American Yoga Association
(est. 1968)
   The American Yoga Association, the first nonprofit organization in the United States dedicated to yoga education, was founded by Alice Christensen (no date of birth) in 1968. Located in Sarasota, Florida, it serves as a resource center for both stu-dents and teachers, focusing on VEDANTA philoso-phy, HATHA YOGA, and MEDITATION techniques.
   In 1953 Christensen began to have visionary experiences of a white light followed by transcen-dental communications from Swami SHIVANANDA SARASWATI (1887–1963) of Rishikesh. Subsequent dreams encouraged her to pursue the path of yoga. Sivananda became Christensen’s guru and they maintained their correspondence by mail until his death. She then began to study with SWAMI RAMA (1900–72) and to travel in India.
   Christensen began to teach yoga in 1965. As a student of Swami Rama she represented his teach-ings in the West. In 1968 she founded the Light Society (known later as the American Yoga Asso-ciation) in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. By 1972 11 yoga centers were established in India, Australia, and the United States. During this time the first book published by the association was released, The American Yoga Association Beginner’s Manual. After Swami Rama’s death in 1972, Christensen continued to study yoga as a student of Sri LAKSH-MANJOO (1907–92), a teacher of KASHMIRI SHAIVISM. Christensen would remain his student, frequently traveling to Kashmir, until his death in 1992.
   The American Yoga Association provides edu-cational services to program developers in health-related fields as well as writers seeking information on yoga. During the late 1960s Christensen inau-gurated a program called Easy Does It Yoga, which the association continues to offer to seniors and those with physical limitations. The program has gained wide respect for its effectiveness in help-ing older adults regain independence. Following the Kashmiri Shaivism system, the association emphasizes a self-directed approach to yoga that encourages its participants to engage in inner awareness for the purpose of releasing potential for self-knowledge. The association offers books and videotapes by Christensen.
   Further reading: Alice Christensen, The American Yoga Association Beginner’s Manual (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002); ———, The American Yoga Asso-ciation’s Easy Does It Yoga (New York: Fireside Books, 1999).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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