1977 State of Yoga Education in India
In a 1977 article for the Yoga Journal, B.K.S. Iyengar laments the lack of support for Yoga education in his native India (“Yoga and the Integrated Student”, pages 20-23, Yoga Journal, Sep/Oct 1977). Yet another essay affirming that the “Take Back Yoga Campaign” is 33 years late to the party!
Our educational authorities are still debating the propriety and worthwhileness of introducing yoga in schools and colleges. In 1937 had the opportunity to pioneer the teaching of yolga in a few selected schools and colleges in Pune (India). I even taught yoga in the National Defense Academy, to the cadets as well as the Officers, with beneficial results. At that time I met with a strong opposition from several yogis and yoga teachers who maintained that yoga could be taught at the individual level only, and not to groups. Today I am happy to find that those who were opposing the introduction of yoga in schoos and colleges in 1937 agree with me and are themselves emphatic in their insistence that yoga should be taught at the group level in schools and colleges.
It is difficult to understand why we neglect this rare heritage of ours instead of using it for our benefit. It is even more difficult to understand this sad neglect when we observe European countries taking an increasing interest in yoga.
For example, technologically and scientifically advanced countries like England have introduced yoga as an approved subject. The Inner and Greater London Education authorities have under my supervision introduced yoga in their syllabus. And the demand is so great that they find it difficult to provide qualified teachers.
When yoga is so popular abroad I fail to understand why there is delay in introducing it in our own country. Is it because it is traditionally associated in our minds with a recluse who renounces life, runs away from society and isolates himself on some remote mountain top? Yoga is life-abundant and not life-negating. It is the only system l know of which develops harmoniously both the body and the brain.
One cannot emphasize enough the need for yoga for our students. India is rapidly coming industrialized and urbanized. We are thus heading for an era of speed, stress and strain. Such a life makes heavy demands on our nerves, which are but invisible branches of the brain. When the nerves collapse, anxiety and neurosis of one kind or another sets in. The individual becomes a nervous wreck. Prevention is better than cure, and yoga is the prevention. It ensures strong yet elastic nerves that can face a great deal of hectic activity with equanimity and poise.