Post By: Vishwanath Iyer Published on: December 24, 2016 Reading time: 2 minutes
Circumstances of the first yoga class: Swami Yogendra met a cosmopolitan Parsi consulting engineer in his early 50s, Homi Dadina sometime in 1918. Homi Dadina was the son-in-law of “The Grand Old Man of India,” Dadabhai Naoroji, the renowned Indian political leader.
Dadani had been plagued by obesity, dyspepsia, hyperuricemia, prostatic hypertrophy, piles, and rheumatism for nearly 20 years. Expressing frustration, Dadina explained his failures with the treatments provided by doctors in India, England and Germany. They had provided only temporary relief. In response, Yogendra recommended a natural treatment to Dadina for his ailments: yoga. Convinced, Dadina invited Yogendra to stay on at his Versova large beach-front home, “The Sands”. He had been “Bowled over” by “the yogin’s ways and manners and eager to try his nature cure.
Initially, Yogendra conducted informal yoga classes to Dadina and a few other men on the beach. Soon after this, he founded The Yoga Institute in Dadina’s house soon after this episode.
The first batch of students enrolled for a regular course on December 25, 1918. Without doubt, the instruction held that Christmas morning on Versova beach was a momentous event. It marked the first step in the formation of modern hatha yoga. Santan Rodrigues, Yogendra’s biographer, proclaimed that “this was a red letter day in the history of Yoga. Yoga was taught to the man of the world for the first time .”
In founding The Yoga Institute, Yogendra had relocated the center of hatha yoga instruction from the realm of the sacred to the secular. He moved it from the ashram to the yoga center or institute. Hereafter, yoga was practiced as a lifestyle discipline instead of a place for renunciates to withdraw from ordinary society to seek spiritual liberation. He had made an essentially spiritual experience into a secular experience.The means of this subversion of the hatha yoga tradition was its radical—but now axiomatic—form of instruction: the yoga class.
The Path of Modern Yoga: The History of an Embodied Spiritual Practice by Elliott Goldberg © 2016 Inner Traditions. Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International. www.InnerTraditions.com