Integral Yoga is a mind-body practice that synthesizes various disciplines of yoga, including Bhakti, Hatha, Japa, Jnana, Karma and Raja. The comprehensive yoga system is particularly popular in the United States due to its amalgamation of the Eastern and Western approaches to yoga. According to the discipline’s founder, Sri Swami Satchidanandaji, the aim of Integral Yoga is “to realize the spiritual unity behind all the diversities… and to live harmoniously as members of one universal family.”
“The whole world is an ocean filled with waves. Learn to float on them and don’t get caught in them. Equanimity, or balance, is Yoga. Learn to balance yourself; then you will enjoy everything.”
– Sri Gurudev
Sri Swami Satchidanandaji Maharaj, also known as Sri Gurudev, founded Integral Yoga in October 1966, when he established the first Integral Yoga Institute (IYI) in New York City, NY. Soon thereafter, he launched the Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville in Buckingham, VA, as well as various other International Integral Yoga Institutes.
Satchidananda’s popularity peaked in the ’60s and ’70s, when the hippie subculture began to sweep across the United States. The teachings of Integral Yoga appeared to resonate with the zeitgeist of the era. Sri Gurudev was so popular, in fact, that he gave the invocation at the opening of the Woodstock Music and Art Festival in August 1969.
He is also the celebrated author of several yoga books, including Integral Yoga Hatha, The Living Gita, The Golden Present and To Know Yourself. Released in 2007, Living Yoga is a documentary that examines the life and lessons of Satchidananda; the film’s commentators include Dean Ornish, M.D., Mehmet Oz, M.D., Sandra McLanahan, M.D., and CNN veteran Larry King.
According to the clinical research conducted by Dean Ornish, M.D., and his team of scientists, the lifestyle choices sustained by Integral Yoga can reverse the progression of coronary heart disease. Ornish is the founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute (PMRI), a non-profit organization that conducts research on the effects of lifestyle choices on health, as well as a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California.
Such choices include diet, moderate exercise, yoga-based stretching, breathing and meditation and enhanced social network, which may include support groups. His research further indicated that other chronic illnesses may be reversed by these lifestyle changes as well.
“What is Integral Yoga?” Swami Satchidananda. www.swamisatchidananda.org/docs2/iy.htm. Accessed Sept. 20, 2013.