Exploring Yoga Therapy's History: Kaivalyadham
Following our time at the Yoga Institute, we travelled to Lonavala in the highland area above Mumbai where we had the opportunity to visit Kaivalyadham, another of the founding institutions of Yoga and Yoga Therapy in India. Kaivalyadham was founded by Swami Kuvalayananda in the early 1920's.
Swami Kuvalayananda, like Sri Yogendra, was a student and disciple of Paramahansa Madhavadasa. Also like Sri Yogendra, his vision was to bring the science of Yoga to the general public. His meeting with his guru was quite by chance. Some colleagues had urged him to go to a lecture by Sri Madhavadasa. Kuvalayananda had gone along reluctantly. That meeting was a turning point in his life and from that day forward he was completely dedicated to Yoga. Kuvalayananda had been a professor of physical education at the high school and college level and had been imbued in the scientific system.
Part of his vision was to unite science and spirituality in order to bring forward only those aspects of Yoga that could be confirmed through scientific investigation. He was one of the first to study specific Yoga practices scientifically and the Kaivalyadham museum has a display of some of the first instruments used in these experiments. Kuvalayananda also placed tremendous emphasis on studying and understanding the original texts of Yoga. Kaivalyadham has an extensive library containing many of Yoga's most ancient original manuscripts. Through an in-depth study of these manuscripts, researchers are able to clarify the original Hatha Yoga practices and the context in which they were used.
This research into the original texts of Yoga forms the basis of the therapeutic approaches used at Kaivalyadham's Yoga hospital. This was one of the first in the world, beginning in 1960, and continues to serve an ever-growing number of health seekers. Kaivalyadham uses an integrative approach including group classes, individual instruction, and support from their Naturopathic and Ayurvedic centers.
Another thing that impressed us about the Yoga Institute was the level of service, seva. A large number of physicians, including the resident medial officer Dr. Sheti, have been teaching Yoga and administering Yoga Therapy courses at the center for as long as thirty years. These professionals have completely integrated the essence of Yoga with western medicine as a true healing art.
One of the topics of our talk with Sri Tiwari was the difference between the Yoga in India, which has a strong correlation to the original texts of Hatha Yoga, and Yoga as it is practiced in the West which has a strong influence from Krishnamacharya and his lineage.
To support our understanding, Sri Tiwari showed us a letter written by Kuvalyananda to the Maharaja of Mysore following the visit of Krishnamacharya to Kaivalyadham in 1934.
"I have advised the Shastraji to simplify his exercises when they are to be given to the generality of students, and grown up individuals. I have also recommended him to keep the Yogic exercises unadulterated by the admixture of non-yogic systems of physical culture."
For Kaivalyadham and most of the Yoga Therapy schools we visited, what is most important is to maintain the essence of the Yoga tradition as they have received it from their founders.
We also had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Subodh Tiwari, Mr. O.P Tiwari's son. Subodh was born and raised at Kaivalyadham and later went on to receive a law degree. He represents a generation that is both fully attuned to Yoga's future and at the same time firmly grounded in it's past.
He told us a story that reflects the importance of maintaining the true essence of Yoga. Just before his passing, Swami Kuvalayananda instructed his students in the following way, "This institute rose from dust and it may return to dust, but none of that matters. All that matters is that we teach the authentic Yoga without diluting it."
Kaivalyadham is very much an international institute with large numbers of students from Europe, China, Japan, the United States, and even places like Africa and the Middle East. There is also a juice bar and a book and clothing store making this institute an excellent destination for Yoga studies.
Through our visit to these important institutes we gained a clear sense of how Yoga Therapy began and also saw in the directors and staff the embodiment of the essential values that will guide Yoga therapy into the future.
~Joseph Le Page
Exploring Yoga Therapy's History: The Yoga Institute
A Journey Through Indian History, Part Three
A Journey Through Indian History, Part Two
Return to S-VYASA, Jan. 2015
Soukya International Holistic Healing Center, Jan. 2015