“The destiny of the whole world depends on little children. If you want to see the silver lining on the horizon, it is not you and me but the children who have to be spiritualised.” (Paramahansa Satyananda)
In 1985 Arundhati & Swami Vasishthananda honoured me by asking me to produce and publish this excellent book. It featured the expertise and experienced views of Paramahansa Satyananda and a number of his skilled and devoted swamis (Arundhati, Yogabhakti, Karmananda, Shakardevananda, Bodhananda, Nischalananda, Karmananda), many of whom had a special interest in the welfare and teaching of children. In addition, it was to be a commemorative edition to celebrate the silver jubilee of Swami Naranjanananda Saraswati.
“This book is intended as a guideline for teachers of yoga to children. It is based on the experience of various authors who have taught yoga to children in widely differing environments for a considerable number of years. It indicates some of the requirements of children of differing age groups, abilities and disabilities, as well as some of the constraints imposed by differing teaching environments. Furthermore, the book presents some of the ways teachers have adapted the general yoga practices to suit their own specific requirements and constraints.”
I also had the good fortune to meet the impressive Micheline Flak (Swami Yogabhakti Saraswati), the French educator whose pioneering work formed a good deal of the teaching methods of the book. She is President and Founder of Research on Yoga in Education (RYE) and an International Consultant in Educational Sciences. She has been working in the field of Education and Yoga for 30 years. Here is part of her personal journey and story:
Yoga at School (extract) Swami Yoga Bhakti:
“I am a teacher of English and I also teach yoga. For a long time I did both separately; that is, I taught English in my school and I taught yoga outside, in my ashram. But finally something happened. By learning and imbibing yoga, I found my way of teaching English had also improved in a subtle way. That was important, but was not the only benefit.
I got an answer to the question I had asked myself at the beginning of my career as an English teacher. Is teaching the way I have been trained to teach, really teaching, or is it putting the children out of shape? Finally, I found that by changing myself I could teach in a way that was more satisfactory, both to myself and the children. I started thinking about the teaching process and conducting experiments in my classroom. I started teaching yoga to children, but not in a hall. I do not give yoga sessions to children. I do not teach them yoga on Fridays and Wednesdays. I introduce yoga into the classroom. So, you see, the children are stuck. They cannot evade it.
Since I am a teacher outside the classroom I am somehow stamped by it and the children have got an English teacher immersed in yoga; they cannot escape from it and they seem to enjoy this quite well. If they have me, they are bound to go through my method. So I have become known in France as a teacher who teaches English through yoga.
In 1976 I had a meeting in my school to inform the parents, as well as the officials from the French Board of Education, about the experiments I was intending to start regarding yoga at school. Here is a passage from the report of the first meeting.
“The object of this meeting was that of informing the parents of these pupils, who practise exercisies for well-being directly inspired by yoga, that within the framework of Education, an experiment was to be led by Miss Flak [Swami Yoga Bhakti] and a team of teachers on the following theme: Attempt to regain tranquility and to increase the faculties of concentration and attention of pupils by using short yoga exercises before the lessons.”
Some doctors were also present at the time; now, seven years later , it seems that yoga has gained more attention from the officials for they now accept that such exercises can help the children develop their memory and attention, i.e., increase their learning faculties.
It all started in France when some journalists came to listen to a lecture given by [my guru], Swami Satyananda Saraswati (Paramahansa Satyananda), at Condorcet, the high school where I am teaching. When they heard him advocating yoga for children so well, they said, “It’s alright, but can we see it?” It so happened that school was starting again after the holidays so they came into the classroom and saw what I was doing. That was in 1979. Since then numerous newspapers have publicised the experiment.
In France, we have been lucky to have a young Swiss man helping us, named Jacques de Coulon. He is a school teacher and has written a book on the subject of yoga for children. He introduced his pupils to the yoga exercises he learned at a Coptic school which he visited in the USA during a sabbatical leave. There he learned some exercises which can probably be traced [back] to the time of the ancient Egyptians. [On] his return he wrote a thesis [entitled] ‘Awakening and Harmonizing of the Child’s Personality’. The publisher heard about my experiments in Paris and wrote to me saying that he had edited a book which seemed to contain an account of experiences similar to the ones I had had with my experiments. I got the book, then met the author and we are now working together organizing seminars.
Because of this theoretical background, together with the practice at College Condorcet in Paris, we have found recognition in France, and many teachers have managed to introduce our exercises into their own classrooms. The movement, thus started, quickly gained momentum.”
“It is little short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not already completely strangled the holy curiosity of enquiry, because what the delicate little plant needs most, apart from initial stimulation, is freedom. Without that it is surely destroyed.” (Albert Einstein)
A young Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati with his guru, Paramahansa Satyananda. I remember kicking around a football with him on Wandsworth Common when he was about eight. Not destined to play for Chelsea but, by all accounts, he’s a wonderful guru and a worthy successor to Swamiji. Who knew? [Tantramurti]
Generously funded, copiled and edited by Arundhati & Swami Vasishthananda Saraswati, this important and ground-breaking book was initially printed in a limited edition of 6,000 copies. It also led to the formation of a UK-based group Research on Yoga in Education (RYE) which promoted the use of its methodologies in UK schools. Since then these book has been published (and seemingly expanded into a two-volume work) by the Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India.