- Yogendra, Sri
- (1897–1989)pioneer teacher of hatha yogaSri Yogendra was one of the important figures in the modern revival of HATHA YOGA, both in India and in the UNITED STATES. He founded the Yoga Institute and helped provide a scientific basis for the practice of yoga.Yogendra was born on November 18, 1897, as Manibhai Harihai Desai in rural Gujarat, India. As a student at St. Xavier’s College in Bombay (Mumbai), he met his GURU, Paramahansa Madha-vadasaji. After several years, however, he ceased to be a disciple. Desai did not wish to lead a celibate life; instead, he wished to find out whether there could be a scientific underpinning for the practice of hatha yoga. In 1918 he founded the Yoga Insti-tute of India.In 1919, Desai, who had by this time assumed the name Yogendra, moved to the United States to work with several medical doctors who shared his interest in the yogic arts. Among the people he met was Benedict LUST (1872–1945), founder of the new medical system called naturopathy. Lust saw the value of hatha yoga for his work and studied it with Yogendra. Along with the early experiments on yoga, Yogendra completed his first books while in America: Light on Hatha Yoga and a volume on Rabindranath TAGORE.In 1922 Yogendra returned to India. He planned a second visit to the United States in order to continue the research, but in 1924 Congress passed new immigration laws that prevented Asians from entering the country and Yogendra was not allowed to visit again. Lust was left to spread the practice of hatha yoga on his own.Unable to continue his work in America, Yogendra threw himself into the task of building his Yoga Institute. He provided his own funding with royalties from his invention of a new type of boot polish. He found a helpmate in the form of Sita Devi, whom he married in 1927.The 1930s became a time of significant expan-sion. A magazine, the Journal of the Yoga Institute (now Yoga and Total Health), was launched, and Yogendra wrote several books on the basics of hatha yoga, a practice that had largely disappeared over the centuries in India. Yogendra continued his efforts to present hatha yoga practice to the United States by working with an American stu-dent, Theos Bernard (1908–47), whose Ph.D. dis-sertation for Columbia University was eventually published as Hatha Yoga: The Report of a Personal Experience (1943). (See BERNARD, PIERRE ARNOLD.)After the disruptions of World War II, Yogendra purchased land in Mumbai as a permanent home for the institute. In the 1950s, the institute began to build a global reputation through the steady arrival of Westerners to study there. Yogendra continued to write, turning out a series of books. He was active well into his eighties, but in 1985 turned over directorship of the institute to his eldest son, Dr. Jayadeva Yogendra.Further reading: Santan Rodrigues, The Householder Yogi: Life of Sri Yogendra (Bombay: Yoga Institute, 1982); Sri Yogendra, Hatha Yoga Simplified (Bombay: Yoga Institute, 1958); ———, Yoga Asanas Simplified (Bombay: Yoga Institute, 1939).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.