wonderful and amazing performance, accompanied by several indigenous musical instruments, including gamelan, a typical Balinese orchestra of tuned percussions.
The group visited India under the guidance of I Nengah Arnawa (Reagent of Bangli, Government of Indonesia) and Agus Indra Udayana (President of Ashram Gandhi Puri, Bali) as part of a joint undertaking by the Indian and Indonesian Governments to build a beautiful Balinese temple "Bali Dwipa Pura" and cultural centre in Rishikesh.
The well-known singers and musicians, under the direction of Trie Utami (well-known singer, composer, song-writer and music director) Ayu Lakshmi (a multi-talented artist, vocalist and dancer) and Dewa Budjana (famous guitarist) captivated the audience with beautiful religious songs, hymns and mantras, both in Sanskrit and Balinese.
On the 20th February, the focus was on a cultural fusion between India and Bali. As part of the program, Kumari Somashekhari (director of Omkarananda Natya Kala Academy) presented Indian Devotional dances dedicated to Lord Krishna, Lord Shiva and the Divine Mother. Various Balinese Temple dances were presented by Agung Rama, a student from Ashram Gandhi Puri, Bali. H.H. Swami Vishveshwarananda, President of Omkarananda Ashram Himalayas, gave vote of thanks and presented a shawl to all artists.
The great devotion and the aesthetic choices rendered all performances very successful.
Yoga Festival 2009 in Rishikesh
Lecture-Demonstration and Dance by Mandakini Trivedion 25th October 2009
Omkarananda Patanjala Yoga Kendra organised a workshop on "Yoga and Indian Classical Dance" by Mandakini Trivedi as part of the Yoga Intensive Course, Oct 09. Mandakini Trivedi is a Mohini-Attam performer, teacher and choreographer who studied the roots of Indian classical dance and yoga, and now re-introduces its principles into dance education and performing techniques. More than 50 students from various countries participated in the workshop conducted by her.
Describing the similarities between Yoga and Indian Classical dance, she told us that Classical Indian dance is a complete union (yoga) in itself. All aspects of yoga, starting from the perfection of mind and body till the reaching of a perfect state, find expression in classical Indian dance. The dancer begins by performing the body grid and the body geometry. The purpose is to lock the various triangles along the front spine and the back spine, so that the Nadis, which are like wiring in the body, are connected. Such a perfect body grid extends into a perfect choreographic grid, which in turn then connects to the cosmic energy grid. Now, dance becomes a medium of tuning into the cosmic energy. Dance becomes a perfect cosmic mandala.
The workshop concluded with a solo dance ballet "Shiva Parvati Vivaha" (marriage of Shiva and Parvati) at Omkarananda Ashram Himalayas.
As it is the tradition before starting the programme, Swami Vishveshwarananda, President of Omkarananda Ashram Himalayas, and Swami Narasimhuluji lighted the lamps (Deepas) as an offering in front of Gurudev Swami Omkarananda. Then the small students of Omkarananda Preparatory School welcomed our star of the evening with a beautiful dance item, dedicated to Lord Krishna. This was followed by a beautiful dance performance by Kumari Somashekhari, Director of Omkarananda Saraswati Natya Kala Academy.
The story of Mandakini's dance performance was based on the renowned ancient Sanskrit classical epic "Kumara Sambhava", a master piece of the great Sanskrit poet Kalidas, known as "Shakespeare of India". The story symbolically represents the journey of any seeker who follows his muse. Shiva stands for the Truth and Parvati for the seeker. The story is one woman's faith in the existence of Truth and her devotion for it. The Solo-Ballet was unique in the sense that it was a blend of different Indian classical styles - Bharatanatyam, Mohini-Attam and Kathakali techniques.
Meenakshi Gupta, Head mistress of Omkarananda Preparatory School, was the master of ceremonies. The evening ended with Arati for Gurudev Swami Omkarananda and for his blessings for all those who performed and who attended the beautiful evening. For full report, go here.
Sunday Times of India: 23 surgeries, then yoga
6th January 2008
From Doubt to Conviction
Interview of Usha Devi in "Yoga Rahasya", the quarterly publication ofthe Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI), Pune andthe Light on Yoga Research Trust (LOYRT), Mumbai, India.
Yoga Rahasya 53 Vol. 13, No. 2; 2006
| Each of us has our own story about how we were introduced to yoga and what motivates us to continue. Some of these stories are of great interest not only to ourselves but also to motivate many others. Usha Devi, a resident of Rishikesh began yoga with a lot of doubt about the subject. Once interested and serious about her practice, she suffered from two major setbacks wherein she nearly lost her legs in two major road accidents. This was an extremely trying time on physical, mental and emotional fronts. Usha Devi narrates on how Yoga and Guruji enabled her to learn to stand again and return to her yoga practices. A humane, inspiring story of doubt, fear, apprehensions transformed to full faith and conviction on yoga.
In spite of my back pain and other problems, I was not interested in yoga at all, as I thought it was just a physical practice. At that time I was studying classical music, mantras, pujas and temple worship. My husband many a time asked me to do some asanas early in the morning, as he did them daily. But I was not interested at all.
It happened that I came across Guruji’s Shri B.K.S. Iyengar's book, His Life and Work, which I really liked very much. I then started doing some asanas but it was very difficult to start alone and I also felt bored. I took some classes here and there. After four months, I met Guruji here in Rishikesh and that changed my mind totally. I practiced daily with full enthusiasm for hours. I was completely involved. It was wonderful. My back pain and headaches disappeared. I was more relaxed, not so tense and stressed. My anger just disappeared - before I used to get very angry. My practice became a part of my sadhana or anusthana. I took a vow not to go anywhere for six years, not to travel, just do my practice, as it was written in Hatha Yogapradipika that a practitioner should avoid travelling.
To deepen my practice I visited Swati and Rajiv, two Iyengar trained Yoga teachers in Dehradun once a week. On the 11th of May 1998 I set out for Dehradun on my motor-scooter for the class, but I never reached my destination. On the journey I crashed into a bus. After two weeks I opened my eyes in hospital. I was not aware of what had happened and who was with me, nursing me. I saw my right arm broken, my right leg hanging in the air, everything looked like a dream to me and I struggled for a few days to survive. I was in a very bad shape.
The bus had gone over my right upper leg. The knee was crushed, the ankle and hip joint were badly damaged, the femur bone split badly, and in the lower leg, the shinbone came out. There was a big hole and the main vein was broken so I lost lot of blood. When I reached the hospital I just had enough hemoglobin to survive.
I was in the hospital for 4 months, undergoing repeated treatments. Then for 6 months I was at home in the bed on my back, not able to turn either to the right side nor to the left. I managed to sit up slightly to eat and that too with a lot of pain. Many times I just refused to eat. Later on, I slowly learned to sit in a wheel chair. From the wheel chair again I returned to the hospital for more treatment. I had a plaster from top to the bottom leg for months, then a small plaster on the lower leg. In total I think I had more than 18 surgeries and 13 blood transfusions. Those two years were a mess, with lot of pain and misery, and my future unknown. Many times I prayed to God to just to take me away from this tragedy.
I heard people saying that I would never be able to practice again. This really hurt me very much. This also gave me a challenge. I was in touch with Guruji after the accident. He encouraged me a lot. He gave me lots of hope and he asked me not to do anything until everything had healed nicely. Guruji wrote in one of his letters to me that with lots of will power and perseverance, I would be back to my practice. I never believed it but I thought that I would try. I would struggle. He asked me to go to only Pune when I was able to move independently. So it took me two years to be able to move and to travel such a long distance by train. I did not know how I would manage as I still was very much dependant on the walking stick.
I had been living in pain for two years and in Pune there was more pain. It was getting very difficult for me to accept it. I also had a lot of fear. Guruji made me do a lot of things but I had lots of fears. Fear of falling, fear of something happening to me. What if something broke again? What if something went wrong? All the time I was afraid of something or the other. I was afraid of everything.
What Guruji did was really amazing. He first removed the fear. The pain persisted. Then Guruji became quite harsh with me and he said “you are living in an ashram and you cannot face this much of pain? Can’t you accept a little more pain. What is more painful the accident or what you are doing here?”
He made me do a lot of backward bending asanas – possibly to remove the fear. My mind was not involved when I was doing Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana and my head was down on the floor. I felt less pain because my mind was not so much involved. But I was still resisting every time and it was very difficult.
One day, I was doing Viparita Dandasana on the stool. Guruji came and pushed my chin down with his leg. I was quite suddenly really relaxed and smiling. From that day, my practice changed and I was very happy. He also felt that there was not so much of resistance in me. I also felt more confident. He saw something coming, saw the fear disappear and he said “remember one thing I can break your leg also.” I said “Guruji why are you talking to me like this now that I am little confident,” He said, “if you behave like this and resist all the time then of course I will break your something!” So from then onwards my whole attitude changed. Even the students in the Institute told me that I had changed as a person!
When I came to Pune, my mind was as if I had just come out of the hospital. Although I had been out of the hospital for a long time, my mind was still there until that day when Guruji showed me how to change. Then I became more relaxed, more confident and my whole attitude changed. And from that time onwards Guruji really started working with me and it was wonderful.
Things were just about returning to normal when I had another accident in 2003 on the way to Pune and I found myself in hospital once more. I had to start all over again. It was not just physical pain but mental and emotional too. But then I thought it was an examination!
Again I was in bed for a long time as this time both the femur bones were badly fractured. It was hard to accept another fall. Everything became more complicated. I was miserable and down. But on the other side I was relaxed as lot of metal plates, pins and bolts were removed from my legs and only a few new ones were added. I knew Guruji would surely help me and put me again on my legs. He is so wonderful.
When I returned to Pune after my second accident, my whole practice was different. Guruji worked in quite a different way. He said this was a second accident and I had to be more careful. He did not allow anybody to help me except himself. He said that I had to be very careful otherwise “you might have to go for more surgeries.”
I was able to feel and understand immediately because of the pain. In spite of the pain I felt lot of relief. The color of my leg changed. New life came into my legs, the blood circulation improved and the legs became lighter. I was really happy, having some new hope. My practice became more an internal practice. It was like a meditation but of course with pain.
Since my return form Pune last year, the remaining metal has just been removed 6 weeks ago. Guruji wrote in his letter that I can start my practice and slowly try to go beyond. I practice every day, struggling with my pain and I see lot of improvement. I know that I can’t afford to miss even one day of practice.
Yoga has saved my life, it has helped me to face misery with a smiling face. I know it’s only my practice which will help me to live a proper, independent life and to serve the society. I know I shall never be what I was before but I shall be able to maintain what I have regained, and for this I have to practice every day. There is no other way.
I’m very happy with what life and yoga has given to me.
I have learnt a lot from these mishaps. I would say, never give up. If God closes one door He opens another one. Life is so short and beautiful so that we should not waste a single moment. To have a daily practice is so important. It helps me to be healthier not only physically but also emotionally and mentally. My daily practice has given me a purpose in my life, which is so important. Guruji has given us the wonderful gift of yoga, which everybody can practice in any circumstances. Sincere daily practice will help us to go through all the hindrances, which we have to face in our daily life. I’m thankful to Guruji that again he brought me back on the track. Millions of Pranams to Guruji.
Embassy of India, Tel Aviv: Embassy hosts introductory course in Yogaon June 7, 2005
Omkarananda Ganga Sadan News
Once Againon 28th December 2007
Once again, on the 28th Dec. 2007, our Yoga Center had the honor to host a concert by Rim Banna, a world-famous singer, composer and song writer from Palestine. She acquired great fame for her albums such as "The Mirrors of my Soul" "This was not my story", and her latest album "Seasons of Violet : Love songs from Palestine". In the Arabic world she is also well known for her lullabies and children songs. The event was made special by the children of our Omkarananda Preparatory School, Rishikesh, who were elegantly dressed in Arabic costumes making the event a truly unforgettable one. They performed a Welcome Dance to welcome Rim Banna in Rishikesh, the Yoga Capital of the world. Completely dedicated to the Palestinian Cause, Rim Banna has a great love and affection for India, its culture and its people. She has become an inseparable part of our family Omkarananda Ashram Himalayas, because of her sublime understanding of the spirituality and religion of India. Taking a break from her tours in various countries she stayed in our Ashram for a month as a spiritual retreat spending her time in singing prayers and reading holy texts in the presence of Shri Prabhuji, whom she considers her spiritual father. She was accompanied by her dear husband Leonid, sweet daughters Baylassan and Qumran, and son Ursalem.
Visit of the Palestinian Singer Rim Banna
On 4th December 2006, Patanjala Yoga Kendra received Rim Banna, a world-famous Palestinian Singer, composer and song-writer from Nazareth. She was accompanied by her husband Leonid Alexeienko, daughters Baylassan, Qumran and son Ursalem. Rim Banna is a well-known shining star in the world of modern Arabic music. Her super hit albums include "The Mirrors of My Soul", "Kryberrom", "Al-Quts:The Everlasting", "This was not my Story" and many children albums. Her beautiful voice appears also in various films. Her struggle for justice in Palestine along with that of her mother Zuhaira Sabbagh, a poet, painter and photographer, has been depicted in a film called "Al-Sabbar". She has been honored with the title of "Ambassador of Peace" by Italy and awarded by the highest Award of Palestine. While taking a break from her tours in various countries Rim Banna stayed in the center for a month for a spiritual retreat spending her time in singing prayers and reading holy texts in the presence of Shri Prabhuji, whom she considers her spiritual father.
However, several programs were organized that she performed as a token of love from Palestine to the people of Bharata (India). Her performances included a fundraising concert to support the charity work of Savio Navjeevan, a street children's home in Aligarh. In Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, over 2000 children and teachers from various schools attended her concerts.
On 25th December 2006, the birthday of our beloved Gurudev Paramahamsa Omkarananda Saraswati, she presented Guru Vandana Shlokas and some prayers in Arabic as an offering to Gurudeva.
On the 30th December 2006, she presented a concert to the Yoga Students of the Patanjala Yoga Kendra, which was attended by some prominent monks, yoga students and teachers from various countries around the globe. She sang Sanskrit prayers, some of the most beautiful lullabies in Arabic and songs from her latest super-hit album "The Mirrors of My Soul". As queen of a hauntingly mystical voice she was completely successful in winning the hearts of her audience from India and other countries.
An Evening of Kirtan with Krishna Das on 20th December 2006
On the 20th December 2006, Patanjala Yoga Kendra organized an evening of devotional Kirtan (singing the glory of God) with Krishna Das, the chanting master of American Yoga, as called by the New York Times. In the presence of Krishna Das, known to the world through his CDs, such as "Live on Earth", everybody's soul was elevated and imbibed with the devotional sentiments towards that Divine Lord.
Ancient Temple Dance of Bali on 8th November 2006
The Pantanjala Yoga Kendra hosted Shri Agung Pertu from Bali, Indonesia on 8th November, 2006. Shri Agung Pertu holds a Master's degree of Arts, from Institute Seni Indonesia (The Indonesian Institute of Arts, Bali) and is presently studying for the Master's degree of Philosophy in Hinduism. He is an active member of Indra Udayana Vedanta Community, Bali. He arrived in Rishikesh with a group of Balinese Hindus led by Br. Indra Udayana, a well-known Peace Activist and the President of the Gandhi Ashrams in Bali and other parts of Indonesia.
All of the dances from Bali are a prayer to God. In Bali, music, dance, sculpture, and painting are focused on the temples and shrines and are practiced with an intensity unknown elsewhere in the world. Art is woven intimately into the life of the people of this island.
The first dance that was performed by Mr. Pertu is called "Kebyar Duduk Dance", which is a dance about a Sthitaprajna Brahmachari (a celibate youngster who is spiritually attempting to stabilize his mind and intellect to obtain the ability to realize the higher Truth). In this dance is depicted his attempt to perform Yoga Exercises, to cultivate deep Devotion to God, and introduce Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga into his daily routine. The Fan, called “Kipas” in Balinese, symbolizes Samsara Chakra (the cycle of birth and death, the annihilation of which is the sole purpose of all spiritual activities). The goal of the dancers is to establish harmony between mind, speech, and actions; this dance is considered a means of achieving Trikaya Parishuddhi (purity of body, mind, and soul).
Amongst the rest of the three dances, in which were used lavishly decorated masks, the first dance, called "Topeng keras" was about a Grihastha (householder). This dance attempts to show how one can become a good and ideal householder. The character and life of the Grihastha should be strong like a Hero; for only in this way, can he truly protect his family. For this he needs to work hard; yet while doing so, he should never cease to pray to God. In fact, the complicated hand movements express deep discipline and teach us that the hands should always work, they should never stop or rest: “Ayam me hasto bhagavan”.
This dance is called "Topeng Tua", through which the idea was presented that the body becomes old, but never the Soul. Even in old age, we should always remember God, and should work and live as if we are His instruments. All the qualities and emotions of an old man were shown, even things like falling down on the ground to make his grandson happy.
This dance is called "Topeng Arsa Vijaya" which is about the wisdom of a human being; we should become like Devas (Gods), filled with Eternal Wisdom. This dance marks the completion of religious rituals, very much like the Purnahuti in Vaidika Homa. Through this dance, perfection and completion of a ritual is achieved.
We finish our description of the evening with a devotional offering in the artist’s own words:
| "I performed these dances as an offering from my heart to Swami Omkarananda Ashram. When I perform the Topeng dances; behind the mask I close my eyes. In that state, I feel as if I'm one with God. In no other dance does the whole human personality feel complete. By performing such dances, even the spiritual environment becomes more powerful and enchanted with divine powers. In fact, for the Topeng dances, special religious initiations are required. When I'm behind those masks, it feels like I am entering a state of trance.Moreover, when I close my eyes, I can feel the character that I'm performing; and it feels as if I become somebody else, as if another personality enters into me. Through this I'm able to understand other people in a better way, like the situation of the poor people, or their pain, etc. As a young man, when in the mask of the old man, I can understand the pain and the feelings of an old man, which I think is very necessary for the youth generation to know. Through practicing these dances, we can understand others more easily.The feeling that I have while performing is that God is always with me; it is a very powerful feeling.”
Visit to Ruskin Bond by Students of Omkarananda Patanjala Yoga Kendra on 2nd April 2006
By Saskia, Yoga Student
Not sure of where I was supposed to be meeting Ruskin Bond, I suddenly noticed an elderly man, stoutly built and with a soft and kind expression, comfortably seated on a small chair amongst hundreds of books, stacked and placed in every possible corner of a tiny bookshop. I realized that this man, whom I knew I had somehow met before, was Ruskin Bond himself – and the picture became clear. as I saw Usha sitting next to him with sparkling eyes, a glow on her face and her book being signed by him. I went in and sat beside him on the small stool at his other side.
I read little of his work, but the little I had read appealed to me. It was only four days previous to our meeting that I casually came across Ruskin’s writings in some small bookshop in Rishikesh. He captivated me at once. This man who writes with such sensuousness about India, portraying love for life in India, bringing back to life playful childhood memories, was to touch my heart.
To then hear that Usha had coincidentally arranged to meet Ruskin Bond in Mussoorie Cambridge bookshop was for me very exciting.
I could not help being playful, as if I felt comfortable with him, as if I knew him always. I had remembered reading in one of his short stories that he as a child often read upside down and ever since for fun still does. “Do you still read upside down?” I asked him, he answered as if he enjoyed the question, replying with a playful smile, “Yes I do, and when children ask me I sometimes show them how.”
Seated next to him, enjoying his gentle presence, as he signed my books, I just watched him. He could have been my granddad with his blue mischievous eyes ready for sharing stories. The only stark difference being that he had adopted Indian gestures along with an Indian accent. As he asked for my name so to sign my book he looked into my eyes, his thick glasses seemed to make his eyes go smaller and sweeter.
Gradually whole groups of people came into the shop, and without any sort of resistance; Ruskin warmly looked into the eyes of each one of his fans, asking for their names, so as to sign their books. He commented that this is not very usual to have so many people visiting (I somehow could not believe him). His English charm and politeness still seemed to be a part of his heritage.
The afternoon flew by. Meanwhile, all of us Yoga students from Omkarananda Patanjala Yoga Kendra were gathered around him. Coincidentally, a Yoga group from Delhi dropped into the bookshop to greet Ruskin as well.
Ruskin was surrounded by young Yoga ladies, and I think he seemed to secretly enjoy all the attention. We were offered coffee by the bookshop keeper and shared stories of monkeys sitting on potties and traffic jams in Delhi. By the end of the afternoon, he concluded that it might be time for him to write something about Yoga as there are so many Yoga students around nowadays. I cannot but think of him as a charming gentleman who may someday flatter us all with a book about Yoga.
Visit of Famous Sarangi-Player, Shri Kamal Sabri Khan, to Omkarananda Ganga Sadan on 24th February 2006
On 24th February 2006, the students of Omkarananda Patanjali Yoga Kendra had the great opportunity to listen to the internationally-known Sarangi Player Kamal Sabri Khan, the worthy son of Sarangi Maestro Ustad Sabri Khan.
Under the tutelage of his renowned father, Kamal was trained from the very tender age of 9 years. This child prodigy made waves in the musical world with his talent. Very soon, his musical brilliance gained him immense popularity as a seasoned accompanist to eminent classical vocalists. Not one to rest on his laurels, he continues to explore the vast realm of the global music world; but at the same time, retaining the purity of the Indian Classical Music tradition.
Kamalji exhibits tremendous range and control in playing his Sarangi instrument. He filled the hearts of all the listeners with his emotional and devoted performance. We were very blessed to have such a gifted musician grace us with his musical talents.